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2
votes
4answers
465 views

Does this past perfect tense imply regret?

Harry was remembering his trip to Diagon Alley - how could he have been so stupid? It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something peculiar - a cat reading a map. ...
3
votes
2answers
15k views

Can I say “I am your age” when speaking to somebody who has my same age?

In Italian, I would say ho la tua età (litterally, "I have your age") Since in English it is "I am twice your age," I guess it is one of those cases where Italian uses avere ("to have") while English ...
2
votes
2answers
178 views

Doesn't it need to be changed into 'when our story starts from'?

When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening ...
3
votes
2answers
473 views

How can a person pick out a “most boring” thing?

When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening all ...
1
vote
1answer
134 views

What's the subject of this sentence? [closed]

When it hatches has a broad face and a long flat tail. I saw the sentence above on Internet, but it makes no sense to me. What is the subject of that sentence?
5
votes
3answers
679 views

Is 'a' implying one of the family?

Mr. Dursley hummed as he picked out his most boring tie for work, and Mrs. Dursley gossiped away happily as she wrestled a screaming Dudley into his high chair. (Harry Potter) Why is ‘a’ put, ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

How can 'twice' be an adverb?

I’m twice your age. (Oxford Dictionaries) It looks like ‘twice’ is a preposition to me, yet it’s an adverb. On what procedure do you think in your brain, can this be an adverb?
4
votes
1answer
247 views

Is this a perfunctory greeting?

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. (Harry Potter) Why is ‘thank you very much’? jotted down? Is it a kind ...
6
votes
1answer
410 views

Is it okay to write “gale force” without the hyphen?

Northern New South Wales is bracing for more flooding today. Heavy rain and gale force winds are expected to hit the region later this morning. (ABC News) ABC’s news script has no hyphen between ...
6
votes
2answers
5k views

When do nouns that end in -ics take a plural verb?

But statistics has something more than this. Until recently optics has only been three dimensional, and holography belongs to this form, too. Similarly, the semantics has no special ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Mnemonic for remembering the difference between 'while' and 'until'?

My mother almost consistently uses "while" when she means "until", and vice versa. (This is because in her native language, those are the same word.) Obviously, I can't simply tell her, "whichever ...
3
votes
0answers
175 views

Online Resources for Learning English [closed]

I teach a module that includes technical writing. More than 50% of the students are non-native English speakers. I'd like to provide some pointers to online resources that may be useful to students ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Infinitive and Gerund Construction

English isn't my mother tongue. I'm familiar with the notions of infinitive and gerund but I sometimes just don't know which of the two should be used in combination with which verb. Thomson and ...
3
votes
4answers
423 views

May I use “when” with a time expression like “10 minutes back”?

10 minutes back when I checked the score, X team was losing. Is this expression correct? Use of the word 'when' sounds odd to me, What will be the right construct?
8
votes
7answers
623 views

What is an equivalent expression for “having the moon across” (Italian)?

When somebody is nervous, or easily irritable, in Italian you would say avere la luna di traverso which Google Translate translates with "have the moon across." (It seems Google Translate gives the ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

“Watch the step” without stairs

When travelling on trains in the USA, I have noticed a sign saying "watch the step" close to the exit. I thought it was referring to stairs, but nowhere close to the exit I have seen stairs. I also ...
1
vote
3answers
278 views

What is the meaning of “gate” in this context?

I have found it in an article. Since it may be related to politics, instead of providing with an actual quote of context, let me re-phrase it with my own words: John Smith, a famous politician, has ...
4
votes
2answers
156 views

Can I speak of fighting for a discussion where no insult, or swearing is involved?

Can I speak of fighting for a discussion where nobody is swearing, saying insults, or using violence? Imagine two people (A and B) are talking, and A asks B what she meant when she said something. As ...
2
votes
2answers
147 views

Can I figuratively use “jump” when talking about conclusions?

In Italian, saltare ("jump") is a verb that is figuratively used in many cases, such as in saltare a certe conclusioni, which is used when somebody, basing on some known facts, deduces something that ...
2
votes
3answers
223 views

A word like “footing” for healthy activity on foot

In Italian, we use a word that should be a loanword to mean "an activity such as race or march, practiced for training or healthy activity": footing. An American friend of mine has never understood ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

When a door is widely open, what words do we use?

When a door is opened partly it seems correct to choose the word "ajar". If the door is widely open, which words are correct to use? For example, can "broad" be used?
11
votes
2answers
1k views

How to choose a proper contraction “it's not” versus “it isn't”?

I'm aware that both it's not and it isn't are contractions of the same phrase, it is not. Till today, I was convinced that choosing them depends on desired emphasis. This way, choosing it's not ...
4
votes
1answer
312 views

Is there any good methodology to help remember sound-alike words?

I'm working mostly with non-native English speakers, and I it becomes apparent that sound-alike words often cause confusion, particularly in business emails. There are too many of these words to make ...
3
votes
2answers
168 views

Is the phrase “back to the Muggle world” an adjective or adverbial one?

People jostled them as they moved forward toward the gateway back to the Muggle world. (Harry Potter) Is the phrase "back to the Muggle world" an adjective or adverbial one?
3
votes
3answers
8k views

Is “ima” spoken or only written? How casual is it?

I recently had a friend text me "ima go to [the local pub]. U in?" I understood it just fine as meaning "I'm going to", but being an old fogey, I'm not sure if this is just txtspk or if ima is ...
2
votes
1answer
4k views

Which is better for listening: intensive or extensive listening?

