Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tip of the day

Tip of the day

 What is an Interjection?

An interjection is a word added to a sentence to convey emotion. It is not grammatically related to any other part of the sentence.

You usually follow an interjection with an exclamation mark. Interjections are uncommon in formal academic prose, except in direct quotations.

The highlighted words in the following sentences are interjections:

Ouch, that hurt!
Oh no, I forgot that the exam was today.
Hey! Put that down!
I heard one guy say to another guy, “He has a new car, eh?”
I don’t know about you but, good lord, I think taxes are too high!

Written by Heather MacFadyen

An interesting article on ‘Interjections!‘ here

Just for Fun!

Just for Fun!

15 Most Unbelievable Words in English

There are many unbelievable words in the English language–some so strange that they are rarely used. There are words for things most of us did not even know we need a word for. “There’s a word for that?” Some may deepen our vocabulary, but sometimes it is just entertaining to pick through the dictionary for fun.

[Infographic provided by]

(n.) A lack of the signs of old ages; a youthful old age
“The agerasia of that fellow is amazing; look at him darting around on those skates!”

(n.) A person armed with the self-confidence of ignorance
“Only a bayard would walk past that bull.”

(n.) An unfaithful spouse
“Phil refused to believe his wife was a bed-swerver.”

(v.) To paint the face with cosmetics, so as to hide blemishes
“My wife’s tendency to fard in the bathroom for an hour made us late.”

(n.) One who believes anything, no matter how absurd
“That guy is a gobemouche–I told him that bull would not chase him, and he believed me.”

(v.) To show that a person has previously espoused opinions differing from the ones he or she now holds
“Tom hansardized Phil by showing us a letter Phil had written to him.”

(n.) One who persistently fails to take notice of things
“I am an inadvertist when it comes to driving. I run over about 3 things a month.”

(n.) A brat who never ceases to be hungry, and was popularly thought to be a fairy that was substituted for the child
“Once upon a time, wicked faeries kidnapped a child and replaced it with an evil killcrop.”

(n.) Excessive or undue affection on the part of a wife for her husband
“Marge’s maritality was driving Burt insane, so he went out with his buddies.”

(adj.) Buttock-shaped
“The children giggled when they saw the natiform pumpkin.”

(n.) The state or condition of obstinately or willfully refusing to speak
“The sullen boy glared at his mother in obmutescence.”

(n.) A statement or account of dubious correctness or accuracy, such as some found in the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder
“Saying that the moon is made of cheese is pure plinyism.”


(adj.) Said of a meal, having the qualities of food served during Lent; austere, skimpy
“We only had a few pieces of chicken, and after our quaresimal meal, we were still hungry.”

(v.) To inconvenience or discomfort a person by pressing against him or her or by standing too close
“I was standing in the elevator when six other people got in, and one in particular scrouged me into a corner.”

(n.) The amount that can be held in two hands cupped together also, the two cupped hands themselves
“The pond was nearly dry; barely more than a yepsen of water was left.”

Some people like to learn a new word every day, though they are not always as odd as these. Are there any words in your every day speech –odd or not so odd– that others do not frequently use?

More prepositions

More prepositions

Prepositions of Direction: To, On (to), In (to)

Graphics for this handout were developed by Jordan Golembeski.

This handout explains prepositions that express movement toward something: to, onto, and into. First, the prepositions will be introduced as a group. Then, the special uses of each one will be discussed.

To, into, and onto correspond respectively to the prepositions of location at, in, and on. Each pair can be defined by the same spatial relations of point, line/surface, or area/volume. To learn more about the spatial relationships expressed by these pairs of prepositions, read the first section of “Prepositions of Location: At, On, and In” before you start reading this handout.


The basic preposition of a direction is “to.”

TO: signifies orientation toward a goal

When the goal is physical, such as a destination, “to” implies movement in the direction of the goal.

We flew from New York to Paris. (OR) We flew to Paris.

When the goal is not a physical place, for instance, an action, “to” marks a verb; it is attached as an infinitive and expresses purpose. The preposition may occur alone or in the phrase in order. The two uses can also occur together in a single sentence:

We flew from New York to Paris to see our father.

The other two prepositions of direction are compounds formed by adding “to” to the corresponding prepositions of location.

The preposition of location determines the meaning of the preposition of direction.

ON + TO = onto: signifies movement toward a surface

IN + TO = into: signifies movement toward the interior of a volume

(“To” is part of the directional preposition toward, and the two mean about the same thing.)

The frog jumped onto the lilypad.

The milk went into the glass.

With many verbs of motion, “on” and “in” have a directional meaning and can be used along with “onto” and “into.”

This is why “to” is inside parentheses in the title of the handout, showing that it is somewhat optional with the compound prepositions. Thus, the following sentences are roughly synonymous:

The paper went into the garbage can.

