H.W. Fowler (1858–1933). The
King’s English, 2nd ed. 1908.
Lord Rosebery has not budged from his position—splendid, no
doubt—of (lonely) isolation.—Times.
Counsel admitted that that was a grave suggestion to make, but he
submitted that it was borne out by the (surrounding) circumstances.—Times.
One can feel first the characteristics which men have in common and
only afterward those which distinguish them (apart) from one
A final friendly agreement with Japan, which would be very welcome to
Russia, is only possible if Japan (again) regains her liberty of
Miss Tox was (often) in the habit of assuring Mrs. Chick
He had come up one morning, as was now (frequently) his wont.—Trollope.
The counsellors of the Sultan (continue to) remain sceptical.—Times.
The Peresviet lost both her fighting-tops and (in appearance) looked
the most damaged of all the ships.—Times.
They would, however, strengthen their position if they returned the
(temporary) loan of Sir A. MacDonnell to his owners with thanks.—Times.
The score was taken to 136 when Mr. MacLaren, who had (evidently)
seemed bent on hitting Mr. Armstrong off, was bowled.—Times.
...cannot prevent the diplomacy of the two countries from lending each
other (mutual) support.—Times.
However, I judged that they would soon (mutually) find each other
Notwithstanding which, (however,) poor Polly embraced them all
If any real remedy is to be found, we must first diagnose the true
nature of the disease; (but) that, however, is not hard.—Times.
M. Delcassé contemplated an identical answer for France, Great
Britain, and Spain, refusing, of course, the proposed conference, but
his colleagues of the Cabinet were (, however,) opposed to identical
The strong currents frequently shifted the mines, to the equal danger
(both) of friend and foe.—Times.
And persecution on the part of the Bishops and the Presbyterians, to
(both of) whom their opinions were equally hateful, drove flocks of
refugees over sea.—J. R. Green.
But to the ordinary English Protestant (both) Latitudinarian and High
Churchmen were equally hateful.—J. R. Green.
Seriously, (and apart from jesting,) this is no light matter.—Bagehot.
To go back to your own country ... with (the consciousness that you go
back with) the sense of duty done.—Lord Halsbury.
No doubt my efforts were clumsy enough, but Togo had a capacity for
taking pains, by which (said) quality genius is apt to triumph over
...as having created a (joint) partnership between the two Powers in
the Morocco question.—Times.
Sir—As a working man it appears to me that to the question 'Do we
believe?' the only sensible position (there seems to be) is to frankly
acknowledge our ignorance of what lies beyond.—Daily Telegraph.
Dr. Redmond told his constituents that by reducing the National
vote in the House of Commons they would not thereby get rid of
It is not a thousand years ago since municipalities in Scotland
were by no means free from the suspicion of corruption.—Lord
Some substance equally as yielding.—Daily Mail.
Had another expedition reached the Solomon Islands, who knows but
that the Spaniards might not have gone on to colonize Australia
and so turned the current of history?—Spectator.
As one being able to give full consent ... I am yours
But to where shall I look for some small ray of light that will
illumine the darkness surrounding the mystery of my being?—Daily
It is quite possible that if they do that it may be possible
to amend it in certain particulars.—Westminster Gazette.
Men and women who professed to call themselves Christians.—Daily
Telegraph. (An echo, no doubt, of 'profess and call themselves
The correspondence that you have published abundantly throws
out into bold relief the false position assumed...—Daily
In the course of the day, yesterday, M. Rouvier was able to
assure M. Delcassé...—Times.
Moreover, too, do we not all feel...?—J. C. Collins.
The doing nothing for a length of days after the first shock he
sustained was the reason of how it came that Nesta knitted
closer her acquaintance...—Meredith.
When the public adopt new inventions wholesale,... some obligation
is due to lessen, so far as is possible, the hardships in
40. 'AS TO WHETHER'
This is a form that is seldom necessary, and should be reserved for
sentences in which it is really difficult to find a substitute. Abstract
nouns that cannot be followed immediately by whether should if
possible be replaced by the corresponding verbs. Many writers seem to
delight in this hideous combination, and employ it not only with
abstracts that can be followed by whether, but even with verbs.
