63 votes

Does this sentence of Melville lack a verb?

No, "their" is used quite correctly here, as a possessive. It simply modifies "air". To simplify the phrasing by removing some words, it basically says: Their inoffensive... air ...
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  • 11.5k
40 votes

"If I were you, I'd apologise to my/your mum"

Both are fine. However, the first response is the most common way to answer. Very empathetic people might say my mum. Turn the sentence around; would you say "I'd apologize to your mum if I were you"...
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35 votes

Equivalent of "both" when referring to three or more items?

Both is the suppletive variant of *all two, which is not grammatical English. Suppletion is the irregular grammatical phenomenon of substituting a different word or root. Like using went instead of ...
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  • 99.5k
34 votes

Term used to describe a person who predicts future outcomes

Some suggestions: Forecaster – someone who forecasts. (mentioned by Xanne in comment) to predict (a future condition or occurrence); calculate in advance: to forecast a heavy snowfall; to ...
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  • 871
27 votes
Accepted

Why "be king", not "be a king"?

Since "a king" uses an indefinite article, it suggests that he may become any one of a number of kings. In most cases where a person may become king, there is only one king in the political structure ...
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  • 1,322
26 votes

"If I were you, I'd apologise to my/your mum"

You offended your mom. So if I were you, I would apologize to your mom when she gets home. But: You offended my mom. So if I were you, I would apologize to my mom when she gets home.
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  • 42.5k
21 votes

“These days are over” vs. “those days are over”

Semantically these/those holds just as true for days as it does for physical objects. These days means the ones you are currently experiencing. As in, the days right in front of me are .... Those ...
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  • 22k
19 votes

"If I were you, I'd apologise to my/your mum"

Over the years I've converted to the belief that what is important in language and grammar is that the communication is clearly understood and not unintentionally ambiguous, not that it satisfies any ...
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  • 3,082
15 votes
Accepted

A battery of tests is/are

TL;DR: Both were and was are used when battery of tests is their subject, including in scholarly publications as shown below. Sometimes the choice of number depends on the intended meaning. There may ...
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  • 127k
14 votes
Accepted

Which is correct: 'as beautiful as her' or 'as beautiful as she'?

It may not sound as "natural" but indeed the correct* version is: the moon is as beautiful as she. She is a predicate nominative which is indeed in the subjective case. If you expand the ...
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  • 4,490
14 votes

Term used to describe a person who predicts future outcomes

A term I particularly like for this is prognosticator. prognosticate prog·​nos·​ti·​cate | \ präg-ˈnä-stə-ˌkāt \ 1 : to foretell from signs or symptoms : PREDICT 2 : to give an ...
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  • 579
13 votes

Do "in future" and "in the future" imply different meanings?

In future is commonly used in British English and is perfectly correct but has a different meaning than in the future. In the future refers to an unspecified point in time, while in future means from ...
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  • 131
13 votes

Term used to describe a person who predicts future outcomes

An actuary is a business analyst who assesses future risks and uncertainties. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics describes actuaries as people who use past data and predictive models to tell the future:...
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12 votes

"If I were you, I'd apologise to my/your mum"

Formal correctness is the wrong test in this case. The problem is that the referent is ambiguous -- are we speaking from within the conditional, or from outside it? "My mum" is interpreted ...
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  • 4,565
11 votes

Why is this sentence: "Additional nine features were added…" incorrect?

It has to do with the order of the adjectives. For example, consider this sentence: Happy nine men walk into a bar. Both nine and happy are adjectives, but we are really intending nine to ...
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  • 4,431
11 votes

Why "be king", not "be a king"?

Context is the key. An heir apparent, next in line, may say: "I can't wait to be king". A candidate running for President can say: "Wait till I become President!" Anybody wishing he were a king, ...
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  • 2,383
11 votes
Accepted

Can predicative complements not be bare noun phrases in English? That is, are clauses such as “I am student” incorrect?

The question seems to be, how does a non-native speaker determine whether a given noun is a "role" or if it has some titular sense (so that it can be used "bare")? She became treasurer. [OK] She ...
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  • 18.6k
10 votes

Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article?

I can’t for the life of me figure out where to use a and where to use the — and where there is no article at all. Is there a simple rule of thumb to memorize? The standard rule you always hear: “If a ...
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  • 462
10 votes

“None of who’s” vs. “none of whose”

No. It is "whose". "Who's" is the contracted form of "who is", which doesn't make sense in this context and is also ungrammatical.. "Whose" is the possessive form of "who". I'll take the chance ...
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9 votes
Accepted

Determiner vs. Determinative

I asked Geoff Pullum, and he responds: The term "determinative" for the category of words like articles, demonstratives, and quantifiers is at least as old as A Grammar of Spoken English on ...
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  • 99.5k
9 votes
Accepted

“Minutes later” vs. “a few minutes later”

You can. But usually the unadorned phrase minutes later (or seconds later) is reserved for emphasizing shortness of time in a way that "a few minutes later" doesn't really manage to convey, despite ...
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  • 146k
9 votes
Accepted

a [box [of apples] ] vs [a box] [of apples]

One generally assumes that only constituents can be replaced by an indefinite pro-form and that only a constituent can be the antecedent for such a replacement. So since we can go from I want a ...
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  • 16.9k
9 votes
Accepted

Are these parts of speech correct?

It's much easier to do parts of speech if we don't confuse them with grammatical relations/syntactic functions , and if we don't get distracted by inflections. A verb is still a verb, regardless of ...
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8 votes

Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article?

I've actually put some time into thinking about this and I think the most basic use of "the" and "a/an" has to do with what the speaker/writer assumes about what the listener/reader already knows. A ...
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  • 95
8 votes

Why is it "yours faithfully" and not "your faithfully"?

If the valediction ends with a noun, then the s is omitted, as in: Your obedient and humble servant, Your friend, If the phrase uses an adverb, then yours is used: Yours truly, Sincerely ...
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  • 57.9k
8 votes
Accepted

"To this end" or "To that end"

In this sentence, end does not mean side, it means goal. To this end means In order to achieve this goal. Whether you say in order to achieve this goal or in order to achieve that goal makes very ...
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  • 35.8k
8 votes

Why "be king", not "be a king"?

King can either be a bare role NP, or part of a larger NP (NP is shorthand for noun phrase). A bare role NP is a singular noun that can occur without a determiner, in other words without a word like "...
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8 votes

Is determiner 'a' needed in "one would call such a value a constant"?

Both of your example sentences are grammatically correct, but they mean subtly different things. "One would call such a value a constant" means that "a constant" is another name for a value with the ...
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  • 3,314
7 votes

"If I were you, I'd apologise to my/your mum"

With "your mum" it is at least clear whose mum is being referred to - A's. In supposing B is A, it's not clear whether we are also supposing "B's mum" now refers to A's. But "your mum" can only refer ...
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  • 6,286

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