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English Question Forum FAQ

When should I use "Its" and when should I use "It's"?

KGSupport says: "Its" is the possessive form of the pronoun it and is never written with an apostrophe. Some examples would be "Its strings are special..." in reference to a guitar, or "What is its value?"

It's is a contractions of "it is" or "it has". Examples are "It's time to go." "It's been great."

Which is the preferred usage, “payer” or “payor”?

KGSupport says: It is always handy to have a dictionary available close by. There are also a good number of free online dictionaries. “Payer” and “Payor” are equal variants in Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate.

What is the difference between "due to" and "because of"?

KGSupport says: "Due to" modifies nouns. It is generally used after some form of the verb "to be" (e.g. is, are, was, were, etc.). An example is "John's success is due to his talent and creativity." ("due to" modifies "success")

On the other hand, "because of" modifies verbs. An example is "Jeff resigned because of poor health." ("because of" modifies "resigned")

If a compound subject joined by “or” or “nor” is comprised of a singular and a plural subject, what is the tense of the verb that I should use?

A: The verb agrees in number with the nearer member of the compound subject.

Ex. Either the teacher or her students were assigned to decorate the room.
Either the students or the teacher was assigned to decorate the room.

What is the difference between “alright” and “all right”? Which is more correct to use?

A: “Alright” is a nonstandard spelling and is considered informal. Always use the two-word form, i.e., “all right” especially in formal writing and usage.

Ex. Informal: It is just alright with me.
Formal: It is just all right with me.

Sometimes, two or more adjectives are used together to describe one noun. Should a comma be inserted between the adjectives?

A: It depends if the adjectives are coordinate or cumulative. Coordinate adjectives are equal in rank and are separated by commas. Cumulative adjectives do not require a comma between them. One test to distinguish between the two types is the insertion of “and” between the adjectives. If you cannot place “and” between them without changing the meaning of the sentence, they are cumulative adjectives and hence do not require a comma. If “and” can be inserted, they are coordinate adjectives and hence require a comma between them.

Ex. a lovely, young woman (can be “a lovely and young woman”)
     a cold, gloomy afternoon (can be “a cold and gloomy afternoon”)
     three black cats        (cannot be “three and black cats”)
     several successful plans (cannot be “several and successful plans”)

Can “continual” and “continuous” be used interchangeably?

A: No. Continual means recurring regularly or frequently, while continuous means occurring without interruption.

Ex. Their continual snack breaks caused their dismissal.
      Her continuous absence in the office led to her termination.

What is the difference between “good” and “well”?

A: Do not confuse the two. Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb.

Ex. She writes well. (condition describing how she writes)
      She is a good writer. (quality describing her as a writer)

In compound subjects where one is positive and the other is negative, with which does the verb agree?

A: The verb agrees with the positive subject.

Ex. You, not I, are to blame.
      I, not you, am to blame.

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