Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


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Elicit or illicit?

1. Such a question isn’t intended to elicit an answer. 2. VHF radio calls from the coastguard and other ships were illiciting no response. 3. He brazenly carried on an elicit affair with Bert’s wife. 4. She admitted to having been in possession of illicit drugs. 5. You can imagine the amount of booing this […]

Must should ought- words

Must, should, or ought?

A woman’s place is in the bosom of her family; her thoughts ought seldom to emerge from it. The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany, Volume 97, 1825 Those nineteenth-century moralists! Can you imagine what today’s world would have been like if women such as Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, or Harriet Beecher Stowe had confined their […]

apple different from than or to

Different from? Different than? Different to?

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. F. Scott Fitzgerald 1926 It’s a situation that crops up all the time – you want to contrast people or things, describing how one is not the same as the other, so you use the adjective different, and decide to […]

accept_blog

Accept or except?

 ? The British really are mad as hatters – present company accepted of course. Do you accept that the above sentence is good English (please disregard the sentiments expressed therein!)? How about these two examples – would you take exception to them? ? She excepts everyone for what they are and I think this is […]

Sister-in-laws, sisters-in-law, or sisters-in-laws?

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If you had more than one sister-in-law, how would you talk about them? Think you know? How about if you wanted to refer to more than one right of way? Would you say rights of way or rights of ways? Here are a few more plural brain-teasers: Singular noun Plural A Plural B Plural C […]

Cinderella

What’s the difference between ‘will’ and ‘shall’?

Cinderella, you shall go to the ball! The story of Cinderella is decidedly appealing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a fairy godmother? She’d magic you away from your humdrum existence, ensure that you’re the belle of the ball, and make all your wishes come true. Even better (for the purposes of this blog post), […]

Treble / triple trouble?

Darts in dartboard

Consider the following sentences: do they strike you as completely unexceptional, or would you prefer to change the instances of treble to triple, or vice versa? The proposals will treble the size of the tiny village. The company is set to triple its output in one year. Double or even treble rows of blast walls […]

Can or could?

Can or could?

My recent post about may and might generated quite a buzz: many of you seemed to find it helpful, some picked up on my intentionally split infinitives, while other readers raised queries about two other modal auxiliary verbs, can and could. Understanding how all the modal verbs are used is vital to speaking and writing […]

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