This tag is for questions related to the English language as used in the United States of America.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

5
votes
4answers
63k views

Does the phrase “who's in?” or “I'm in!” exist in (informal) English?

I really think I've heard it in some American sitcom/sitcoms, meaning something like participating in. "I want to play football. Who's in?" — "Great idea, I'm in!" Does it really exist, or am I wrong? ...
5
votes
5answers
11k views

Is “take care” always a friendly utterance or can it sometimes be considered threatening?

A little while ago someone wrote to me, in a not-too-friendly internet exchange, "take care, man". I interpreted that as a threat, but now I realize that Americans often use this expression "take ...
0
votes
1answer
656 views

Is it less than $100 or under $100? Is it more than $100 or is it over $100?

I am building a web site and need to clarify something for a non-U.S. customer. It's whether to use "less than/more than" or "under/over". items less than $100.00 items from $100.00 to $500.00 ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Usage of 'z' in the word serialized in English?

Is it correct to use 'z' or 's' in the word "seriali z ed" when writing correct English? (I.e. not a variant of English like "American") Or should it be spelled like "seriali s ed" ?
4
votes
2answers
28k views

“Interfere in” vs. “interfere with”

I was taught that when interfere is followed by in, it means to get involved in something that doesn't concern you; when followed by with, it means to prevent something from being done. And this is ...
77
votes
28answers
13k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom “carrying coals to Newcastle”?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
6
votes
2answers
525 views

What does “We don’t do anything that’s not completely up and up” mean?

I found an amusing story titled “Lobster salad, but a key ingredient was missing” in today’s (August 11)New York Times NY/Region section. The article reports that Zabar’s, the famous grocery in ...
15
votes
4answers
8k views

Pronunciation of “er” in “farmer” vs. “earth”

I'm confused about the difference in pronouncing "er" in words such as "farmer" and "earth". I hear them the same, but they have different phonetic symbols. Is there any difference in pronouncing "er" ...
3
votes
2answers
762 views

Meaning of “mints”

Context (New York Times), MINTS An organic fudge brownie awaits you in the room, along with a personalized welcome letter... First, I'm not sure if I'm on the right track or not (I'm wondering ...
13
votes
6answers
20k views

History of “have a good one”

I used to work at a grocery store. When bidding farewell to customers, my coworkers would often use phrases such as "Have a nice day," "Enjoy your day," and the like. One particular phrase that ...
4
votes
2answers
3k views

“cold cash” vs. “hard cash”

Context (New York Times): Besides piling into Treasuries, institutional investors are also seeking out the safety of cold, hard cash, pouring billions into commercial bank accounts backed up ...
-11
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the full form of the sentence “You never rolled?” [closed]

I heard this sentence in a movie dialogue: You never rolled? Is the complete form of the given sentence: Have you never rolled?
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Voice mail text: “Please leave a message after the…”

I am wondering: Is "Please leave a message after the signal" American English? You will most often hear "...after the tone" in the UK, I guess.
6
votes
4answers
2k views

How do you pronounce “is there” in fast speech?

I'm not a native speaker of English, and I was recently puzzled with the question, "How can Americans put their tongue in z (is) position and then change to th (there) in such short time?" May you ...
8
votes
1answer
5k views

“Autumn” vs. “fall” — geographical distribution of usage?

I know that generally autumn is the British term and fall is the American one, but what is the geographical distribution of the two terms outside these countries? I'm fairly sure that no British ...
2
votes
1answer
135 views

“I drive an car” vs “I drive a car” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Use of “a” versus “an” I'm confused, when do I use "an" and when "a" ? I see some people are correcting my questions and changing a with an. I ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Should a period be placed within quotation marks if it would conflict with a punctuated item that should be used or typed verbatim?

Gee whiz! Just when I thought I had the "period within quotation marks" rules set firmly in my personal punctuational code, I hit upon this sentence: All message IDs are pre-pended with the value ...
1
vote
4answers
315 views

What does this mean: “Avoid oral calcium, dairy products, shark cartilage & exercise during the medication.”

I found this behind a medicine. At first thought, the sentence looks like it suggests avoiding exercise during the medication. However, I remember reading somewhere that in US English, when there is a ...
2
votes
5answers
13k views

What is the opposite of “Could you talk a little louder”?

In a conversation, when I don't hear someone, I usually say: Could you talk a little louder please? However, what should I say if: Someone is being very loud in the other room when talking on ...
-2
votes
4answers
5k views

What's another way of saying “supposed to graduate in 2013”? [closed]

I am filling out a job application and I know there's an official word for it, but I just can't think of it. It can normally be found on transcripts.
9
votes
8answers
3k views

Why “horseback riding” and not simply “horse riding”?

As a German horse riding seems to be to the point. Why is it horseback riding in English? Isn't it obvious that you ride on the back of the horse? Is there a difference between British and American ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

“Badger someone” [closed]

I've heard the expression "to badger someone" in British English usage, and not being able to find out about its origins, I wonder if it is also commonly used elsewhere, for example, in American ...
5
votes
1answer
5k views

What does the phrase 'make the girls tick' mean?

I read the following phrase in a dating book. find out who they are and what made them tick? What does the phrase make the girls tick mean?
27
votes
3answers
2k views

Do Americans understand Donald Duck?