The crab washed up onto the shore.

To the extent that these pairs do differ, the compound preposition conveys the completion of an action, while the simple preposition points to the position of the subject as a result of that action. This distinction helps us understand how directional and locational prepositions are related: they stand in the relationship of cause and effect.

The paper went into the garbage can.

Position of subject: the paper is in the garbage can.

The crab washed up onto the shore.

Position of subject: the crab is on the shore.

See the sections below for some exceptions to this rule.

Uses of “To”

“To” occurs with several classes of verbs.

Verb + to + infinitive

Verbs in this group express willingness, desire, intention, or obligation.

Willingness: be willing, consent, refuse

Desire: desire, want, wish, like, ask, request, prefer

Intention: intend, plan, prepare

Obligation: be obligated, have, need


I refuse to allow you to intimidate me with your threats.

I’d like to ask her how long she’s been skiing.

I plan to graduate this summer.

Henry had to pay his tuition at the Bursar’s office.

In other cases, “to” is used as an ordinary preposition.

Verbs of communication: listen, speak (but not tell), relate, appeal (in the sense of ‘plead,’ not ‘be attractive’)

Verbs of movement: move, go, transfer, walk/run/swim/ride/drive/ fly, travel

Except for transfer, all the verbs in listed here can take toward as well as to. However, “to” suggests movement toward a specific destination, while “toward” suggests movement in a general direction, without necessarily arriving at a destination:

The plane was headed toward a storm cloud.

Additional examples:

The plane was headed toward a storm cloud.
(It was headed in the direction of a storm cloud; it may not have reached or flown through the cloud.)

The golf ball rolled toward the hole.

Drive toward the city limits and turn north.
(Drive in the direction of the city limits; turnoff may be before arriving there.)

Take me to the airport, please.
(I actually want to arrive at the airport.)

Uses of “Onto”

“Onto” can generally be replaced by “on” with verbs of motion.

The hat went on(to) his head.

Dietrich jumped on(to) the mat.

Huan fell on(to) the floor.

Athena climbed on(to) the back of the truck.

Some verbs of motion express the idea that the subject causes itself or some physical object to be situated in a certain place (compare the three example directly above).

Of these verbs, some take only “on.” Others take both “on” and “onto,” with the latter being preferred by some speakers.

He put the socks on his feet.

The plane landed on the runway. (not “onto” the runway)

Sam hung the decoration on the Christmas tree. (not “onto” the tree)

He placed the package on the table. (not “onto” the table)

Joanna spilled her Coke on the rug. (not “onto” the rug)

Samir moved the chair on(to) the deck.

The crane lowered the roof on(to) the house.

The baby threw the pot on(to) the floor.

Verbs taking only “on” are rare: “set” may be another one, and so perhaps is “put.” Other verbs taking both prepositions are “raise,” “scatter” (when it takes a direct object), “pour,” and “add.”

The farmer scattered seed on(to) the fertile ground.
We’re adding on a wing at the back of the building.
We’re adding a porch onto the house.

In “We’re adding on a wing at the back of the building,” “on” is really part of the verb, while in “We’re adding a porch onto the house,” “onto” is a simple preposition. This contrast points to a fairly important and general rule:

Simple prepositions can combine with verbs, but compound prepositions cannot.

Note also that in “The farmer scattered seed on(to) the fertile ground”, the word “on” has its ordinary meaning of a position on a surface, but in this case the surface is vertical rather than horizontal— the side of a building.

There are a number of verb-preposition combinations that are similar to “add on” but have the meaning “of continuing or resuming an action” when used in the imperative mood.

Except for “hang,” which takes both “on” and “onto,” the following verbs all occur only with “on.” The meanings of these combinations, some of which are idiomatic, are given in parentheses. Not all of them have the force of a command.

  • Hang on / Hang onto the rope (“continue to grasp tightly”)
  • Carry on (“resume what you were doing”)
  • Cail on (“resume or continue sailing”)
  • Dream on (“continue dreaming”; a humorous way of saying “that is an unattainable goal”)
  • Lead on (“resume or continue leading us”)
  • Rock on (“continue playing rock music”)

Drive on! (Or, Keep driving toward the city).

Uses of “Into”

With verbs of motion, “into” and “in” are interchangeable except when the preposition is the last word or occurs directly before an adverbial of time, manner, or frequency.

In this case, only “in” (or “inside”) can be used.

Spike is lying in his house. (Not into.)

The patient went into the doctor’s office. The patient went in. (not “into”)

Our new neighbors moved into the house next door yesterday. (“to take up residence in a new home'”)

Our new neighbors moved in yesterday.

In “Our new neighbors move in yesterday,” the last word is the time adverbial yesterday, so the object of the preposition in can be omitted. Of course, in an information question, “into” also can be last word except for an adverbial when its object is questioned by a wh- word:

Now what kind of trouble has she gotten herself into?

