Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fronting exercises (with a bit of subject-verb inversion)

These ten exercises are intended to give students some pretty intensive practice in fronting. They cover the more common forms of fronting, and include basic instructions on how it is done. For more detail on how they are formed and why we use fronting you could have a look at my post on 'Exploring Inversion and fronting' (link at the bottom).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Random thoughts on assist in or assist with?

A questioner at the language forum 'Pain in the English' asked, which is correct?
  • Assists attorney in drafting documentation.
  • Assists attorney with drafting documentation.
The few people that commented seemed to agree that the first was correct, and there was one suggestion that 'assist in' is followed by a verb, whereas 'assist with' is followed by a noun.
Both in and with are prepositions, so the only verb form that can follow either of them is a gerund, which is in fact a verbal noun, and there doesn't seem to be any grammatical reason that I can think of why a gerund can't follow 'assist with', nor any reason why a standard noun can't follow 'assist in'. But perhaps there's an idiomatic one.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Exploring inversion and fronting


This involves reversing the position of the subject and an auxiliary, or sometimes the subject and the whole verb. You'll be familiar with the idea from question forms and question tags, where we swap or switch (exchange) the subject and auxiliary (including modals), or the verb be. You'll also know such inverted expressions as 'so do I' and 'neither do I'.
You probably also know a bit about inversion with negative and limiting adverbials, and that we can sometimes invert conditionals.


This means putting a word or expression which normally comes later to the front of the sentence, before the subject. This could be, for example, an adverbial or adjectival expression, a noun phrase or clause, or even a verb.

The purpose of this post

This post is not intended to be an introduction to inversion and fronting, but rather an exploration of all the different patterns of inversion and fronting I can find, with lots of (I hope natural-sounding) examples. If you are specifically looking for information about negative inversion or inverting conditionals, or about question tags and short answers, you might be better looking at one of my other posts, linked to at the bottom of this post.


As this post is already rather long I'm not including any exercises, but will link instead to other posts with exercises, as and when I've written them.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exploring concession and contrast

In this post we look at the difference between concession and simple contrast, and at the various words and expressions we can use to express concession and contrast. As well as information about these, there are ten exercises to give you plenty of practice in using them.

Words and expressions used to express concession

The Basics

  • although, though, even though
  • despite, in spite of

Getting more advanced

  • while, whilst, whereas
  • nevertheless, however, even so, all the same
  • much as
  • no matter how / what etc
  • however, whatever, whoever etc
  • adjective + as / though
  • but still, but even so, but all the same
  • (and) yet

Even more exotic

  • when, if, albeit
  • may ... but
  • Contrastive emphasis with auxiliaries
We'll also look briefly at 'reducing' concession clauses, at fronting concession clauses and at something called Yes, But arguing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Random thoughts on 'Kiss me quick'

Preparing a possible post on flat adverbs (adverbs that take the same form as their adjective equivalents) I started wondering about the origins of the expression 'Kiss me quick'.
In Britain, 'Kiss me quick' is perhaps best known from being printed on hats traditionally worn at seaside resorts such as Blackpool, but the origins seem likely to be American.
Clicking on the clippings will take you to the original at Google Books.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Random thoughts on 'bites as bad as it barks'

BMW are running an ad for their 2 Series Coupé with this slogan:

Bites as bad as it barks

A certain fifteen-year-old, Albert Gifford, who is making something of a name for himself for taking large companies to task for their grammar, wrote a series of emails to BMW, reprinted in The Daily Mail, complaining that bad wasn't an adverb, and 'so cannot be used in this context'. But is he right?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Confusing words - near, nearby, close, next

Students sometimes get confused when to use near or nearby, near (to) or close to, and nearest or next. Master the differences with these three exercises.