I had always assumed that although I understood only about half of what Donald Duck says in his cartoons, Americans understood everything despite his comical pronunciation. However friends have just ...
6
votes
3answers
14k views

How can I answer the question “What is the word, bird?” [closed]

I'm often asked a question "What is the word, bird?" by a manager of mine. I'm not sure what does it mean but I think it means "What's your last status update?" and I answer like I do have to do 1, 2, ...
4
votes
4answers
7k views

“Late to the party” vs. “late for the party”

I've heard both versions, usually in similar contexts. Which one is correct or more correct — or more prevalent — in the USA? He: This deal ends at 7 p.m. She: Sucks, I am late to the party.
3
votes
3answers
2k views

“Transitioning” vs. “transitional” phase

I am wondering if it is correct to say: This is a transitioning phase. Personally, I would say This is a transitional phase. but my friend insists that the above is just as correct as my ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

“Referenced in” or “referenced from”?

Which of these sentences is more correct? ABC should not be referenced from file X. ABC should not be referenced in file X. ABC should not be referenced by file X.
14
votes
4answers
75k views

“Pricey” vs. “Pricy”

I've recently encountered these two variations of the spellings for the informal word for "expensive." My dictionary and the online dictionary seem to indicate that both of these spellings are ...
15
votes
4answers
93k views

“flat” vs. “apartment”

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition Flat: noun. [ countable ] ( BrE ) a set of rooms for living in, including a kitchen, usually on one floor of a building. Apartment: noun. ( ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there /ɔ/ and /ʌ/ sounds in informal American English?

I read a book about American English. It reports that, in standard informal conversations, American English doesn't use the /ɔ/ sound; it uses the /ɑ/ sound and /ʌ/ and /ə/ are not different. Are they ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

What does “[expletive] it up” mean?

When I was in San Diego, I asked to a girl "how can I get to the freeway?" She answered me, "Go straight on, you can't fuck it up." What does it mean? Is this a usable phrase or it is too vulgar? Is ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

When did the U.S. President become “Mr. X” instead of “President X”?

When I was much younger, I remember the press always referred to the U.S. president using the title of the office: "President Nixon" was followed by "President Ford" then "President Carter". Now that ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

“Never mind” in AmE and BrE

Reading some forum pages about the meaning of this phrase, I realized that there's a difference in usage of it, between American and British English. What's the difference in meaning of "never mind" ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

“What it is that is” versus “what is”

I recently heard an American presenter using the phrase "discover what it is that is important to you." What is the linguistic difference between saying "what it is that is," rather than "what is"?
2
votes
3answers
13k views

Which of these two sentences is correct (“processes” vs. “process”)?

Which of the following two sentences is correct? Read more about the processes behind my projects. ...or... Read more about the process behind my projects. The one on top looks right ...
10
votes
4answers
16k views

Footwear: Runners. Sneakers. Trainers

There's a type of shoe which I, being Irish, would call runners. They're comfortable for running or walking in. The British call them trainers, probably because they can be used for sports or ...
7
votes
2answers
7k views

A or an XML report? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms? Does one use 'a' or 'an' before the word 'X-Ray'? Quite simply, should a sentence read "a XML report" ...
3
votes
3answers
11k views

“On which” or “upon which”

Today, I am writing technical documentation that instructs the user how to install software to a server. I encountered the following sentence and am unsure which is correct: When installing to a ...
4
votes
2answers
4k views

Does this ‘be going to’ have an emotional meaning?

Here is a skit from a radio English conversation program, dealing with American English. A: guest B: front desk clerk C: A's wife (at the front desk of a hotel) A: I have a reservation ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the difference in meaning between “pattern” and “rhythm”?

What is the difference in meaning between pattern and rhythm? It seems to me that the former is more American-English and the latter more British-English. Are these more or less synonyms or are there ...
3
votes
1answer
221 views

'co-opt' in US usage

'co-opt' in US usage means to take over for a purpose for which it was not really intended, having a slightly inappropriate connotation, while in the British usage it means to choose or elect as a ...
3
votes
3answers
353 views

Usage of 'customs' in lieu of 'immigration'

Over at the Travel SE beta (it's in private beta so I'm not sure how many here will be able to access it), I came across a question whether the OP uses "clearance through US Customs" when I'm ...
2
votes
2answers
6k views

Use of “Sure” in reply to help offering and to appreciation

In American English, "sure" is often heard in reply to offering help or expressing appreciation. I was wondering if it may not be a good choice? For example, - Would you like a cup of water? - ...
14
votes
2answers
19k views

Why is the phrase “should have went” so widely used?

Rarely do we hear "should have gone" in common speech. Some background: My father immigrated to the US in the late 60s. He learned English first overseas, British English. Then he studied extensively ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Intention of rising pitches

I have been wondering about the rising pitch used in almost every sentence, by especially young Americans. What is the purpose/intention of rising pitch except in questions? Is it friendly and ...
2
votes
2answers
741 views

American pronunciation of “professor” and “law”

In this video, around 0:45, when Amy Chua says "I am a professor at Yale law school". I was wondering why her mouth pouted twice, once at the end of "professor" and the other between "law" and ...
5
votes
6answers
3k views

“tag question” vs. “question tag”

I've just read this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_question So regarding this passage: The term "question tag" is generally preferred by British grammarians, while their American ...
4
votes
3answers
64k views

“When would be the best time” vs. “what would be the best time”

Is it more appropriate to say When would be the best time and date for the meeting? or What would be the best time and date for the meeting? I would assume the former and not the latter, ...
2
votes
2answers
291 views

Is it safe to use the British standard for numbering in a novel with a worldwide audience? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Billion and other large numbers Where I am from (Barbados) I grew up knowing a Billion to = 1000 000 000 000, not 1000 000 000, and it was some years before I learned to ...