Battling with English - part 1
This is the first episode of a series about the English language. In it I want to look at some of the problems people (including myself) have with it. I plan to do several episodes and I want to keep them short.
The English language is old and has changed – evolved – in many ways over the years. It has come from a multitude of sources, and it's difficult to say what is correct in an absolute way.
For example, when I was at school we were taught that "nice" should not be used in written material. At that time it was becoming common to see phrases like "I had a nice time" meaning pleasant (in a bland sort of way). In my "Concise Oxford Dictionary" from 1976 the 6th definition, "agreeable" is marked "colloquialism", whereas today this is a common usage.
However, it's easy to use the wrong word in the wrong context. You might choose one that sounds similar for example. You might also have problems with the spelling of a chosen word. Spelling in English is not always logical. You might also find yourself confused about the use of punctuation – the correct use of apostrophes can be challenging for example.
In this series I want to examine some of the problem areas and try to give you the means of remembering the right way.
Note: I'm not an authority on this stuff, but I have tried to teach myself not to make these mistakes over the years. I just wanted to share what I have learnt1 with some links to higher authorities.
I have provided detailed notes as usual, and these can be viewed here.
- Then versus Than
- Oxford Dictionaries: Definition of "they're"
- Tenet versus Tenant:
- Quick and Dirty Tips: Grammar Girl
One thing I have learnt is that "learned" and "learnt" are both correct and mean the same. However, "learnt" is more common in the UK, whereas "learned" is used both in the UK and the USA.↩