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Adjective Definition & List of Examples

Parts of speech Adjectives Adverbs Conjunctions Interjections Nouns Prepositions Pronouns Verbs Adjectives are words that are used to describe or modify nouns or pronouns. For example, red, quick, happy, and obnoxious are adjectives because they can describe things---a red hat, the quick rabbit, a happy duck, an obnoxious person.   Adjectives take many forms. Some common adjectives are formed when we add a suffix to a noun or verb. For example, when we add the … [Read more...]

In terms of

The phrase in terms of is usually wordy for in or for. It works well when used to mean measured in units of or expressed by means of, but in most other cases in terms of could be shortened to a single word. … [Read more...]

Dates and commas

Style guides differ on how to use commas with a month-day-year date (the American style) in the middle of a sentence, but the standard practice in U.S. publications is to place a comma after the day and another after the year---for example: The vote on March 7, 2010, began with a barrage of blasts in Baghdad and other cities and ended before nightfall. [New York Times] Iraq held elections on March 7, 2010, and agreed on a coalition on Nov. 11. [Wall Street Journal] In the month-year date … [Read more...]

Trawl vs. troll

Trawl means to catch fish with a large cone-shaped net. Among troll's several verb meanings is to fish by trailing a line behind a boat. Because both words denote types of fishing---albeit different types---they are often confused. This is easy to avoid if you remember that trawl is only a fishing term (that is often used metaphorically in nonfishing contexts) and involves a net. Both words can be used metaphorically. Troll for means to patrol or wander about an area in search of something. … [Read more...]

Meter vs. metre

For the unit of measurement equaling approximately 1.094 yards, meter is the American spelling, and metre is preferred everywhere else. The same distinction applies to the terms used in poetry and music---meter in American English, and metre everywhere else. Here's the tricky part: For any type of device (i.e., an actual machine or gadget) designed to measure time, distance, speed, or intensity or to regulate current, meter is the preferred spelling everywhere. Examples For example, these … [Read more...]

Subjunctive mood

In English, the subjunctive mood is used to explore conditional or imaginary situations. It can be tricky to use, which partially explains why many speakers and writers forgo it. But it's quite useful (and aesthetically pleasing, at least to us), and careful users of English should do their part to preserve it. Uses of the subjunctive mood The subjunctive mood is used to explore conditions that are contrary to fact: If I were President, I wouldn't put up with it. [National Review] It's … [Read more...]

Suffice it to say

Suffice it to say, meaning (1) let us just say or (2) I shall just say, is the subjunctive form of the phrase it suffices to say. It may be affixed to the beginning of any declarative sentence or clause, and it works wherever let us just say would work. It does not need to be set apart with a comma. One might follow suffice it to say with that, but the that is often unnecessary. Examples Suffice it to say that "veggie meat crumbs," "soy butter," and the abominable phrase "vegan mayo" are … [Read more...]

Mowed vs. mown

Mowed is the past tense of the verb mow. For example, if you cut the grass yesterday, you might say, "I mowed the lawn yesterday." Mown is often used as mow's past-participial adjective. So one might say, "The freshly mown grass looks nice." But mowed is also sometimes used for this purpose. Neither is right or wrong. Examples In a businesslike manner they have mowed through the schedule, losing just four times in 35 games from the end of November through Wednesday night. [CBC] The vehicle … [Read more...]

Incubus, succubus

An incubus is a male evil spirit that has sex with sleeping women. A succubus is a female evil spirit that has sex with sleeping men. Both mythological figures have origins in antiquity, and the words themselves come from Latin. Each word has a pair of accepted plurals---incubuses and incubi for incubus, and succubuses and succubi for succubus. English reference books are inconsistent in their recommendations. But because we are using the words in English, the English plurals are fine, even … [Read more...]

A lot vs. alot

Though common in informal communication, alot has never made its way into edited writing, and it's generally considered a misspelling. In any type of serious writing, the two word spelling, a lot, is the safer choice. Even correctly spelled, however, the imprecise term has a colloquial ring, and it might sound out of place in, say, a school paper or an email to a client.   A lot is like any two-word phrase with the indefinite article (a) followed by a noun (lot). For instance, a cow, a cloud, … [Read more...]

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