172. Multi-Use Suffixes

Some suffixes create words belonging to different word classes


Suffixes are meaningful word endings (for details, see 106. Word-Like Suffixes). Some, like -ing and -est, are primarily grammatical. They change their word grammatically but do not thereby make it a new “word”. Many other suffixes, however – e.g. -ly and -ness – are more vocabulary-like, creating a change of both grammar (usually) and word. Quickly, for example – different grammatically from quick in being an adverb instead of an adjective – is clearly also a different word.

Suffixes that I call “multi-use” belong to this second group, but make new words of more than one grammatical class. This characteristic is not universal: -ness, for example, makes only nouns, -ous mainly adjectives. A common suffix that has it is -y, typical of both adjectives (e.g. healthy, ready, tasty) and nouns (e.g. mastery, recovery, unity).

I believe that this kind of variability can cause confusion. In reading, for example, it can sometimes hinder a correct guess at the meaning of an unfamiliar word whose suffix looks familiar. What I aim to do here is list and illustrate some common multi-use suffixes, in the hope that readers with more awareness of them might be helped to avoid error in both reading and writing.



1. -ly (Adverb/Adjective)

Many people associate this suffix very closely with adverbs (early, easily, quickly, truly etc.), and yet it is absent from many adverbs (e.g. there, yesterday, already, sometimes), and is surprisingly common in adjectives.

This last point is extensively illustrated in the Guinlist post 120. Six Things to Know about Adverbs (#6). A few -ly words can be both an adverb and an adjective – e.g. daily, early, only and poorly  but a fair number are only adjectives and cannot occupy adverb positions in a sentence except by being combined with in a … way. Examples include comely, curly, deathly, earthly, elderly, heavenly, hilly, holy, jolly, lively, lovely, lowly, (gentle)manly, silly, slovenly, sprightly, stately, surly, timely, ugly and womanly.


2. -ful (Adjective/Noun)

This ending is typical of adjectives, e.g. hopeful, but there is also a group of nouns like spoonful. For full details, see 106. Word-Like Suffixes.


3. -al (Adjective/Noun)

This suffix, one of many English borrowings from the ancient language Latin (see 45. Latin Clues to English Spelling), is quite often added to nouns to make adjectives. Simple examples are actual, autumnal, colonial, controversial, emotional, exceptional, fatal, focal, industrial, intentional, magical, minimal, national, natural, normal, original, pictorial, regional, residual, seasonal, sensational, sexual, spatial, special, substantial, terminal, traditional, and universal.

It should be noted, though, that numerous adjectives with -al are not a possible word without it. They include capital, dual, eternal, external, individual, mutual, nasal, nocturnal, nominal, potential, radical, rational and usual. It could be argued that in such cases -al is not a proper suffix. However, its adjective-indicating nature is still useful. For a similar problem with prefixes, see 146. Some Important Prefix Types.

In an appreciable number of cases, a noun to which -al can be added is of Greek origin (see 90. The Greek Impact on English Vocabulary). Examples are critical, logical, mathematical, mystical, pyramidal, rhetorical, statistical, tactical and topical.

Similar to these are Greek nouns with two adjective endings: first -ic and then -al, e.g. analytical, comical, cyclical, economical, graphical, historical, mythical, numerical, political and rhythmical. Sometimes the two adjective meanings are very different. Pairs that are often confused are analysed within this blog in 48. Tricky Word Contrasts 1, #5 and 114. Tricky Word Contrasts 3, #1.

Not to be confused with adjectival -al on Greek words is -ical in biological (and adjectives of other -ology words), ecumenical, hypothetical, medical, theatrical and typical. The suffix here must be -ical because dropping just -al leaves no possible word.

Nouns ending in -al are probably not as numerous as adjectives. One type seems simply to be an alternative noun use of the adjective spelling. Examples are capital, colonial, individual, radical and terminal.

Besides this, -al nouns are often made from verbs. They tend to be of the “action” kind (see 14. Action Outcomes). Examples are bestowal, denial, dismissal, dispersal, disposal, perusal, recital, referral, removal, renewal, reversal, trial and withdrawal.


4. -ate (Verb/Adjective/Noun)

This is another Latin-derived suffix. It is not to be confused with similar spellings that have no suffix characteristics, as in hate and state. However, its removal tends to leave a Latin rather than English word.

In most words, -ate is pronounced with the long “a” sound /ei/. Examples are advocate, animate, articulate, calculate, celebrate, consummate, create, dedicate, delegate, deteriorate, dictate, discriminate, dominate, donate, duplicate, elevate, emanate, enumerate, escalate, estimate, exacerbate, exaggerate, facilitate, fascinate, generate, gesticulate, impersonate, incriminate, inflate, instigate, interrogate, irrigate, lacerate, mandate, nominate, percolate, perforate, predicate, relegate, repatriate, replicate, rotate, subordinate, terminate, triangulate, vibrate and violate.

Adjectives with -ate seem slightly less numerous. They usually have the weak pronunciation /әt/ (* below shows exceptions). Examples are animate, articulate, celibate, consummate, degenerate, duplicate, incarnate, indeterminate, indiscriminate, *irate, numerate, profligate, *prostrate and subordinate.

The underlined spellings above are the same as those of verbs. This means that their use with BE needs particular care (see 140. Words with Unexpected Grammar 2, #f).

Most nouns with -ate seem to be spelt the same as verbs, but again need the /әt/ pronunciation (except those with*). Examples are advocate, *caliphate, climate, delegate, estimate, expatriate, *mandate, predicate, subordinate, syndicate and *vertebrate.


5. -ent (Adjective/Noun)

This Latin-derived suffix again rarely leaves English words when removed but has to be distinguished from less suffix-like spellings, like those in dent, extent and relent.

The more common use is probably in adjectives, often becoming -ence or -ency in nouns. Examples are absent, ambient, competent, convenient, current, decent, dependent (also spelt with -ant), despondent, emergent, eminent, expedient, incumbent, indulgent, insistent, insurgent, latent, nascent, patent, permanent, present, prescient, prominent, recent, reminiscent, resident, reticent, strident, transient and virulent.

Nouns with -ent have to be distinguished from those with -ment, such as attachment, document, investment and management. In most cases, the presence or absence of the letter “m” will be a sufficient criterion, though there do appear to be cases, such as moment, where “m” is part of the word root rather than its suffix.

