Archive for September, 2011


September 30, 2011

Sometimes it’s not easy for non-native speakers to discriminate between the connective elements “unless” and “if not.” Which is correct: (1) The theatre will close unless some extra money is found, or (2) The theatre will close if some extra money is not found? The answer is: both are correct – depending upon what you mean. “Unless” in sentence 1 means “except if” rather than simply “if not.” The speaker focuses on the fact of the closure. Actually, the sentence could have been formulated even without the second part (unless some extra money is found). In sentence 1 the speaker prefers to specify that the fact that can save the theatre from closure is extra funding. In sentence 2 it is implied that the shortage of money is a reason for the likely closure of the theatre. For instance: The theatre will close if some extra money is not found, or it may close if its famous actor starts playing in another theatre, etc. When we use unless, we emphasize that it is this very thing that can stop or cause what is stated in the main clause. That is why the principle clause conditioned by the clause with unless sounds more categorical and absolute than when it is conditioned by the if-clause. Consequently, it’ll be unnatural to say  I’ll be angry unless the bus doesn’t arrive (the state of anger can hardly be your habitual mood which can be changed ONLY with the arrival of the bus). Michael Swan’s grammar book states that we can use unless in sentences that say ‘ A will happen if it’s not stopped by B’ (in our example , The theatre will close unless some extra money is found) but unless cannot be used in sentences that say ‘ A will result from B not happening’ (in our example, the correct variant is I’ll be angry if the bus doesn’t arrive).

For training I may suggest an exercise taken from Streamline English (Destinations) by Bernard Hartley and Peter Viney:

Darren Shaw’s 18. He’s just been to see his girlfriend’s father, Colonel Smythe-Fortescue. He wants to marry Fiona, the Colonel’s 16-year-old daughter. This is what the Colonel said.

‘There are just one or two conditions, young man. Get some qualifications, get a job, save some money. Find a place to live, sell that noisy motor-cycle, stop smoking. Stop drinking, cut your hair, remove those tattoos from your arms… and remove that earring from your ear. When you’ve done all these things, we might discuss it again.’ – ‘I don’t understand…’ Darren said. – ‘Well,’ said the Colonel, ‘I wouldn’t let you marry her unless you had some qualifications, unless you got a job, unless…”, etc……


September 29, 2011

Today I was going to write a grammar blog. However, an occurrence which I experienced on my way home from work changed my plans. This is what happened.


A car pulled up right at the sidewalk where I was going, the passenger’s window slid down and a man asked me if they (he and the driver) were OK on the way to Boryspil. I always take public transport to go about the city and, quite naturally, I had no idea how to advise both of them about the right way through the maze of the city streets (the Boryspil road began at the other end of the city). The man spoke quite ungrammatical Russian and his accent was very strong. He explained that he had come from Germany and had been here just for a few days. I was not sure whether he would be able to understand my Ukrainian, so I decided to give him advice in German. Though I don’t have much practice in German, but “asking and explaining the way” is a topic covered on the elementary level, so it was no problem. I told them to go to the nearest crossroads – quite a busy place where either a traffic policeman or just any driver could tell them what was the most rational way. The guy was looking at me in silence. Then he nodded his head, pulled a thin booklet from somewhere inside the car and said in the same awful Russian that he had come to Ukraine to make a presentation of some German goods. The goods on the cover of the booklet were sets of shining kitchen utensils: pans, saucepans, skillets, knives, etc. Before I knew, the foreigner got out of the car, dashed to the boot in the back, raised the lid and asked me to have a look. The boot was packed with boxes of brand-new kitchenware – just as the utensils pictured on the front page of the catalogue. After another portion of badly connected Russian phrases I understood that one set cost 500 Euros but I would get it for free if I advertised the goods to someone I knew. All of a sudden I scented something wrong. Well, I knew quite a number of Germans who spoke Russian but they spoke Russian with a German accent. The Russian of this lad contained no guttural German phonetics. It was rather soft and mellow – more like my Ukrainian. However, I wasn’t yet sure if my guess was right. I didn’t want to offend a FOREIGNER with my blunt “no.” So I spoke German again. “Ich bitte um Verzeihung… aber jetzt bin ich in Eile… Wie, bitte, koennte ich mich mit Ihnen etwas spaeter in Verbindung setzen?”


The “foreigner” stood mum. Everything was clear. In no uncertain terms I advised the guy to find someone else to do the job. I spoke Ukrainian. He understood.