The Court declined to express any opinion as to whether the
Russian Ambassador was justified in giving the assurances in question
and as to whether the offences with which the accused were
charged were punishable by German law.—Times. (Perhaps
'declined to say whether in their opinion'; but this is less easily
mended than most)
The difficulties of this task were so great that I was in doubt as
to whether it was possible.—Times.
His whole interest is concentrated on the question as to how
his mission will affect his own fortunes.—Times.
A final decision has not yet been arrived at as to whether or
not the proceedings shall be public.—Times. (It has not yet
been finally decided whether)
You raise the question as to whether Admiral Rozhdestvensky
will not return.—Times.
I have much pleasure in informing Rear Admiral Mather Byles as to
where he could inspect a rifle of the type referred to.
The interesting question which such experiments tend to suggest is as
to how far science may...—Outlook.
When we come to consider the question as to whether, upon the
dissolution of the body, the spirit flies to some far-distant
celestial realm...—Daily Telegraph.
He never told us to judge by the lives of professing Christians as
to whether Christianity is true.—Daily Telegraph.
M. Delcassé did not allude to the debated question as to
whether any official communication ... was made by the French
Government to Germany. It is also pointed out that he did not let fall
the slightest intimation as to whether the French Government
41. SUPERFLUOUS 'BUT' AND
Where there is a natural opposition between two sentences, adversative
conjunctions may yet be made impossible by something in one of the
sentences that does the work unaided. Thus if in vain, only, and reserves
and sole, had not been used in the following sentences, but
and though would have been right; as it is, they are wrong.
(The author dreams that he is a horse being ridden) In vain did
I rear and kick, attempting to get rid of my foe; but the
surgeon remained as saddle-fast as ever.—Borrow.
But the substance of the story is probably true, though
Voltaire has only made a slip in a name.—Morley.
Germany, it appears, reserves for herself the sole
privilege of creating triple alliances and 'purely defensive'
combinations of that character, but when the interests of other
Powers bring them together their action is reprobated as aggressive
Such mistakes probably result from altering the plan of a sentence in
writing; and the cure is simply to read over every sentence after it is
42. 'IF AND WHEN'
This formula has enjoyed more popularity than it deserves; either 'when'
or 'if' by itself would almost always give the meaning. Even where 'if,
seems required to qualify 'when' (which by itself might be taken to
exclude the possibility of the event's never happening at all), 'if' and
'when' are clearly not coordinate, though both are subordinate to the
main sentence: 'if and when he comes, I will write' means 'if he comes,
I will write when he comes', or 'when he comes (if he comes at all), I
will write', and the 'if' clause, whether parenthetic or not, is
subordinate to the whole sentence 'I will write when he comes'. Our
Gladstone instance below differs from the rest: 'when' with a past
tense, unqualified by 'if', would make an admission that the writer does
not choose to make; on the other hand, the time reference given by
'when' is essential; 'on the occasion on which it was done (if it really
was done) it was done judicially'. The faulty coordination may be
overlooked where there is real occasion for its use; but many writers
seem to have persuaded themselves that neither 'if' nor 'when' is any
longer capable of facing its responsibilities without the other word to
keep it in countenance.
No doubt it will accept the experimental proof here alleged, if and
when it is repeated under conditions...—Times.
The latter will include twelve army corps, six rifle brigades, and
nine divisions or brigades of mounted troops, units which, if and when
complete, will more than provide...—Times.
Unless and until we pound hardest we shall never beat the Boers.—Spectator.
It is only if, and when, our respective possessions become
conterminous with those of great military states on land that we
If and when it was done, it was done so to speak
No prudent seaman would undertake an invasion unless or until he had
first disposed of the force preparing ... to impeach him.—Times.
Its leaders decline to take office unless and until the 90 or 100
German words of command used ... are replaced...—Times.
If and when employment is abundant...—Westminster Gazette.
It means nothing less, if Mr. Chamberlain has his way, than the final
committal of one of the two great parties to a return to Protection,
if and when it has the opportunity.—Westminster Gazette.
