Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


‘In to’ versus ‘into’

A horse walks into a bar. The barman comes up and says ‘Why the long face?’ I’m rather fond of all those ‘A man/horse/alien etc. walks into a bar’ jokes, aren’t you? Some are particularly amusing, such as the following one, which fellow language-lovers should appreciate: Past, present, and future walked into a bar – […]

black sheep

Grammar myths: among or between?

Bill and Mark swam among the sunken ships. Bill and Mark swam between the sunken ships. What’s the difference between soup, consommé, and broth? What’s the difference among soup, consommé, and broth? Two questions about the sentences above (you’ll find the answers at the end of this article): Do they have exactly the same meaning? […]


Stationary or stationery?

This pair of confusable homophones (words that sound the same) and near-homographs (words that are spelled the same) causes no end of spelling-related fails: you can spot errors in places as diverse as blogs and online newspapers to scientific writing – no one seems immune! Does this matter? In my view, it does. These words […]


English is chock-a-block with invisible nautical terms

Ahoy, me hearties! When I plumbed the hidden depths of the nautical origins of common English words and phrases last year, I dredged up a treasure chest brimful of material, more than enough for the post I was writing at the time. With thoughts of summer holidays uppermost in many of our minds right now, […]


Passed or past?

Slumped in a post-festive food coma? Feeling the after-effects of watching too much stultifying TV? If so, perhaps the last thing you want to ponder is the distinction between passed and past. On the other hand, you may be eager for some virtuous self-improvement to begin the New Year on an upbeat note. If you’ve […]


Two words or one?

Is there a space between a and lot, or is the spelling alot OK? What’s the difference between away and a way? If you’ve ever pondered over questions similar to these, the dilemma of ‘two words or one?’ is one which you’ll have grappled with when putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. On […]


Hark! Is that the sound of bastions crumbling?

Shock, horror! The BBC, once revered as a paragon of correct English, seems to have slipped from its pedestal of late. Many people (including me, as I blogged about here) have become increasingly irritated or concerned by our national broadcaster’s lapses from the norm when it comes to English grammar, usage, and pronunciation. Is this […]


Definitely versus defiantly – is there a difference?

The simple answer to that question: yes, there’s definitely a distinction between these words, but it’s most unlikely that there’s anything defiantly different about them! A slight spelling digression…  Up till now, I’d always reckoned that the main trouble people had with the word definitely was that they tended to misspell it as definately or […]

Take our poll…