When Life was Peachy!
Everybody knows the difference between nouns and adjectives, right? Wrong….
Electric Bill or Electricity Bill?
An electric bill is one that shocks you, and it may not be for electricity consumed. A $10,000.00 water bill would be considered “electric,” even if you are Bill Gates. The bill that comes from your power utility is your electricity bill; it is not electric if it is for $1.50.
Athletic or Athletics?
The man that controls and regulates sports in your high school: Is he your “Athletic Director” or your “Athletics Director”? It depends. If he is muscle-bound and presses 200 lbs., he may qualify to be called “athletic” (which means the same as “sportive”); but if he is a 250-lb couch potato that oversees sporting activities from the cushy comfort of an air-conditioned office, the best he can be is an Athletics Director. A school may have a physics or mathematics or athletics teacher (in each case a noun). Those nouns are always used in the plural, never in the singular, so that a “physic” or “mathematic” or “athletic” teacher makes no sense.
Are you “six foot tall” or “six feet tall”?
The foot in “six-foot man” is really an adjective. It is called an adjectival noun because, while it is a noun, it functions as an adjective in that construction (qualifying man). It is like saying someone is a house painter: “house” is an adjectival noun here, qualifying painter.
So, “I am six foot tall” makes no sense really: it uses an adjective (foot) where it should use a plural noun (feet). A six-foot man is six feet (plural noun) tall; a woman who measures five feet and six inches in height is a “five-foot-and-six-inch woman”; and a child that weighs fifty pounds is a fifty-pound child. Similarly, a twenty-dollar lunch costs twenty dollars (plural noun). We seem to get confused only when it comes to height! Nobody can be “6 (or 5, etc.) foot tall,” Such a unit of height does not exist. If your height is six feet, then: You are a six footer, a six foot person, or a person six feet tall. Just keep in mind “noun versus adjective” and you shouldn’t get it wrong.
Transitive & Intransitive Verbs
Do you lie down or lay down? It depends on what is lying or being laid. Americans seem to tip-toe around the verb “to lay” because of its sexually loaded nuance. But as children we learned the Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John prayer: “…Before I lay me down to sleep / I give my soul to Christ to keep.”
LIE is an intransitive verb. In present tense , “I lie down” (in past tense, “I lay down”). But LAY is a transitive verb because it takes an object. Thus, a child who is ready to sleep will first lay her book down and then lie down (or lay herself down). So, “I will lay down on the couch” is confusing, unless you are a hen laying eggs.
Similarly, one version of The Red River Valley song lyrics says: “For I know you are taking the sunshine / That has lied in our path for a while.” That is bad English; the last line should read “… that has lain in our path for a while.” Again, the tenses of the 2 verbs are: LIE: Now it lies in our path; yesterday it lay; for years it has lain; tomorrow it will lie; etc. LAY: Now I lay it down; yesterday I laid it down, for years I’ve laid it down; tomorrow… lay. But don’t confuse them with the verb to tell a lie: I lie, I lied, I’ve lied, I will lie; etc.
Some prepositions are used exclusively or preferentially with some verbs in certain contexts. Thus you “wait for” somebody (if you are biding time for that somebody to be ready to do something); but you “wait on” somebody if you are a waiter in a restaurant, an attendant in a shop, or a teller in a bank, for instance.
We have seen the case of “off” and “on” in a previous post at this blog site. Each is a complete preposition: “I put the book on the table,” or “I won $5 off him in a bet.” In this context “off-of” is meaningless (as in “Take your hands off-of me”).
Another surprising error is the saying “It’s not that big of a deal.” What is of doing there? The correct expression is, “It’s not that big a deal.” Shuffling “a deal that big” to read as “that big a deal” is good enough; you don’t have to insert “of” anywhere in it.