Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


Media began its linguistic life as the Latin plural of medium.

What is the plural of media?

Media began its linguistic life as the Latin plural of medium. The latter entered English in the late 16th century and developed as a countable noun with a range of meanings. So what then, is the plural of media? Just as happens with many other Latin words which are now established in English (such as aquarium and optimum), it turns out that […]

Should you use while or whilst?

While or whilst?

So should you be using while or whilst? First, some history: the word while was first recorded in Old English and it can be used as a noun, a verb, a relative adverb, a conjunction, or a preposition. Whilst is a later form and was first evidenced in the late 14th century. Whilst is more limited in scope than while, and can only be used as a conjunction […]

Hand writing in notebook with pen and paper balls

Your vs. you’re

Similar to other pairs like whose and who’s, the pairing you’re and your often causes confusion. In fact, it’s not hard to find hundreds of mistakes bearing this out in the Oxford English Corpus, a collection of examples drawn from around the Internet. Those your vs you’re mistakes include the following: X You wanted sumptuous and […]

Do you know the right choice when it comes to whose vs. who's?

Whose vs. who’s

Apostrophes often get people into trouble, so it’s no surprise that people often struggle with whose vs. who’s. Though it is a fairly common error, it is also fairly easy to avoid. X There’s no one whose going to believe in your movie more than you. X  It was not well received by parents like Anne, […]

railway and train phrases

Terms and phrases from trains and railways

We’ve been letting the train take the strain when it comes to moving ourselves or goods from A to B for around 200 years. Although there were locomotive steam engines (that is, engines that moved as opposed to fixed ones) in operation some years before George Stephenson’s pioneering invention the Rocket was launched in 1829, […]

Into or in to? Learn the rules of splitting them up or keeping them together.

Into or in to

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 – […]

Is that the one dark sheep here among or between the others?

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? […]

Is it stationary or stationery?

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 […]

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