It is clear, however, that the work will gain much if and when she
plays faster.—Westminster Gazette.
43. MALTREATED IDIOMS
- Two existing idioms are fused into a non-existent one.
It did not take him much trouble.—Sladen. (I take: it costs me)
An opportunity should be afforded the enemy of retiring
northwards, more or less of their own account.—Times.
(of my own accord; on my own account)
Dr. Kuyper admitted that his opinion had been consulted.—Times.
(I consult you: take your opinion)
But it was in vain with the majority to attempt it.—Bagehot. (I
attempt in vain: it is vain to attempt)
The captain got out the shutter of the door, shut it up, made it
all fast, and locked the door itself.—Dickens. (make it fast:
make all fast)
The provisioning of the Russian Army would practically have to be
drawn exclusively from the mother country.—Times. (draw
provisions: do provisioning)
It gives me the greatest pleasure in adding my testimony.—Daily
Telegraph. (I have pleasure in adding: it gives me pleasure to
And if we rejected a similar proposition made to us, was it not
too much to expect that Canada might not turn in another
direction?—Chamberlain (reported). (Might not Canada turn?... to
expect that Canada would not turn)
I can speak from experience that ... 'conversion' ... was a very
real and powerful thing.—Daily Telegraph. (speak to
conversion's being: say that conversion was)
He certainly possessed, though in no great degree, the means of
affording them more relief than he practised.—Scott. (preached
more than he practised: had means of affording more than he did
My position is one of a clerk, thirty-eight years of age, and
married.—Daily Telegraph. (one that no one would envy:
that of a clerk)
Abbot, indeed, had put the finishing stroke on all attempts at a
higher ceremonial. Neither he nor his household would bow at the
name of Christ.—J. R. Green. (put the finishing touches on:
given the finishing stroke to)
In this chapter some of these words will be considered, and also
some others against which purism has raised objections which do
not seem to be well taken.—R. G. White. (exceptions well taken:
objections rightly made. To take an objection well can only
mean to keep your temper when it is raised)
A woman would instinctively draw her cloak or dress closer to her,
and a man leave by far an unnecessary amount of room for fear of
coming into contact with those to whom...—Daily Telegraph.
(by far too great: quite an unnecessary)
The fines inflicted for excess of the legal speed.—Times.
(excess of speed: exceeding the legal speed)
Notwithstanding the no inconsiderable distance by sea.—Guernsey
Advertiser. (it is no inconsiderable distance: the—or
a—not inconsiderable distance)
His whim had been gratified at a trifling cost of ten thousand
pounds.—Crawford. (a trifling cost—unspecified: a trifle of
ten thousand or so: the trifling cost of ten thousand. So
in the next)
Dying at a ripe old age of eighty-three.—Westminster Gazette.
That question is the present solvency or insolvency of the Russian
State. The answer to it depends not upon the fact whether Russia
has or has not...—Times. (the fact that: the question
whether. But depends not upon whether would be best here)
To all those who had thus so self-sacrificingly and energetically
promoted the organization of this fund he desired to accord in the
name of the diocese their deep obligation.—Guernsey
Advertiser. (accord thanks: acknowledge obligation)
The allies frittered away in sieges the force which was ready for
an advance into the heart of France until the revolt of the West
and South was alike drowned in blood.—Times. (the revolts
were alike drowned: the revolt was drowned)
- Of two distinct idioms the wrong is chosen.
When, too, it was my pleasure to address a public meeting of more
than 2,000 at the Royal Theatre the organized opposition numbered
less than seven score.—Times.
It is our pleasure to present to you the enclosed notification of
the proportion of profits which has been placed to the credit of
your account.—Company circular. (I had, we have, the pleasure
of—. The form chosen is proper to royal personages expressing
their gracious will)
In the face of it the rule appears a most advisable one.—Guernsey
Advertiser. (On the face of it means prima facie: the other
means in spite of)
- The form of an idiom is distorted, without confusion with another.
