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The best of the blog

Giugno 2016
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may have either about the English language or our articles. Write to us (preferably in English) at: http://blog.speakuponline.it. The most interesting questions will be published on this page. A word of warning, though: our blog is not a translation or homework service!

In the February issue of Speak Up the article “Mayflower project” begins like this: “The voyage of the Mayflower.” Later in the article Linda Ligios writes: “Harwich, home of the Mayflower’s captain” and then “the Mayflower’s history”. Is the possessive case optional? In the same article, on page 29, we read: “Christopher Jones’ house”. I thought we should write “Jones’s” as it’s about a singular name.

“Mayflower project” is correct. It cannot be “the “Mayflower’s project” because it isn’t a possessive but an adjective: the word Mayflower is “describing” the project. The Mayflower is not really possessing anything.
As for your second point, technically, you are right: if it’s a singular name that ends in the letter “s,” then the possessive should be “s’s” and therefore “Captain Jones’s house, Prince Charles’s wife, St. James’s Square,” but the second “s” is dropped when it’s a plural that ends in “s” (“one dog’s food, two dogs’ food”). Nowadays both forms are pretty much considered acceptable.

Bad teachers
The teacher at my daughter’s primary school tells her pupils that they should say “a English man” and not “an Englishman” because the word “man” begins with a consonant. I always thought that the article should relate to the first word, in this case the adjective “English.” I also learnt “a story,” “an apple” etc. Am I right?

We sincerely hope that your daughter’s teacher isn’t telling her that she should say “a Englishman” (which is one word and not two, by the way)! It is “an Englishman” and the word “man” is irrelevant. The other examples you give are correct.

The unfathomable ‘i’
How can we know how we’re supposed to pronounce the letter “i”?

There are very few reliable rules for English pronunciation and so you just have to treat each word individually. Whenever you’re not sure how to pronounce a word (and this happens to mother-tongue speakers, too!) there’s a wonderful website called
Go to the site, type in the word and listen to the audio pronunciation!

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