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The Question Box

The ELT Journal has been published since 1946. Until 1981 it had a section called The Question Box, which answered readers’ questions. Three examples from the earliest issues:

Question: I have recently come across fry-pan for frying-pan. Is this form considered correct?

Answer: Fry-pan is not accepted as standard English and is considered incorrect by most grammarians. It is probably an American form. Similar forms are swim-suit and fly-bomb, both to be found in newspapers in Great Britain. It is likely that such forms will spread and be accepted in time. Grammarians will explain that the correct forms are swimming suit, made up of the noun suit modified by the gerund swimming (a suit for swimming), and flying-bomb, made up of the noun bomb and the participle flying (a bomb that flies). The ordinary user of language does not trouble himself about nice distinctions between gerunds and participles. If the root form of the verb (fry, swim and fly) expresses the meaning, the gain in brevity will in time probably result in the adoption of the shorter forms.

ELT Journal (1946) ‘The Question Box’, 1(2), pp. 50-51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/1.2.50-b

Question: Should we, in English, use Netherland or Netherlands as an attributive adjective? The bank named after the Midlands is the Midland Bank, and the regiment that derives its name from the highlands is called the Highland Light Infantry.

Answer: Usage requires the use of the plural form, as in The Netherlands Indies. For the foreign student of English it would be helpful if there were uniformity in these matters, but unfortunately there is not uniformity.

ELT Journal (1947) ‘The Question Box’, 1(7), p. 198. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/1.7.198

Question: Which is preferable: an opportunity (chance) to see you or an opportunity (chance) of seeing you ?

Answer: Both are correct and there is no preference either way.

ELT Journal (1947) ‘The Question Box’, 2(2), p. 54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/II.2.50

By Resource Centre

The Resource Centre at INTO University of East Anglia.