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The Best of the Blog

Agosto 2014
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may have either about the English language or our articles. Write to us (preferably in English) at: http://blog.speakuponline.it. The most interesting questions will be published on this page. A word of warning, though: our blog is not a translation or homework service!

In “Brazil 2014” (June 2014) it is written “...this edition, the 19th in a series that begin in Uruguay in 1930, has more ....” Shouldn’t that be “in a series that began in 1930...”?

You’re right: we apologize, it’s a misprint.

Is it better to watch an English language film with English or Italian subtitles?

It depends on your level of English. If your English is good, then English subtitles are better, as you will understand what the actors are saying (in English). If your English is poor, then Italian subtitles are better, but if that’s the case, then maybe you should ask yourself whether watching a film is a good idea: you might find that documentaries are easier. We also recommend watching a film in English that you’ve already seen in Italian: that way you already have an idea of the story, and this will help you recognize words and phrases (in English). Otherwise you could watch the film with Italian subtitles the first time and English subtitles the second.

I found this sentence in a grammar exercise: “Somebody has left their umbrella behind”. Subject and verb = third person SINGULAR. Possessive adjective = third person PLURAL. Is it right? Why? Carola

Technically, it is a grammatical error, but this disagreement between singular and plural has been in use since Shakespeare’s day and is now part of the language. Indeed, if you say “Somebody has left his umbrella behind” it is grammatically correct, but it sounds wrong. Indeed if SOMEONE SAYS it, it sounds as if THEY ARE either an old-fashioned, a grammar-obsessed English person who NEEDS to get out more, or else a foreign speaker of the language. Also, the use of “he” in this context can sound sexist. What about the other 51 per cent of the population who classify as “she”: don’t they own umbrellas?

Well or good?
Recently someone sent me a message that said: “I have just got on the train.” I answered “Well.” I wanted to say: “Bene!” This person then corrected me, saying that I should have written “Good.” Is that right?

Yes, it is. “Well” by itself is not the same as “Bene.” It’s almost as if you’re criticizing someone! It’s a bit like “Vabbè” or “E allora?” in Italian. The right word here is definitely “Good.”

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