However, towards evening the wind and the waves subsided and the
night became quiet and starlight.—Times. (Starlight is a
noun, which can be used as an adjective immediately before another
noun only; a starlight night)
Russia is now bitterly expiating her share in the infamy then
visited upon Japan.—Times. (We visit upon a person his
sins, or something for which he is responsible, and not we; or
again, we may visit our indignation upon him)
He anticipated much towards Mary's recovery in her return to
Japan.—Sladen. (anticipate ... from)
But both Governments have now requested Washington to be chosen as
the place of meeting.—Times. (requested that Washington
For as its author in later years told the writer of this article,
he had studied war for nine years before he put the pen to the
paper.—Times. (Put pen to paper. This looks like
imitation French; it is certainly not English)
- The meaning of an idiom is mistaken without confusion with
For days and days, in such moods, he would stay within his
cottage, never darkening the door or seeing other face than his
own inmates.—Trollope. (To darken the door is always to enter as
a visitor, never to go out)
- Some miscellaneous and unclassified violations are added, mostly
without further comment than italics, to remind sanguine learners
that there are small pitfalls in every direction.
If I did not have the most thorough dependence on your good
sense and high principles, I should not speak to you in this
Japan, while desiring the massacre of her own and Russia's
subjects to be brought to an end, has nevertheless every
interest that the war should go on.—Times.
The unpublished state, of which only an extremely few
examples are in existence.—Times.
Once I jested her about it.—Crockett.
It is significant to add that when Mrs. Chesnut died in
1886 her servants were with her.—Times.
Herring boats, the drapery of whose black suspended nets contrasted
with picturesque effect the white sails of the larger
It is at least incumbent to be scrupulously accurate.—Times.
(The metaphor in incumbent is so much alive that upon—is
never dispensed with)
A measure according Roman Catholic clergymen who have
passed through the local seminaries but have not yet passed the
prescribed Russian language test to hold clerical
There will be established in this free England a commercial
tyranny the like of which will not be inferior to the
tyrannical Inquisition of the Dark Ages.—Spectator.
44. TRUISMS AND CONTRADICTIONS
A contradiction in terms is often little more than a truism turned
inside out; we shall therefore group the two together, and with them
certain other illogical expressions, due to a similar confusion of
Praise which perhaps was scarcely meant to be taken too
Where no standard of literalness is mentioned, too literally is
'more literally than was meant'. We may safely affirm, without the
cautious reservations perhaps and scarcely, that the
praise was not meant to be taken more literally than it was meant to be
taken. Omit too.
He found what was almost quite as interesting.—Times.
If it was almost as interesting, we do not want quite: if quite,
we do not want almost.
Splendid and elegant, but somewhat bordering on the antique
Bordering on means not 'like' but 'very like'; 'somewhat very
A very unique child, thought I.—C. Brontë.
A somewhat unique gathering of our great profession.—Halsbury.
There are no degrees in uniqueness.
Steady, respectable labouring men—one and all, with rare
exceptions, married.—Times. (all without exception, with
To name only a few, take Lord Rosebery, Lord Rendel,
Lord..., ..., ..., ..., and many others.—Times.
Take in this context means 'consider as instances'; we cannot
consider them as instances unless we have their names; take must
therefore mean 'let me name for your consideration'. Thus we get: 'To name
only a few, let me name... and many others (whom I
do not name)'.
More led away by a jingling antithesis of words than an
accurate perception of ideas.—H. D. Macleod.
'Guided by an accurate perception' is what is meant. To be 'led away by
accurate perception' is a misfortune that could happen only in a special
sense, the sense in which it has happened, possibly, to the writer, whom
sheer force of accurate perception may have hurried into inaccurate
expression; but more probably he too is the victim of 'jingling
Long before the appointed hour for the commencement of the
recital, standing room only fell to the lot of those who arrived just
previous to Mr. K.'s appearance on the platform.—Guernsey
The necessary inference—that Mr. K., the reciter, appeared on the
platform long before the appointed hour—is probably not in accordance
with the facts.
The weather this week has for the most part been of that quality which
the month of March so strikingly characterizes in the ordinary
course of events.—Guernsey Advertiser.
What happens in the ordinary course of events can scarcely continue to
be striking. Whether the month characterizes the weather, or the weather
the month, we need not consider here.
