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Grammar

 

Instance and class

Read today 2006-03-12 on the BBC website:  "The first Ariane 5-ECA had to be destroyed on its maiden flight in 2002 but flew successfully twice in 2005".  This is an example of a new strange structure whereby an object, its class and its name are confused.  "the first" refers to the instance that was destroyed whereas "flew successfully" refers to the class of Ariane Launchers.

Other cases:  "internet" versus "the internet", "iPod" versus "your iPod".

its and it's

This looks like an exception in the English language.  Unfortunately.

When talking about the toys of your pet cat, you might say "the cat's toys are interesting".  You use an apostrophe to separate the "s" from the rest of the word. Logically you should also write "it's toys are interesting".  But English grammar dictates otherwise:  the phrase "he is big" we also write "he's big" abbreviating the "is" to apostrophe-s.  And so we write "it's big".  But then, for distinction, we have to write "its toys are interesting".

If you have difficulty with that, so do I.  Just remember: "it" does it the other way around from nouns.

Or remember it this way:  yours, hers, his, its.  No apostrophes.

See also the Apostrophe Protection Society.

that and which

Very difficult, even for native English speakers.  See: World Wide Words.

The cat that I saw in the other room is the one which has a white spot.(?)
The cat which I saw in the other room is the one that has a white spot.(?)

Definitely: "Which of the two has a white spot?"

than and from

The Eiffel tower is higher than the Tower Bridge
Dining out is different from eating at home.

than and then

It's only then that we will choose one rather than the other.

Then = time; than = comparison

Bad uses of words:

graphic images

used to refer to disturbing images or potentially shocking images, as they may appear in TV news reports.

forward slash

heard on radio and TV to indicate the slash (/) in web URLs, presumably because the DOS operating system uses backslash (\) in file system paths and that is unfortunately more familiar to many.  But clearly there is slash (/) and backslash (\), forward slash is just stupid.

Bad words

There are some very bad words or rather bad concepts, see the page on bad concepts.

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next planned revision: 2009-11