There seem to be two groups of -ent noun. One is adjective spellings that also possess a noun use, such as resident and other underlined words in the list above. The second group is exclusively noun spellings. Examples are accident, ascent, correspondent, deterrent, incident, moment, nutrient, parent, portent, president, serpent and patent. This last is also in the adjective list, but the two spellings are not closely related in meaning – they seem to be “homonyms” (see 11. Homonyms and Homographs).


6. -ant (Adjective/Noun)

This suffix behaves very similarly to -ent. Adjectives include abundant, conversant, defiant, dominant, instant, militant, observant, relevant, reliant, reluctant, resistant, vacant and vibrant.

The underlined spellings are also nouns. Other nouns are accountant, assailant, debutant, defendant, entrant, determinant, inhabitant, migrant, mutant, tyrant, vagrant and variant.


7. -ic (Adjective/Noun)

Perhaps the adjective use of -ic is slightly more common. One subgroup is derived from Greek words ending in -ma (see 90. The Greek Impact). Examples are automatic, cinematic, dramatic, enigmatic, panoramic, problematic, rheumatic, symptomatic, and thematic.

Other -ic adjectives include analytic, archaic, civic, comic, cosmic, economic, fantastic, frantic, gastric, graphic, historic, linguistic, manic, photographic, poetic, politic, prolific, specific, strategic, synthetic, terrific and tragic.

Nouns with -ic include antic, comic, critic, graphic, ethic, heretic, mimic, mystic, statistic, synthetic, tactic and topic. The underlined examples are the only ones unable to be made into an adjective with -al (see above). Mimic can be a verb as well as a noun.


8. -er (Noun/Verb)

This suffix, of course, is common on comparative adjectives – but that is a more grammatical use. A familiar less-grammatical use changes verbs into nouns for types of people, e.g. baker, courier, builder, driver, leader, member, player, reporter, teacher and writer. Quite often -er is also found on equipment nouns like computer, cooker, gutter, marker, printer, starter and trailer.

In verbs, -er tends not to be a true suffix. In the following list * shows where it might be: barter, batter, deliver, *butcher, *counter, father, feather, flatter, flutter, flower, gather, hammer, lather, mother, pander, paper, partner, recover, *taper, tether, thunder, totter and wither. The underlined words can also be nouns.


9. -tory (Adjective/Noun)

This is often not a true English suffix, but is found on enough words to be worth a mention. Adjectives and nouns seem equally likely to have it. Adjectives include auditory, derogatory, explanatory, inflammatory, mandatory, migratory, preparatory and respiratory. Examples of nouns are conservatory, dormitory, factory, inventory, refectory, repository, territory and trajectory.

Note that history cannot be considered a -tory word: its Greek root associates it more with -y.


10. -ure (Noun/Verb)

This is another suffix that has to be distinguished from numerous non-suffix endings with the same spelling, such as pure, assure, mature, nature, conjure, demure and procure.

Nouns with -ure are more numerous than verbs. Examples are adventure, architecture, capture, closure, denture, erasure, fissure, fracture, lecture, leisure, manufacture, measure, nomenclature, nurture, pasture, picture, posture, rupture, seizure and venture. The underlined spellings can also be verbs. Spellings that are exclusively verbs seem rare.


It is clear from the examples in this post that multi-use suffixes are widespread in English. I have only been able to present a sample, but I hope it will raise awareness of the phenomenon, especially with regard to unconsidered English suffixes such as -age, -ise, and -ive.


171. Aspects of the Past Perfect Tense


The “had” tense suggests much more than just “further in the past”


Verb tenses are not generally given much attention within this blog because the focus is on grammar topics that are less fundamental and/or are not extensively explained in mainstream publications (for the exact policy, click here). However, I wish in this post to look at the so-called “past perfect simple” tense (made with had) for the same sort of reasons that I elsewhere consider full stop usage, relative pronouns and aspects of article usage: I hope to make a complicated topic a little easier to understand than is usually the case.

There are numerous different uses of the past perfect tense. I am not aiming to cover them all, but rather to pick out some that I consider to be of especial interest to professional writers. Readers seeking information about other English tenses within these pages will find a little in the posts 48. Tricky Word Contrasts 1 (#1),  76.Tenses of Citation Verbs,  118. Problems with Conditional “If” and 147. Types of Future Meaning.



English grammar coursebooks often confusingly assert that the actions or states represented by verbs in the past perfect tense are “further” or “earlier” in the past than other mentioned past actions or states. The reason is perhaps usage like the following:

(a) The armies were drawn up on a wide plain. The generals had given the order to attack.

Here, the past perfect had given shows that the order-giving happened before the event in the previous sentence. If the past simple tense gave had been used instead, the sequence of events would have been the reverse.

It is easy to conclude from such usage that fixing the time of a past event relative to another is the reason why the past perfect tense exists in English. However, I believe that this is not all that the past perfect does: it is a necessary part of its meaning, but not a sufficient one. This becomes clear from examples like the following:

(b) World War 1 had begun in 1914. It came to an end in 1918.

Here, the past perfect had begun again indicates the earlier of two events, but now replacing it with the past simple began communicates the same relative timing. However, the meaning is still different.

The difference, which grammar books rarely seem to mention, is the centrality of the verb’s action or state: past simple verbs affirm it whereas past perfect ones deny it. Thus, the past perfect tense had begun in (b) shows that the beginning of World War 1 is not central – the end is instead – but happened “before the central event”. If began is used instead, on the other hand, the beginning would be as central as the end.

This difference of centrality is also present in (a): the past perfect had given does not just show that the order-giving took place before the other event, it also says that the other event was the central one being written about. Now consider this first sentence in a chapter about exploration:

(c) The Portuguese had explored the Eastern Atlantic. The Spanish had travelled to the New World.

This would imply that the chapter was not about either of the mentioned events, but was instead about later ones. The information being given is merely scene-setting.



While the past perfect tense is formed with had, the present perfect uses has or have. These forms, along with their names, suggest a closeness that is actually not so great. The problem is that the past perfect tense is the past form of not just the present perfect, but also the past simple.

One consequence of this is that special meanings communicated by choosing the present perfect tense instead of the past simple, or vice versa, cannot always be communicated when the past perfect has to be used. Consider these:

(d) The President, who had lived abroad for many years, favoured integration.

