Learn British English with Anastassia

Exciting Adventures in the English Language and Culture

Category: Grammar Rules!

Media or Mediums?

The noun medium is of Latin origin and has been part of the English language since the 1580s.

If you look it up in a dictionary, you’ll see that it has two plural forms – media, which is in line with other Latin borrowings such as, for example, datum – data and bacterium – bacteria, and mediums.

Languages are mediums (=means) of interaction and communication.

You certainly know that we refer to all the people and organisations providing information and news for the public, i.e. newspapers, radio, TV, etc., as the mass media and never the mass mediums.

The mass media is often referred to as the Fourth Estate.

Notice that the (mass) media is now often used as an uncountable noun with a singular verb, though Bernard C. Lamb, President of the Queen’s English Society, argues that is ‘wrong, wrong, wrong!’ He also insists mediums should only be used for people who claim to be able to communicate with the dead.

After his father died, he spent a small fortune on mediums trying to find out if his late parent was happy in the afterlife.

So if you want to speak impeccable English, you’d better listen to Mr Lamb. Besides, I think it’s the easiest way to remember when to use media and when mediums.

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Programme Vs Program

The word programme has several meanings.

The one you’re certainly familiar with is something you watch on TV or listen to on the radio as in What’s your favourite TV programme?

It can mean plan or a series of actions as in

The ambitious reform programme developed by a group of independent politicians got no support from the government.

and 

What’s the programme for tomorrow?

Another meaning is a leaflet that gives information about a play, concert etc.

She collects theatre programmes.

By contrast, program is a set of instructions given to a computer, i.e. All word processing programs these days have built-in grammar- and spelling-checkers.

There’s no such distinction in American English where one spelling program covers all of the above mentioned meanings.

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How to Agree and Disagree

In English, agreeing and disagreeing with negative statements and questions is a bit confusing, if not counterintuitive.

Don’t you like apples? No, I don’t.

Here you express agreement with no – you agree that you don’t like apples.

– It’s not cold.

Yes, it is.

And here you contradict the speaker with yes – unlike them, you think it is cold.

The rule is to choose yes or no depending on your answer (yes if it’s positive and no if it’s negative) and not what it communicates (agreement or disagreement).

Didn’t you see the sign? No, I didn’t. (agreement but the answer is negative (I didn’t), therefore we use no)

You can’t afford this car. (Yes,) I can. (contradiction but the reply is positive (I can), therefore yes is used)

Hope you’ll never have trouble with this language point again. Did you just say “I won’t”? Great! And if you think you will, well maybe you should re-read this post.

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-ed and -ing adjectives

In English, there are quite a few pairs of adjectives one of which ends in -ed and the other in -ing, for example, excited/exciting, bored /boring, inspired/inspiring. The adjectives in each pair are very different in meaning, and yet, as they look so similar, English learners often find them confusing. If you too find it difficult to use them correctly, then read on.

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Efficient Vs Effective

Efficient and effective share the first three letters but shouldn’t be confused as their meanings are very different.

Efficient means ‘working well, without wasting time, money or energy’.

My new car is more fuel efficient than the old one was and saves me about £50 every week.

Laura’s the most efficient PA (personal assistant) I’ve ever had: my business life is perfectly organised with every little thing running smoothly.

Effective, on the other hand, means ‘successful, having the right effect or solving the problem’.

These painkillers aren’t cheap but they’re extremely effective – your headache will be gone in seconds.

A string of pearls would look very effective with that dress.

Now you know!

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Is it all right if it’s alright?

You must have come across both variants, probably wondering which one is more preferable. Well, the quick answer to this question is all right.

The tea was all right.

Unlike much older mergers such as altogether and already that are fully acceptable, using alright, especially in formal writing, is still highly likely to make your readers think that your English is far from perfect.

So play it safe and use all right.

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