September 27, 2011

We like this picture. It’s our daughter… Surrounded by distances and enveloped in winds. Her Mom and Dad’s blood becomes also alive with the voice of the mountains. When I was a pupil, I pointed to those mountains not once at Geography lessons, I read about them and watched them on television. But it’s only now that I have started hearing them. “The universe we dissolve into tastes of us a little…”

I am reading The Best of Rainer Maria Rilke. Our daughter left the volume with us before she went to where we see her now.

The mood of Russia: nothing is going to change

September 26, 2011

This is a shortened version of the article from The Economist ( The situation in Ukraine is identical.

Time to shove off

In 2000 a group of young Russians, just back from their studies in America, started the website WelcomeHome. Ru. “Life in Russia is becoming more normal. It is possible to live here, make a career and bring up children. Many of those who had left have come home. We are among them,” the site read. It was a typical reaction by young Russian professionals to the growth, opportunities and promise of stability from Vladimir Putin, the new president. Soon, after years of capital flight, money started to flow back into Russia.

Twelve years later, as Mr Putin appears to be preparing to retake his presidential office for another 12 years, the mood is starkly different. is dead. Instead, a new popular blog has sprung up on a Russian social network. It is called “Pora valit”, which means roughly “Time to shove off”. Its few thousand users exchange stories about how best to leave Russia. The blog’s title sums up perfectly the mood among Russia’s urban and educated class.

Emigration is the talk of the town. Dmitri Bykov, a popular and prolific author, dedicated a recent weekly feuilleton to the flight of money and people and the travelling ban imposed briefly on two opposition politicians, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov. The Soviet government punished dissidents by expelling them, Mr Bykov quipped. “Now they punish them by keeping them in.”

A recent opinion poll by the Levada Centre shows that 22% of Russia’s adult population would like to leave the country for good. This is a more than threefold increase from four years ago, when only 7% were considering it. It is the highest figure since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when only 18% said they wanted to get out. Those who are eager to leave are not the poor and desperate. On the contrary, most are entrepreneurs and students.

The Levada Centre recently conducted a survey of people aged 25-39 living in large cities and earning five-to-ten times the average income in Russia. Almost a third would like to emigrate permanently. They are not dissidents or romantics. Half say they have no interest in politics, a third are Kremlin supporters, most work in the private sector and have done well over the past decade. “These are not just people who would like to leave Russia, but people who have the means to do so,” says Lev Gudkov, the head of the Levada Centre.


Fresh investment, both foreign and domestic, is deterred by Russia’s poor business climate, which shows little sign of changing. When Walmart tried to buy a retail chain there—a three-year flirtation that eventually ended last year—it was apparently fobbed off by bureaucrats who, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, “did not want another whiner like Ikea, which had exposed corruption.”

Not for a sack of gold

That corruption crushes the prospects of active and talented people. The rent-seeking behaviour of Russia’s rulers, who control the money and the levers of repression, stifles competition. Many of the elite have backgrounds in the security services; their instinct is to raid, grab and control, rather than create and compete. The occasional firing of high-ranking officials such as the former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, leads not to a change in the system but to the simple redistribution of cash flow.


Mr Medvedev has a grand plan to create a Silicon Valley in Skolkovo, a special zone outside Moscow, and is bringing in Cisco, an internet-services giant, as a flagship firm. But this will do nothing to free up competition or make Russia an attractive place to do business. When two Russian physicists who live and work in Britain won a Nobel prize last year they were asked to come and work in Skolkovo. “You must have all gone mad over there if you think that for a sack of gold you can invite anyone,” Andre Geim replied. The fact that Russian scientists want to work abroad is not a problem in itself; large numbers of Chinese scientists do the same. The problem is that so few want to return. According to the World Bank, 77% of Russian science and engineering students studying in America will never come back.

In the past, Russian entrepreneurs were prepared to put up with bad institutions and corruption because of high returns. Now that the rewards are smaller and the appetites and impudence of bureaucrats greater, large Russian firms are reducing the domestic sector of their business to a minimum, while smaller ones are looking to sell up. A recent survey by Campden Media and UBS, a bank, of 19 Russian businessmen with a personal wealth of more than $50m and a turnover of $100m showed that 88% had moved their personal wealth abroad and were prepared to sell their companies. Few planned to pass their businesses on to their offspring, which is hardly surprising, since most children of the rich and powerful are now ensconced in the West. Parents send their children abroad not to learn to run their businesses more efficiently, but so they never have to come back.

