Friday, January 18, 2013

Your Questions on English Usage Answered

Pull of phrases 

WHEN do we use “pull round” and “pull through”? In the sentence, “Have you pulled through your influenza/sore throat/gastritis/thyroid?”, is the tense correct?– MOE Chinese reader

1. “Pull round” as a phrasal verb is not as commonly used as the phrasal verb “pull through”. In fact, the Advanced Learner’s dictionaries I consulted (Oxford, Cambridge) and the online Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English don’t even list this verb. The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary (an American dictionary), however, includes this verb and says that it is “chiefly British”.

Pull round” means “to recover from sickness or fainting” or “to restore a person to health after sickness”, or “to put [something] into a healthier or better condition” (Oxford English Dictionary)

Pull through” has slightly different meanings, which involve a lot of effort and difficulty. It means “to get through an illness or other dangerous and difficult situation”. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary) or to get someone through this. Here are some examples of their usage which I got from the Internet:

“When they left her there Wilfred and Ilene were told to expect the worst during the next 24 hours. But the worst didn’t happen and Lita gradually pulled round.” (from a UK website)

“He caught Andrew as he fainted and dropped on the spot ... Andrew pulled round in a back room of the shop.” (from an online book titled Jack Frost & The Hooded Crow)

“All we know is that he’s extremely ill. Everyone is so worried. We’re praying he’ll pull through.” (from

“Hampson appears to have pulled through the early stages of the aircraft industry’s difficulties, and demand for its specialist machines tools remains robust.” (from

Your sentence names the disease after “pull through”. We would normally only write “pull through” after naming the disease, as in:

“My friends wife gave birth to a boy that had both left and right sided congenital diaphragmatic hernias and he was very ill and struggled for life in the early months. However he pulled through and I believe he is fine now.” (from

Also, it is in the present perfect tense and the past participle of the main verb (“pulled”) should be used with “have”. Besides, it is better to use “recovered from” rather than “pulled through”, since influenza, sore throat and gastritis” are not life-threatening diseases (unless the flu is bird flu or H1N1). “Thyroid” is not a disease, but a gland. We may have problems with our thyroid gland, and you could write “thyroid problems” instead of “thyroid”.

Pronoun problem
I am confused about the use of the pronoun which I have been told, refers to the antecedent noun in the sentence:

“We have a series of six articles that gives a good description of the heritage building.”

Shouldn’t it be “give” to reflect the plural “six articles” since “that” is the pronoun referring to the antecedent noun “six articles”. My teacher told me that it should be “series”. I find this hard to accept. Would the following be different?

“We have a number/library/collection of six articles which gives a good description of the heritage building.”

Then when do we apply the grammatical rule of using the pronoun “that” or “which” to refer to the antecedent noun? – Paul Chan

I agree with you. When a collective noun like “series” is followed by “of + plural noun”, like “a series of six articles” that you mentioned, and this is then followed by a relative pronoun (“that” in your sentence), a plural verb is used in the relative clause. This is because, the plural noun is seen to be a more important antecedent than the main noun (“series”) of the noun phrase. So the sentence should read:

“We have a series of six articles that give a good description of the heritage building.” 

There are other examples of this structure, e.g.

“A herd of cows that belong to the farmer are grazing in his field.”

“From January, BBC World News will broadcast ... a series of topical debates ... which are set to stimulate and challenge the channel’s audience across the world.” (BBC press release Dec 12, 2008)

Regarding your other sentences:

Number: The sentence does not need the “six”. It should just be written: “We have a number of articles which give a good description of the heritage building.” “Number” here is a quantifier, and when used in the phrase “a number of + plural noun + relative pronoun” is also followed by a plural verb. The more important antecedent here is “articles”, not “number”.

Library: This sentence does not make sense. How can a library have only six articles within it?

Collection: The sentence follows the pattern of your original sentence, since it uses the collective noun “collection”, and so should read: “We have a collection of six articles which give a good description of the heritage building.”

The relative pronoun “which” can be used when the antecedent noun it refers to is not a person, but “that” can be used for a person, an animal, a plant, or a thing.

Learning grammar
How do I learn strong English grammar ? – Wilson

Do you mean how to improve your English grammar? I don’t know whether you are a student or a working person. If you are a student and have an English teacher, it would help to ask your teacher questions about what you don’t understand in English grammar. If you are a working person, it would help if you have a good grammar book. Since I don’t know what level you are at, I don’t know what book to recommend to you.

Above all these, however, reading a lot of good books on any subject would improve your command of the English language, which means your English would be grammatical. You may not know the names of the various terms in English grammar, but you would be able to use the language well.

Speaking better
How do I improve my English conversation? – Tan

You need to talk regularly to one or more people who speak English well to improve your English conversation. If you don’t have such friends, try enrolling in a Conversational English class or finding a tutor who can help you speak English better.

If you can’t afford the class or the tutor, but you have access to a computer, there is a BBC website that has downloadable material to help you with pronunciation and conversation. Try and explore its features and use the ones that you think can help you. Here is its url:

Source: By FADZILAH AMIN @ The Star Online - Mind Our English

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