Tag Archives: english grammar

The Confusion of And vs. To

English can be a difficult language to learn, not because English grammar is tricky (though it can be) but because the language can be vague. Word choice, in particular, can be very confusing, particularly when more than one word is possible. 

Here’s a question I received recently about the nuances of the English language.

Question: Which of the following is correct:
a. I would like to send Peter an email AND give him my regards.
b. I would like to send Peter an email TO give him my regards.

As in so many cases, the answer is . . . both, depending on your intended meaning. Let’s look at these two statements to figure out which one to use.


“I would like to send Peter an email AND give him my regards.”

This statement has two potential meanings.

First, this sentence could mean that I want to do two separate actions: (1) send Peter an email, and (2) give Peter my regards. These actions might happen at the same time, or they might not. This sentence isn’t clear. To understand how this sentence describes two actions, we can compare it to a similar sentence with the same structure: “I want to make a million dollars AND take a trip to the Bahamas.” They are separate actions.  Continue reading

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How Many Chaplains?

Our friend, the English teacher in Iran, asked another good question. Unlike his questions about the singular or plural use of “any,” this one has a straightforward answer. (Fortunately!) Here’s his question.

The Question

I have just bought a novel, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. 

There is a page about Jonathan Swift’s life. There, I found a sentence which I cannot analyze grammatically, no matter how much I am scratching my head to come up with an answer. The sentence is: 

“At the age of thirty-one, Swift returned to Ireland as chaplain to a lord justice.” 

To me, this sentence is 100% wrong grammatically. It should be: 

“At the age of thirty-one, Swift returned to Ireland as A chaplain to a lord justice.” 

Here is my reason: “chaplain” cannot be used without an “A” in front of it because it is in singular and an “A” is needed in front of it.

What do you think? Do you agree with me?  Continue reading


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English Question from Iran, #1

I received a request for grammar help from an English teacher in Iran. I love grammar, and I love helping people use English well. I also have a fondness for teachers, having been an English teacher years and years ago. 

With permission from my new friend in Iran, the question and my answer are below. How would you answer this question, and do you agree with mine? 

English Question 

Which of the following options is correct?
A) Is there any difference between strange and peculiar in English?
B) Are there any differences between strange and peculiar in English? 

My Answer 

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions with more than one answer. 

If we ask, “Is there any difference,” then we assume that there might be ONE difference. If we ask, “Are there any differences,” then we assume that there might be MORE THAN ONE difference. Both are correct, depending on the interpretation. 

For example, we can ask, “Are there any differences between cars and bicycles?” We can then list many differences. However, we can also ask, “What is the difference between cars and bicycles?” We then need to provide a single defining difference, such as they differ in how they are propelled. 

Generally, however, when we are discussing word meanings, we use is. Another, more common, way to ask this question is, “What is the difference between strange and peculiar?” This form of the question indicates that they have one difference (i.e., the one difference is that they have different meanings). 

Short answer: Both are right.
Best answer: The first sentence is the typical way to ask this question.

This answer isn’t clear-cut, I know, but that’s the fun of English. 

(Update on my answer: We can rephrase this question as “How do the words strange and peculiar differ?” and avoid the problem.)

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Coffee Is Wonderful! (in my opinion)

CoffeeIsWonderful!Coffee is a wonderful beverage. It has a pleasant taste, and it can help you wake up, think clearly, recover quickly after a strenuous workout, and lose weight. People who drink coffee feel good about themselves.

Not so fast, buckaroo.

Some of this may be true, but some is certainly an opinion. Here are the opinions:

  • Wonderful beverage,
  • Pleasant taste, and
  • Feel good about themselves.

Opinions creep into our writing easily, and they can damage our relationship with the reader. When you provide opinions, you don’t respect the readers’ rights to form their own opinions from the facts. In contrast, you create the opportunity for the reader to discredit your authority. Continue reading

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