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

Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


Some reflections on reflexives

Some reflections on reflexives

Myself and my wife have for some time been amazed at the appalling driving habits of the general population of Grantham. When you read the above sentence, what goes through your mind? Do you think ‘What a perceptive comment, and what an elegant turn of phrase’ or does your internal grammar monitor shriek ‘Eek! Yet […]

Do you know your -ibles from your -ables?

Do you know your -ibles from your -ables?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that we’ve featured postings on homophones over the past few months, but all of them have been complete words, such as pedal and peddle. Of course, suffixes (word endings) and prefixes (word beginnings) can also sound the same in English, causing no end of […]

We were stood at the bar talking about continuous tenses. . .

We were stood at the bar talking about continuous tenses. . .

Shock horror – Auntie ventures into non-standard English! Call me a dyed in the wool reactionary, but the BBC (familiarly known as ‘Auntie’ because the broadcaster is regarded as the UK’s rather staid maiden aunt) has surprised me twice recently. Firstly, I was shocked to encounter someone saying ‘sh** happens’ at around 11.45 a.m. on […]

Relatively speaking: an untangling of that/who/which

Relatively speaking: an untangling of that/who/which

I have a twofold career: as well as writing blogs about grammar and usage, I also teach English as a foreign language. Explaining the more arcane and sometimes illogical nuances of English grammar to native and non-native speakers alike can be challenging, but I relish the chance to do so. I’ve found that some people […]

Grisly bears and grizzly murders?

Grisly bears and grizzly murders?

Most of us would agree that English spelling can be a minefield: one reason for this is that there are numerous words which sound the same when you say or hear them but which are spelled differently and which have completely different meanings: a few examples are pour/pore, flower/flour, and sight/site. Such words are known […]

Less or fewer?

Less or fewer?

There are less problems with finding staff these days too. If anything, we’ve had fewer problems than we expected. Do you ever waver when it comes to choosing between less and fewer? You’re in good company, as the above examples (both taken from a British newspaper website on the same date) demonstrate. You may even […]

Pedal or peddle?

Bike

English spelling is full of apparent idiosyncrasies – native speakers and learners alike grapple with doubling consonants, how to form plurals, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’’, and have to dodge umpteen other potential pitfalls. Another rich source of mistakes is the fact that English contains pairs of similar-sounding words (homophones). These words have different […]

Faceoff: ‘he’, ‘he or she’, ‘he/she’, ‘s/he’ versus ‘they’

He, she, or they?

I enjoy reading your comments on Oxford’s blog posts: they provide an invaluable insight into your language concerns, likes, and dislikes. Your remarks strengthen my awareness that we have a sophisticated and grammatically knowledgeable audience: this keeps me on my toes, to say the least. Of course, I always aim to stay within the bounds […]

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