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274
votes
10answers
75k views

Why is 11 am + 1 hour == 12:00 pm?

One hour after 11:00 am is 12:00 pm. I find this to be very strange. Why isn't it 12:00 am? More descriptively, I thought we can think of the am/pm part as time unit representing higher amount ...
180
votes
5answers
52k views

How does the “Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop…” joke work?

On YouTube, there's that famous joke the Dalai Lama didn't understand — and neither did I. It even made headlines in my part of the world, and on some of the sites I frequent, yet nobody ever ...
145
votes
6answers
18k views

Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it?

This is a Canonical Post, intended as a reference and resource for both Questioners and Answerers. The English “perfect” is deeply puzzling for learners. Nearly one Question in every twenty here asks ...
143
votes
9answers
41k views

How should I refer to a friend who is a girl but not a girlfriend?

When I'm talking about my friend, who is a girl, but not a girlfriend, what word or phrase should I use? If the gender was unimportant, it would not be a problem. But if I want to note that the friend ...
135
votes
8answers
28k views

Why “grand theft auto”, not “grand auto theft”?

There is a video game series called "Grand Theft Auto". According to its Wikipedia page: The name of the series references the term used in the US for motor vehicle theft. [...] Motor ...
127
votes
4answers
35k views

“GOD is real, unless declared integer.”

I'm unable to interpret a sentence though searched and read multiple explanations. “GOD is real, unless declared integer.” a Fortran-based witticism Real is real number, What's the idioms it ...
113
votes
13answers
86k views

Is there any difference between “which” and “that”?

What is the difference between the words which and that? For example I have the following sentences: “I have a car which is blue.” “I have a car that is blue.” Are there any rules specifying usage ...
102
votes
10answers
21k views

Why do we say “I love cake” but “I love cars”?

Why do some nouns need to be in the plural for that structure to work, while some are ok in the singular? E.g.: I love pizza, I love beef, etc. I always thought it was a matter of countable x ...
95
votes
7answers
133k views

Is there any difference between being ill and sick?

I can say I'm ill or I'm sick. But what is the difference between the usage of these terms? I've heard that one can use sick for longer-term and ill for shorter-term, but is that really correct? How ...
93
votes
8answers
19k views

How can native English speakers read an unknown word correctly?

I have learned English for many years, and from the first day I began to learn it I know the dictionary is necessary for the study. One of the important aspects is that English words, unlike German ...
93
votes
9answers
77k views

What does the line “So long and thanks for all the fish!” mean?

I got a mail with the subject "So long and thanks for all the fish!" from my Manager. What does it mean?
90
votes
11answers
6k views

Free as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”

Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer. — Richard Stallman Translating free to my language (...
85
votes
12answers
116k views

How do you say 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 in words?

One of the answers in a reading exercise in my class today was: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 ... which was the value of the highest denomination note ever issued. It was a 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 ...
81
votes
7answers
58k views

Why does the i in naïve have two dots?

I have observed that the word naïve is written with two dots on the i. Why is this? Is it correct to write the word with a single dot, as in naive? Are there any other English words with such two ...
81
votes
10answers
257k views

What is the difference between “nope” and “no”?

What is the difference caused by using “nope” instead of ”no”? Is it used because “nope” sounds better and not straight like “no”? In some situations, it feels like nope is better to use than no even ...
74
votes
11answers
156k views

Should I say “She is in the park” or “She is at the park”?

I am really confused. Which preposition is correct? She is in/at the park. They are in/at the park. I am in/at the park. Should I use in or at in these sentences?
73
votes
3answers
249k views

Does “a couple” always mean two?

Today I said some event was a couple of weeks away. A native speaker from Australia corrected me and said, no it's at least three weeks away. What followed was a discussion as to whether a couple ...
70
votes
3answers
21k views

Why is 7 the most feared number?

I was in a computer programming training. A code executed an output number 7 and the trainer asked ( assuming joking) "Why is 7 the most feared number?" and someone said "Because 7,8,9 ... aho ho ho.."...
70
votes
6answers
322k views

What's the difference between “center” and “centre”?

Which one is correct: examination center or examination centre? What is the difference between center and centre? Is the difference only in spelling? What is the usage difference?
69
votes
4answers
11k views

Difference between “Do we have a blog?” and “We have a blog?”

I saw a simple question in a comment on SE: What if i told you there was a sci-fi and fantasy blog? We have a blog? But according to my English textbook, that question should be: Do we ...
69
votes
7answers
16k views

Meaning of “respecting” in “no law respecting an establishment of religion”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably ...
69
votes
8answers
24k views

Why should we say “play the piano” instead of “play a piano”?

We can say "ride a bike", "drive a car", why should we say "play the piano" instead of "play a piano"?
68
votes
13answers
11k views

What's up with the “pun (not) intended” thing?

Whenever I read a carefully composed English text with a pun in it, the stated "pun" is always followed by an explanation whether or not it was intended. Why is that? Where I come from (the Czech ...
67
votes
10answers
31k views

If potato chips come in contact with humid air, they become what?

In my mother-tongue, there's a word for it. I'm wondering what the English word is. If potato chips come in contact with humid air (as in rainy days), they lose their crispiness, and become ...
66
votes
6answers
7k views

(In, On or At) GitHub?

What's the difference between say: "The project will be on GitHub", "The project will be in GitHub" and "The project will be at GitHub"?
65
votes
8answers
16k views

Why do native speakers say 'Come on in' rather than 'Come in'?

Today I passed by a restaurant and got attracted to its menu sticking on the window, so I stopped and had a look at it. Then a staff standing at the gate said to me,'We have nice food. Come on in!' I ...
64
votes
4answers
12k views

Is there any more 'respectful word' than 'beggars' for these wonderful guys?