Now what sort of trouble is she in?

Verbs expressing stationary position take only “on” or “in” with the ordinary meanings of those prepositions.

If a verb allows the object of the preposition to be omitted, the construction may have an idiomatic meaning.

The cat sat on the mat.

The doctor is in his office.

The doctor is in. (‘available for consultation’)

“In(to)” has two special uses with “move.”

When “move in” is followed by a purpose clause, it has the sense of “approach.”

The lion moved in for the kill.

The police moved in to rescue the hostages inside the building.

In “The lion moved in for the kill” and “The Police moved in to rescue the hostages inside the building,” “in” is part of the verb, so “into” cannot be used. We cannot say: “The lion moved into for the kill.”

When “into” is used with move, it functions as an ordinary preposition to convey the idea of moving something from one place to another.

We’ll move your brother’s old bed into your room.

A man is jumping into the pool.

The man is in the pool.

The person is placing groceries into the shopping bag.

The person has completed putting groceries in the bag.


Tip of the day

Tip of the day

I wish I were…

“I wish I were” and “I wish I was”: which of these is proper in English? Both are proper, they are not interchangeable, and each has a purpose. Luckily, the differences are simple.

What Does “Subjunctive” Mean?

“Subjunctive” refers to a “verb mood” that conveys an urgency, and it generally points to a desire or imaginary situation. This mood is most noticeable in the third person. In subjunctive form, the simplest root of the word is used.

“It is necessary that each farmer water his field and milk his cows.”
“The chickens requested that the fox be removed.”

These sentences illustrate an urgency, and the latter goes further with a prompt–please remove that fox so those poor chickens will not be eaten.

[Infographic provided by]

Before the fourteenth century, the subjunctive forms of verbs in English were well used, but most have faded out from modern English almost completely. To fill this niche, speakers generally rely on forms of “would” and “could”, but in the few instances where the subjunctive can still be found, its use is quite simple to learn.

In an old television commercial, a small boy sings, “I wish I were” a hot dog; this commercial actually does follow the old subjunctive rules. “Were” is used in a state that has never existed and never will exist. The child in the commercial lived out a fairly normal life and never became a hot dog.

“I wish I were a camel; I’d never be thirsty.”
“When it rains this hard, people often wish they were ducks.”
“If I were a hot dog, I would probably wish I were a little boy.”

If I Was, If It Was

The lines are smudged in everyday speech, and this is the phrase most likely to be used, but it is only correct in certain references. “Was” is used in situations where the statement might once have been or could be a reality. This verb mood is called “indicative”. These subtle differences once enabled a speaker to “indicate” something without using more words to spell it out.

“If I was home, I would be sitting on the couch eating chips.”
The speaker indicates with subtlety that he intends to go home, and potato chips will be involved.

“Frank’s not here yet, but if he was, that blueberry pie would be gone.”
Because “was” is used, even if it read, “If Frank was here, that pie would be gone,” readers can assume that Frank will show up eventually, and the pie is in danger.

In an unknown situation, it is admissible to use “was”.

“If Betty was smart, she’d go hide that pie.”
Even if there is proof that Betty is NOT smart, it is certainly more polite to indicate she might be!

“If it was Friday, I don’t blame her for taking a short lunch.”
“Was” is intended to emphasize “Friday” and that it was a fact.

How fun it is that certain things can be hinted at, if the listener can catch the subtleties. Can you think of any other words or parts of speech that change only slightly but definitely alter meaning?



Prepositions for Time, Place, and Introducing Objects

One point in time

On is used with days:

  • I will see you on Monday.
  • The week begins on Sunday.

At is used with noon, night, midnight, and with the time of day:

  • My plane leaves at noon.
  • The movie starts at 6 p.m.

In is used with other parts of the day, with months, with years, with seasons:

  • He likes to read in the afternoon.
  • The days are long in August.
  • The book was published in 1999.
  • The flowers will bloom in spring.

Extended time

To express extended time, English uses the following prepositions: since, for, by, from—to, from-until, during,(with)in

  • She has been gone since yesterday. (She left yesterday and has not returned.)
  • I’m going to Paris for two weeks. (I will spend two weeks there.)
  • The movie showed from August to October. (Beginning in August and ending in October.)
  • The decorations were up from spring until fall. (Beginning in spring and ending in fall.)
  • I watch TV during the evening. (For some period of time in the evening.)
  • We must finish the project within a year. (No longer than a year.)


To express notions of place, English uses the following prepositions: to talk about the point itself: in, to express something contained: inside, to talk about the surface: on, to talk about a general vicinity, at.

  • There is a wasp in the room.
  • Put the present inside the box.
  • I left your keys on the table.
  • She was waiting at the corner.

Higher than a point

To express notions of an object being higher than a point, English uses the following prepositions: over, above.

