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For more answers to your questions about language, grammar and spelling please check out our extensive library of grammar and reference articles.
- What's the longest place name in the world? We've supplied you with photographic evidence for one contender and listed some others another "Fun & Games" article.
- What's the longest word in the English language? Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis meaning a lung disease caused by breathing ultramicroscopic particles of volcanic silica. This word has never been used; it was artificially contrived to be the longest word in the English language.
- What does "antidisestablishmentarianism" mean? At 28 letters, "antidisestablishmentarianism" might be the best-known long word in English. It is a rare British term meaning "opposition to removing the tie between the Church of England and the state."
- Is it "judgment" or "judgement"? The English spelling system is a nightmare (see "The Chaos" in our library) caused by inconsistencies in the spelling system. To remain on the side of the orthographic angels and help our children learn to spell words in the language more accurately, YourDictionary.com is committed to as much consistency in spelling as the English language allows. To spell "judgement" without an "e," while spelling "abridgement," "acknowledgement," "arrangement," "engagement," and the 40 other words in English with a soft "g" before -ment with an "e," is an act of bewildering inconsistency that makes learning the spelling system unnecessarily difficult (See Dr. Language's article on the equally puzzling but ever popular editorial error, "an historical" for the correct "a historical".)It is not a new problem; both spellings have trailed this word throughout history and all English-language dictionaries assure us that both are acceptable. However, we are offering a reasoned resolution to the dilemma that allows us to spell all such words accurately and consistently, making our kids' task of learning the language just a bit easier. We should use the "e" after "g" and "c" (e.g. "advancement" when they are soft and omit it when they are hard (e.g. "segment," "pigment"). By the way, we have William Shakespeare and all our British brethren on our side. Not bad company to keep.
- Are "imply" and "infer" synonyms? These two terms cannot be correctly used interchangeably. In fact, "imply" and "infer" are antonyms. If I say that your car is too small, I would imply that I don't want to ride in it. YOU would infer from my comment that I do not want to ride in it. The subject of "imply" is the source of an implication while the subject of "infer" is the recipient of an implication.
- What is the difference between "its" and "it's?" "It's" is always the abbreviation of "it is" as in "It's (it is) a nice day, isn't it?" "Its" is the possessive of "it" as in, "That is Morton's puppy but I don't know its name."
- What is the difference between "may" and "can?" We use "can" to indicate capability or possibility, e.g. "I don't know if I can lift this piano by myself." "May" is used when you are speaking of permission, "May I lift your piano for a little exercise?"
- What is the difference between "there" and "their?" Glad you asked. "There" indicates a place as in, "I live here not there." It is the opposite of "here." "Their" is the possessive of "they" as in "They live there but is isn't their house."
- What is the difference between an epithet and an epitaph? An epithet, from Greek epithetos "placed upon, attributed," is an adjective or other descriptive word or phrase that characterizes the person or object it is attributed to. As George Eliot wrote in "Romola," "Hollow, empty is the epithet justly bestowed on Fame." An epitaph, from Greek epi "on" + taphos "tomb," is an inscription on a tomb or gravestone.
- What is a synonym and a homonym? A synonym (from Greek syn "with" + onoma "name") is a word that has the same meaning as another word. "Couch" and "sofa" are synonyms. A homonym is a word that is pronounced like another word. "Pare," "pair," and "pear" are homonyms. Homonyms, from Greek homo "same" + onoma "name," are sometimes called "homophones" from Greek homo "same" + phone "sound."
- What does the suffix -stan mean in words like "Afghanistan" and "Pakistan?" -Stan is formed from the old Iranian root *sta- "to stand, stay," and means "place where one stays," i.e., homeland or country. Names such as Afghani-stan, Tajiki-stan, Hindu-stan are formed by adding this suffix to the usually pluralized names of the people living in that country, as the Afghani (one Afghan) live in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan was formed from the initial letters of "Punjab," "Afghanistan," and "Kashnir" and the questionable extended suffix -istan. So, now there is an extended suffix floating around that may be added to new countries, the name of whose people is not pluralized by the suffix -i.By the way, Iranian is the mother language from which the modern Persian or Farsi, Pashto, Baluchi, etc. languages developed. The Germanic language family, of which English (German, Swedish, Dutch, etc.) is a member, developed from the same great-great-grandmother, Proto-Indo-European (PIE) some 7,000 years ago, so the same root also turns up in English "stand," "stay," "steady," and others.
- What is the difference between sit/set and lie/lay? These two pairs of words operate on the same rule, a rule that has to do with transitivity. Transitivity is a property of verbs that allows them to take direct object, a second noun directly after the verb without an intervening preposition. In the sentence, "Frank bit the dog," "Frank" is the Subject (doer) of the sentence. "Dog" is the object ('doee'), the object to which something is done. "Bite" is a transitive verb in that it allows a direct object (the bitten dog above). Other verbs, like "sleep," do not allow direct objects. You can't say "Frank slept a dog." You can say "Frank slept all night" but "all night" is not the object to which something is done but an adverbial phrase telling us how long the action of the verb lasted.That brings us to sit/set and lie/lay. "Sit (sat, sat)" and "lie (lay, lain)" are intransitive verbs. You can sit down, sit up (movement involved), or sit in a chair (no movement) but you can't sit Frank - or anything else. You can, however, set a plate on a table or seat Frank in a chair - but not sit him. "Set (set, set)" is a transitive verb; "sit" is intransitive. this same distinction separates "lie" from "lay (laid, laid)." You can lie on a rug but you cannot lie a rug. You can, however lay a rug anywhere you please or lay down your trouble with lie/lay if you understand this brief note. The confusion here arises from the fact that the past tense of "lie" is also "lay." Don't let that confuse you.