Where are prepositions placed in English sentences?

prepositions word orderHow can we define the rules for placing a preposition in a sentence? Before a noun? After a verb? One of the additions to the second edition of Word Order in English Sentences is a guide to prepositions. Though they are often connected to other parts of a sentence, such as noun phrases, and often have specific or flexible rules, like adverbs, prepositions have some general rules that can help with understanding how they fit into a sentence, explained in detail below. Continue reading

Why we say 21st Century for years starting 20…

why say 21st century 20xxThe way we describe ages, including years or people’s ages, can sometimes seem strange if you consider that years beginning “20” are referred to as “21st Century” (and similarly, years starting “19” were the “20th Century”). There is a very logical reason for this, though: when it comes to age, and time that has passed, we assign numbers after a period of time is complete. Continue reading

The Impact of Dickens’ Christmas Carol – in Language and Culture

christmas carol dickens languageIn 1843, Charles Dickens wrote a novella called A Christmas Carol, a story still told today. The story followed a miser (a nasty man who does not want to share his wealth) on Christmas Eve, as he is visited by three spirits that teach him about kindness and caring. Its positive message, of a bad person becoming generous, has had a big impact on Western culture around the Christmas season – including interesting contributions to the English language. Continue reading

How to use suffixes to create nouns from adjectives and verbs

create nouns from adjectives and verbsMany words in English can be adapted to be used for different grammatical functions. We often use prefixes and suffixes (extra parts of the word added at the beginning or the end) to change the meaning of a word for a variety of purposes. Adjectives and verbs can be turned into nouns, for example happy becomes the feeling of happiness, run becomes the doer of the verb, runner. There are many different ways to do this that sometimes have individual quirks – but there are also some general rules to help know how to create nouns from other words. The following is a list of the most common suffix changes to form nouns: Continue reading

Unusual adjective positions that don’t stick to the rules

unusual adjective positionsThe general rules for adjective word order are usually understood as most adjectives coming before the noun they describe, with a few exceptions that follow linking verbs, such as to be (when adjectives come after a verb or object). However, as with everything in English, there are many more exceptions to the usual rules, and there is a variety of situations where adjectives commonly follow nouns, pronouns and verbs. Continue reading

Noun complements and adding additional information after nouns

noun complementsBasic word structure in English shows that a noun either be followed by a verb (when the noun is the subject) or a prepositional phrase or a time (when the noun is an object). However, nouns can be joined by additional information as part of a single grammatical unit. As we have seen with compound nouns, nouns can be formed with more than one word that describes different aspects of the noun. They can also be followed by complements which add additional information or complete the meaning of a noun, while remaining part of the subject or object’s grammatical unit. Continue reading

Word order for compound nouns

compound noun word orderNouns can be combined with many different words to form compound nouns, the core noun is modified as though with an adjective. Compound nouns are treated like a single unit, so the entire group of words take the position of a regular noun, and any modifiers come before or after the whole compound noun.

  • I danced with the Prime Minister’s daughter.
  • The Prime Minister’s daughter is not a good dancer.

However, more consideration must be given to how compound nouns are formed, and the word order within these structures.

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Ready, willing and able – different uses of “to be willing to do”

ready willing able to doWhen we talk about future plans in English, the construction “to be willing to do” can be used with a few different adjectives (in place of willing), such as ready, prepared and able. In some contexts these can be used interchangeably with almost no difference in meaning, roughly meaning to be prepared to do something. The idiomatic expression ready, willing and able to … means to be incredibly eager / prepared to do something. It makes use of these multiple words reinforcing the idea of readiness/eagerness by repeating adjectives that with almost the same meaning (similar to a construction such as I am well and good). However the use of such a phrase does demonstrate there is some difference between these words, and in certain contexts the different forms of to be willing to do can have distinct meanings. Continue reading

What’s the difference between ‘solve’ and ‘resolve’?

solve vs resolveThe verb to solve is generally used to mean find a solution – for example an answer or explanation. We solve a problem, something with a logical or complete answer. The verb to resolve has a number of meanings, one of which is to deal with conclusively – that is, to settle something, effectively to finish it in an acceptable way. This meaning of resolve is close to the meaning of solve, but with the difference that solve is used to find the correct answer to a problem; resolve is used more generally to conclude a problem. The conclusion reached with resolving something may be one of many choices, and it may not please everyone, but it concludes the problem, finishing it. The conclusion reached with solving a problem, however, suggests the correct and definite answer has been found.

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21 alternative verbs to describe speaking

alternative verbs to sayThere are many verbs in English that describe speech. If you want to describe a conversation in a more dynamic way, you can choose verbs with more specific meanings than “to say”, which simply means to speak. This is useful if you want to create a varied narrative, in writing, or if you just want to add more variety and depth to your speech. For example, instead of “He said,” we might say “He exclaimed,”, “He noted,” or “He interjected,” – all to describe something that was said, but in a different manner. Here is a quick list of alternatives you can use, with explanations and examples: Continue reading