He forgot that it was possible, that from a brief period of
tumultuous disorder, there might issue a military despotism more
compact, more disciplined, and more overpowering than any which had
preceded it, or any which has followed it.—Bagehot.
He could not forget, because he could not know, anything about
the despotisms which have in fact followed. He might know and
forget something about all the despotisms that had preceded or should
follow (in direct speech, 'that have preceded or shall follow'): 'this
may result in the most compact despotism in all history, past and
future'. But probably Bagehot does not even mean this: the last clause
seems to contain a reflection of his own, falsely presented as a part of
what he ought to have reflected.
Some people would say that my present manner of travelling is much the
most preferable, riding as I do now, instead of leading my
Only two modes of travelling are compared: the most preferable
implies four, three of them preferable in different degrees to the
fourth. A not uncommon vulgarism.
45. DOUBLE EMPHASIS
Attempts at packing double emphasis into a single sentence are apt to
result in real weakening.
No government ever plunged more rapidly into a deeper
quagmire.—Outlook. (From the writer's evident wish to state
the matter strongly, we infer that several Governments have plunged
more rapidly into as deep quagmires, and as rapidly into deeper ones)
Mr. Justice Neville ... will now have the very rare experience of
joining on the Bench a colleague whom he defeated on the polls just
fourteen years ago.—Westminster Gazette. (The experience,
with exact time-interval, is probably unique, like any individual
thumb-print; that does not make the coincidence more
remarkable; and it is the coincidence that we are to admire)
Nothing has brought out more strongly than motor-driving the
overbearing, selfish nature of too many motor-drivers and their utter
want of consideration for their fellow men.—Lord Wemyss. (The
attempt to kill drivers and driving with one stone leaves both very
slightly wounded. For what should show up the drivers more than the
driving? and whom should the driving show up more than the drivers?)
The commonest form of this is due to conscientious but mistaken zeal for
correctness, which prefers, for instance, without oppressing or
without plundering to without oppressing or plundering. The
first form excludes only one of the offences, and is therefore, though
probably meant to be twice as emphatic, actually much weaker than the
second, which excludes both. With and instead of or, it is
Actual experience has shown that a gun constructed on the wire system
can still be utilized effectively without the destruction of the
weapon or without dangerous effects, even with its inner tube
The Union must be maintained without pandering to such prejudices on
the one hand, or without giving way on the other to the ...
schemes of the Nationalists.—Spectator.
He inhibited him, on pain of excommunication, from seeking a divorce
in his own English Courts, or from contracting a new
marriage.—J. R. Green. (Half excused by the negative sense of inhibit)
46. 'SPLIT' AUXILIARIES
Some writers, holding that there is the same objection to split compound
verbs as to split infinitives, prefer to place any adverb or qualifying
phrase not between the auxiliary and the other component, but before
both. Provided that the adverb is then separated from the auxiliary, no
harm is done: 'Evidently he was mistaken' is often as good as 'He was
evidently mistaken', and suits all requirements of accentuation. But the
placing of the adverb immediately before or after the auxiliary depends,
according to established usage, upon the relative importance of the two
components. When the main accent is to fall upon the second component,
the normal place of the adverb is between the two; it is only when the
same verb is repeated with a change in the tense or mood of the
auxiliary, that the adverb should come first. 'He evidently was
deceived' implies, or should imply, that the verb deceived has
been used before, and that the point of the sentence depends upon the
emphatic auxiliary; accordingly we should write 'The possibility of his
being deceived had never occurred to me; but he evidently was deceived',
but 'I relied implicitly on his knowledge of the facts; but he was
evidently deceived'. In our first two examples below the adverb is
rightly placed first to secure the emphasis on the auxiliary: in all the
others the above principle of accentuation is violated. The same order
of words is required by the copula with whatever kind of complement.
I recognize this truth, and always have recognized it.
Refined policy ever has been the parent of confusion, and ever will be
so, as long as the world endures.—Burke.
They never are suffered to succeed in their opposition.—Burke.