A future amputated

All this is breeding a sense of stagnation that compounds the glum mood of the middle class. It is not fear of impoverishment or unemployment that makes people think of emigrating, as in many other countries, nor the threat of instability or revolution, which have forced out Russians in the past. People want to leave because they feel there is nothing more for them in Russia. The sense of a future has been amputated. According to the Levada Centre, three-quarters of Russians do not plan more than two years ahead; only 3% plan more than ten years ahead. The degradation of infrastructure, institutions and, most important, human capital, creates a desire to tune out of it all.

Those who want to go abroad often have higher material standards of living than their peers in the West. They are looking for things they cannot buy: recognition of achievements, protection of property rights, physical safety, a functioning health service, a proper education for their children. They want to live a life which does not involve paying bribes, or losing one’s business for political reasons, or being jailed at the whim of a corrupt bureaucrat.

The story of Sergei Magnitsky looms large in the minds of professionals. Mr Magnitsky, a successful corporate lawyer, blew the whistle on a big corruption scheme run by a group of police investigators, only to be put in jail and hounded to death by the same policemen. The government failed to investigate the accusations, and is still covering up the circumstances of Mr Magnitsky’s death.

Unenraptured with Putin

The feeling that nothing will change, improve or open up is exacerbated by the likelihood of Mr Putin’s return as president. His restoration will be largely symbolic, since he never let power shift out of his hands. But it does, nevertheless, symbolise a reversal, rather than a forward movement.

And the roots of unhappiness go much deeper. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, the country was left without a clear sense of purpose or destiny. After seven decades of trying to set up Utopia, Russia’s only aim in the 1990s was to become a normal, civilised state. But two wars in Chechnya and the destruction of Yukos, Russia’s most successful oil company, in 2003 put an end to that hope.

Mr Putin has stirred and exploited the country’s nostalgia for its Soviet past. But the narrative of resurgence and restoration was combined with contempt for ordinary Russians who, in the view of the Kremlin’s rulers, were not ready for democracy. The double-digit growth of incomes masked problems for a while, but when growth slowed down stability turned into immoveability.

Today, Russian society as a whole is much more cynical and distrustful than it was in Soviet times. Aggression, hatred and nationalism have risen to levels not seen even after the Soviet collapse in the 1990s: 34% of Russians “want to shoot” those they blame for their troubles. As for the middle class, it is much less cohesive and idealistic. It is also less desperate. “They would rather exchange their country than change it,” says Mr Mau.

The Kremlin undoubtedly likes things that way. It has learned from the mistakes of the Soviet Union, which raised levels of education and science to compete with America, but in the end created pressure from within the system that it could not contain. This is one reason why Mr Putin is so keen for Russia to have a visa-free travel arrangement with the rest of Europe. The other is that it would give the Russian elite unhindered access to their European properties.

Yet it is important to remember that Russians are not going to emigrate in their millions. The overwhelming majority will stay at home, discontented. The big question is what will they do? Will their frustration be transformed into protest and an attempt to change things? Or will it simply be dissolved in the general conformism and cynicism which has been nurtured to such harmful effect over the past decade?

The stagnation in the dying days of the Soviet Union was both more restrictive and more productive. Russia’s current stagnation is comfortable for most people, but also less promising. It may take a new generation to make fiercer demands on the system and force change. But what kind of change that will be, nobody knows.


September 25, 2011

Yesterday Putin’s Party United Russia nominated him for president. The elections will be held next year. It is generally understood, however, that the current president’s (Medvedev’s) term has been a farce: since the Russian Constitution forbids more than two consecutive terms for a president, in 2008 Vladimir Putin found a temporary placeholder before he re-starts his two-term presidency in 2012. Taking into account that from next year a president in Russia is elected for the period of six years, Putin will remain the tzar until 2024. The Arab Spring movement is no lesson for the Russian leaders. Longtime Kremlin critic and former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said that the situation was “the worst possible scenario for the development of my country.”

“This will result in massive capital flight, a new wave of emigration, and further degradation of the state,” he said. “Our country can expect very serious social and economic shocks and shocks connected to the degradation of the country as a whole. Putin is turning into [Belarus President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka, and he could transform into [deposed Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak or [deposed Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi.”


