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Positive Anymore

An Omaha, Nebraska man wonders about starting a sentence with the word anymore, meaning “nowadays.” Linguists refer to this usage as positive anymore, which is common in much of the Midwest and stems from Scots-Irish syntax. This is part...

Pedal in Sauerkraut

In a futile situation, English speakers might say that we’re spinning our wheels. The French have a phrase for the same situation that translates as “pedal in sauerkraut.” The Illustrated Book of Sayings collects similarly colorful...

A Certain Kind of Person

What’s the deal with the use of person, as in “I’m a dog person” or “she’s a cat person”? The word person used this way functions as a substitute for the Greek-derived suffix -phile, meaning “lover...

“Says” Instead of “Said”

A caller from New York City wonders about his grandmother’s use of the word says rather than said when she’s telling a story about something that happened in the past. It’s a form of the historical present tense that helps describe...

Behind God’s Back

To say that something’s “behind God’s back” is to say that it’s really far away. This may refer to Isaiah 38:17, which includes the phrase “for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” In the Caribbean...