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Different from... different too... & learning English by osmosis

Posted by Lotg on March 25, 2004

Tonight I saw an ad on TV for a local health fund (HCF). The opening line was... "HCF is different from other funds..." This made me cringe. I am not comfortable with "different from". I would have preferred "different to", or probably another sentence altogether frankly.

Anyway, I can't really say why it had that effect on me. I believe (and maybe I'm dreaming) that I have a reasonable command of the English language and rules, but often it's based more on intuition, than a clear recollection of the rules.

If I had to explain why some phrases make me cringe, I might well struggle, because I just feel, or know it's wrong, but can't remember the actual rules as to why.

Am I alone here? Do many of us speak the language quite effectively because we learnt (or learned) the rules so far back that it's become something so ingrained that we can't remember why?

And, if I'm feeling slack, or fooling around, or ensuring I don't alienate a certain business group, I often speak incorrectly, but I know I'm doing it, and I'm doing it deliberately.

So OK, there are two questions here.

To begin with, should it be "different from" (cringe) or "different to"?

And do other people operate like I do, with a sense of knowing that somewhere way back in our psyche we learnt (learned?) the rules, but we've forgotten exactly what they are, but somehow we can still work with them?

Pilots can do this. Drivers can do this.
I learnt (learned) to check the mirrors (all of them) constantly, while driving. I now do it mechanically, mostly without realising, until someone points it out, or until I drive in a country you're suddenly sitting on the other side of the car.

Just curious.