Incidentally, after Putin is elected, Medvedev is going to take over the position of Prime Minister which he occupied before his becoming president. You may call it “job swapping”, or “Russian musical chairs.” Putin started a carefully orchestrated series of maneuvers at Saturday’s session of the party congress in a Moscow sports arena by proposing that Medvedev head the party list for the elections. Medvedev then proposed that Putin be the party’s presidential candidate, and Putin returned to the stage to accept the proposal and express support for Medvedev as prime minister. On his return to the stage, he found the microphone had been turned off temporarily, but said with a smile “I will speak louder. My commander’s voice has not yet been lost.”


Putin’s return will mean nothing good for Ukraine. The Russian gravitation, generated by the former KGB colonel, will become only stronger.


September 24, 2011

The full article with comments may be read at the address It was posted on the Radio Free Europe site about a month and a half ago, but since then nothing has actually changed. Tymoshenko is staying in jail demonstrating that this regime can be opposed. Interestingly, it looks that in Ukrainian politics they are women who are far more courageous and indomitable than men.

Even In Prison, Tymoshenko Keeping Up Appearances

August 10, 2011

By Daisy Sindelar

Saturday was bath day at the Lukyanivka detention center in Kyiv, a rare opportunity for the building’s female residents to leave their cold-water cells to shower and wash their hair.

It’s now been five days since bath day — about the time that many detainees, and their guards, might be looking forward to their next trip to the showers.

But at least one of Lukyanivka’s detainees seems impervious to grime. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko today appeared in court  dressed in her customary spotless white, with her gleaming braid crown neatly in place and showing no signs of the rigors of prison life.
Tymoshenko was placed in detention late on August 5 after the judge overseeing her trial on a controversial gas deal agreed with prosecutors that her rebellious behavior in his court amounted to contempt.

Since then, the 50-year-old ex-premier has resided in Lukyanivka’s cell No. 242 — watching television, chatting with her cell mates, and by most assessments doing a formidable job of keeping up appearances.

Ukraine-watchers speculated that President Viktor Yanukovych might have been hoping the jail sentence would mute his provocative rival, who narrowly lost the presidency to him last year.

Instead, cell No. 242 — which Tymoshenko first occupied for 43 days in 2001, when she was accused of forging customs documents and smuggling gas after falling out with then-President Leonid Kuchma — is beginning to look like the staging ground for an unbeatable political comeback.

‘She Sits Like A Queen’

Journalists, TV cameras, and ordinary voters are all glued to the story of Tymoshenko’s seemingly superhuman resilience in the face of conditions that include smoking cell mates, lack of access to visitors, and a less-than-private toilet.

To be sure, Tymoshenko — who earned millions as a businesswoman before turning to politics as the heroine of the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution — is enjoying a better class of prison life than most Lukyanovsky residents.

Tymoshenko was placed under arrest on August 5 after a judge agreed with prosecutors that her rebellious behavior amounted to contempt.
At nearly 17 square meters, cell No. 242 is more than twice the size of an ordinary three-person prison room. It reportedly has a large window (160 by 120 centimeters) and comes outfitted with a refrigerator and a small television.

Prison officials have explained, somewhat apologetically, that while there is no bidet, Tymoshenko has access to a “flushable” toilet that is separated by a fixed partition rather than a curtain. Perhaps most importantly when one is in the braid business, the room has been pronounced lice- and insect-free.

“Tymoshenko doesn’t have to worry about pediculosis,” Ukrainian newspapers quoted an unnamed prison official as saying. “She doesn’t give the impression of a person who is being psychologically broken…She behaves simply, naturally. She watches television. She sits like a queen, with her head held high.”

Prison guards have also reportedly allowed Tymoshenko and her two white-collar cell mates — a former city administration worker and a onetime member of the Finance Ministry — to cook for themselves. Tymoshenko’s mother has delivered tea, cheese, bread, cookies, dried fruit, and yogurt to her daughter in the detention center.

Security Risk

Prison life has also afforded Tymoshenko daily hourlong walks outside and some unanticipated reading time. She has reportedly requested copies of “The War of the End of the World” by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, “IQ84” by Haruki Murakami, and Umberto Eco’s “History of Beauty,” among other works.

But there have been challenges, as well. Lukyanovsky guards reportedly asked Tymoshenko to hand over her hairpins as a security risk when she first arrived at the center. (The pins were later returned, as evidenced by the presence of Tymoshenko’s traditional hairstyle in her subsequent court appearances.)