For improving listening capability, which method is better? First, intensive listening: to listen to a sentence or two with dictations. Second, extensive listening: to listen to long range of audios.: ...
1
vote
2answers
990 views

Is “into the house” an objective complement, or an adverbial phrase?

Spencer doesn't let the cat into the house. Is "into the house" an objective complement, or an adverbial phrase?
3
votes
1answer
4k views

“Diabolic” vs. “Diabolical”

Is there a context where diabolic is not a synonym of diabolical, or vice versa? Diabolic's definition: adj. Showing wickedness typical of a devil. Diabolical's definiton adj. Of, ...
4
votes
2answers
121 views

what's the structure of the following sentence?

Hair production is the result of the cells of the hair follicle depositing layer after layer of protein into this tubular space. Can anyone help me parse the above sentence? Is "depositing layer ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

A bad swimmer: like a beer bottle in water

"Beer bottle" is a Korean idiom for a poor swimmer. You could express it as 저는 물에서 맥주병입니다 which would translate literally to "I, in water, am a beer bottle." The phrase obviously derives from the ...
5
votes
4answers
6k views

What is the word for “practice/habit of giving false hope”?

Like the title says, I want to know what the word/expression for "practice/habit of giving false hope" is. The context is, for example, the owner of a factory who doesn't want to pay his employees. So ...
6
votes
2answers
636 views

“Shall” versus “will” for the first person

When I studied English, I was taught that shall is used to express the future tense for the first person (singular, or plural), and will is used for the same purpose in the other cases. When I look ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Which phrase should I use to interrupt a person who is speaking?

When instant-messaging with a friend of mine (born in the USA), I used to say wait to interrupt her because I didn't understand something she said, or because she was talking about something for which ...
2
votes
2answers
168 views

What’s the meaning or function of ‘ever’ in the example?

It was the best evening of Harry's life, better than winning at Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls... he would never, ever forget tonight. (Harry Potter) What’s the meaning ...
2
votes
2answers
786 views

What similar expression can I use for 'to find out' in the given context?

Is that store open today? I don't know, you should call X to find out. Is the expression to find out correct? What similar expression can I use in place of to find out?
2
votes
3answers
404 views

What does the conjunction “or” mean in the following sentence?

He caught Harry's eye and Harry knew at once that Snape's feelings toward him hadn't changed one jot. This didn't worry Harry. It seemed as though life would be back to normal next year, or as normal ...
7
votes
2answers
466 views

hereinafter/henceforward * refers to?

Can I say these? Which is to be preferred? or have you got any other suggestion? Hereinafter client refers to a smartphone using Android. Henceforward client refers to a smartphone using ...
5
votes
1answer
7k views

Is it grammatical to say, “If it isn't X, then what is?”

I can't wrap my head about the difference between the two phrases below. A friend of mine, an U.K. national, told me that both are grammatical, but being not a linguist, she can't explain why. A ...
1
vote
1answer
114 views

Can 'shall' - not should - be succeeded after injunctive verbs?

“You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must be hungry. I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served to all.” (Jane Eyre) I’ve known that if subject ...
8
votes
4answers
283 views

Phrasing a question

How ungrammatical/colloquial is to structure questions without the usage of an auxiliary verb? Is it possible to communicate well using only the second type? What impression does this make on an ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

Difference between “this” and “that”

I always use them reversibly since I'm not too sure about their differences. For instance, in an email I just wrote: solution 1 solution 2 Which one of those solutions do you prefer? ...
2
votes
1answer
444 views

What role does this 'preposition plus relative pronoun' take?

While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved slowly up the room. I suppose I have a considerable organ of veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my ...
6
votes
1answer
789 views

Difference between “out of the blue” and “unexpectedly”

What's the difference between out of the blue and unexpectedly? When I translate, "I apologize for calling like this, out of the blue" to French, I get Je m'excuse pour appeler comme ça, à l'...
4
votes
1answer
935 views

What does “You are talking through your hat” mean? [closed]

I heard this phrase when I was following a hot loud debate by two Americans in a restaurant: You're talking through your hat! What is an equivalent expression? If you find it interesting for ...
51
votes
6answers
5k views

Why is “Mary told the cake to be cut by John” ungrammatical?

Mary told the cake to be cut by John. A textbook says that this example is ungrammatical, but it seems to make sense to me: where does the sentence have its fault?
7
votes
2answers
1k views

“leave us kids alone”

From the lyrics to Another Brick in the Wall: What is the grammatical construct in leave us kids alone or leave them kids alone? Teachers leave them kids alone. Hey teacher leave us kids alone ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

What do you call a table that is unstable?

Let's say there is a table or a chair for that matter, which has one of its legs broken a bit at bottom, because of that it is unstable and every time you lean on it wobbles due to lack of balance. ...
7
votes
3answers
850 views

Colloquial way of saying 'I choose'

If someone asks me Does 8:30 am work for you for the meeting, or should have it 2 in the afernoon? I want to say, of these two options I choose the 2pm one. What is the colloquial word/expression ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the type of movement of hot-air balloons called in English?

The question about hot-air balloons* got me thinking: What do you call their type of movement in English? In German it is not "fliegen" (flying) but "fahren" (shipping, possibly driving). What is it ...
14
votes
2answers
5k views

What does “eating your hat” mean?

What does it mean to eat your hat? Does it mean to really eat the hat or does it mean you have disagreement to someone? This expression appeared in the comments of Shawn Mooney's answer to Can we add ...

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