Category Archives: usage

who versus that

Someone recently sent me an email asking about the proper use of “who” and “that”:
“When followed by a verb, how does one know when to say ‘who’ and when to say ‘that”? Ex: The lady that jumped on the couch *or* The lady who jumped on the couch?”


lit and lighted

I just got a very nice note from Andrew, who asked a good usage question:
Hi! I love reading your answers to the grammar questions. Recently, I got into a debate about ‘lit’ versus ‘lighted’.
I lit a match.
I lighted a candle.
The room was lit by the flame.
The room was lighted by the flame.


Hanged or Hung

Here is one of the many questions I’ve received recently:
I was reading a story in the paper and the writer wrote “He hanged himself.” My coworkers and I thought it should be, “He hung himself.” Are we all wrong or is the journalist?


Toward or Towards

Someone recently wrote in with the following question:
I was recently reading a book that used the word “towards” many times. I have always said, “I went toward the lake.” But, in this book the author wrote several sentences such as, “I went towards the lake.” The author is a professor of liturature at John Hopkins. So, I’m wondering if I have always been incorrect. On the other hand, English is her second language. So, perhaps I am correct. Or, maybe there are times when it should be plural and others when it should be singular. Please advise…


historic and historical

“The question concerns the appropriate use of the words ‘historic’ and ‘historical’. When is one prefered over the other?”

This is a great question, for which the American Heritage Book of English Usage has an excellent answer…

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To and Too

Question: When do I use “to” or “too”? Example: “too difficult” or “to stay”

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Shall and Will

I’ve received a number of questions about the proper use of “shall” and “will”…


Rather Than and Instead Of

Kanika recently asked, “When do we use ‘rather than’ and when do we use ‘instead of’?”


Lie and Lay

Someone recently asked about the correct use of “lie” versus “lay.”

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Farther and Further

Sandy Mendenhall wrote in to ask about the proper use of “farther” and “further”…