And at least one of her cell mates was a smoker, a situation which drew cries of protest from human rights activists and Tymoshenko’s husband, Oleksandr, who claimed his wife was “allergic” to cigarette smoke. (The smoker later volunteered to quit out of deference to the ex-prime minister, and after a delivery of Nicorette gum from Tymoshenko’s family, reports said today.)

Tymoshenko “doesn’t give the impression of a person who is being psychologically broken,” according to one prison official.
Throughout such trials, Tymoshenko appears to have remained upbeat. A visitor from the Ukrainian ombudsman’s office described her as “constantly smiling,” and she continues to greet her supporters at Kyiv’s Pechersky courtroom with a full-throated cry of “Glory to Ukraine!”

And then there is her appearance, which is virtually indistinguishable from the days and months preceding her arrest. In addition to the immaculate braids and makeup, Tymoshenko — who requested a tracksuit and sneakers for her prisonwear — has also been allowed before court appearances to forage into her regular wardrobe for the stylish, light-colored outfits that have become her calling card.

No Customary Iron Cage

Court officials have dispensed with the iron cage customary for jailed court defendants and have even allowed Tymoshenko to appear without handcuffs. For today’s appearance, Tymoshenko’s husband arrived with an enormous bouquet of white roses, which he hoped could be placed next to Tymoshenko during her trial.

On August 8, Oleksandr Tymoshenko and the couple’s daughter, Yevzhenia Carr, petitioned the court for the right to act as Tymoshenko’s “moral” defender, which allows for more than a single jail cell visit a month. With such strictly regulated access, it appears likely that Tymoshenko is managing many of her own affairs alone, including her personal upkeep.

One Kyiv-based fashion consultant, who asked to remain anonymous, says Tymoshenko has an “innate” sense of style and has likely had years of practice perfecting her own peasant-style blond braid crown, the hairstyle she has worn since the Orange Revolution. (Tymoshenko, attempting to dispel rumors her braids were fake, once famously unpinned her hair during a session of parliament.)

The consultant says Tymoshenko — who has championed both Ukrainian designers as well as global stalwarts like Louis Vuitton and Azzedine Alaia — has become a kind of fashion icon for “independent, self-made” Ukrainian women.

She says many Ukrainians, herself included, would eagerly to vote for Tymoshenko in any future political contest, and that her prison conduct, if anything, has only made her seem more indomitable.

“I like [her style],” the consultant says. “At first, people criticized her for wearing too much lace and frilly things. She came into parliament wearing things that people said were overly feminine. She just ignored the standard dress code. I like people with strong personalities. And I like the fact that she’s an intelligent, educated person. Right now, this is the issue for us, because everyone sees that what’s going on now is just chaos.”


September 23, 2011

Algernon.  …You are the prettiest girl I ever saw.

Cecily.  Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare.

Algernon.  They are a snare that every sensible man would like to be caught in.

Cecily.  Oh, I don’t think I would care to catch a sensible man.  I shouldn’t know what to talk to him about.

(Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest)

Daryna Stepanenko, a student of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, knew what to do with the anti-Ukrainian Minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnik. She struck him with a bunch of flowers which the Minister was about to accept as a sign of respect and, as he probably thought originally, of love (“…all good looks are a snare”, Mr. Tabachnik).

Those who follow the developments in this country may notice that the policy of its rough and brazen-faced rulers is making the society more and more radical (incidentally, Daryna comes not from Western Ukraine, which is usually associated with more fundamental Ukrainian sentiments, but  from Cherkasy, a central Ukrainian town). A few days ago Prime-Minister Mykola Azarov lectured to students of Kyiv National University about the tsarist premier Pyotr Stolypin , the advocate of “great Russia”, who was assassinated in Kyiv exactly 100 years ago and was buried in Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Only a few days ago Daryna and her fellow-students put up a symbolic monument to Stolypin’s assassin Dmytro Bogrov and, in my opinion, Daryna’s “presentation” of flowers must be viewed in that context. Actually, it was a symbolic assassination of Tabachnik. A comment on the Internet sarcastically said that the girl should have struck the Minister of Education with a hammer rather than with the flowers. Later Daryna was taken to the police station but released soon afterwards because she isn’t 18 yet and for that reason her offence couldn’t be brought to court.

