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Imitation for a good reason, imitation for a stupid reason, or imitation just by instinct: "Monkey see, monkey do" covers them all. But what's with the non-standard grammar? Why isn't it "Monkey sees, monkey does"? Or "What a monkey sees, it does?"  Continue reading...
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Noel Anenberg, a regular reader of this column and author of the forthcoming book The Dog Boy, asked me about a usage of have that implies, Anenberg writes, "the speaker's active role in the events." Compare "I had my house cleaned" and "I had my car stolen."  Continue reading...
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In English language learning, most course books introduce verb tenses in a highly regimented fashion. As a result, many teachers who want to use short narratives for their elementary classes feel stymied because the linguistic devices from which stories are made don't follow the strict order prescribed by the course books. "It will confuse the students" is the most common cry to be heard. But this is wrong: it will not confuse the students at all.  Continue reading...
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Recently a reader of the Copyediting newsletter (which I edit) asked me about the phrase take a decision. Shouldn't it be make a decision? In researching the answer, I learned that make and take were examples of "light verbs." It's a concept that few besides linguists are concerned with, if my research is accurate, but one that if writers were more aware of could have a profound effect on their writing.  Continue reading...
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It's September and students of all ages are heading back to school. But why is it back to school and not back to the school or back to schools? Certainly if I were to write about one specific school, I would write the school. If I were talking about schools as a category, I can say schools.  Continue reading...
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I have to admit that two of the biggest areas in which I struggle as a teacher are instructing grammar and punctuation. Long ago, I didn't seem so frustrated, but like cursive handwriting, grammar and punctuation have become lost in the shuffle.  Continue reading...
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As a teacher of English as a foreign language, I've developed a bit of an aversion to adjectives. Show me too many and I break out into a prolonged, painful and unpleasant rash. Or should that be painful, prolonged and unpleasant? Or...?  Continue reading...
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2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 187 Articles