Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Bonfire Night Cryptic

Politician organised treason (7)


Why English needs The Subjunctive Tense

For those of you who speak one of the romantic languages, you might be familiar with the term "Subjunctive." For the English only speakers out there, the subjunctive is a verb mood used to express moods, wishes, possibilities, and a host of other subjects relating to emotions. Many of English's sister languages like French, Spanish, and Italian have the subjunctive, and while English technically has a subjunctive, it's less prominent than in other romantic languages. Here are four reasons why English could benefit from the subjunctive.

1. Emotional expression: As English speakers, we are a quite dull set of people. We only need to look at foreign language films to realize the speakers of our sister languages are more passionate about their speech. Well, a primary use for subjunctive in a language is the expression of emotion. Wouldn't it be wonderful to tell a person's emotion by the type of verbs they use? Wouldn't it be wonderful to spice up your vocabulary by adding in a bit of passion when you make a request?

2. Dropping hints: How many times have you tried to subtly suggest someone purchase a gift? Or drop a hint to a significant other about a particular date night. Since the subjunctive expresses desires, terms like "I wish," or "I strive," maybe even, "It'd be wonderful," would require a different verb form. That means no more grey areas or mixed messages.

3. Adding spice: Let's face it, English can be a dull language when compared to French or Spanish. With the subjunctive, we could spice up our sentences by adding certain key phrases to trigger use of the subjunctive mood. For example, in French one might say il est évident qui'il m'aime.Translation, it's obvious he loves me. That has more flavor than just saying, he loves me. If the use of the subjunctive in English were more prominent, it would go a long way to improving the average English speakers vocabulary.

4. Learning a foreign language would be simpler: Anyone who's taken a university, or high school foreign languages course knows learning a new language is an uphill battle. Not only do you need to learn new grammatical concepts, but also vocabulary and pronunciation. If English had a defined subjunctive mood, it might go a long way in helping students understand concepts in other foreign languages.

At the end of the day, languages are fluidly evolving things, and while we might not be able to revive or deepen the English subjunctive mood, we could all make an effort to use the subjunctive by learning new languages. Exploring new horizons, discovering new ways to convey our emotions, and deepening our understanding of other cultures would go along way in helping us all.

World Students Day Cryptic

Pretty funny story after daughter's become learner driver (6)

Answer: COMELY

Talk Like a Pirate Day Cryptic

Cost of hiring detective is criminal (6)

Answer: PIRATE

Verbs of Pain

Sometimes you need to express pain, and these are some handy verbs to help you do so.


  • abuse
  • agonize


  • belt
  • bite
  • blaze
  • bleed
  • break
  • bruise
  • burn


  • cauterize
  • chafe
  • char
  • cramp
  • cremate


  • damage
  • decimate
  • disable


  • flail
  • flog


  • harm
  • hurt


  • incinerate
  • inflame
  • injure
  • itch


  • kick


  • lacerate
  • lash


  • mar
  • maul
  • melt


  • nag


  • pinch
  • prick
  • prickle
  • pummel
  • punch
  • puncture
  • punish


  • scorch
  • singe
  • smart
  • snap
  • spank
  • stab
  • sting
  • suffer
  • swell


  • tear
  • threaten
  • toast
  • torment
  • torture


  • whack
  • whip
  • wound

How To Recognize Passive Voice

It's no secret that varying the sentence structure in your writing keeps your reader engaged; however, the conciseness of your writing is just as important, ensuring that the reader stays focus and thoroughly understands the content. This is typically achieved by using active voice, as opposed to passive voice. Distinguishing between the two voices may seem difficult, but these titbits should clarify what constitutes as being passive voice in writing.

Passive voice appears when an object is present in a sentence, and that object is placed at the beginning rather than at the end of the sentence. This creates a bit of obscurity in your writing, which will confuse the reader as to what the sentence is saying.

An example of passive voice would be as follows:

The car was driven by my sister.

Although this sentence may not cause much confusion, it could definitely be more clear, direct, and lively. The car is the object of the sentence, being placed at the beginning instead of "my sister," which is the true subject of the sentence. To create a more active sentence, it is appropriate to place the subject at the beginning, followed by the verb and then the object, which is the car.

In active voice, the sentence would then be:

My sister drove the car.

An important characteristic of passive sentences is the insertion of a "to be" verb, such as is, are, was, and were; however, it is important to note that this does not guarantee the sentence is passive. Active sentences can have "to be" verbs in them.

Although passive voice can be used in writing and speaking, it is generally discouraged and should not be overused. Next time you are proofreading your compositions, make sure to establish a clear voice to fully engage the reader.

Another Four Words That English Really Needs

The English language has a long and colorful history of appropriating words from other languages—bildungsroman, cliché, bon voyage—to name just a few, but English is an ever-evolving language as well, and these four words from other languages are just what English really needs:

Bueno, from Spanish, literal meaning: good

Bueno is just a good all-around word that can be used in many conversational scenarios, for example: "I'm coming over right after work," she said, and you can reply "Bueno!" meaning, "That sounds good to me!" Or perhaps you want to communicate that you feel good in general, bueno is a great word to choose because it has an upbeat sing-song rhythm that the Germanic-derived "good" lacks.

Lagom, from Swedish, literal meaning: sufficient

Lagom is, at first glance, a short, simple declarative word, but it contains multi-faceted meanings very efficient for English language usage. Modern humans constantly strive for balance in their hustle-bustle existence and this is where lagom is useful. A deeper look at the word reveals it means "just the right amount" or "perfect-simple." That's balance, that's lagom.

Sturmfrei, from German, literal meaning: having the house to oneself

In its native language, this word applies to children, specifically children being allowed the freedom to enjoy unstructured time without the control or supervision of their parents. Overscheduled kids raised by helicopter parents could certainly benefit from more sturmfrei in their lives. Can you imagine the creative forces that could be unleashed with sturmfrei? Plus, it is very fun to say.

Itadakimasu, from Japanese, literal meaning: I receive this food

For the English-speaking family that does not say grace before meals, itadakimasu is a worthy consideration. It conveys respect for the food that is before you, and is said before meals. A moment spent considering the origin of the meal, and respect for the person(s) or prepared the meal and made it possible for you to eat, as well as an acknowledgement of good fortune it is to be able to feed oneself, for all these reasons, itadakimasu would be an excellent word to add to our vocabulary.

These are just four words from other languages that English really needs. Given the wide breadth of languages still spoken in this world, choosing just four words isn't easy. Countless words, and languages for that matter, are being lost from underuse all over the world, including English, so adding new ones is forward-thinking, as well as fait accompli (colloquial American) "done deal."

Towel Day Cryptic

We must shelter in group about to get drier (5)

Answer: TOWEL

Easter Cryptic

Festival always poetic taking place across a street (6)

Answer: EASTER

International Women's Day Cryptic

Come clean about one written about female saints (7)


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