Dysphoria and Other Dys- Words

A reader has asked for a post on dysphoria. Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria. Whereas euphoria is a feeling of well-being, dysphoria is a state marked by feeling of unease or discomfort. Perhaps the most familiar type of dysphoria comes from pangs of conscience: the bad feeling in the pit of one’s stomach that … Read more

Click vs. Clip

The following comment appeared in my Facebook news feed: You have to clip on the picture to see [the complete image]. The context surely called for click, not clip. Curious, I cruised the Web to see if I might find other instances of clip used in a context calling for click. I was surprised by … Read more

Pronoun Mistakes #2: Reflexive and Intensive Forms

A pronoun that ends in -self or -selves is either reflexive or intensive. Reflexive pronouns function as objects, either the direct object of a verb or the object of a preposition: The cat covered itself with the blanket. (direct object of covered) Cat is the referent. The greedy child kept all the cookies for himself. … Read more

Dozen: Singular or Plural?

Referring to a recent post, a reader wants to know why I wrote, “Here are a dozen common subordinating conjunctions” and not, “Here is a dozen common subordinating conjunctions.” Because I was referring to what I regard as twelve distinct conjunctions with different uses, I treated dozen as a plural. Dozen is a collective noun, … Read more

Verb Review #7: Noun Clauses

Clauses function as one of three parts of speech: adverb, adjective, or noun. This review is about noun clauses. Note: If you need to review the definition of a clause, go here. I have found that students have more difficulty in identifying noun clauses than either of the other two kinds because a noun clause … Read more

Fathom vs. Phantom

A recent letter to the editor begins this way: The most recent short-term fathom around the United States is the so-called outbreak of Ebola. The writer wishes to point out that the reported Ebola threat to the United States was not only short-lived, but also insubstantial, a “short-term phantom.” Here are the most common definitions … Read more

Form and Forum

A reader asks, What is the difference in form and forum? Are they interchangeable? If not, what is the correct usage for each one? Regarding etymology, the noun form derives from Latin forma, whose primary meaning is shape or configuration. One speaks of “the human form,” “a form of behavior,” “the forms of a verb,” … Read more


A reader asks, If a countable noun comes after any, then should it [the noun] be singular or plural? Like the indefinite article a/an, the word any derives from a form of the Old English word for one. Primarily an adjective, it is also used as a pronoun. As an adjective, any is most commonly … Read more

Rope-a-Dope and International Affairs

The other day I began listening to an interview between NPR’s Scott Simon and Dennis Ross, a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. My attention was stopped cold by this sentence in Simon’s opening remarks: I apologize for using a sports analogy, but what about the chances that this might be the … Read more

Verb Mistakes #2: Irregular Verbs Bind, Grind, Find

Most English strong verbs have become regularized over the years. Some are in transition, and a few seem to be with us for the foreseeable future. Note: The past and past participle forms of a “regular” verb end in -ed: walk, walked, (have) walked marry, married, (have) married Some English verbs exist with both regular … Read more

Used To vs. Use To

A reader asks, Which is correct –  He USED to go to the game on Friday. He USE to go to the game on Friday. When the statement is positive, as in the reader’s example, the expression is used to. In negative statements, the expression is use to. For example, “He didn’t use to go … Read more

Verb Review #6: Adjectival Clauses

Clauses function as one of three parts of speech: adverb, adjective, or noun. This review is about adjectival clauses (also called “adjective clauses”). Adjective clauses are a little more difficult to identify than adverb clauses. An adverb clause is introduced by a subordinating conjunction whose only function is to link the adverb clause to the … Read more