This tag is for questions about the correct order of words in a phrase, or a sentence.

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171
votes
4answers
61k views

What is the rule for adjective order?

I remember being taught that the correct order of adjectives in English was something along the lines of "Opinion-Size-Age-Color-Material-Purpose." However, it's been a long time and I'm pretty sure ...
79
votes
12answers
10k views

When is it appropriate to end a sentence in a preposition?

Like many others, I commonly find myself ending a sentence with a preposition. Yes, it makes me cringe. I usually rewrite the sentence, but sometimes (in emails) I just live with it. To, with... ...
66
votes
3answers
21k views

Is “believe you me” proper English?

I understand the phrase "believe you me" to be an emphatic version of "believe me" but how did it come to be? Is it a poor translation into English?
35
votes
7answers
5k views

Why use “of” in the phrase “delivered of a baby”?

With all the "Royal baby" craze comes something that really confuses me. All the news media used pretty much the same sentence to make the announcement: The Duchess of Cambridge has been ...
26
votes
8answers
40k views

Distinction: “What can I do you for?” vs. “What can I do for you?”

Usually, when being served the phrase "What can I do for you?" is used but sometimes I also hear "What can I do you for?" in quite the same context. So is there a difference or is it just a slip of ...
26
votes
6answers
2k views

How is “Can anyone tell me how can I solve this” wrong?

I posted a question somewhere that said... Can anyone tell me how I can solve this? ...but someone edited it to... Can anyone tell me how can I solve this? ...and it was accepted. That's ...
25
votes
7answers
6k views

Is it acceptable to start a sentence with “however”?

I have heard that starting a sentence with however is wrong. What are the grounds for this view and is it still held by a majority of pedants? They would suggest changing However, some people are ...
23
votes
5answers
89k views

“My friends and I” vs. “My friends and me” vs. “Me and my friends”

I've always been taught to put myself last when referring to myself in the same sentence as others but the usage of "me and..." seems to be everywhere these days. The misuse of the word "me" instead ...
22
votes
7answers
14k views

Order of “not” with infinitive

This is one thing that keeps bugging me, and maybe there's a direct answer. Grammatically, which one is more correct of these two? Does it make a difference? I tried not to do that. I tried ...
21
votes
4answers
7k views

Correct position of “only”

Which is grammatically correct? I can only do so much in this time. or I can do only so much in this time.
18
votes
6answers
23k views

Why do you say “so do I”?

Why is the order of the words in "so do I" or "nor do I" different from the normal order?
18
votes
6answers
3k views

When can the -ing form of a verb be placed before a noun?

My native-speaker's grammatical intuition tells me that: There is a sleeping man under the tree. is fine but There is a fishing man by the river bank. is wrong. Why? I've thought about ...
17
votes
2answers
918 views

What is wrong with “Where should this car be parked?”?

Why does Microsoft Word 2010 show an error for the following sentence? 1. Where should this car be parked? Word 2010 also suggests changing the sentence to 2. Where this car should ...
17
votes
3answers
767 views

You don't want to answer this word-placement question, now do you?

Prompted by this question I got to thinking about the placement of the word now. If it's placed before the comma, it refers to an immediate condition: You don't want to answer this word-placement ...
17
votes
2answers
1k views

White-orange or orange-white? Which color comes first?

When referring to something, (electrical wires, in my case) and it is half white and half other color, do you put White or the other color first? I want to describe the color of these wires as ONE ...
17
votes
6answers
21k views

Which is correct: “the below information” or “the information below”?

I frequently see statements that refer to something later in the text that use a phrase such as "the below information". Is it more correct instead to say "the information below" (or "the following ...
15
votes
3answers
735 views

“You just can't” vs. “you can't just ”

I'm a bit confused about this. Which expression is correct? You can't just do that. or You just can't do that. I'm trying to say: You can't just bash an ideology because of what ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

How does one correctly punctuate a sentence that declares that one has a question? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Punctuation with “The question is…” '.', '?' or ' “… ?” ' Position of question mark when sentence doesn't end ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as “four-and-twenty”. When did this fall out of use?

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as "four-and-twenty", but the same text would also have the modern "twenty-four" in places (see e.g. Conan-Doyle for ...
14
votes
9answers
1k views

“Assign a variable to a value” or the other way round?

I was wondering which of these phrases is/are correct: assign a variable to a value assign a value to a variable I'd say the second is correct, but I'm not a native speaker. A quick Google search ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Are split infinitives grammatically incorrect, or are they valid constructs?

Mark's generosity in this crisis seems to more than make up for his earlier stinginess. Should those sentences always be avoided, or are there cases where they are valid?
14
votes
3answers
783 views

Difference between styles of English in technical communication

I have a collaborative software project with two other users. Nearly every technical report and documentation written goes through the following editorial changes to some of the sentences (examples ...
14
votes
6answers
810 views

Why does left come before right?

For example in the idioms "left and right", "left, right and centre", and in many contexts where both left and right are mentioned, it seems that the left usually comes before the right. Why is this ...
13
votes
2answers
406 views

What is the name for the inverse of an aphorism

For example, given a common saying or sequence of words, like A picture is worth a thousand words One reverses the order and obtains A word is worth a thousand pictures Is there a name for ...
13
votes
2answers
555 views

“Who turned off the lights?”

Who turned off the lights? Who are you? Why do the words in those questions have a different order than the following questions? Does she like ice cream? Where do you live? Where do you ...
12
votes
8answers
464 views

Can changing the order of adjectives alter the literal meaning of a phrase?