(e) Columbus reported that he had found a new world.

If these sentences were about the present rather than the past (i.e. with present tense verbs favours and reports), would their past perfect verbs (underlined) have to be in the past simple or present perfect tenses?

In fact, we cannot identify the right choice because the precise meaning is not clear. Has lived alongside favours in (d) would suggest that the many years ended very recently or are even continuing, while lived would place them firmly in the more distant past. Has found alongside reports in (e) would suggest that the time of the finding was not important – the achievement of finding was the main point – while found would imply a past time that was known by both speaker and listener and was being left unmentioned for that reason.

These sentences show how the special meanings of the present perfect and past simple tenses are not able to be communicated by the past perfect tense alone. Sometimes, however, the special meanings can be communicated by the addition of other words. For example, had lived in (d) would be associated with the present perfect meaning of “in the recent past” by adding recently after had, while had found in (e) would be associated with the past simple meaning of “at a fixed time” by adding during his voyage.

It is interesting to note that while recently can accompany both present and past perfect verbs, some words like it cannot. For example, ago always needs the past simple tense. To express its meaning with a past perfect tense, you have to use before. The time-showing use of since normally needs the present perfect tense (see 61. “Since” versus “Because”). However, with the past perfect tense (and the past simple too) its equivalent is often from (…had lived abroad from 2005).

Sentence (e) also illustrates the very common use of the past perfect tense in indirect statements and questions after a past tense verb of saying, thinking or perceiving (see 127. When to Use Indirect Speech). The past perfect verb (had found) has this form because it is positioned after another past-time verb (reported), but expresses an earlier past time event. Unusually, the question of focus seems less important in such sentences (the focus could be on either verb).



Conjunctions of the “subordinating” kind are defined in these pages in the post 37. Subordination. Their sentences always contain at least two verbs, one of which can be thought of as the “partner” of the conjunction. The conjunction and its partner verb may be mentioned before or after the other verb (see 25. Conjunction Positioning).

The past perfect tense is particularly found in sentences with a subordinating conjunction of time, cause or condition.

1. With Time and Cause Conjunctions

The time conjunctions after, when, as soon as, once, until and before are noteworthy. After, whose partner verb expresses a time before that of the other mentioned verb, practically always allows this verb in past-time sentences to be in the past perfect tense, regardless of sentence position:

(f) Ebola cases diminished AFTER victims had been quarantined.

Quite often the past simple tense is also possible (were quarantined above). It would suggest that the other verb’s event happened immediately afterwards, rather than leaving the exact length of wait uncertain.

When, as soon as and once can be used like after. However, when can also mean “while”, ruling out the past perfect.

Until and its partner verb indicate the end of the other verb’s state or repeated action. Often this end is a target or purpose:

(g) Interest rates needed to be high until inflation fell/had fallen.

The past simple tense (fell here) is more suitable after until when the start of its action or state is enough to end the other verb’s action/state, or when an instantaneous action is being expressed. The past perfect, on the other hand, is more suitable when the end of its action or state brings about the other end. Since different people might disagree about whether or not an event is instantaneous, choosing one tense rather than the other is often a way of imposing the writer’s own subjective view on the reader.

Before introduces the second of two events – the opposite of what after does. Rather illogically, it is this event that can be expressed with the past perfect. Where this tense is possible, the choice is fairly free:

(h) Before his boat (had) reached the record speed, Campbell was killed.

Before also differs from after in not always allowing the past perfect after it: the event must be one of doubtful occurrence, as in (h). Before an actual historical event, the past simple is necessary:

(i) Before he reached Italy, Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees.

Cause conjunctions like as, because and since act in the same way as after. This is hardly surprising because like it they involve two separate events or states, one occurring before the other; the only difference is the suggested causal link between them. Sentence (f) above could easily accommodate because instead of after.


2. With “if”

Two different uses of the past perfect tense are possible with this conjunction. Compare:

(j) If it had rained, the wall glistened.

(k) If it had rained, the crop would have survived.

In (j), had rained expresses a “real” past event – a cause of a subsequent one that, in the past simple tense, is the focus of attention. If is similar to when, merely suggesting less inevitability (see 118. Problems with Conditional “if”).

In (k), by contrast, had rained has a more familiar “unreal” meaning: a past event that actually did not happen. This is clear from the other verb’s inclusion of would have.

170. Logical Errors in Written English


There are some common kinds of illogical statements that writers make through faulty thinking


Logical errors are irrational messages resulting from faulty thinking. A common kind is contradictions – separate messages in a single text that each say the opposite of the other. Faulty thinking must be involved for an irrational message to be a logical error. Some irrational messages do not involve it and are not logical errors. They may, for example, be deliberately composed in order to illustrate illogicality, like this example from the Guinlist post 100. What is a Grammar Error?

(a) I went to the movies tomorrow.

Other irrational messages might be a result of faulty language rather than faulty thinking – in other words they might be linguistic errors rather than logical ones. Separating logical errors from linguistic ones is not easy. A visible error of grammar or vocabulary in an irrational message might indicate a linguistic cause of the irrationality, but even if no error is visible, language can still be the culprit – correct-looking but not the right choice, rather than just incorrect-looking (for examples of grammar errors like this, see 24. Good and Bad Repetition,  100. What is a Grammar Error? and 165. Confusions of Similar Structures 2, #5).

Logical errors are surprisingly common in serious writing, regardless of whether or not the writer is using their mother tongue. Happily, they do not normally indicate an inability to think logically: writing makes so many demands that keeping track of the logic of what you are saying can often be difficult.

This post aims to assist the avoidance of logical errors by analysing a limited number of typical examples that I have encountered in academic texts composed by writers whose mother tongue is not English. I regret that I am unable to provide a comprehensive survey of the problem, as I lack sufficient data for that.



1. Inaccurately Naming Category Members

Naming the members of a category is a common need in professional writing, and can be done in numerous different ways (see 162. The Language of Classification). Inaccurate naming is quite a common error. Consider these real-life examples:

(b) *… taking measures such as a National Health Service.

(c) *… media images exemplified by three articles in the … newspaper.

(d) *The local level contains numerous advantages like a historically viable entity.

