English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My student wrote in his essay

it gives her face a peculiar charm?

I tried all the dictionaries at hand (hard-copy and electronic ones) but did not find a definite answer whether this phrase sounds English. Could you please help me?

share|improve this question
What does it sound like if it's not English? English is a flexible and vivid language that isn't limited to set phrases that are always found in a reference source. – Canis Lupus Nov 5 '13 at 15:13
@Jim German is even more flexible. You can string a lot of words together and it will still be grammatically correct. Can't do this in English, but I just wanted to say it :) – MilanSxD Nov 5 '13 at 15:27
They still looked at me strangely in Köln. I guess can probably butcher any language, no matter how flexible it is. – Canis Lupus Nov 5 '13 at 19:50

The sentence is correct in both grammar and meaning. A peculiar charm is basically a charm that you can't place. In other words, it has a charm, but you don't know why. Peculiar means unusual. You don't understand what the charm about it is, but it has something. I doubt you've never had the feeling :)

share|improve this answer
Unless the question mark is the problem. It's out of place and context. But there's nothing wrong with the sentence itself. Charm refers to the perception of (something about) a person as charming, and to the emotions of the perceiver as being charmed. It all happens in the perceiver's mind, but they can report the situation by referring to a specific feature, like something on her face. – John Lawler Nov 5 '13 at 15:47
Hmm I didn't expect the question mark to be part of it. It would be Does it give her face a peculiar charm? – MilanSxD Nov 6 '13 at 8:16
That's got no problems, either. The speaker of the sentence is asking for an opinion from the addressee about the appearance of a third (female) person, having signalled by asking that the speaker may agree with the stated opinion, and that the speaker thinks it is possible that the addressee agrees as well. – John Lawler Nov 6 '13 at 18:27

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.