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Know Your English | What is the singular form of “alumni”?

For representative purposes.

For representative purposes. | Image source: iStockphoto

What is the difference between “stink” and “smell”? (K. Nalini, Hyderabad)

Among these two words, “smell” is a neutral word; “smell” is a neutral word. Smells can be pleasant or unpleasant. For example, you can talk about the smell of someone’s dirty socks; you can also talk about the delicious smell of sambar. On the other hand, “stinky” has a negative connotation. It is mainly used to indicate a very offensive or foul smell. As far as “stinks” go, the smell is so strong that sometimes you hold your nose.

All the bathrooms in our office building stink.

I can’t sit for long in his house. Smells like rotten eggs.

The pleasant smell of Agabati reminded him of home.

The smell of rain is in the air.

Can we say “issue a license”? (Kumaresan, Coimbatore)

Yes. If you visit any RTO (Regional Transport Office) website, you will find sentences like “Duplicate licenses will be issued”, “RTO issues licenses in India” etc. In addition to “issue”, another word often used when referring to licenses is “grant.” The government issues licenses to individuals and companies.

The word “license” is usually spelled two different ways – the spelling usually depends on which side of the Atlantic you are from. The British spell the word “licence” when they wish to use it as a noun, and “license” when they wish to use it as a verb. It’s like the pairs “advice/recommendation” and “device/equipment”. Americans, on the other hand, only spell “license” one way—either as a noun or as a verb.

James Bond, better known as OO7, had a license to kill.

Our company has received permission to sell some new products.

How do you pronounce the word “alumni”? (R. Jayaraman, Mysore)

The word is of Latin origin and consists of three syllables. The vowel of the first syllable sounds like the “a” in “china,” while the second syllable rhymes with “sum,” “chum,” and “hum.” The last “i” sounds like the “y” in “by”, “my” and “try”. The word is pronounced “e-LUM-nigh” with the emphasis on the second syllable. It comes from the Latin “alumni” meaning “adopted son” or “ward”. Today, “alumni” is primarily used to refer to individuals who attended a specific school, college, or university. Although the term was originally used to refer to male students, now “alumni” is used to refer to both male and female students. The plural form of “alumni” is “alumni”. When you talk about a university’s “alumni,” you are referring to everyone who has graduated from that university.

Twenty alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras plan to gather in New York this weekend.

Some of our alumni have gone on to do truly great things.

As an alumnus, I will help in any way I can.



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