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

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

Abolishing angst regarding among versus amongst

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One of our readers raised the following useful query a few months ago: What’s the difference between among and amongst? Happy to help! In the spirit of the January sales that are just winding down here in the UK, I thought I’d make this blog a twofer and deal with while and whilst at the […]

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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 […]

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 […]

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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 […]

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