She had received the homage of ... and occasionally had deigned to
He ordered breakfast as calmly as if he never had left his
Miss Becky, whose sympathetic powers never had been called into action
They now were bent on taking the work into their own hands.—Morley.
There may have been a time when a king was a god, but he now is pretty
much on a level with his subjects.—Jowett.
They both are contradicted by all positive evidence.—W. H. Mallock.
Religious art at once complete and sincere never yet has
Not mere empty ideas, but what were once realities, and that I long
have thought decayed.—C. Brontë.
So that he might assist at a Bible class, from which he never had been
If we would write an essay, we necessarily must have something to
say.—Bygott & Jones.
The protectionists lately have been affirming that the autumn session
will be devoted to railway questions.—Times.
Visitors no longer can drive in open carriages along the littoral.—Times.
It still is the fact that his mind ... was essentially the mind of a
To whom in any case its style would have not appealed.—Times.
To go wrong with not is an achievement possible only with triple
compounds, where the principal division is of course between the finite (would)
and the infinitive with participle (have appealed). 'Would not
have appealed' must be written, though at an enormous sacrifice of
This enhanced value of old English silver may be due partly to the
increase in the number of collectors; but it also has been largely
influenced by the publication...—Times.
Mr. Fry showed to a very great extent his power of defence... To-day,
if runs are to be of importance, he very likely will show his powers
A single sentence is sometimes made to carry a double burden:
So unique a man as Sir George Lewis has, in truth, rarely been lost to
The meaning is not 'Men like Sir G. Lewis have seldom been lost', but
'Men like the late Sir G. Lewis have seldom been found'. But instead of the
late a word was required that should express proper concern; lost
is a short cut to 'men so unique as he whose loss we now deplore'.
There are but few men whose lives abound in such wild and romantic
adventure, and, for the most part, crowned with success.—Prescott.
The writer does not mean 'adventures so wild, so romantic, and so
successful in the main'; that is shown by the qualifying parenthesis,
which is obviously one of comment on the individual case. What he does
mean ought to have been given in two sentences: 'There are but few ...
adventure; —'s, moreover, was for the most part crowned with success'.
The Sultan regrets that the distance and the short notice alone
prevent him from coming in person.—Times.
This is as much as to say that the Sultan wishes there were more
obstacles. Read: 'The Sultan regrets that he cannot come in person;
nothing but the distance and the short notice could prevent him'.
48. DEMONSTRATIVE, NOUN,
AND PARTICIPLE OR ADJECTIVE
Of the forms, persons interested, the persons interested, those
interested, those who are interested, one or another may better suit
a particular phrase or context. Those interested is the least to
be recommended, especially with an active participle or adjective. The
form those persons interested is a hybrid, and is very seldom
used by any good writer; but it is becoming so common in inferior work
that it is thought necessary to give many examples. The first two, of
the form those interested, will pass, though those who were
concerned; all who drive, would be better. In the others that
and those should be either replaced by the or (sometimes)
The idea of a shortage had hardly entered the heads even of those
most immediately concerned.—Times.
They are the terror of all those driving or riding spirited
At every time and in every place throughout that very limited portion
of time and space open to human observation.—Balfour.
That part of the regular army quartered at home should
be grouped by divisions.—Times.
Here they beheld acres of that stupendous growth seen
only in the equinoctial regions.—Prescott.
It is not likely that General Kuropatkine has amassed those
reserves of military stores and supplies plainly required
by the circumstances of his situation.—Times.
The insurrection had been general throughout the country, at least that
portion of it occupied by the Spaniards.—Prescott.
My amendment would be that that part of the report dealing
with the dividend on the 'A' shares ... be not adopted.—Company
We shall fail to secure that unanimity of thought and doctrine
so indispensable both for...—Times.
...in order to minimize the effect produced by that portion of
the Admirals' report favourable to England.—Times.
A struggle ... which our nation must be prepared to face in the last
resort, or else give way to those countries not afraid
to accept the responsibilities and sacrifices inseparable from
Civil servants will not, nay, cannot, work with that freedom of
action so essential to good work in the case of such persons,
so long as...—Times.
To those Colonies unable to concur with these suggestions a
warning should be addressed.—Times.