The Many Meanings of Make

What began as an effort to find out if make can be a linking verb has led me to discover the multitudinous uses of this humble verb.

Particular vs. Specific

A reader asks if there is a distinction to be made between the words particular and specific.

Predicate Complements

The term complement comes from the verb to complete. The predicate nominative and predicate adjective complete the meaning of a state-of-being or linking verb. The most common linking verb is to be, with its forms am, is, are, was, were, being, been. Other verbs, like seem and appear, also function in this way.

Indolence and Indolent

When I heard an NPR reporter use the expression “passive indolence,” I decided I’d better look up the word because I thought indolent included the idea of passivity. I couldn’t imagine, for example, talking about “active indolence.”

Comparison of Adjectives

If memory serves, I was taught the rules for comparing adjectives in fifth or sixth grade.

Nascent and other Words for New

When I heard a man on the NPR Business News refer to a “new nascent industry,” my redundancy meter clicked.


The Latin verb fidere means “to trust.” Adding the prefix con-, “with,” gives confidere, “to have full trust or reliance.” According to a note in the OED, the word may have originated to show the relationship between two people, “two friends who mutually confide in or trust each other, and hence are trusted by each other.” In time, the word came to be used in a more general sense.

Inflections in English

Inflections are word elements that indicate grammatical relationships among the words in a sentence. For example, the verb walked is in the past tense; we know this because of the inflectional ending -ed. The noun girls is plural. We know this because of the s that has been added to the singular word girl.

Is U.S. a Noun?

Whether it is in conversation or in various kinds of writing on the Web, you will hear and see the abbreviation U.S. for United States used as a noun, sometimes with periods and sometimes without:

Direct and Indirect Objects

A transitive verb takes its name from the fact that its action goes “across” from the verb to a receiver of the action. The receiver of the action is called an object.

Due and Owe

Both due and owe have been in the language for a very long time. Due came into English from French in the 15th century. The French word it came from was the Latin verb debitum that gives us the word debt, “that which is owed.”

One or Two Spaces After a Period?

Among the most acrimonious writing-related debates one finds on language blogs is one sparked by the innocuous question, “Do you put one or two spaces after a period?”

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