Usage and abusage

In contrasting pairs like this, the form without the prefix comes first. You can’t say “abusage and usage” of word order.

No, I don’t know why the short one comes first. It just does.

  • So it has to be tangible and intangible assets, treated and untreated wood, skies both clear and unclear,
  • The alternate order doesn’t seem to grate with Dutch speakers: I’ve just been editing a text on “Ongeslachtelijke en geslachtelijke voortplanting” but in English it’s got to be “Sexual and asexual reproduction
  • Dutch in particular has a written form for such things that can be thoroughly confusing in English: using brackets to come up with (ab)usage. That just makes no sense to us; please don’t do it.

So: a rule of grammar that may be logical or illogical, but needs to be observed nevertheless.

Prevalence: moderate. A general grammatical point, rather than being restricted to specific fields.
Frequency: low. Just occasional corrections, like the one listed above. But it’s an error that stands out as unnatural.
Native: no. We probably wouldn’t even be able to tell you there’s a rule. But we wouldn’t break it.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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