All posts by jbair

“To” Plus a Gerund?

I know that using the expression :”I look forward to doing business with you ” is right. How and where can I find information about using “to doing” to students?

Dear LS:

On our web site take at look at or look up “Gerund” in the Grammar Slammer glossary. “To doing business with you” is a prepositional phrase. The object of the preposition is the gerund phrase “doing business with you.”

I hope this helps.

Farther vs. Further in the UK

I notice that your site differentiates between further and farther, as if to claim that there is a difference and that those who use the words interchangeably are wrong.

While North American usage may be that ‘farther’ denotes distance, you should note that Marriam-Webster states that ‘further’ is also perfectly valid in this context. So while ‘farther’ may be more commonly used, either is in fact correct.

In UK English usage, ‘farther’ is almost unheard of and ‘further’ is used for every meaning from distance to ‘further education’. Check, for example, Cambridge Dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary for evidence on this point.

It would be more educational if you would cease claiming an absolute distinction in this regard and instead make clear that either usage is acceptable, even if one is more commonly used in the US context.

Dear WR:

Thank you for your note.

The M-W Dictionary is descriptive, so it would note how people use words regardless of the precision.

Our observation has been that the two words are often used interchangeably in everyday speech, but we are more concerned about standard written English here.

We would be interested in some examples of accepted UK English in which further is used in the way that you say it is. We have noted a few places where North American and UK usage do differ; if this is the true case in the UK, then we would include it.

Infinitves Following “To Be”

1-This pizza is to eat tonight.
2-This film is to see as soon as possible.
3-This tie is to wear at fancy places.

Are these sentences grammatical?
Could any of them be used in spoken English?

Dear N:

No. To make them standard English, you must put the infinitive in the passive voice. The infinitive is a subject complement, that is, it renames the subject, and in none of the sentences is the subject doing the action.

1a This pizza is to be eaten tonight.
2a This film is to be seen as soon as possible.
3a This tie is to be worn at fancy places.

It would be very unlikely that anyone would say #2a, but it is grammatically OK.

We note that other languages do use infinitives the way your original sentences are written, but it is confusing in English.

Cumulative Adjectives?

Dear G:

You wrote:

Dunno, but back as a kid in Virginia, we were taught that a sentence such as “The former overweight woman told us how she lost fifty-five pounds” (the example you use for culmulative adjectives) should always be written using an adverb (as in: “The formerly overweight woman told us how she lost fifty-five pounds”) as adverbs modify adjectives. Is that rule gone with the wind or since when do we no longer use “ly” adverbs to modify adjectives?

Both ways are technically correct. The way you propose actually solves a lot of the cumulative adjective problems. In your case, clearly “formerly” is an adverb modifying “overweight.” In our example “former” is a cumulative adjective modifying “overweight woman.” Both are standard English, but we wanted to illustrate the cumulative adjectives in our example–with maybe a touch of humor.

User Frustration

Your website is poorly designed and structured. There should be a contact page with address and email. It took me too long to find an unoticeable email link to write you this message.

Also, the grammar software in .zip format is completely unprofessional. Still, desperate as I am to find decent grammar software I tried downloading a trial version from . I installed it and all that was there was 2 help files, no software. If you claim that the help files are the only files originally supposed to be there then don’t advertise it as software. And, if wants to publish your software it is your responsiblity to make sure it is as full of a version that is allowed, all the proper files are included (install, help, interface) etc.

Dear M:

We have a contact page, . There are links to it on several other pages including our home page. Do you have a suggestion for making the page more accessible?

Most Windows software posted on the Internet to my knowledge is in ZIP archives. Is there a more professional way to do it?

We have posted two different Grammar Slammer packages. The basic Grammar Slammer package must be one you downloaded. That is an English grammar reference which uses the Windows Help file format. That would be for users who have no need of a grammar or spelling checker but would like a handy grammar reference in a familiar format. It is also available in Adobe PDF format for non-Windows users, as well as formats for Kindle, I-Phone, I-Pad, and other “e-readers.”

We also have Grammar Slammer with Checkers. In addition to the reference files, it also has a copy-and-paste Windows English grammar and spelling checker which is integrated with the help file. That may be closer to what you are looking for. It is only available in Windows. You can download that from . There is a link for both an EXE installation file as well as a ZIP file.

I hope this helps. We appreciate any suggestions that you may have to make our web site clearer.

“Whenever” and Tenses

1-Knowing that I haven’t taken any exercice during the day, I’ll have a light meal at night.
1a.Knowing that I haven’t taken any exercice during the day, I have a light meal at night.

2-Whenever I know that I haven’t taken any exercice during the day, I’ll have a light meal at night.

Can 1 and 1a be used instead of 2 (for a habitual action)?

Dear N:

2 is best for habitual action because of the word “whenever.” 1 and 1a are both OK, but they may refer to a single action. There is nothing to indicate single or repeated action. Context is critical for those, but 2 is clearly a repeated action. In any case, the future tense is more commonly used than the present in the main clause, so 1 would be more typical than 1a. However, because 1a is in the simple present, it could be used for a repeated action as well.

Position of Phrases

Which are correct?

1-“It was our team celebrating at the end.”
2-“At the end, it was our team celebrating.”

instead of:

3-“It was our team that celebrated at the end.”

Dear N:

All three are standard English, and they all mean the same thing.

Changing the Word Order

Which of these are correct:

1-Happy I was in my own house.
2-Not happy I was in my own house.
3-Happy was I in my own house.
4-Not happy was I in my own house.

I don’t think they would sound natural in everyday English, but are they grammatically acceptable? Are they archaic?

Dear N:

1 and 3 are used occasionally for emphasis. 3 would be the most natural in everyday English, and you do hear it occasionally. 2 and 4 would be grammatically understandable, but would be very awkward and would probably indicate someone who had trouble expressing himself.

None are archaic. Inversion has always been used in English for emphasis, but it also needs to be clear enough to be understandable.

Punctuation around Quotation Marks

I did not see any mention of differences in punctuation. In American English, the comma and the period are always inside quotes regardless of logic. In British English, the comma and the full stop follow wherever the sentence dictates: inside the quote marks if it belongs to the quote, outside if it belongs to the sentence. e.g., Carefree means “free from care or anxiety”.

Also you may want to mention the differences in meaning of certain words. I embarrassed myself royally when I first arrived in the US and, in my search for school supplies, asked for “rubbers”!

Dear YSM:

Yes, this punctuation is not universal, but it is commonly practiced in Commonwealth countries. We should make clearer mention of it.

Also the grammar checker in Grammar Slammer Deluxe with Checkers gives users the option of checking grammar one way or the other.

We made a decision to stick with grammar, spelling, and usage, rather than vocabulary in our programs and web pages–but not this blog. That would open up a whole new paradigm. I have not checked, but I am sure that there are publications that deal with differences in vocabulary between the two sides of the pond. I have noted visitors to the USA have some difficulty with the use of the word “pants” when they go the UK.

Who, Which, or That for a Team?

Dear Mr. S___:

You wrote:

>>Can I say “… interdisciplinary teams, who work together with customers …”
>>or should it be “… interdisciplinary teams, which work together with customers …”?

Either is acceptable. In modern usage, “who” normally applies to people and “which” to things, with “that” working for either. However, in this case it does depend on your emphasis.

If you want to emphasize that the teams are made up of individual people, then you would probably want to use “who.” If you are emphasizing the function of the team rather than the makeup (or if, for example, the team were a team of horses…), then “which” would be fine.

You might do better using “who” because it would be less likely to cause offense to someone. I have seen all three–who, which, and that–used in the sports pages to describe teams.