How Many Tenses in English?

A reader questions the veracity of my saying that English has three main tenses: Most modern grammar writers argue that there are only two tenses in English, past and present. We talk about the future using various modal verbs, including WILL, because we are usually talking about our perception of the future. The example you give…seems pretty nonsensical to me.

Honorary vs. Honourary

The post was intended to be a straightforward look at the fact that although American and British speakers differ as to the spelling of the nouns honor/honour, humor/humour, and glamor/glamour, they agree on the spelling of the adjectives honorary, humorous, and glamorous.

Up Style and Down Style

Book titles–and newspaper and magazine headlines–are usually formatted in one of two styles: “up style” and “down style.”

Kn- Words in English

A teaching site offers this rule for dealing with “silent k”: “k is often silent before n.” An easier way to retain this information is to forget about “silent k” altogether.

Forming Plurals with ’s

Because people are easily confused by the apostrophe, I have treated possession separately. Now, I’ll focus on the reader’s main concern: the use of the apostrophe to form a plural.

Preceding a Gerund with a Possessive

A gerund is an -ing verb form that is used as a noun. Like any other noun, a gerund can function as the subject or object of a verb, or as the object of a preposition:

Hurdle vs. Hurtle

The following quotation is from a site devoted to business English. The blogger is explaining the expression “to give a heads-up.”

Revisiting Wether, Incidence and Different Than

In researching the recent song lyrics post, I came across a comment written by a high school sophomore. (For the information of non-American readers, a high school sophomore is 15 or 16 years of age.)


Back-formation is one of several methods by which new words are added to the language. An often-quoted example is the word pea. Before pea was created by back-formation, English had the singular noun pease. Here are two examples of its early use from the OED, (some spellings altered).

Apostrophe with Plural Possessive Nouns

Most English speakers know that the usual way to make a noun plural is to add -s to the singular: boy/boys, knight/knights, house/houses. They are also aware that the plural of few nouns, like child and ox, is formed with the quaint ending -en: children, oxen.

Surplus and Surplice

The fashion term “surplice neckline” recently came to my attention. The term applies to a diagonally crossed neckline that creates a deep v-shaped neckline. The surplice style is thought of as a “faux wrap,” a cross-over design that makes the garment look as if it is wrapped around the wearer.

Helping Verbs

A reader of the post on the uses of the past participle wonders, How did English come to require helping verbs? Isn’t that unusual among languages?

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