Be Impeccable: Commonly Misused Phrases That Will Make You Sound Ignorant

broken.english

Jedi
FOTCM Member
Another thing that annoys me is the excessive use of "all but" in English and American literature. In many cases it does not make any sense to me.

"The buildings were all but destroyed."
"Her dress was all but green."

I could do quite well with a simple destruction and a green dress.
 
Another thing that annoys me is the excessive use of "all but" in English and American literature. In many cases it does not make any sense to me.

"The buildings were all but destroyed."
"Her dress was all but green."

I could do quite well with a simple destruction and a green dress.
It is a pretty weird construct, and English has many expressions that are quite illogical when taken literally, but it just means "almost", so the sentences make sense. Sounds pretty pretentious, though, and more so when overused.
 

mkrnhr

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
It is a pretty weird construct, and English has many expressions that are quite illogical when taken literally, but it just means "almost", so the sentences make sense. Sounds pretty pretentious, though, and more so when overused.
Indeed, according to online dictionaries, "all but" means "almost", "more or less", "nearly" etc.
One is tempted however in an interpretation that conveys negation: "Her dress was all but green" = "You could say anything about her dress, but you couldn't say it was green" = "Her dress was not green". Something like that.

Edit: It seems the correct use of "all but" is when an action is conveyed.
 
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Adaryn

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Indeed, according to online dictionaries, "all but" means "almost", "more or less", "nearly" etc.
One is tempted however in an interpretation that conveys negation: "Her dress was all but green" = "You could say anything about her dress, but you couldn't say it was green" = "Her dress was not green". Something like that.
This expression has often confused me, since the meaning above also applies in certain contexts. Example: anyone but you has seen that movie (everyone has seen it except you).
I've read somewhere that "All but" before an adjective means "almost/completely", whereas "All but" before a noun means "all except for".
 

broken.english

Jedi
FOTCM Member
It is a pretty weird construct, and English has many expressions that are quite illogical when taken literally, but it just means "almost", so the sentences make sense. Sounds pretty pretentious, though, and more so when overused.
Indeed, according to online dictionaries, "all but" means "almost", "more or less", "nearly" etc.
One is tempted however in an interpretation that conveys negation: "Her dress was all but green" = "You could say anything about her dress, but you couldn't say it was green" = "Her dress was not green". Something like that.
Thanks a lot! I didn't know that. I am German and my English is broken.
However, you just opened a new can of worms. From the context of the books quoted I could clearly understand that the buildings mentioned were destroyed and the dress was green.

In other words, the authors do not know the real meaning of "all but".
 

griffin

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
One that drives me nuts but everybody is doing it, is saying "I'm bored of that." (Or similar.) It should be "bored WITH that" or "bored BY that".
That's a quirk of British English idiom. For whatever reason, that usage seems more 'right' to the mental ears of people schooled in the UK than the American English alternatives you identified.
 

shellycheval

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It is helpful to remember that English, and most languages, have local/regional conversational dialects that include slang, idioms, cliches, connotative words, and figures of speech (metaphors, similes, etc.) used by most people in everyday conversation, as opposed to Standard English (or French or Spanish etc.) which requires that only the literal, denotative, meaning of the word is used and be grammatically correct.

So most of us native speakers of English know two versions of English to some degree, conversational, which we learn at home and growing up, and standard, which is taught in school. There are advantages to understanding the differences. Theoretically the more educated people are, the more consistent their use of Standard English in both writing and conversation. It is a code almost for revealing your socioeconomic class and education status to perspective employers and others who may judge you and "screen" you out of high paying careers and positions where class matters (it shouldn't but it does). A working class kid (slang for baby goat) usually has to learn to "pass" for a higher class to move up in opportunities. Most of the time people are judged by not only by how they speak and write, but also on their non-verbal skills including how they walk, sit, and dress--sad but true.

For better or worse, English has become the dominant language in global business, economics, and science, and Standard English is the version required for successful communication. Most people who learn English in school as a second language are taught Standard English and only learn the conversational versions when they are immersed in the local culture. Conversational versions are not "right" or "wrong;" they are the language of the people in a particular place and time. Standard English varies only slightly over time and place with the addition of new vocabulary, and remains a constant for precise communication. It is very useful to know the differences and understand when to employ the correct version for the situation.
 

shellycheval

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
PS One of my pet peeves is the use of "that" for "who." When referring to people use who. For example: "students who write" "employees who are late," "children who." When referring to things use that. "Cars that rust" "books that" "flowers that" etc.
people who
things that

I am also fond of using "shall" and "may" even though they are surely antiquated and also nearly extinct. :lol:
 

mkrnhr

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Lie vs. Lay


We’re all pretty clear on the lie that means an untruth. It’s the other usage that trips us up. Lie also means to recline: “Why don’t you lie down and rest?” Lay requires an object: “Lay the book on the table.” Lie is something you can do by yourself, but you need an object to lay.


It’s more confusing in the past tense. The past tense of lie is—you guessed it—lay: “I lay down for an hour last night.” And the past tense of lay is laid: “I laid the book on the table.”
This is probably one of the most confusing for non natives:
present | past | past participle | present continuous
lie (not telling the truth) | lied | lied | lying
lie (reclining onself) | lay | lain | lying
lay (tu put down something) | laid | laid | laying
(if I didn't make any mistakes)
It depends on the context and adding "down" as in "lying down" surely helps. Spelling can be a little tricky sometimes.
 

Maat

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
I apology for all the mistakes I could have done and will make in English. What I feel funny in this thread is the fact that French are well known to be inflexible regarding the langage (something which is being lost -- good langage I mean), and myself I grind often when hearing or reading some "atrocities". Anyway, I feel less alone when I can't help to correct someone. (Even if I know I'm not myself a parangon, but some things are so unbearable !) This being for people when talking their mother talking of course. A stranger making mistakes when talking French does not bother me at all. I may even find this cute.

;-)
 
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Evster2012

Padawan Learner
(Also, while we're at grammar nazism, addresses should always be separated with commas, so: "That's an interesting one, Mandatory Intellectomy." Things like "Hello Joe" or "Welcome Jane" without the commas are wrong. "Welcome Jane" is when you're telling somebody to welcome Jane, not when you're welcoming Jane. But like I said, almost nobody knows how to use commas, so...)
Otherwise it might be read as “That’s an interesting one-Mandatory Intellectomy.”

Whatever that is!:-/:lol:
 
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