How and why certain words are used in varying ways within various contexts.

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Install on, install in, install to

When I say "programs to install on a new PC" it sounds alright to me, but I'm not sure if it's the correct usage. Which one of the following should I use? Programs to install on a new PC Programs to ...
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221 views

Can et al. be applied to companies?

I am used to seeing this used to condense a list of authors; however, is it correct to apply it to a list of companies? For example, would it make sense to say: Seminars being held by Google, ...
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580 views

Frequency of word use vs number of words

Let's consider a partition of the words in the english language according to respective use frequency. Looking at the frequency graph it should be easy to find classes of words with approximately the ...
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165 views

Is “nowadays” the same as “today”?

When helping an Italian speaker with her written homework, a cover letter, I told her to change the expression nowadays to that of today. Her original sentence was the following: I would be ...
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4k views

“was able to” vs “could”

According to my grammar book, here are some usages of was able to and could could can be used to refer in general that someone has a skill. e.g. At that time I could still read without spectacles. ...
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555 views

Is the expression 'too much, too young' grammatically acceptable?

I'm happy to see that grammar is being seen as important enough to be taught in English schools ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22403731 ) again. I think. At least it might improve some people's ...
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363 views

What's a useful replacement idiom for “money shot?”

I'm afraid I have been somewhat innocently causing offense by using the term "money shot" in its general, non-pornographic sense. My coworkers either have dirty minds or lack awareness of the other ...
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888 views

Did Victorians say “We are quit”?

Is “We are quit” (meaning “We’re even, no more mutual obligations”) a usage from the 18–19th centuries? Or are the examples of this on Google hits just people making it up (possibly a bad cognate ...
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248 views

Why does European packaging use “gb” to represent English?

Something I've always wondered is why companies that are based in Europe tend to use "country" abbreviations to represent a language instead of the language abbreviation itself. Given that there are ...
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164 views

Is there a rule about using the adverb “utterly” followed by negative adjectives?

I have noticed that most of the time it is the case in usage, but I'm not sure if it is a rule or not. I. e. would it be right to say "utterly wonderful" or does it sound oxymoronic? Thanks
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522 views

Is using past participle instead of present one more polite?

On christianity.stackexchange.com I asked this question: "Is it true that John Paul the Second restored the practice of selling indulgences in 2000?" and one supporter suggested that I replace ...
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When Things Used To be “Worth 'X' Millions”

I was reading Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, and a character described a rich man as "Worth 20 millions". At least in AmE, we don't use "millions" in the plural anymore in this ...
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192 views

What is 'draw on'

This question was asked earlier (not by me), but closed and deleted by a mod. But I thought it was interesting, because I didn't know the answer. So I'm reposting it.... The verb phrasal 'draw on' ...
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Is it really rude to use the terms “the john” and “the loo” in lieu of “the restroom”?

I usually use the term "restroom" (or "toilet" if I want to make sure that everyone in the Czech Republic understands me at once), and, while I've always understood that the terms "john" and "loo" are ...
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773 views

Is “Know how to cook leeks”an idiom? What does “Read “Hamlet” and know how to cook leeks” mean?

There was the following sentence in New York Times’ article (February 28) titled “What you learn at 40s.”: "Victor Hugo supposedly called 40 “the old age of youth.” - - The conventional wisdom ...
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If the prefix “a-” means not, shouldn't “await” or “awaiting” mean, “Not waiting?”

If: Apolitical means "not political" and Amuse means...well, it should mean, "not thinking" then why does await or awaiting not mean "not waiting?" I read this earlier question (Is ...
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765 views

Dustbins & litter

Why do dust bins have the phrase "Do not Litter"? I checked the dictionary meaning - litter means garbage or waste. Aren't dustbins meant for that ?
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In AE, is “tin” used instead of “can” to designate an eco friendly BPA free can of sardines?

I've always thought that "can" was the typical term to refer to a can of sardines (or the like) in AE, and "tin" the BE equivalent, until I recently stumbled across "tin" used instead of "can" on a US ...
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Does “drape oneself in something” have the meaning of “be armored in”?

Gabe Rottman , a legislative counsel and policy adviser at the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union contributed an answer to the question, “Is it wrong for credit card ...
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263 views

What does “Lose the Drama” mean as one of 7 ways for women at work to negotiate?

In an interview of co-host of NBS Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski by Erin Skarda of Time magazine, Brzezinski gave 7 tips for women to take into their next career generation starting “Don’t act like a ...
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Why is it correct to say “He came and said something to me” but not “He came and said to me something”?

This question was just posed to me and I couldn't give a clear answer beyond that the second just feels wrong and one would generally use a direct or indirect quotation, as in "he came and said to me ...
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227 views

Is caret a widely understood word?

A caret is the point that text is in inserted in a text box. Is this known widely? Will the average user (non technical) understand this word? What other phrase or word should be used to describe the ...
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635 views

Future Perfect with the preposition 'since'

I have a question regarding the future perfect tense and which prepositions go with it. Understandably, by, for, and in work very well with the future perfect. By friday, I will have been working ...
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185 views

You yourself - double pronoun

You have made it up yourself. This is obviously ok. But if the pronoun it should be repalced by a long noun-phrase: You have made up the illusory world in which you move yourself. It would ...
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What is a term to refer something in the middle of a list just like “former” and “latter” is used in a list containing two things?

