How to Remember Breathe vs. Breath

breathe vs breath

Mixing up breathe and breath is a really common error. Luckily, there’s an easy way to remember the difference between the verb and the noun.

If you are doing the action (verb) of taking in and letting out air, then use breathe with an E at the end. 

If you are referring to the thing (noun) that you are taking in and letting out, use breath—no E at the end.

To remember the difference, think about the letter E at the end of breathe. Then remember that the word verb has an E, but the word noun doesn’t.

So breathe = verb.

 

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Here are some sample sentences:

Martin was thankful he could breathe deeply when he recovered from his cold.
Francis took a deep breath before he jumped in the pool.

 

Quiz
Test your skills with a quiz. Fill in either breathe or breath in the blanks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. Fish ________ in water.
2. Marcy hated her boss because he had bad _______.
3. Do you think there are aliens who _______ something other than oxygen?
4. The doctors put Uncle George on a respirator because he couldn’t _______ well on his own.
5. Sally couldn’t take a good _______ because the air was filled with smoke.

Answers
1. breathe 2. breath 3. breathe 4. breathe 5. breath.

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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Origin of “May you live in interesting times”

interesting times

The coronavirus pandemic has caused me to think a lot lately about the saying “May you live in interesting times,” which is reported to be a Chinese curse. But just where does this adage really come from? We’ll investigate that today.

The Phrase Finder website says: “‘May you live in interesting times’ is widely reported as being of ancient Chinese origin but is neither Chinese nor ancient, being recent and western.”

According to the site, the phrase was originally said by the American politician, Frederic R. Coudert, in 1939. He referred to a letter Sir Austen Chamberlain wrote to him in which he stated:

. . . by return mail he wrote to me and concluded as follows: “Many years ago, I learned from one of our diplomats in China that one of the principal Chinese curses heaped upon an enemy is ‘May you live in an interesting age.'”

Despite this, it does not appear to actually come from China and is not clear to have existed before Sir Austen Chamberlain allegedly said it.

Note that then it appeared as “interesting age.” By the time Robert F. Kennedy included it in his “Day of Affirmation Address” in Capetown, South Africa, in 1966, it had morphed into “interesting times.”

There is a Chinese curse which says, “May he live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.

Though the curse may not have been Chinese, what RFK said I hope applies today. It certainly feels dangerous and uncertain, but I hope wonderfully creative and positive things come out of this, as well.

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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The Difference Between Epidemic vs. Pandemic

epidemic vs pandemic

Epidemic and pandemic have similar meanings, but there is a slight difference between the two. And that difference has to do with size.

Epidemic
An epidemic is a disease that affects many people at the same time and spreads rapidly through a wide geographic area. The World Health Organization has added the clarification to their definition that an epidemic is considered to happen within a region or community.

Pandemic
A pandemic, then, is a disease outbreak that has spread beyond a region or community. A pandemic happens when many are sick at the same time at the level of country, continent, or the whole world.

So then a disease outbreak that sickens many people at the same time across the state of Texas would be considered an epidemic, but a disease outbreak that sickens many people at the same time across the entire United States would be considered a pandemic.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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Is It Okay to Split an Infinitive?

a background of tropical leaves with the words on top: split infinitives

If you think back to your eleventh-grade English class, or if you’ve ever gone toe-to-toe with a pedantic member of the grammar police, you’ve probably heard that it’s not okay to split an infinitive.

Remember that an infinitive is a verb in its most basic form, with the word to and then the verb, such as

  • to love
  • to sleep
  • to play

A split infinitive is when an adverb is inserted between to and the verb. The most famous example comes from the opening to the original Star Trek TV series:

“to boldly go where no man has gone before”

Notice that boldly goes between to and go, thus splitting it. Here are some more examples of split infinitives:

  • to quickly write
  • to happily read
  • to frankly say

 

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Why do people think splitting infinitives is bad?
Basically, some people think it’s inelegant. This idea was made popular by Henry Alford, the dean of Canterbury, who, in 1864, said people shouldn’t do it because, ahem, they already weren’t doing it very often. He wrote in his book, The Queen’s English: “. . . this practice is entirely unknown to English speakers and writers.”

But that’s not true. Lord Byron used split infinitives before the dean even wrote his book, as did Thomas Cromwell, Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, and many others. But somehow having Alford proclaim this made split infinitives a taboo.

However, split infinitives are natural in our everyday speech. You’ve probably already spoken multiple split infinitives today without even realizing it. And, over the years, authorities on the English language have relaxed their view.

In 2019, the Associated Press Stylebook came out and said using the split infinitive can actually make sentences easier to read and can better convey meaning, reversing its previous suggestion on the matter. So, it’s okay to split infinitives if it makes your message clearer or if it sounds more natural.

Now I want you to go boldly forth and split away!

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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What is an infinitive?

An infinitive is a verb in its most basic form. It usually has the word to before it, so it looks like this:

infinitive pic

Let’s look at some examples:

  • to dance
  • to play
  • to eat

Infinitives do not act as verbs, however. Instead, infinitives act as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

Examples of infinitives as nouns
She loves to sing.
Here, to sing is acting as the direct object of the verb loves, and direct objects are often nouns.

To fly was his passion.
Here, to fly is acting like the subject of the sentence, and subjects are nouns.

Examples of infinitives as adjectives
The way to win involves patience.
Here, to win modifies the noun way, which makes it an adjective.

Her favorite color to paint the walls is mint.
Here, to paint modifies the noun color, which makes it an adjective.

Examples of infinitives as adverbs
She stopped to chat.
Here, to chat modifies the verb stopped, which makes it an adverb.

He decided to eat the scorpion.
Here to eat modifies the verb decided, which makes it an adverb.

Because they can act as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, infinitives are an important part of our language. Now you’ll be able to recognize them in everyday speech and in writing.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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