For all intensive purposes (for all intents and purposes)

For all intents and purposes is the usual form of the phrase meaning in every practical sense. For all intensive purposes is a fairly common eggcorn derived from the original phrase. It's often heard in speech, but it's rare in published writing because it generally doesn't pass through the editorial process. Examples Although for all intensive purposes doesn't make much sense, examples such as these are not hard to find: It was a questionable call in the 81st minute that for all intensive … [Read more...]

Terza rima

Terza rima is a poetic form consisting of tercets connected by an interlinking rhyme scheme in which the second line of one stanza rhymes with the first and third lines of the following stanza---aba bcb cdc ded efe, etc. The form, which was introduced by Dante in his La Divina Commedia, originally ended with a single line rhyming with the second line of the preceding stanza, but over the centuries poets have used different endings. Terza rima creates a strong sense of forward momentum … [Read more...]

Split infinitives

Contrary to what some grammarians say, there is no rule against using split infinitives in English. One might use them with care, but splitting an infinitive is sometimes the best way to clearly express a thought. What are split infinitives? An infinitive is the uninflected form of a verb along with to---for example, to walk, to inflect, to split. A split infinitive is created by placing an adverb or adverbial phrase between the to and the verb---for example, to boldly go, to casually walk, to … [Read more...]


Dog-eat-dog is an idiomatic adjective meaning ruthless or competitive. Doggy dog, when used in the phrase doggy-dog world, is an eggcorn resulting from a mishearing of dog-eat-dog. Examples Business is business, and Hollywood is as dog-eat-dog as every other industry. [Reel Loop] We are locked in the hermetic, dog-eat-dog world of the court, where every smile is false. [Guardian] They think they can do anything they want, that it's a dog-eat-dog market and all these sophisticated buyers … [Read more...]

Participial prepositions

A participial preposition is a participle (an -ed or -ing verb) that functions as a preposition. Some of the most common examples are assuming, barring, considering, during, given, notwithstanding, provided, regarding, and respected. Unlike other participles, participial prepositions don't necessarily create dangling modifiers when they don't correspond to a subject. So, to take a counterexample, consider the following sentence: Sitting on the porch, it started to get cold. Here … [Read more...]

Detract vs. distract

To detract is to diminish, take away from, or reduce the value of (something). The word is mainly used intransitively (i.e., not requiring a direct object), and its usually followed by from. For instance, a pile of unfinished work might detract from your enjoyment of a football game. Distract, which is always used transitively (meaning that it must have a direct object), means to divert attention or interest. The verb almost always acts directly on the person or thing being distracted. For … [Read more...]

French indefinite articles

An indefinite article is used when referring to a general noun rather than a particular noun. While definite articles are used with specific nouns that are understood by both speaker and listener (the being the only English definite article), indefinite articles are used to call upon unspecified people or things. In English, the main indefinite articles are a and an, while a few other words such as some and any can also fill the role. In French, the indefinite articles are un, une, and … [Read more...]

English moods (imperative, indicative, and subjunctive)

In a sentence, the grammatical mood conveys the speaker's attitude about the state of being of what the sentence describes. This may sound a little complicated, but it's simple enough: In the indicative mood, for instance, the speaker is sure that something is the case, while in the imperative mood the speaker desires that something should happen.  Mood is only one of many verb properties, others being tense, aspect, and voice. It is expressed through the sentence's verbs and grammatical … [Read more...]

Negative prefixes

The most common negative prefixes in English are in-, un-, non-, de-, dis-, a-, anti-, im-, il-, and ir-. While some of these prefixes are interchangeable in some uses, there are subtle differences between them. in-, im-, il-, ir- The in- prefix (from which im-, il-, and ir- are derived) is generally the least useful of the negative prefixes, as it only goes with certain Latin-derived stems (e.g., intolerant, inarticulate, impenetrable), is highly conventionalized, and is identical to … [Read more...]


The conjunction whilst means the same as while. For Americans the word tends to have an archaic ring, so it is rare in American English and tends to give the impression that the writer is either British or affecting a British voice. There is less prejudice against whilst outside the U.S., however, and the word is fairly common in British publications (though all the British style books we checked recommend while over whilst). Examples With each of these examples, note … [Read more...]

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