The underlined words here are the category names, and the words immediately after them are attempts to name some of their members as examples. This intention is clear from the words such as, exemplified by and like (see 1. Simple Example-Giving). The logical error in each case is the same: the names of the category members do not match the category they are being linked with.

In (b), the category word measures refers to actions to solve or prevent a problem, but National Health Service is an organization, not an action. The error is similar to that of putting an action verb like take place with a non-action subject like area (see 132. Tricky Word Contrasts 4, #1). The problem here can be corrected by identifying the action implied by National Health Service and expressing it with an -ing verb: something like instituting or supporting.

Similarly, in (c) newspaper articles do not belong to the category of media images – they are examples just of media. I think what the writer intended to say was that images within three particular newspaper articles exemplify media images. To say this without saying images twice, you could just add those within after exemplified by.

The problem with (d) – apart from the incorrect use of contains instead of has with advantage – is that a historically viable entity does not fit into the category of advantage. To do so, it needs a word like being before it. The reader then knows how the advantage and the advantage-holder (the local level) are related.

Slightly more complex is the following:

(e) *No writers apart from the early missionaries and a few articles…

Here, the early missionaries names a possible subgroup of the category writers, but then an expectation of a second category member name– set up by and after missionaries – is confounded by the non-member name articles (which lack the human quality of writers). To include this word whilst also meeting the expectation of there being a human category member, we can add authors of after a few. This need for consistent logic after and reflects its need for consistent grammar (see 93. Good and Bad Lists).


2. Attributing Inaccurate Characteristics

In this kind of error, the words chosen indicate something about a person or thing that cannot be true. The earlier-mentioned use of area as the subject of TAKE PLACE falls into this category, as it attributes the dynamic characteristic of “occurrence” to something static. Here are some more examples:

(f) *Prices come to a halt.

(g) *… an early stage of a child’s world.

(h) * … qualified jobs.

(i) *Tourist entry visas for this country are not at all difficult or expensive to obtain. This procedure reflects the government’s need for more visitors and the foreign currency that they bring.

The movement-describing verb of (f) needs a movement-naming subject, which the noun price is not. The problem can be overcome by placing price before a suitable other noun that does represent a kind of movement, such as rises, falls or changes. Some non-movement nouns, such as cars, do not need such a word before a movement-describing verb – perhaps because they are obvious movers – but price is not one of them.

The status of (g) as a logical rather than linguistic error may be particularly debatable. The word stage means a point in a sequence through time, implying the existence of other such points. A following of allows mention of either the sequence (e.g. stage of development), or the nature of the stage (e.g. a stage of crisis). In the first case of means “belonging to”, in the second “equivalent to” (see 160. Uses of “of”). The problem with (g) is that neither of these seems a logical meaning: a child’s world is not a sequence and is not easily imagined as a stage within one. Perhaps the writer needed to say period instead of stage.

Example (h) is a straightforward confusion: the writer meant jobs for qualified people. If you put qualified with jobs rather than people, you make it describe that word instead. The phrase qualified jobs does express a possible meaning, but an unlikely one that certainly says nothing about the qualifications of the people doing them.

Example (i) is an opposite of the error type in the previous section: instead of incorrectly naming a category member, it incorrectly names the category itself. The problem word is procedure, a noun indicating something done by humans in multiple steps. It is being used to describe human activity involving just a single step – making tourist visas easy to obtain. A much more suitable category word would be policy. For more on the use of this + category noun to repeat an earlier, more specific idea, see the exercise at the end of 28. Pronoun Errors.written illogicality


3. Not Comparing Like with Like

This is a well-known kind of illogicality that many writing manuals pick up on. An example is:

(j) *Unemployment in the North is higher than the South.

This is trying to compare two kinds of unemployment – Northern and Southern. Instead, however, it compares Northern unemployment with the South, a region. To make it logical, you have to add unemployment in before the South. If this sounds repetitive, you can instead use a pronoun, saying that in (see 63. Constraints on Using “the one[s]).

An alternative correction is to begin the sentence The North has higher … . Now the above sentence end is correct – the comparison is between two regions rather than two types of unemployment.


4. Leaving out “other”

Illogicality can often be removed by adding the word other. Where in the following sentence should it be placed?

(k) *The Times was positive, and many newspapers welcomed this measure too.

Other is needed, of course, after many. Without it, The Times, a quite famous British newspaper, is implied not to be a newspaper at all. The need for other is likely to arise when a group (like many newspapers) is being mentioned alongside one of its members (The Times).

169. “All”, “Each” and “Every”


These three words of similar meaning differ in numerous ways in their grammar and meaning.


All, each and every can give trouble because the differences between them are as much of grammar as of meaning (rather like the differences between 98. “Very”, “Much” and “Very Much”). Many of these differences are commonly presented in English Language coursebooks, but they are not always easy to appreciate and remember.

In this post I am attempting an explanation that I hope will make the differences a little clearer. The main division that I make is between usage with and without a following noun. I also consider a number of specialised uses.



The principal ways in which the three words can combine with a following noun may be illustrated as follows:

(a) All sentences need a subject.

(b) All (of) the sentences need a subject.

(c) Each sentence needs a subject.

(d) Each (one) of the sentences needs a subject.

(e) Every sentence needs a subject.

(f) Every one of the sentences needs a subject.

The following differences are illustrated by these examples:

1. The three words equally express the meaning of “100%”. However, each highlights the individuals that make it up rather than the whole group.

2. Each and every accompany only countable nouns. All is also shown above with a countable noun, but elsewhere its noun might be uncountable (e.g. all suffering).

3. A noun with the after each/every needs of in between and must be plural (see 160. Uses of “of”, #4). Each/every remains singular, and when in subject position needs a singular verb. By contrast, a noun with the after all allows a choice about of and can be either singular or plural. It will be singular when either uncountable – all (of) the suffering – or countable but representing a “unique” idea – all (of) the world.

4. Before of the, every must have one, all cannot have it, and each allows a choice. The reason for the need with every is that it is always an adjective (needing a noun-like word to describe). Each, on the other hand, allows a choice because it can be either an adjective (needing a noun-like partner) or a pronoun (needing to be alone). Including one after each is emphatic, giving more prominence to the individuality of the group members. For more on flexible pronouns like each, see 28. Pronoun Errors.

