Q is for Quince

Chaenomeles japonica
This lovely Japanese quince was flowering at the Billings Estate National Historic Site in Ottawa, Canada

Fun Q words

quack

quaff

qualm

quarto

quaver

queasy

quibble

quaff

quiver

Quonset hut

Some more fun Q words

quaint

quarter

quiet

question

queen

quick

quill

qualify

quality

quantity

Confusing Q words

acquire

aquarium

liquor

quagmire

querulous

quire

quirky

raquet

requiem

unrequited

More Confusing Q words

enquiry, inquiry, query

quarantine

quash

quandary

queue, queuing

quintessence, quintessential

quorum, quorums

quota

quote

quotient

 

Exercises

  1. Define each of the words in the “Fun Q Words” and decide whether they are nouns, verbs, or adjectives.
  2. Use each of the “Confusing Q Words” in a sentence to illustrate its meaning.

 

Special reading assignment

  1. The question came up, where was the quartz quarried?
  2. The quintessential quiet in the quarter acre was accentuated by the murmur of quaking aspens.

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the fall of 2014.

O is for Osprey

Pandion haliaetus
This osprey is nesting on a hydro pole right next to a minor highway south of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

 

O is for “or”

Or is a conjunction used to denote one of two alternatives or the last of a list of alternatives. In this way, the word or may also express some uncertainty.

purple or mauve

sheep or goats

an apple, an orange, or a peach

two or three goats

In the case of either…or, you are presented with only two alternatives.

Either we eat now or after the play ends.

Either do your chores or else you are grounded.

He was working either in his office or at the library.

For an expression using whether…or, you are presented with a conditional phrase or an indirect question.

We have to go, whether it is raining or not.

Call your friend and ask him whether or not it is raining there.

The word or may indicate a synonym.

cougars or mountain lions

an opening or gap

O is for ought

The word ought is an auxiliary verb, originally a past participle of the verb, to owe, but now used only with other verbs in the infinitive. It indicates obligation or duty, advisability or prudence, and is less vexing than should.

We ought to leave now.

He ought to have thought of that.

She ought not to have eaten so much.

Confusing O words

boudoire

cougar

course

ooze

operation

opposition

organism

origin

rook

root

soot

wool 

Exercises

  1. Choose a book or newspaper to work with. Find sentences that include the conjunction or and figure out the exact meaning.
  2. Substitute should for ought and consider how the meaning of a sentence changes.
  3. Read through the list of “Confusing O Words”. Check the pronunciation of each word. Any surprises?

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

L is for Lilies

Lilium sp.
This orange garden variety is similar to the wild wood lily.

Two verbs, to lie and to lay

The two verbs, to lie and to lay have different related meanings, although they are often used incorrectly, mostly because children are told never to lie.

To lie, aside from meaning to tell an untruth (“He lied about…”), is an intransitive verb, which means that it never takes a direct object. This verb involves only the subject.

I lie down. I laid down. I have lain down under the stars.

Please, lie here on the blanket.

To lay is a transitive verb and must have a direct object, although the object may be only understood, rather than stated. A direct object generally answers the question “What?”. That is, you have to lay something down.

What did you lay down there?

I lay the pen down. I laid it here. I have laid it down.

Please lay the blanket on the grass.

Most verbs may be used as both transitive and intransitive. That is why you need a certain self-discipline to distinguish between lie and lay. Most times it doesn’t matter to anyone, but other times it may.

 

Some L words

lady

lawn

leave

left

lying, laying

like

lip

loose

lose

love

 

Fun L words

labyrinth

lachrymose

lackadaisical

lacklustre

limousine

liquidate

 

Exercises

  1. Create sentences using the verbs, to lie and to lay. Remember that you have to lay something down.
  2. Read the lists of L words and create a sentence for each. Make sure that you know the meaning of each word.

 

Special reading assignment

  1. The lady lay all the lemons in a line; only a little lime was lost. Did the lady lie about the lime?

 

  1. “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

— From a children’s bedtime prayer, circa 1711.

H is for Hydro Towers

Hydro lines
Hydro towers march through the landscape near Ottawa, Canada.

H is for hyphens

Hyphens (-) are little dashes that have many uses.

Hyphens in compound words

Compound words may be hyphenated (or they may be closed up together or they may be left as two separate words). Look in the dictionary for help.

Hyphenated compound words and phrases

horse-trade, hot-wire, house-sit

Jack-of-all-trades

Closed compound words

hereinafter, hothouse, household

Open compound words

high school, hydro line, phone booth

Hyphens in confusing words

Use a hyphen to help the reader understand the sense of the word in context.

re-creation (as opposed to recreation)

co-op (as opposed to coop)

eight-part sets (as opposed to eight partial sets)

Hyphens between descriptors before a noun

Use a hyphen between the following:

two  or more adjectives before a noun

high-class home, third-floor bachelor

an adjective and a participle

hard-hitting handball game

an adverb and an adjective or participle

much-heated stew

Exception

Never use a hyphen after a word ending in —ly.  

hardly heard hymn

a noun plus a participle

hand-held device

a noun plus an adjective before a noun

cheese-free hamburger

age terms

three-year-old cheese

Note

Do not use a hyphen if the descriptors come after the noun.

The home was high class.

The game was hard hitting.

The cheese was three years old.

Hyphens mark words split between two lines of type.

Heavenly hash is the kind of meal that many want to avoid eating because left-

overs are not appetizing.

Exercises

  1. Pick up a newspaper. Find some hyphenated words and figure out what parts of speech are in the phrase.

Special reading assignment

  1. Henry hankered to measure the height of hydro towers in the right-of-way.
  2. Horrified onlookers watched the steel-built hydro towers fall in the fierce ice storm. [Near Montreal, 1989.]

 

A is for Apple

A is for Apple
An apple a day…

A is for Alphabet

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The word alphabet is derived from the Greek letters for A, alpha, and B, beta. The alphabet was created by a Semitic people living in Egypt around 1900 BC. Phoenicians and Hebrews adopted it, and then it spread to the Greeks and finally the Romans. Each culture changed it a little along the way.

The order of the alphabet is very important, both for finding words in the dictionary and for reading and making lists.

Writers practise reciting the alphabet the way musicians practise scales.

Some A words

a

ace

act

age

air

ant

art

as

at

axe

Confusing A words

away, awarding, always, wayward

about, above, abuse

gap, gape

cad, cape

argue

Special reading assignment

  1. “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.”

—Bernard Baruch