Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


Explore some of the irregular plurals in English, including bacterium.

Irregular plurals in English

Bacterias, bacteriae, bacterium: which of the three plurals of bacterium is the correct one? Read on, I’ll enlighten you soon as to the correct irregular plural. 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 it in?

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 […]

Lie or lay? What is the cat doing?

What’s the difference between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’?

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 it comes to understanding the differences between lie and lay If you confess to being among their number, it’s not entirely your fault: the situation is bewildering in some respects, all part […]

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 […]

Are double negatives always wrong?

What is a double negative?

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 […]

Flaunt or flout

Flaunting the rules or flouting your bewilderment?

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 […]

Can I start a sentence with and? Most of our classroom experience would have us believe that starting a sentence with a conjunction is wrong.

Can you start a sentence with a conjunction?

For many of us, our English lessons at school were marked by the stern admonition: ‘Never begin a sentence with a conjunction!’. I was taught this ‘rule’ as a grammatical diktat back in the 1970s, and a quick trawl of the Net shows that the same advice is still being handed down to English students […]

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Plain unlucky! From hapless hunters to unfortunate accidents

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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