5. A noun without the (or similar) after all/each/every must also be without of (see 133. Confusions of Similar Structures 1, #1). It has to be singular after each and every (each/every sentence), but may be singular or plural after all depending on its type (all suffering, all sentences). For information about when to drop the, see 110. Nouns without “the” or “a”.


Additional points, not illustrated by the examples above, are:

6. Each is less common than the other two words, but is the only possibility when the partner noun belongs to a group of only two members, as in this example:

(g) Each side of the brain has specialized functions.

If you wished to say sides here instead of side, you would have to replace each with both, not all. It is quite a common error to use all when both is required.

7. The three words are not commonly used before the words person, people and thing(s), with or without the. Instead, the pronouns everyone and everything are usually preferred (e.g. Everything perishes rather than *Each/Every thing perishes or *All things perish).

8. All and each can go after their noun as well as before. There must be a verb in between if it is BE or the first part of a multi-word verb (e.g. The sentences are each; The sentences can all have…). Otherwise no verb goes in between (The sentences each need…). Used like this all and each are pronouns. Every cannot act similarly because it cannot be a pronoun.

9. After of an alternative to the is a similarly definite word like the “demonstrative” adjectives” this/that and “possessive” adjectives its, their etc. (each of their sentences…). The entire combination of the (etc.) + plural noun can be replaced by plural pronouns like them.

10. Every and all can be used after almost and practically, but each cannot (Practically all sentences/every sentence …).



Points 1, 6 and 10 above also apply when there is no following noun. In addition, there is an equivalent to point 2: each and every imply singular countable nouns, while all can imply plural and uncountable nouns too. Consider this:

(h) The figure contains six triangles. Each is equilateral.

The underlined verb is singular because each always stands for a singular countable noun (here triangle). On the other hand, if all replaced each, the verb would need to be plural (are) because all would represent the plural triangles.

To use every in (h) instead of each, it would be necessary to add one. This is again due to the exclusively adjective nature of every. If the reference is to people, one must be joined onto every to make a single word:

(i) The building can accommodate six residents. Everyone has their own bathroom.

For more pairs like every one versus everyone, see 26. One Word or Two?

A special use of each by itself occurs in the object position after a verb: alongside the word other, it indicates that two people or things are each doing the same thing to the other, as in this example:

(j) Large apes like to groom each other.

For more on such sentences, see 143. Problems Using “-self” Words.



Sentence (g) above illustrates a situation where only only one of the three words (each) is possible. There are a number of other meanings that similarly restrict choice.

1. With Time Nouns

Singular time nouns like minute, day and year can combine directly with each and every to make two different kinds of phrase: noun-like and adverb-like. The first kind act in sentences in typical noun positions like “subject” and “object”:

(k) Every/Each second counts.

(l) Take each/every day as it comes.

Adverb-like phrases occupy typical adverb positions and tend to show frequency:

(m) Exams are held each/every year.

For advice on recognising adverbs, see 120. Six Things to Know about Adverbs. One further point here is that every can also make the one-word adjective everyday (see 26. One Word or Two?).

All too can combine directly with a singular time noun, but it normally makes only adverb phrases (of duration):

(n) The consequences were visible all day.

Only one long day is being referred to here, rather than the repeated days that each/every would signify.

To make all and a singular time noun usable in noun positions, you usually have to add of. This word is enough with time nouns that do not usually have the or a, such as today, Tuesday, July and 2015 (e.g. all of today), but others, such as day, night or week, also need the/a:

(o) Preparation can occupy all of a day.

All of a/the + singular time noun can be adverb-like as well as noun-like, hence forming an alternative to all by itself. In (n), for example all day could be replaced by all of the day.

An interesting contrast is between each/every time and all (of) the time. Time in the former is countable and means “occasion”, while in the latter is uncountable and means “period”. For more on this kind of meaning difference, see 43. Substance Locations.

Finally, all is the only one of the three words that can also combine directly with plural time nouns. The combinations are usually noun-like:

(p) All years are the same.


2. With a Following Number

All, each and every can go with a number and a plural noun, e.g. three spaces. However, different meanings result. All indicates that the number is a total – not part of a larger group – and that no exceptions exist within this total, e.g.:

(q) All three spaces contained a car.

This means a total of three spaces existed, and none was empty.

Every and each, on the other hand, indicate that the mentioned number is repeated at regular intervals. Replacing all in (q), for example, they would show that there were numerous groups of three spaces, and all of these groups had one of their spaces occupied by a car.

In (q), the usage is noun-like. Adverb usage is also possible, especially with time nouns. All/Each/Every three years, for example, could indicate frequency.


PRACTICE EXERCISE: “All”, “Each” AND “Every”

Readers wishing to strengthen understanding and retention of the above points are invited to try the following exercise. You have to decide which one(s) of the three words are possible in each space (answers below).

1. .….. year brings different weather.

2. ….. tyre on a motor vehicle must be at the correct pressure. ….. need to be checked before a long drive.

3. Practically ….. human being responds positively to kindness.

4. The conference will run from Wednesday to Friday. ….. three days will begin with coffee.

5. Parents will show interest in ….. thing that their child learns.

6. There were numerous balls of different colours. Participants were asked to identify ….. of the green ones.

7. The USA and Canada are …. traversed by the Rocky Mountains.

8. In 2016, the weather was unusual ….. year.



1. Each/every (+ singular year);  2. Each/every (+ singular tyre); all (+ plural need).  3. every (cf. practically + singular being);  4. all (only one group of 3);  5. each (not every because that would make one word, not two);  6. all/each (not every because one is absent).  7. each (not all because only two countries are involved);  8. all (only one year was involved).

168. Ways of Arguing 2


Arguments may support an opinion by questioning the truth or the strength of opposing evidence


An argument may be defined as an opinion with some supporting evidence. Academic writers frequently need to argue, for example in answering “analytic” essay questions (see 94. Essay Instruction Words), or in deriving conclusions from research findings. Written arguments are common in a business context too, for such purposes as defining company policy or requesting funding for a project.

Each of the two parts of an argument is associated with a variety of characteristic words and structures, no particular one of which is essential. Language that can be used for stating opinions is considered in depth elsewhere within these pages in the post 107. The Language of Opinions. Here it is the language of supporting information that I wish to concentrate on.

There are at least three main types of support for an opinion: simple evidence, complex evidence, and criticism of opposing evidence. Language associated with the first two are the topic of the post before this (167. Ways of Arguing 1). The following sections present and discuss two major ways to criticise evidence supporting an opinion opposite to your own.