Someone recently pointed out to me that most English-speakers will say "I saw a big brown spider," rather than "I saw a brown big spider". However, the second sentence has the same literal meaning as ...
12
votes
6answers
745 views

What number bus is that? or What bus number is that?

Imagine you are at the bus stop. You see a bus coming, but you can't read the number, so you ask: "What number bus is that?" However, usually the noun used as a determiner precedes the main noun, for ...
12
votes
5answers
6k views

“All is not lost” vs “Not all is lost”

I guess I've been in mathematics for far too long, and I tend to use the phrase "Not all is lost" as the negative of "All is lost". To me the phrase "All is not lost" suggests that nothing is lost. ...
12
votes
5answers
5k views

Can “already” be used after a simple past verb in American English?

A British colleague asked if these two sentences are grammatically acceptable in American English: They found already high recognition in Europe and we wish to carry that further. ...
12
votes
5answers
1k views

Is “The City Beautiful” (Orlando's motto) grammatically correct?

I have always wondered why the motto of the City of Orlando, FL (USA) is worded as The City Beautiful instead of The Beautiful City: Is The City Beautiful grammatically correct? If so, do you have ...
12
votes
4answers
13k views

“Can easily be” vs. “can be easily” — what's the difference?

I'm wondering what the difference is between: It can easily be obtained. It can be easily obtained. Also, what's the preferred way to write it? If there is any... I googled for both ...
11
votes
2answers
374 views

“A place nearby” but not “A place good”

I can ask any of: Do you know a breakfast place nearby? Do you know a nearby breakfast place? Do you know a good breakfast place? but I really can't ask: Do you know a breakfast place ...
10
votes
2answers
454 views

Word order in fractional quantities

Is the word order in the quantity correct in the following sentence? The boy is 3 years and a half old. If not what would be the right way to say it?
10
votes
2answers
7k views

“Built-in” or “In-built”

Is there any difference between using in-built or built-in? Is one more correct than the other, or does it depend on the context, or ”house style”? This oven comes with a built-in extractor fan. ...
10
votes
3answers
4k views

Prepositions at the end of sentence and whom

I believe it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. That seems to be the consensus here as well. Now I think that when who is the object of a preposition, it should technically be whom, e.g. ...
10
votes
1answer
610 views

Why is it “grand theft auto”?

I'm not a native speaker so it might just be me finding this strange, but why is the auto in grand theft auto at the end? Shouldn't it be grand auto theft or something like this? I thought the ...
9
votes
5answers
38k views

Should an adverb go before or after a verb?

For example: The word rarely turns up outside of those contexts. The word turns up rarely outside of those contexts. Which one is correct and why?
9
votes
3answers
5k views

Differences between “just might” and “might just?”

Can someone help me understand more precisely the connotative differences between "just might" and "might just I came upon this dilemma while working on a short comic strip. In the first panel, a ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

The Royal Order of Adverbs

I know that the pattern manner-place-time shouldn't be taken too seriously if one wants to speak natural English. In real life, people rarely use a string of adverbs. Speakers will easily break the ...
8
votes
3answers
871 views

Is there a name for inverting word order to accomplish a different meaning?

There are many sayings that invert the word order to convey a different meaning. e.g. "Do you live to work or do you work to live?" "He who fails to plan, plans to fail" Is there a name for this ...
8
votes
4answers
933 views

“Why is this not” versus “why is not this”

Should I use "why is this not" or "why is not this?" Or are both correct?
8
votes
5answers
801 views

Having or eating one's cake

Which is it? "You cannot eat your cake and have it, too," meaning you can have it or you can eat it, but once it's gone there's no cake left to eat. "You cannot have your cake and eat it, too", ...
8
votes
4answers
631 views

“Back up data” or “back data up”?

Which is correct? To back up data. To back data up. The context is the following: He was careful enough to perform tests and [back up data | back data up] to avoid any problems.
8
votes
4answers
14k views

Should it be 10 US$ or US$ 10?

Which is correct to use in a sentence, 10 US$ or US$ 10. Perhaps USD should be used instead or even something else?
8
votes
2answers
369 views

Why “buy things secondhand,“ not “buy secondhand things”?

I saw the word ‘secondhand’ come after ‘things’ in the lead copy of July 17 Time magazine’s article, titled “10 Things You Should Be Buying Used”, as follows. Buying things secondhand can save a ...
8
votes
2answers
700 views

When can an adjective be postposed?

I read this at the economist, and it's the 2nd sentence in the 2nd paragraph. That is small consolation for an Israeli establishment still hankering after the much easier rapport it had with ...
8
votes
2answers
183 views

Get a high speed connection without roaming charges instantly

I saw this message on an advert: Get a high speed connection without roaming charges instantly. I am pretty sure that a better way to say it is: Instantly get a high speed connection ...
7
votes
3answers
18k views

Starting sentence with “indeed” to complete previous statement

Is it correct to add a sentence that starts with indeed in order to complete a previous statement? For example, The political crisis has a negative influence on the economy. Indeed, foreign ...
7
votes
3answers
5k views

Is it incorrect to say, 'Give me it'?

Is it incorrect to say, 'Give me it' ? I am told that it is and one should always say, 'Give it me'?
7
votes
4answers
315 views

“The ^ character indicates… ” or “The character ^ indicates… ”

Which one is correct? The ^ character indicates the beginning of the string. or The character ^ indicates the beginning of the string. Or both? I ask because in my native language ...