At the moment the defense and security agencies of Ukraine are preoccupied not with guarding Ukraine against possible external dangers but are increasingly involved in monitoring its own people. Today I read that SBU officers are going to deliver lectures to students about the “inadmissibility of terrorist activities.”

While watching the incident on YouTube, I noticed two more things. First, it took place during the International Forum on Education which was held at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Someone’s speech in English was being synchronously interpreted not into Ukrainian, which is a working language of the Academy, but into Russian (definitely, a sign that the “times have changed”).  And, secondly, how could the phobic minister, who denies the very existence of Ukraine and its culture, how could he have been allowed to conduct that event within the walls of the oldest Ukrainian university, a symbol of the country’s renaissance? In such cases an Orthodox priest is usually invited to re-dedicate the desecrated premises of a building 🙂

As for Daryna… For me she is a person who is intelligent, brave, deeply sincere (“earnest”!), who loves Ukraine and …has “good looks.” 🙂



September 22, 2011

There were more protests in Ukraine yesterday. This time at the parliament building in Kyiv: the protesters were opposing the annulment of benefits for Afghan war veterans and workers who had been doing the clean-up work after the Chernobyl disaster in the 1980s. The angry demonstrators broke through the cordon of the police task  force,  some windows in the building were smashed, and more police were called for reinforcement. The posters which the people carried, were reading: “Hands off the Chernobyl Law!” “Stop Lawlessness!” “You Killed Sons, Don’t Kill Mothers!”

About a dozen protesters managed to get through into the vestibule of the building and they had a fight with the police.

This morning I talked with a person with whom we jog at a stadium nearby. He had been among the crowd in front of the parliamentary building and he said that during the protest people were shouting to the police: “You’re our sons! Come to your senses! How can you be against us?”

Naïve people, I thought. They are stuck in the myth about the nation’s unity. They had been educated on the principles of the 18th-century  French Revolution: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Things are different now. Violence has become a mode of life, a policeman is at the moment the most prestigious job, and the Latin proverb ‘homo homini lupus est’ is the mainstream for human communication.


September 20, 2011

Ukraine’s Parliament voted today that the country shall stay permanently on daylight saving time (the so-called “summer time”). From now on clocks won’t be switched back and forth between summer and winter. The adherents and opponents of this decision are putting forward their arguments of pro and contra – economic, psychological and physiological. I’m inclined to view it sooner as a political decision: earlier, both Russia and Belarus stopped putting changing the clock. The pro-Russian government in Ukraine is caving in to the “elder brother” (in actual fact, younger) by monkey-ing Putin and Co. Will gas become cheaper for Ukraine?

By and large, all argumentation in the dispute between “summerists” and “winterists”  is tupenny- ha’penny” worth. If people are prepared to save energy, they will save it whatever the season or time of the day. They will save (or waste) it depending on their environmental integrity and social responsibility. Also, all other factors being equal in their influence, my health depends on how healthy I live, rather than on the hands of the clock.

Right after the war a guerilla veteran (a former “partisan”) in the village where I grew used to sleep all through the daytime, and at nights he would walk the streets of the village being as fresh as a daisy. He had got accustomed to that kind of schedule during the years of his warfare with the Germans.  And the altercation about the time-change and time-zones would be as far from him as those distant stars in the night sky over our village.


September 18, 2011

1.The noun phrase N’+N’’ may present some difficulty regarding the number of the first element N’. When the second noun gives the general idea of things to which the compound belongs, and the first noun indicates the type within this class, the first noun usually has a singular form: an address book (not an addresses book), a dog show (not a dogs show).

The exceptions to the rule: A) when the first noun has only the plural form: a savings account, a customs officer, a clothes shop (compare a shoe shop), the arms trade, a glasses case (glasses = spectacles), an arts festival (arts = music, drama, film, dance, painting, etc. Compare an art festival, where art = painting, drawing, sculpture). B) when we refer to an institution (an industry, department, etc), such as .the buildings materials industry, the publications department which deals with more than one kind of items or activity (different types of building material, different forms of publication).

2. Phrases of the type N’ + preposition + N’’ form a plural number by making the first element plural (birds of prey). However, we can say either sisters-in-law or sister-in-laws (the same concerns other in-laws).

Compound nouns which originate from verbs and postpositions or adverbs have a plural form with “s”, which is joined to the second element: read-outs, push-ups, intakes, outcomes. A few words are exceptions: lookers-on (also: onlookers), runners-up, passers-by, hangers-on.

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