In India, beggars don't do anything and ask for money. But here, I see this specific practice to ask for money (in foreign countries). Check this guy he works harder, shows his skills and asks for ...
63
votes
11answers
14k views

Shouldn't it be “Nobody touch him!”

I heard in a movie Nobody touches him! Shouldn't it be in the imperative form, like "Nobody move!"? Background: from Brubaker After Redford's character aggravated the members of the prison board,...
63
votes
7answers
35k views

Why is the correct spelling “eating” and not “eatting”?

I am learning -ing spell rules from Woodward English. Can't figure out why is it correct to say 'eating'. Is the second rule not applicable here ? 2). If the verb ends in a consonant + vowel + ...
63
votes
3answers
578k views

“As following” vs “as follows”

Which of these sentences is more appropriate? The reasons for these decisions are as following: The reasons for these decisions are as follows: This operator is defined as following: ...
61
votes
9answers
26k views

Two thousand seventeen VS twenty seventeen: What is the rule for year pronunciation?

When I started learning English in junior school I was told that I had to pronounce the year 1997 nineteen ninety-seven and the year 2007 two thousand seven. I've always followed the rule and ...
60
votes
7answers
23k views

Why can “low” become “lower” and “lowest”, while “up” can't?

Why can "low" become lower (comparative) and lowest (superlative), while "up" can become only comparative (upper), rather than superlative (uppest)? The second question is what does act as a ...
60
votes
10answers
8k views

How do native speakers 'guess' the pronunciation of the letters in a word they see for the first time?

I confess! Being a non-native speaker, I struggle a lot especially when I come across a new word. And I wonder how do native speakers pronounce perfectly even though they read the word for the very ...
59
votes
9answers
107k views

What is the right word to refer to a black person, when you don't know their name?

Excuse my ignorance, I have lived in the UK for 8 years however I still don't know how to refer to a black person, as I came from a country where racism was not an issue. Some agency called me last ...
59
votes
8answers
13k views

“Wow, what a car!” - Is it okay if I say 'Wow, what the car!"

I have been struggling with articles for quite a long time. Most of the times, I understand but then the more I understand them, the more it's getting perplexed! For this particular question, I'm ...
59
votes
5answers
9k views

Why is “a Japanese” offensive?

When talking about a person from Japan, why is it offensive to say "a Japanese" rather than "a Japanese person"? The English language Wiktionary says (person in or from Japan): The singular “a ...
58
votes
1answer
10k views

What's the meaning of bee in hand and beauty in eye?

I've seen this riddle. I have a bee in my hand. What's in my eye? Apparently, the answer is beauty but I don't get it. What's the play on words here?
58
votes
12answers
8k views

Difference between “illegal” and “very illegal”

From my understanding of English, "very" means "more than the usual" or "to a higher extent". I've seen on several places the expression "very illegal", such as here as an example: https://youtu.be/...
57
votes
5answers
127k views

“Once, twice, thrice,…”, what comes next?

How would you complete the following sequence, until point 10? Once Twice Thrice (...) Any help would be appreciated.
56
votes
17answers
16k views

What do you call the act of drinking a whole bottle of, say, water in one go?

What do you call the act of drinking a whole bottle of, say, water in one go? It doesn't have to be water.
56
votes
4answers
13k views

“Conveince”: A word commonly used in Pakistan having to do with transportation but no English person knows about it

In Pakistan, when we don't have any transportation then we say "I don't have any conveince". This spelling is wrong but I never used in written English so I don't know. None of my English fellows in ...
56
votes
8answers
7k views

Great Expectations [is written vs has been written] by Charles Dickens

I had a grammar quiz at the university today. One of the questions was: "Great Expectations" ____ by Charles Dickens. a) is written b) has been written c) was written Undoubtedly, the ...
56
votes
4answers
6k views

Can I write “nonsensual data” for data that makes no sense?

I am worried that "nonsensual data" might come across as data that does not have a lot of erotic vibe....
55
votes
4answers
8k views

Is “I was had” standard English?

I've recently watched West Side Story and heard some weird expressions, one of which is "I was had": Dear kindly Judge, your Honor, My parents treat me rough. With all their marijuana, They ...
55
votes
6answers
15k views

Is it OK to mix American and British English?

I normally write using the American English forms, but for some particular words, I tend to naturally write it in the British manner (like with the word favourite rather than favorite). Is it wrong ...
53
votes
4answers
13k views

“[I]t literally scared her to death” - Why is “I” in brackets?

Quoting a phrase from an article: Grubb’s first overdose was on Aug. 15, 2015. Her mother found her blue on her bedroom floor, a tourniquet around her arm and a needle next to her. Paramedics ...
53
votes
11answers
8k views

Use “him” or “her” in this sentence about a hypothetical gender switch?

What should I use in this sentence? If he were a girl, I would have kissed him/her. Should I refer to the real gender of the person or the one I'm assuming the person to be and why? Edit : Recent ...
53
votes
2answers
6k views

What does 'the Twelfth' mean in Article 7 of the US Constitution?

I first encountered the sentences below on p 121, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution (2004; but the newest edition dates at 2015) by Linda Monk. I rewrote the numerals ...
53
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the correct pronunciation of “the”?

The is sometimes pronounced "tha" or "thi". Which is the correct pronunciation of this word? Are both correct and used interchangeably at specific places? If the second question is correct, please ...
52
votes
9answers
14k views

What does “Although the Second Amendment people” mean?

I don't quite understand what Donald Trump just said, especially the phrase in bold: "Hillary wants to abolish—essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if ...

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