  • He threw the ball over the roof.
  • Hang that picture above the couch.

Lower than a point

To express notions of an object being lower than a point, English uses the following prepositions: under, underneath, beneath, below.

  • The rabbit burrowed under the ground.
  • The child hid underneath the blanket.
  • We relaxed in the shade beneath the branches.
  • The valley is below sea-level.

Close to a point

To express notions of an object being close to a point, English uses the following prepositions: near, by, next to, between, among, opposite.

  • She lives near the school.
  • There is an ice cream shop by the store.
  • An oak tree grows next to my house
  • The house is between Elm Street and Maple Street.
  • I found my pen lying among the books.
  • The bathroom is opposite that room.

To introduce objects of verbs

English uses the following prepositions to introduce objects of the following verbs.

At: glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, stare

  • She glanced at her reflection.
    (exception with mirror: She glanced in the mirror.)
  • You didn’t laugh at his joke.
  • I’m looking at the computer monitor.
  • We rejoiced at his safe rescue.
  • That pretty girl smiled at you.
  • Stop staring at me.

Of: approve, consist, smell

  • I don’t approve of his speech.
  • My contribution to the article consists of many pages.
  • He came home smelling of alcohol.

Of (or about): dream, think

  • I dream of finishing college in four years.
  • Can you think of a number between one and ten?
  • I am thinking about this problem.

For: call, hope, look, wait, watch, wish

  • Did someone call for a taxi?
  • He hopes for a raise in salary next year.
  • I’m looking for my keys.
  • We’ll wait for her here.
  • You go buy the tickets and I’ll watch for the train.
  • If you wish for an “A” in this class, you must work hard


Did you know … ?

Did you know … ?

10 Hyphenation Tips

Hyphenation is like kitchen spice: use them correctly, and they can sharpen writing and give it a better texture. When used incorrectly or overused, they can garble the piece and make it difficult to read.

Hyphenation Rules

Hyphen errors in a written piece are usually only distracting, but they can detract from clarity, whether by wrong placement or omission. Some writers boggle at these little pieces of punctuation and attempt to write in such a way to avoid them, but this is a shame, as hyphens can be handy.

These ten hyphen rules have been sorted into two tidy piles: when to use them and when to leave them out, or “Yes” and “No”.

[Infographic provided by]


1) Compound Words–If the word does not appear in the dictionary as a single word, use a hyphen.

2) Age Indicators as Nouns–Hyphens cement these words together to aid clarity; use when a dimension or an age identifies a person or object.
“The seven-year-old kicked me.”
“Betty teaches a class of four- and five-year-olds.”

3) Adjective/Nouns Combos with “-ED” Suffix–It is important to attach some modifiers to the words they modify. A “light-haired man” is a man with light hair, while a “light haired man” sounds like a man who weighs very little and is covered in hair.
“Nothing is friendlier than a wet-furred and cold-nosed dog.”
“The child was close-mouthed when her mother asked where the cookies were.”

4) Fractions/Measurements Used as Adjectives–These add clarity; imagine the example sentence without the hyphens to see how each word now points to the direct object (wolf or poodle).
“My dog is one-quarter wolf and two-quarters poodle.”
“Grandpa was over one-half Cherokee.”

5) Prefixes–Hyphens are used with the prefixes “ex-”, “self-” and “all-”. Use them also when referring to relatives with “great-” and with proper names. Hyphens are used with prefixes to also prevent recurring vowels, mispronunciation, and capitol letters that would fall in the center of a word. Use a hyphen and prefix combo to avoid confusion: “a chicken cannot re-lay an egg,” as opposed to, “please relay the message to Mom.”
“great-nephew” or “grand-nephew”


6) Between Adverb and Adjective–If the first word ends in “-ly”, do not use a hyphen. The adverb is doing the job it was made for and does not need a hyphen’s help.
“The quilt was beautifully crafted.”
“In the classroom, the air was dynamically charged.”

7) Adjectival Phrase–When nouns are followed by their modifiers, including age, no hyphens are needed.
“Rupert’s son is ten years old.”
“The duck was nearly four feet tall.”

8&#041 Fractions as Nouns–When discussing the individual parts of the noun, do not use hyphens.
“When the pizza came, Bob ate his one third immediately.”
“Two halves make a whole.”

9) Verb and Preposition Combinations–The verb form is different from the noun/adjective.
We can “look out” from a mountain lookout point.
We can “check out” in the checkout line.

10) Fractions with Hyphenated Numerators–When part of a fraction is already hyphenated, do not hyphenate it further, or the readers’ eyes will cross.
“The runner did a nose dive into the dirt a mere forty-four and twenty-two one hundredths from the finish line.”

As English evolves, the dictionaries gradually add words, and some of the common words that had hyphens a century ago are used without hyphens now. Can you think of any?