Grammar Guru: This has to be done until/ by Friday

Last week’s options were

  • I especially like Indian summer. (7 votes)
  • I like especially Indian summer. (0 votes)

All votes were correct – so my students weren’t voting ;).  Adverb placement is one of the trickiest issues in English grammar. As a rule of thumb, place them before the verb, but after an auxiliary verb (be, have):

  • Indian summer is especially nice when it lasts into November.
  • Unfortunately, I have never experienced it in New England.

This week, decide between two options:

  • This has to be done until Friday.
  • This has to be done by Friday.

Grammar Guru: I especially like/ I like especially

Last week the Grammar Guru question was: Which two are correct?

  1. Many emails are written needlessly. (100%, 9 Votes) = correct
  2. Many emails are needless. (67%, 6 Votes) = correct
  3. Many emails are written needless. (0%, 0 Votes) = incorrect
  4. Many emails are needlessly. (0%, 0 Votes) = incorrect

Why didn’t everybody choose “Many emails are needless,” the shorter version?  I think it’s because the verb “to be” takes adjectives, not adverbs, which is tricky! Other verbs take adverbs, even when they are in the passive, like here.

A classic drill: Take a list of verbs and adverbs that go together: “compete successfully; laugh loudly;  sleep soundly” and make a sentence related to them. Then turn the verb into a noun, and the adverb into an adjective, so: “successful competition/competitors; a loud laugh; sound sleep”, and rephrase the sentence.

This week’s question again invites discussion. It’s about word order. Which one sounds better?

Grammar Guru: Needless or needlessly?

Last week, 9 out of 11 chose “take a break” over “make a break”. In German “Let’s take a break” is “Machen wir doch mal eine Pause.” When pairs of words in different languages are very similar but have different meanings, they are called “false friends”. Similar collocations (or word partnerships) don’t always mean the same thing, either: We can “make a clean break“, e.g. at the end of a relationship, to keep things from getting messy when the love is gone (wörtl.: einen glatten Bruch machen, eindeutig Schluß machen). “Make” changes the meaning of the phrase completely.

This week, decide which two sentences are correct:

  • Many emails are needless.
  • Many emails are needlessly.
  • Many emails are written needless.
  • Many emails are written needlessly.

Grammar Guru: make/take a break

Every single visitor who did the “used to” poll last week got it right – congratulations! “I’m used to getting up at 6. And you?” (talking about my habits) is sometimes confused with: “I used to get up at 5, but now I sleep until 6″. So I used to do something that I don’t do anymore.

This week’s grammar guru poll invites discussion. What would you say here: “We’ve done enough for the time being (=for now). Why don’t we make/take a break?”

Grammar Guru: I’m used to…

Last week the Grammar Guru poll result was

  • I’m looking forward to seeing you = 4
  • I’m looking forward to see you = 2

The majority got it right.The other choice is an error. This week’s poll is also about a typical error. For a good way to practice the correct phrase, see

But not all language issues the Grammar Guru will ask you to vote on will be errors. Stay tuned!