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Maggio 2016
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!

The friendliest
What is the correct superlative form of the adjective friendly? Is it better to say “the friendliest” or ”the most friendly”? I believe it’s the first version, but I’ve often heard the second used colloquially. Am I wrong?

Technically, it’s “friendliest” but it’s true that many people say “the most friendly.” This is one of those grey zones of grammar: if someone says “most friendly” it’s acceptable.

In front of you
I’d like to know the difference between “in front of” and “opposite.”

It’s a subtle difference! Usually these terms are used with reference to buildings. If one building is “opposite” another, then it’s on the other side of the street or road. “In front of,” on the other hand, is more ambiguous. If someone says they’ll meet you “in front of” a shop, restaurant, pub or house, then technically they will meet you on the same side of the street or road as that building, but if one building is in front of another, then it would be on the other side of the road.

Habits in the past
In “I grew up in a remote lighthouse” (Speak Up, June 2015) I noticed two possible mistakes: 1. “if there was bad weather, the food deliveries would be postponed and we would have to manage with whatever tins we had left”. Shouldn’t the author have used the third conditional rather than the second? Like this: “if there had been bad weather, the food deliveries would have been postponed...”. Then she wrote “when I had to come home for weekends I’d spend all my time on the phone to friends”. This is grammatically incomprehensible for me, both the verbal tense and the preposition “to” before “friends.” Thank you.

The language in the article is correct: the narrator isn’t speculating about what would have happened, but is describing “habits in the past.” For this we use the “would + infinitive” construction. For example, in the present “I go to the movies every week” but when I remember what I did 20 years ago I say “I would go to the movies every week.” When the narrator says “I would spend all my time on the phone” it is a “habit in the past” and not a conditional. As for “on the phone to friends”, in English you can say “on the phone to someone” and “on the phone with someone.”

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