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

Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


Bacterias, bacteriae, bacteriums? Sorting out the ignoramuses from the cognoscenti (and other ‘borrowed’ plurals)

Bacteria

Cast your eyes over the headline above: which of the three plurals of bacterium is the correct one? Read on, I’ll enlighten you soon… Are you already awarding yourself a pat on the back for knowing the right answer? With English spelling and grammar setting a fair few traps for the unwary, it’s a reason […]

Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…

Rein or reign?

It wasn’t that many moons ago that horses were an integral part of our daily lives: in war and peace, in commerce and agriculture, they proved their worth by pulling various carts, carriages, and barges or they carried individual riders, from messengers to cavalry, on their backs. Since the dawn of the age of the […]

Cat lying down large

Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs

Can you declare, hand on heart, that you always use the verbs lie and lay correctly? You don’t say? Does that go for all the tenses and forms of those verbs? There’s an abundance of evidence in every type of writing, from journalism to legal reports, that many English speakers are all at sea when […]

Watch out for the birdie?

Watch out for the birdie

…an accountant found guilty of sending a “menacing tweet” was the victim of a legal “steamroller” that threatened to make the law look silly… The Telegraph 8 February 2012 What comes into your head when you see the words ‘menacing’ and ‘tweet’ side by side, as in the above? It initially struck me as being […]

Grammar myths #3: Don’t know nothing about double negatives? Read on…

Double negatives

Is there a specific grammatical slip that’s guaranteed to make you wince? I bet there is! While it’s hard to say why certain linguistic errors cause our hackles to rise rather than others, everyone has their own bête noire. You could split your infinitives till kingdom come and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but whenever […]

Flaunting the rules or flouting your bewilderment?

flauntflout

Have you ever had a moment’s pause about whether to use flaunt or flout… and then plumped for the wrong one? You may be confused, but you’re not alone! The erroneous heading above illustrates the misunderstanding that many people experience over the correct meanings of these words. However, while flaunt and flout sound fairly similar […]

Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?

Conjunction wordle

‘No, young lady, it is an unspeakable offence against the English language, and I will mark any such errors with a large red circle and make a public example of you by reading out your ungrammatical prose to the whole class.’ An imaginary conversation, true, but hands up all those whose English lessons at school […]

Plain unlucky! From hapless hunters to unfortunate accidents

Four-leaf clover

Dog Shoots Man: … Man Recovering from Gunshot Wound Caused by Pet … The hapless hunter was setting up decoys in the water when the mishap occurred. The above Huffington Post story caught my eye for two reasons: after I’d stopped smiling at the image of a dog shooting his master in the posterior (no […]

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