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Your English Questions of the Month

Average: 3.6 (7 votes)

Every month we ask our newsletter readers to send their English language questions to EC Brighton's teacher, Tim. Here are the best questions of the month.

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Is or Are

Question:"Your cooperation and assistance is/are appreciated." My question is: Which one of them is correct are or is?
Hani Alrabeeah

Answer: Both cooperation and assistance are uncountable (I've used are here as I am referring to the words) so we should say, "Your cooperation and assistance is appreciated."
All the best,
Tim

"I'm Loving It"

Question: a. It is not recommended to use the verb "to love" in continues tense. Why then McDonald's uses it in its slogan "I'm Loving It".

b. Could you please explain the use of the tenses (Present Simple and Present Continues)
in the sentences below:

He always plays tennis on Sundays
He is always making that bad mistake
Anatoly Tsidulkin, Ukrain

Answer: MacDonalds took the lines from an existing song for their advertisement. In songs and poetry there is such a thing called 'poetic license' which means you can mess around with grammar and words to suit your purpose. I'm loving it is grammatically incorrect, but it goes to show that grammar is egalitarian and if enough people use an incorrect form, after a time it becomes accepted.
He is always making that mistake; present continuous + always indicates that it is an annoying/irritating habit.
He always plays tennis on Saturdays; present simple + always simply shows the regularity of a habit.
All the best,
Tim

At a loss for words

Question: When I am talking with a foreigner in English and I am in a situation that I cannot find a suitable word to express my thought. What word or phrase can describe my situation? Can I use the phrase: "at the loss" or "get stuck"?
Dangxuanquang

Answer:You can, but if you use the expression 'I was at a loss for words' it means you were unsure of what to say because of the situation, not because you couldn't find the words.
E.g., "When Andrew told me that he was planning to have a sex change operation and change his name to Angela, I was at a loss for words! So I simply congratulated him."
Yes, you can say you were stuck, or you couldn't think of what to say. Possibly ummm, and ahhh a lot. When your mind goes blank we often use a slightly rude expression as in, "I had a mind fart!"
The thing you have to remember is not to worry too much about always saying the right thing, and getting it perfect. Making a mistake and saying something is far preferable to sinking into a panic induced silence!
All the best,
Tim

Disagree with / about

Question: As you know, there are thousands of verbs in English and most of them have a regular way in which they are grammatically used. Being more specific, I give you an example of what I mean:
The verb "disagree" typically follows this pattern: To disagree (with somebody) (about / over / on something).

Please look at these sentences:
- "He disagreed with his parents on most things."
- "They disagree about the meaning of the poem."

So, I'm hesitating to use 'on', 'about' or 'over' appropriately.
Sorry for my probable grammatical errors.
Alireza, Iran

Answer: Don't worry about this, all 3 work in the same way, so choose one you like and use that one! The most common usage is disagree with someone, about something.
All the best,
Tim

Double-negatives

Question: Is it possible to use two negatives in one sentence?
Nargis Yusupova

Answer:It all depends on what you want to say. Generally speaking it is incorrect to use 2 negatives as, quite simply, the effect is that of a positive statement (like maths, two negatives create a positive).
However in colloquial and substandard English it may be considered acceptable.
EG I ain't got no money. ( I don't have any money ) I don’t want no cabbage. ( I don’t want any cabbage ) Note how any can often be confused with no.
In popular music the double negative is particularly common. For example in the Rolling Stones' song 'I can't get no satisfaction'.

Now in some structures, when we want we want to change the emphasis of a statement, we can use a double negative to actively convey a non-negative meaning. For example, if I was undecided about whether I liked a person, I might say , 'I don't not like her, I just don't know her'. We can use this kind of structure when we have no strong feelings either way about a topic.
All the best,
Tim

Future conditional

Question: Can we use 'if' conditionals to talk about the future? I heard in a song "If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair". Is it correct English?
Aazan, Saudi Arabia

Answer: You always have to be careful when listening to lyrics because they often use 'artistic license', which means that musicians change or ignore the correct rules to improve the song. In this case though, the wording is correct; however, "going to" isn't exactly the future tense, instead it means 'intend'. It's saying what you should do in this situation.
All the best,
Tim

Link: Last month's Questions of the Month