Ploughing though yet another feature earlier today I came across the phrase "this highlighted the problem" and left it, highlighted being the correct past tense of highlight. Yet lit is the past tense of light. Similarly, the past tense of hang is hung, unless you are being hanged by the neck until you are dead.
English has so many foibles of this kind that it must be a nightmare to learn as a foreign language, but I have found one advantage of this.
Now and again dodgy emails sneak past the company firewall, telling me of the vast riches awaiting me if I will only supply my bank account details. Some of them are virtually gibberish – the mind boggles at the thought of anyone taking them seriously. But even the best of them, while perfectly understandable, strike false notes here and there. They use words that aren't actually wrong; they're simply not the words a native english speaker would use.
So if you're learning english as a second language and are struggling with what are, after all, trivial points of style and vocabulary, take heart from the fact that this sometimes irritating language can serve as a remarkably effective security device.
The ambiguous Oxford comma
1 week ago