This amounts to bad English grammar advice

It’s Microsoft Word’s grammar checker’s turn today. It suggested turning this amounts to either this amount or these amounts, and this weighs to either this weigh or these weighs. But this amounts was in a context like This amounts to a convincing argument for the plaintiff, and this weighs was in a context like This weighs heavily in favour of the respondent. 

Amount can be a noun, in which case we must use either this amount is or these amounts are, but can also be a verb (usually followed by to), in which case we must use either this (argument) amounts to or these (arguments) amount to. (I don’t know if the noun or verb came first.)

Weigh can only be a verb; the corresponding noun is weight. We can only say this weight is or these weights are, and this (submission) weighs and these (submissions) weigh. Microsoft’s suggestions of this weigh and these weighs are just not English grammar as I know it. 

I need to stress that Microsoft Word’s writing tools get many things right, but most of the issues I’ve discussed in this and previous posts arise from them either focusing on a word or phrase without considering the context and/or failing to take into account the same or related words being nouns or verbs. If they are going to include a writing tool, they need to make sure they work all of the time. In fact, their clarity and conciseness checker flags all of the, suggesting all the. I was about to write at some length about this, but searching through my blog post draft document for all of the and all the, I found that that I already have (here). I’ll just add two things here. Google Ngram Viewer shows that all the is about 10 times as common as all of the, with no significant difference between British and American usage. My document has 67 occurrences of all the and 19 of all of the, a ratio of 3.5. Maybe if I was writing an academic paper, I’d check carefully and decide one way or the other.

While researching for this post, I found this page by the Cambridge Dictionary, which explains the many and subtly different uses of all. I would add that all of the matches none, some, any and most of the, and can’t be considered incorrect. The Cambridge Dictionary says “We often use of after all in definite noun phrases”. Google Ngrams shows that often is putting it too high. We sometimes use of after all.


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