Exposing a problem in the evidence for an opposing opinion can be a very persuasive way of arguing. Two common ways of criticising evidence are as follows:

1. Factuality-Questioning

In this approach, doubt is expressed about the factuality of a supporting statement. By itself this is not proof that one’s own opinion is correct, but it strongly implies that it is. Here is an example of an argument involving this kind of criticism. The evidence under attack is underlined.

(a) Critics of modern soccer often argue that players are paid too much. Salaries, they say, are not proportionate to the game’s role in society. Yet much of this concern is misplaced. The high player salaries are no more unjustified than the earnings of other well-paid sports personalities such as tennis players. There is, moreover, no proof that providing enjoyment to millions of people is any less a contribution to society than performing more obviously worthy services such as running a government.

The writer is here arguing that soccer players’ high salaries are justified. S/he does not agree that they are too high for soccer’s role in society. The reasons are that other sports stars earn similarly high salaries, and that the level of soccer’s importance in society is a matter of opinion.

This kind of argument has some characteristic language. First, the opinion that is being disagreed with must be linked with other people than the writer. In (e) this is done with critics. For other possibilities, see 22. Multiple Speakers in a Text. Next, after the opinion and introducing the questioning there must be a word – normally a conjunction or connector – meaning “but” (but, yet, however, nevertheless, even so etc.). Finally, there is normally a criticism expression like misplaced. For more examples, see 13. Hidden Negatives and 152. Agreeing and Disagreeing in Formal Contexts.

Here is another example of this kind of argument. Readers are invited to identify the above-described key elements:

(b) Various research findings have been cited in support of a link between high-cholesterol foods and heart attacks. However, this link is questionable. There have been other research projects that have not confirmed a connection between diet and heart disease.

The first sentence here contains the opinion being criticised and, before it, simple evidence on which it is based (various research findings). All of this is attributed to other people by the passive form of the reporting verb have been cited. The criticism begins with however. The criticism word is questionable. The problem with the factuality of the evidence is said to be the suggestion that all research supports the same conclusion when in fact only some does.


2. Counterbalancing

In this kind of argument, evidence against the writer’s own opinion is accepted as factual, but is shown to be weaker than evidence for it. There are two different ways of indicating such weakness. In one, a numerical imbalance is highlighted: more points in support than against.

Arguments of this kind are often needed in academic essays, particularly those instructing the writer to discuss (see 94. Essay Instruction Words). A common approach is to list the two opposing sets of points separately, before providing an opinion based on whichever one is larger or “heavier”. The typical language will hence be that of listing different items in different sentences (see 122. Signpost Words in Multi-Sentence Lists). There will usually be a sentence introducing the list (ending in a full stop, not a colon) plus a need for a suitable link word at the start of each new point.

There are various possible ways of writing the introductory sentence, e.g.:

(c) Train travel has advantages and disadvantages.

(d) A case can be made both for and against train travel.

(e) There are arguments both for and against train travel.

Sentence (e) contains a “presentational” there and also illustrates the common use of arguments to mean “supporting points” (see 167. Ways of Arguing 1).

The first evidence statement will usually need a signpost adverb like firstly or adjective like first. For some synonyms, see the above-mentioned post on multi-sentence listing. A particularly useful one for starting the points in favour of your own opinion is to begin with: it suggests that the list is long and strong.

Statements of subsequent evidence are typically introduced with “addition” connectors like moreover, furthermore and in addition, or adjectives like another. A change from supporting to opposing points or vice versa can be shown with however or on the other hand.

At the end, when the conclusion indicated by the mentioned evidence needs to be stated, it is possible to begin with a phrase like in conclusion, it can be concluded that, to sum up, in view of the above arguments or on the basis of the above. There should also be a statement of how/why the points support the opinion.

The other main way of making opposing evidence seem weaker than your own is by questioning its relative importance. The language for doing this is extensively analysed in the Guinlist post 51. Making Concessions with “May”. Here are two examples:

(f) Coal may be a cheap fuel but it harms the environment.

(g) Train travel should be preferred to driving whenever possible. It may be tiring, but it is kinder to the environment.

No opinion is actually stated in (f), but one is easily inferred: the writer thinks coal should not be used as a fuel. Both (f) and (g) signal the opposing point (underlined) with may and the writer’s own point with but. The very meaning of but suggests that what follows is a more important point, but a writer ought to back this up with some subsequent detail.

May and but are not the only words that can do what they do: the above-mentioned post lists numerous alternatives. Most imply that the inconvenient point has been made by other people, rather than having been thought of by the writer. They are hence agreement-showing – formal equivalents of the conversational You have a point, but … (see 152. Agreeing and Disagreeing in Formal Contexts). To avoid the suggestion of other people, one can replace both may and but with although (a conjunction that rarely allows a following but – see 64. Double Conjunctions).

167. Ways of Arguing 1


Arguments may support an opinion with “simple” or “complex” evidence, using slightly different language in each case


Argument is common in professional writing. It has two essential components: a “main” point whose truth is debatable – i.e. an opinion –and at least one fairly factual supporting observation to give the opinion some credibility. If the second of these is absent, leaving just the opinion, there is no argument, and a likelihood in serious writing of losing the reader’s interest and respect.

Supporting observations are sometimes found with facts rather than opinions, but then they are probably helping to make an explanation rather than an argument.

Each of the two parts of an argument has a variety of characteristic words and structures, no particular one of which is essential. Language associated with the opinion part is considered in depth elsewhere within these pages in the post 107. The Language of Opinions. Hence it is language involved in making supporting observations that is the primary focus here.

There are at least three main types of support for an opinion: simple evidence, complex evidence, and criticism of opposing evidence. The first two are the topic of the present post, while the last is considered separately in the next (168. Ways of Arguing 2).



This term is my own for a kind of evidence that can be as little as a single factual statement but can also comprise more than one, each forming a separate supporting point. The opinion may be placed either before or after. Here is an example of simple evidence that comprises two separate supporting points (underlined) and is placed after an opinion:

(a) The Government should invest in solar energy. It is not harmful to the environment. It is relatively cheap to produce.

