English as a Second Language/Follow-up (different)


Dear Jed,

It is Longman which says "One can speak of a man's widow: Margaret is John's widow. If the woman dies first, one cannot say 'John is Margaret's widower' but only 'John is a widower'. ", not I. so I need to know the reason why .

For my second sentence, I put the sentence in other words: Our battle against the enemy needs sacrifice/sacrifycing. What is the difference between noun and gerund?

Thanks and best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Dear Jed,

According to the Longman dictionary:

Widow: a woman whose husband has edied and who has not married again

One can speak of a man's widow: Margaret is John's widow. If the woman dies first, one cannot say 'John is Margaret's widower' but only 'John is a widower'.

What is the reason - I did not understand.

On the other hand, what is the difference between

a. This battle needs sacrifice (noun)
b. This battle needs sacrificing (gerund)

Best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Dear Antoine.

We can say 'Margaret's widower'. What made you think we couldn't? I admit that it is far less common than 'John's widow', but that is because the word 'widower' is far less commonly used than 'widow'. In the Corpus of Contemporary American English, there are 4,865 citations for
'widow', and only 574 for 'widow'.

I don't really understand your second sentence, 'This battle needs sacrifice/sacrificing', I'm afraid. Could you try to express your meaning in other words?

With best wishes,


Dear Antoine,

I think Longman is a little harsh in saying we cannot say it. We can say it. However, we rarely do. It's just one of those collocations that is not part of our normal language.

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand your second sentence. Perhaps you mean something like "Our battle (against the enemy) will require sacrifice". Even that sounds a little strange. I would say "Our battle (against the enemy) will take a heavy toll". I am assuming that you are talking about many of our soldiers being killed.

Best wishes


ps. I am very tied up for the next couple of days, so my responses to any follow-up questions may be a little delayed.

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Jed Webb


I can assist with questions about English grammar (syntax, morphology, pronunciation and spelling)from learners taking such examinations as TOEFL, IELTS, FCE and CAE and other internationally recognised tests.


I have over forty years of experience in the teaching of modern languages, twenty-four of them in the Teaching of English as a Second Language. I have been an examiner for FCE, BEC and IELTS examinations, and a teacher trainer on courses leading to the Trinity College Certificate in TESOL.

The Philological Society The International Phonetic Association The College of Teachers The International Association of Teachers of EFL The Royal Society of Arts (Fellow)

British Journal of Language Teaching, Vol XIX Nos I and II Education Today, Vol 41, Nos 1 and 3 Co-Author: Nix and Webb (1984) 'Creative English', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Contributor: Nix and Riederer (1973), 'Bottoms Up', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Rosenau and Nix, (1979), 'Look it up', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Nix and Ringholz, 'English in Projects', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen

BA (English), University of Durham. Qualified Teacher Status, UK Department of Education and Science Further and Adult Education Teacher's Certificate, City and Guilds of London Institute ACP(TESOL), College of Preceptors Dip TESOL, Trinity College, London Dip Ed (ELT), Exeter University ACP (Management Studies in Education), College of Teachers Certificate of Proficiency in the Phonetics of English, International Phonetic Association

Past/Present Clients
I have taught: General and Business English classes for: Alcan, Allianz Versicherung, Robert Bosch, Daimler-Benz, Ford, Hewlett Packard, Kodak, Mövenpick, Radiomobil (O2), Siemens, Unilever. TOEFL and FCE classes for: eská Spoitelna,SOB, Czech Ministry of Trade, Czech Statistics Office.

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