The Evolution of English

A very good piece on how English evolved to the English we know today, using the familiar Lord’s Prayer.

Answer on @Quora by Scott Mauldin to What happened during the transition between Old English and Modern English?

Did dinner used to mean lunch?

Answer by Franklin Veaux:

Dinner is the largest meal of the day. It's a term that indicates the size of the meal, not the time of the meal.

In some places where I've lived, like Florida and Oregon, it is customary to have the largest meal in the evening, so we talk about having breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I lived in Nebraska, it was customary to have the largest meal at midday, so we would talk about breakfast, dinner, and supper.

Did dinner used to mean lunch?

Why do we say “THE” United States of America but not in the case of India?

A descriptive noun is linked with an article "the". A plain proper noun (a name) does not.

Answer by Kelly Martin:

Do your friends address you as "Shiv" or "The Shiv"?

The "name" of the United States is not actually a name.  It is, instead, a description. It describes who we are: we are the "United" "States" of "America": a country comprised of states, all located in America, that have voluntarily united. Because it's a descriptive phrase, not a name, grammatically it needs an article. This is also why we say the United Kingdom: again, the name describes the country (in full, it is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland").

India, however, is a name; the word doesn't describe the country, but simply names it, and thus grammatically does not need, or merit, an article.

Why do we say "THE" United States of America but not in the case of India?

The Order of Adjectives

Adjectives can be “stacked” into a long string of words that describe the noun that comes after them, but not many users of English are aware that there is an order to stack them.

  1. Opinion. lovely, wonderful
  2. Size. big, humongous
  3. Age. young, old
  4. Shape. square, round
  5. Colour. red, green
  6. Origin. Chinese, American
  7. Material. iron, leather
  8. Purpose or function. grilling, measuring

I guess you can say that Sensei Michael is a wonderful tall middle-aged Singaporean teacher. Now to come up with a phrase that uses all 9 for an epitome of the use of the above rule!

What’s the difference between “spin” and “turn”?

Answer by Joseph Michael Pallante:

Turn left! turn right!

You use "turn" mostly with directions or something that moves on a pivot point briefly.

Spin around, spin in a chair, my head is spinning. These are all fixed on one point and involve a rotation or series of rotations.

Think of turning as the process for spinning, but to spin you need to complete a circle. For example I can turn down streets going only left or right and complete one circle, yet I had to turn at 3 pivot points.

A turn has pivot points, a spin has 1 central pivot point and rotates in at least 1 circle.

What's the difference between "spin" and "turn"?

What are some tips to correctly use “the” and “a”?

Answer by Michael Chan:

"a" refers to anything of that type, nothing specific.

"the" refers to a specific something of that type, nothing else. It is usually used when referring to something that both parties already know of.

I am a vice-president in the company.

In this case, I am probably one of the two or more vice-presidents in that specific company that we have been talking about previously.

I am the vice-president of the bank.

In this case, there is no other vice-presidents, there is only one, which makes me a lot more "big-shot" in that particular bank we have been talking about, than any banks which have tons of vice-presidents all over the place.

What are some tips to correctly use "the" and "a"?