In a sentence, if someone says the former, they are talking about the first thing they listed, and says the latter for the last thing they listed. What would be the term to refer something in the ...
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Is there a term/word for using an incorrect homophone

What would you call the following: Speak now or forever hold your piece.
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212 views

Is it usual to use “full-cry” as a stand-alone adjective?

Maureen Dowd’s article titled “Spellbound by Blondes, Hot and Icy” appearing in December 1st NY-Times jumps from Alfred Hitchcock’s favor of blonde actresses to the dispute of Hillary Clinton’s ...
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Confusing structures with modal verbs

I have skimmed through the part on modals of a classic grammar book (Murphy's "Grammar in Use") and picked up all the structures that look strange to me. Could you, please, explain how often they are ...
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Incorrect? “I only have one distinct memory from the movie, a scene where …”

Should I say “I only have one distinct memory from the movie, that of a scene where …”, or would it work without the that of? If it wouldn’t work without the that of, what if I replace the comma with ...
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192 views

Usage of hain't

According to Dictionary.com, ain't has two meanings: Nonstandard except in some dialects. am not; are not; is not. Nonstandard. have not; has not; do not; does not; did not. When I ...
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384 views

“Has reported” as present perfect vs. “has” as present + “reported” as a noun

In the following sentence below, I want to use the word reported as a noun, but it looks like I’m using the present perfect form has reported. How can one be clear when constructions like this ...
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323 views

Which is more common - 'the most' or 'most'?

A thing I have never had the time to look more closely into. But I find both variants: What I love most is ... or What I love the most is ... I think the more common form is 'the most', ...
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Is “close helmet” correct? Why/why not?

I've been debating this for a while now with a comrade of mine. Wikipedia (and others) give "close helmet" as a type of medieval helmet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close_helmet ...
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Translating Gerunds from Spanish to English (verb+ing)

In Spanish, the gerund form (-ando, -endo) is frequently used adverbially to modify and describe the verb: El alma es dichosa dando y sirviendo. El niño anda bailando. El artista vive provocando ...
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Yards, courtyards, and gardens in AE

As long as reportedly Americans commonly designate an area of land, usually planted with plants, trees, flowerbeds, etc., adjoining a house as a yard (front yard/backyard); and a plot of land used for ...
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Why don't Americans refer to Indians (and others from the subcontinent) as Asians?

I know there is a related question here, but I am not seeing an answer to "Why is there a difference?" Merely that an explanation of what is used in each country. I am a speaker of American English, ...
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Is using “needing” correct?

I've had a debate with my friend about the "needing" usage. I know we can't use "needing" in continuous tenses but take a look at my example: - That's the man needing some money. I'm sure I saw ...
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81 views

'Hope' vs. 'wish' in unlikely situations

Although 'hope' and 'wish' have many different uses, I've seen the basic difference often summarized as: 'wish' is for imaginary, unlikely or impossible things, whereas 'hope' is for more likely or ...
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170 views

Meaning of “Discretion”

I saw this dictionary entry, and it says "discretion" could mean approximately either 1) the right to choose what to do or 2) the quality of being careful what you do. The dictionary has these two ...
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157 views

Origin of the phrase “tell me when”

Growing up in my family, we would often use the phrase "tell me when" when serving each other food, pouring drinks, etc. For example, my mother would begin pouring me a glass of milk and say "tell me ...
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239 views

Is there great difference between “Make a mountain out of a molehill” and “Much ado about nothing”?

I came across two approximate sayings “Making a mountain out of a molehill” and “Much ado about nothing” coincidentally in tandem in the home page of today’s (June 7) New York Times. Making a ...
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391 views

How did “classic” and “classical” come to mean “historic”?

I assume the words classic and classical have a basis in the word class — which is to say, of a category. Why do we use those words to mean old or historically important?
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101 views

Infinitive Clause For “Curious”

I need some help about the infinitive clause that comes after "curious". Let's say that I am "curious" about a locked room. Then, could I write this: I am curious to open the door. I ...
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180 views

Unambiguous Opposite of “The Subtitle of a Film”

A word to refer to the "The Far Side of the World" part in the film title Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (MC:FSW) might be subtitle. By here, the "Master and Commander" part is called ...
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626 views

Fall Hard For Something

I am trying to find the right definition of "hard" in this piece of writing: newspaper Looking for a tranquil hideaway after years as a paparazzi magnet, Mr. Frazier bought the single-level ...
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Is “received with thanks” stilted English?

I just got a receipt which said "Received with thanks the sum of ..." Thanks stands for gratitude, so this looks fine to me as far as grammar is concerned. But is this old-fashioned and/or stilted? ...
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Is it typical native speaker usage to inconsistently use the pronoun “one” in a paragraph?

[NB: This is a re-post of a closed question that was rightly judged "off topic". It does present an interesting problem, though, so I've rewritten it and asked an on-topic usage question.] Is it ...
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901 views

Does “awe” have a colloquial meaning (similar to “awesome”)?

The meaning of awe is given in dictionaries as "an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime" (this definition is from ...
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Should I follow English conventions, or write what sounds better?

How a sentence sounds when read aloud or in your head can often "sound" different for each individual doing so; however, I was reading details regarding the usage of "data" and "datum" and was ...
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Is it ok to use the irregular past tense of a verb as it were a regular one?

Let's say I say / write catched instead of caught or buyed instead of bought, etc. I know this is grammatically incorrect, but is it incorrect or perfectly fine to use it in every-day life ? English ...