Student Stumper 40: Can I use “will” in a clause with “when”?

Often answers to grammar questions are easy to give, but occasionally a question really gives me pause. Even if I believe I know the answer, I find myself asking, ‘”Why is that correct?” The first rules that come to mind somehow don’t apply. Some choose to downplay the importance of studying grammar. I agree that language learning goes…

Student Stumper 39: Can “that which” be used together?

QUESTION: Can “that which” be used together? ANSWER: Hmm. It can, but why does is sound odd to my ears? That was my first reaction to a student’s question. My clue was his source.  He encountered the combination in a scholarly work. The statement he quoted also made use of “ofttime,” which is recognized as…

Student Stumper 38: The Grammar of Perception Verbs (Part 2)

Q: If you say, “Listen to Mona sing,” how is the word sing functioning in that sentence? A: It took some thinking and digging for me to decide on an answer. I had originally addressed verbs of perception in Student Stumper 14, but one thing I did not focus on in that post was labeling…

Student Stumper 35: “As if” and “As though”

QUESTION: What verb forms can follow as if or as though? ANSWER: Hm. You’re asking as if I had all the answers! This question was posted on my community forum. The student wondered if we could say both “as if you didn’t know me” and “as if you don’t know me.” I felt stumped. Was…

Student Stumper 34: While or awhile?

QUESTION: Which is correct, for a while or for awhile? ANSWER: This question was posted on my community forum. It was easy for me to answer the spelling question.  I know that after the preposition “for” we write two words – a while.  That’s because we need a noun object after a preposition. The tricky…

Student Stumper 33: Is “would” more polite than “could”?

QUESTION: What’s the difference between would and could? ANSWER: This question was posted on my forum, and it began a discussion on modals. I first explored differences in meaning. I listed uses of would, including future in the past (You promised you would tell me!) and habitual past (When I was a child, I would ask…

Student Stumper 32: Can TO and FOR both express purpose?

QUESTION: Should I say that a knife is used to cut things or for cutting things? Can both TO and FOR express purpose? ANSWER: This was a question posed by a YouTube viewer. I responded by acknowledging that both forms were possible in the given example. I speculated about differences in context, but I didn’t explore them….

Student Stumper 31: Can abstract nouns be specific?

QUESTION: How can I know if an uncountable noun, which is modified by an adjective, is specific or not? Should I ignore the modifier when deciding the use of the definite article or zero article? ANSWER: This question was recently posted on my YouTube channel. The advanced ELL provided lengthy examples of abstract nouns in context…

Student Stumper 30: Is “rather than” a preposition?

Click to listen to my introduction to Student Stumper 30. QUESTION: Is “rather than” a preposition? ANSWER: Good question! Let’s study some of the examples from Student Stumper 29 and see if we can come to a conclusion. First, let’s not confuse rather than with would rather (…than). EXAMPLE 1: She said she‘d rather stay…