Most of the special language needed with simple evidence seems to be link words: conjunctions, connectors and synonyms of connectors. Conjunctions enable the number of separate sentences to be reduced. Connectors keep the different statements separate, but express their logical relationships very precisely (see 40. Conjunctions versus Connectors).

When the opinion is first, as above, any link words must follow it. Words linking it to the evidence must come at the start of the first evidence sentence, and must express the idea of “reason”. Possible conjunctions (replacing the first full stop) include since, because and given that. Since suggests a more logical reason-consequence relationship (see 61. “Since” versus “Because”). Connectors that could be used instead include this is because and the reason is that. They follow rather than replace the first full stop.

When there are multiple supporting points after an opinion, as in (a), link words can also be placed between them. A conjunction possibility is and, while possible connectors include moreover, furthermore and in addition. Note that when a reason-showing link word is used earlier, one of these other link words must also be present. If it is not, only the first support-showing statement will be understood as the evidence.

When simple evidence goes before rather than after an opinion, a slightly different set of optional link words exists. Consider this:

(b) Solar energy is not harmful to the environment. It is relatively cheap to produce. The Government should invest in it.

Once again, the evidence can be marked as a reason for the opinion by means of reason-showing words. The conjunctions since, because and given that remain possible at the start of the evidence – now at the very beginning of the argument (see 25. Conjunction Positioning). Another possibility here, suggesting there is uncertainty about the truth of the evidence, is if, meaning “if it is true that” (see the end of  61. “Since” versus “Because”). Whichever conjunction you start with, you must add and (not a connector) later on, between the two supporting points. As a result, the whole argument will occupy a single sentence.

Alternatively, instead of a starting since conjunction, so can be added later on, after the two supporting points, again with and between them so that everything becomes a single sentence. So suggests the same logicality as since (see 32. Expressing Consequences).

No connector can be used at the very start in place of the since conjunctions. This is because connectors link back to earlier statements, not forward to later ones. However, since conjunctions can be replaced by a later connector which means the same as so and goes in the same place – at the start of the opinion. Connectors of this kind include consequently, hence, therefore and thus. All, of course, need a full stop before them.

Using these connectors instead of a conjunction allows a choice of link words between the supporting points (after environment in the example). As well as the conjunction and, the connectors moreover, furthermore and in addition are all possible without being necessary.



This is my own term for a kind of supporting information that comprises more than one factual statement but only one supporting point. Again, it may go before or after the opinion. Here is an example of it placed after:

(c) Coal should not be used as an energy source. It produces carbon dioxide. This gas contributes to global warming.

As this shows, the second sentence of complex evidence, rather than giving a new reason for the validity of the opinion, helps to explain the old one.

As with simple evidence, much of the special language associated with complex evidence seems to be link words. With the opinion at the start, the conjunctions since, because and given that are again options between it and following evidence, as are the connectors this is because and the reason is that. However, with all of these the second evidence statement, unlike with simple evidence, can always remain a separate sentence, as it is in (c) – there is a free choice about whether or not to add and. This is a consequence of the second evidence sentence not being a new supporting point.

An occasional alternative way of combining the two sentences of complex evidence into one when the opinion comes first seems to be with the relative pronoun which (with a preceding comma): in (c) this can usefully replace the repetitious this gas. On the other hand, no connectors seem possible. Moreover and its synonyms signal a new supporting point, not a continuation of an old one.

If complex evidence is placed before an opinion, the argument might look like this:

(d) Coal produces carbon dioxide. This gas contributes to global warming. Other energy sources should be used.

The conjunction options for linking the evidence with the opinion here are similar to those when simple evidence precedes an opinion. There can be a since conjunction at the very start or so before the opinion. The former again needs and (or which) between the two evidence statements (otherwise the second evidence sentence will be understood as the opinion!), so that everything is in a single sentence. However, the use of so makes an earlier and optional: there can be one or two sentences overall.

If is not normally possible at the start of arguments like (d). The reason is that the second evidence sentence (This gas …) – necessarily linked to if by and – will usually express a fact rather than the uncertain point that if suggests.

Connector alternatives to the possible conjunctions are again consequence ones in the final (opinion) sentence: consequently, hence, therefore and thus. These are the only connector options in arguments like (d): the two evidence sentences, like those in (c), cannot have a connector between them.

The third type of support for an opinion is criticism of opposing evidence. This is different from simple and complex evidence in that it brings in points made by other people which go against the writer’s own opinion. It is considered in detail in the next post.

166. Appropriacy in Professional English


Grammar and vocabulary in professional contexts must meet requirements of style and tone


The grammar and vocabulary that enable a particular thing to be said correctly in English is generally quite variable (see 80. How to Paraphrase). However, some choices fit particular situations more suitably than others. For example, it is suitable in everyday conversation to speak of lions, but in technical zoological writing to speak of Felis leo. And in a letter demanding payment of unpaid money it may be more suitable to speak of an outstanding sum, in order not to upset the addressee. It is choices like these that are commonly called “appropriacy”.

The first of the above examples illustrates a type of appropriacy known as “style”. There is some discussion of it elsewhere in this blog in the posts 46. How to Avoid “I”, “We” and “You” and 108. Formal and Informal Words. The second example is more one of “tone”. In this post I wish to explore these two different types of appropriacy in more depth. In the process, I hope to present and illustrate a wide range of potentially useful vocabulary and grammar.



Wording that is stylistically appropriate is typical of the style (or type, or “register”) of writing where it is located (see 16. Ways of Distinguishing Similar Words, #1). Styles are defined by such features as their subject matter, purpose and medium of communication. In the other parts of this blog where style features, the focus is mainly on the particular kind known as “academic”. Most of the language that is mentioned as appropriate to this style is vocabulary, such as obtain (rather than get), large (for big), numerous (for a lot of) and encounter (for come across).

Academic writing also makes stylistically appropriate grammatical choices. Some verb forms, such as the passive voice, enable unwanted pronouns like we to be avoided (but see 27. How to Avoid Passive Verbs). Indirect questions are generally preferred to direct ones for introducing a topic (see 57. Indirect Questions in Formal Writing).

Other styles of writing include literary, legal, journalistic, advisory and marketing. One characteristic of literary writing is its freedom to report historical speech in direct rather than indirect form (see 127. When to Use Indirect Speech). Another is a greater likelihood of poetic words like host (= crowd), mortals (= humans) and smite (= hit).

