Posted on 19 March 2020

COVID-19 or the coronavirus?

The Macquarie Dictionary is constantly being reviewed and updated to make sure the words and definitions being offered are the most relevant possible. We appreciate any feedback on posts or suggestions of new words (we love them in fact). We have had a number of queries about COVID-19 and other words to describe reactions and measures following the global pandemic. An entry for COVID-19 will be appearing online in our next update along with its established variant forms coronavirusWuhan coronavirus and 2019-nCov. There is always fluidity with new terms but what we are seeing becoming established in Australian English is the form coronavirus over the coronavirus and the capitalised COVID-19 rather than Covid-19.   As most of us are now aware thanks to the 24/7 news cycle focused almost entirely on COVID-19, a coronavirus is not a new development. This word means "an RNA virus affecting mammals, the cause of a variety of illnesses in humans, including the common cold." As a word, COVID-19 exists to differentiate it from other coronaviruses. Broken into parts, the word means CO(RONA)VI(RUS) + D(ISEASE) + (20)19 (referring to the year it was first reported).   There are other terms which have also come into our environment such as social distancingP2 mask, etc., which will also be reflected in our update. But if you find any others, please let us know.   We hope everyone stays safe as many people start to work from home and self-isolate.   --- Want more? Listen to Word for Word #32 Defining COVID-19 
Posted on 18 March 2020

They're there. We've got you covered for this common grammar mistake

Three of the most commonly confused words are there, their and they’re – and it’s no wonder because they all sound exactly the same when we say them aloud. Words that sound the same but have different meanings and/or spellings are known as homophones. Homophones are one of the trickiest areas of spelling, that even autocorrect can get wrong! There can be used a lot of different ways, but most commonly it’s used as an adverb or pronoun to indicate a particular place (The book is up there on the shelf; He comes from there too) or a point in action (I have painted up to there). There can be used more figuratively in colloquial phrases such as so there!, there you go, there you are, etc. Their is used to show possession. Their is one of the possessive adjectives – along with other words like my, our, her, his – which are used to indicate that something belongs to someone, e.g. Their car is green. Their becomes theirs when it is used as a possessive pronoun e.g. The green car is theirs. Remember! Pronouns do not use an apostrophe to show possession (mine, ours, hers, his, theirs), but nouns do (Sandy’s car is green). They’re is a contraction of ‘they are’. Contractions reduce two words to a single one in which an apostrophe shows where a letter or letters have been removed. Here are some hints for when you’re unsure about which of these homophones to use…
  • Is it there? Think about whether you’re talking about the location or place of a person, object, or task.
  • Is it their? Try replacing the word with the possessive form of a noun, such as family’s
  • Is it they’re? Try expanding it to the two words ‘they’ + ‘are’ to see if that still makes sense.
Posted on 6 March 2020

What’s the difference between many, much and a lot?

The word many is generally used as an adjective to describe something that constitutes a large number, or when something is relatively numerous. The reference to ‘number’ here is important, as many is used with count nouns. Count nouns refer to objects that could feasibly be counted, such as: cats, bananas, trees, people, paintings, etc. For example: How many cats do you have? There are many paintings in the museum. Conversely, the word much is used with mass nouns (also referred to as non-count nouns), that is, nouns referring to an object that is thought of as existing in bulk and/or would not usually be counted as individual items, such as: butter, money, water, etc. For example: How much money do you earn? (Compare to: How many coins do you have?) I didn’t put much butter on the toast. Interestingly, and somewhat confusingly, mass nouns can sometimes be used to refer to varieties of the object they refer to and then they can be counted, but in that case they cease to be mass nouns and become count nouns.  There are two New Zealand butters coming onto the market. More often, however, a phrase like ‘kinds of’ or ‘types of’ is inserted.  There are two kinds of New Zealand butter coming onto the market. Much is a bit more versatile, and can be used as an adjective to mean in great quantity, amount, measure or degree (much work); as a noun meaning a great quantity or amount (much of this is true); or an adverb meaning greatly or far (much better, much too fast). The phrase a lot of also means to a considerable degree or a great deal of, and can be used with both count and mass nouns. For example:  They have a lot of cats. I like toast with a lot of butter.  We also see ‘lot’ often pluralised as ‘lots’, though this is still largely considered to be the colloquial form. For example: They have lots of cats. I like toast with lots of butter. So there you have it, the differences between many, much and a lot of. Next up on this front, we’ll get into a lot and alot...