Legal writing has numerous specialized words, such as persons (= people), parties (= people who have made an agreement) and offence/felony (= crime). Journalistic writing likes short words like pay (= wages), mar (= spoil), ban (= prohibit) and woo (= try to persuade with promises). A grammatical feature is dropped the before people-describing nouns (e.g. … singer Bob Marley – see 77. Apposition).

Advisory writing is commonly found in government leaflets and product instructions. You and your are common, as are imperative verbs and modals like should (see 128 Imperative Verbs in Formal Writing). There are often headings with a question word and infinitive verb, e.g. What to Do Next (see 105. Questions with a “to” Verb).

Marketing texts, which seek to promote a good image, present products and services in the most positive possible way. As a result, positive-sounding words are much more common than negative-sounding ones. The messages cannot usually be called untruthful, but sometimes they are so close to it that they can mislead.

Examples of typical but possibly dubious marketing language include break to describe a broadcasting interruption for advertisements (see 16. Ways of Distinguishing Similar Words, #2), new for products that have merely been changed (often for the worse), and price changes or adjustments instead of the more precise increases. London Transport notices refer to a good service when they mean normal and to track improvement instead of maintenance. A problem with this last is ambiguity: it is easily understood as improvement of the nature of the track when in fact it might only mean restoration of its optimum condition.

Marketing language of a less controversial kind includes imperative verbs that highlight an advantage of a product (Travel free of charge), and positive-sounding adjectives in restaurant menus (a delicious combination of exotic flavours).



While style is a consequence of the type of writing that one is engaged in, merely distinguishing one type from another, tone is a consequence of a writer thinking about emotions that need to be aroused or avoided in the reader. A particular point may be makeable with different tones within a single style, though some tones may help a particular style to be identified. Tonal choices may reflect the culture of the speakers of the language (just like some words – see 137. Words that Reflect English Culture).

The following tone types are important:

1. Polite

Polite language seeks to prevent the reader being offended. Various ways of communicating politely are mentioned elsewhere within these pages. In spoken interactions, questions aimed at gaining information – which run the risk of irritating the addressee – will sound politer if asked indirectly rather than directly. The following, for example, are politer equivalents of What is your name? and Where is the library?:

(a) Could you tell me (what) your name (is)?

(b) I would like to know where the library is.

For more about this kind of question, see 57. Indirect Questions in Formal Writing.

In professional writing, a common situation where polite language is likely to be necessary is discussion of controversial ideas, for example within academic literature reviews. What especially requires politeness here is expressing disagreement with another writer’s opinion – an obvious potential cause of hurt feelings. The Guinlist post 152. Agreeing and Disagreeing in Formal Contexts suggests that it is more polite to disagree with words than with people. Thus, instead of writing that Jones (2016) is simplistic or unconvincing, one can say that the argument or opinion are.

Moreover, the language expressing the actual disagreement is typically restrained. Cannot agree is more likely than disagree (because it suggests some effort has been made to agree). Unconvincing sounds politer than simplistic because it is vaguer about the reason for rejection. Similarly useful are debatable and questionable.

Another strategy, often mentioned in Business English coursebooks, is to put not very before the positive equivalent of a negative word. Thus, instead of useless, it sounds politer to say not very useful (see 106. Word-like Suffixes), and difficult can become not very easy. For more examples of negative words, see 13. Hidden Negatives and 146. Some Important Prefix Types. For some other ways of sounding polite, see 132. Tricky Word Contrasts 4 #5 and 156. Mentioning What the Reader Knows Already.


2. Image-Conscious

Sometimes one has to say something negative about oneself. Writers who are worried about this causing their reader to judge them unfavourably have various ways of presenting the negative point in the best possible light. Not very is again useful. Negative verbs like have not received can be put into the to form after APPEAR (We appear not to have received…). Blunt words like late, lost and debt can be replaced by words that sound somehow less accusing, such as delayed, mislaid and outstanding sum.


3. Friendly

Sounding friendly is a particular goal of marketing language. One of the most ubiquitous means of achieving it is “personal” words like my and your. Most computer users will be familiar with the name My Computer that Microsoft used to give to its file-exploring program (along with folder names like My Music).

Your is very commonly linked with consumer products. Who has not encountered phrases like your new phone or your smart TV, even when these have been purchased for somebody else? Your is also increasingly popular with information documents like bank statements and bills. Even in academic writing, there are some advocates of using you more than is traditional – for example in laboratory instructions – in order to sound friendlier.

One problem with such words is that they do not always ring true. My computer assumes that the user of the computer is always its owner. The much more neutral this, which I personally always used to overwrite my with, leaves the ownership open. Thankfully, Microsoft too now seem to have stopped using my. However, expressions like your bill continue to proliferate. I find this particular one irksome because I see the bill as the sender’s not mine!

The problem is further illustrated by an experience I had some years ago, when I sent a short piece about a degree course I was involved in to my university’s marketing department. I wrote that students would do various things, but when the piece was published, this word had become you. I phoned to complain that you referred to the reader, who might be a parent or teacher of students rather than the students themselves, but was told that using you was “corporate policy”. Sounding friendly, it seemed, was more important than being accurate.

Not all ways of sounding friendly, however, are problematic. For example, much marketing literature these days uses direct questions as topic headings instead of noun phrases – e.g. Who should I contact? instead of Contacts – in order to reflect the reader’s point of view rather than the writer’s. In most cases the questions are not isolated but located within lists of so-called “FAQs” (frequently asked questions).


4. Status-Influenced

Language changes according to whether it is addressed to somebody in a superior, equal or inferior position. For example, if you are seeking to have an action performed by a superior, you are likely to use a request, whereas one needing to be performed by an inferior is likely to result in a command. Consider these words uttered by a student to a lecturer:

(c) Would you mind looking again at what I have written?

A lecturer wanting a student to do the same thing could easily begin I want you to look or please look (please seems to be becoming more associated in English with commands than requests!). A student speaking to another student, on the other hand, might prefer a suggestion (why don’t you look).

Status-influenced variation is also seen with accusations and complaints. Superiors can generally be more negative in their language than inferiors. Consider these words uttered by an employer to an employee:

(d) You are failing to act in the right way.

An employee making the same point to their employer would need to avoid the negative failing, a possible solution being:

(e) We wonder whether a different approach might be possible.