Monday, November 19, 2007


Hey all of you grammar enthusiasts! Welcome back to another lesson on some problems we hear quite a bit with our language.

Today's topic deals with a problem suggested by two special readers, and one that, I think, will be very easy to clear up. Just hang with me and I'll try to make this short and simple.

Have you ever wondered about the differences between WEARY, LEERY, and WARY? We probably have more confusion between WEARY and WARY, but because WEARY sounds so much like LEERY, sometimes even it gets thrown into this confusing muddle.

Let's begin with WEARY. This word, according to Webster's, is an adjective and means "...exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness." Think of it also describing someone's patience, tolerance, or even pleasure being depleted.

Here's an example sentence:

I'm so WEARY of political commercials that I cut the TV off every time one comes on.

Here, WEARY means that the speaker is exhausted from watching so many commercials--his patience, tolerance, and/or pleasure is gone from doing so.

Next, let's move right along to WARY. This word, also an adjective, simply means "...marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchful prudence, especially detecting and escaping danger."

Here's how WARY could be used in an example sentence:

Bobby's cat kept a WARY look at the fox lurking behind the fence.

With this sentence, the implication is that the cat senses danger and is watchful in order to escape from the fox's clutches, if necessary. Pretty easy, so far, huh?

The final word is LEERY (sometimes spelled LEARY, but the former is preferred.) LEERY is another adjective and means "...suspicious, wary." WHOA! Did you notice that? WARY is a synonym (means the same) of LEERY. Now, we see one of the reasons why these three words get confused.

Here's a good way to keep this straight:

WEARY means exhausted or worn-out...while...

both LEERY and WARY mean about the same thing: suspicious or watchful.

Try your hand at these sentences:

1. Mike was (leery, weary) of hearing, "It's so dry around here the trees are bribing the dogs."

2. Kathy became (wary, weary) of the telemarketer when he told her to send a $5,000 check to cover the expense of shipping the big prize she had just won.

3. Ava became (leery, weary) of the meal her mom fixed for her after she saw something green on her plate.

How did you do? These are some simple rules to remember, so I hope you did well.

Here are the answers:

1. WEARY is correct because it means Mike is "tired" or "worn-out" about hearing this so much.

2. WARY is correct because it means Kathy is "suspicious" at hearing about such a large demand of money.

3. LEERY is correct because it means that Ava is "suspicious" since she probably doesn't want anything green on her plate.

Okay, Everyone. Did you make 100 again? See how easy most of these little problems are if you'll just think them through and remember the rules for each?

Well, it's about time to sign off. Thanks for reading this info. again, and have a wonderful week! I love hearing from you with your suggestions for another topic. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, November 11, 2007

29. More Mispronunciation Madness - Part II

Hello, Everybody! I hope you're all finer than frog hair and spending lots of time with those you love most.

Today, we're going to take a look at two commonly mispronounced words around these parts. Actually, I don't think we Southerners are the only ones hoein' this row, but you can bet we kill that skunk...a lot.

The first word is

INCENTIVE, a noun which means, according to Webster's, "...something that incites...determination or action...motivates..."

A common way we use this words is to say something such as,

One of the best INCENTIVES used by employers to encourage employees to work longer and harder hours is to pay them higher wages.

The problem occurs when the speaker pronounces the word INCENTIVE with four syllables, and not the correct three syllables. Thus, the word sounds something like this:

IN-CEN-I-TIVE (Please...horrors...I know none of you would pronounce it this way, would you?)

The word should be pronounced the following way:

IN-CEN-TIVE (Notice, please, there are only three syllables when you pronounce the word correctly...ahhhh, such music to my ears.)

The second word we're taking a look at today is PREVENTIVE, an adjective which means, again according to Webster's, "...undertaken to forestall hostile action..."

An example sentence using this word would be

PREVENTIVE steps against soil erosion were undertaken by the farmer to protect his corn crop.

As with INCENTIVE, many times folks give PREVENTIVE an extra syllable so that it, too, is pronounced with four syllables and not the correct three syllables. As a result, the word then sounds the following way:

PRE- VEN-TA-TIVE (Groan...This is enough to make a poor English teacher funeralize the English language...)

The word should be pronounced IN-CEN-TIVE! Three syllables only! (Help...Let's toss this pronunciation!)

Now before some of you get all fired up and tell me that PREVENTATIVE is in the dictionary, remember what I said in an earlier lesson. Many, many words have been included in the dictionary since the 1970's that are NOT Standard English. They are there because their use has become common. However, this doesn't mean that PREVENTIVE as PREVENTATIVE is correct! Besides, adding another syllable is completely unnecessary--in both words. If you'd like to impress your peers, professors, and everyone else around you, pronounce these words in the acceptable Standard English manner.

All right! There we have it for today. That's the last shingle off this barn. I hope this has been informative for you and that you'll be able to speak these words correctly from now on if you haven't been. Just practice, as usual, and you'll make a habit of it in no time.

Enjoy your week and thanks for reading. Drop me a line when you get a chance and let me know if you have any grammar pet peeves I haven't addressed yet. Peace and happiness to you all, GG

Sunday, November 4, 2007

28. The SIT - SET Snafu

Hey, Y'all! I hope you've been doing well and working hard on using your best grammar around your friends, family, and acquaintances. What a great way to make a good impression and to pass on to others the correct way of speaking and writing!

Today's lesson is another one suggested by a friend and former student, and is one that we hear folks struggle with many times. Have you ever been confused about using SIT or SET? These two verbs plague many folks but there are actually some very simple things to know about them that should solve the problem. You will probably notice that the rules for this verb are very similar to the rules for LIE and LAY, so let's take a look at them and see if we can get that rubber-nosed woodpecker in the Petrified Forest look off your face... for now and evermore.

First, let's look at what each word means and then each word's principal parts.

SIT means "to occupy a seat" and it usually does NOT take a direct object. (We've already discussed direct objects several times, but I'll briefly remind you that direct objects answer "What?" or "Whom?" to the subject and verb.)

The principal parts of SIT are

Present - sit

Present Participle - sitting

Past - sat

Past Participle - (have,has, had) sat

Remember that when verbs are conjugated they change into these forms.

Now, here are a couple of examples of the correct use of SIT:

1. Some airline passengers refuse to SIT (not SET) in row 13.

Notice that this sentence means the passengers are refusing to "occupy a seat," and if you tried the direct object test to be sure SIT is correct, you would read the subject and verb to yourself, saying, "...passengers SIT... What? or Whom?" There is, of course, no answer--this makes no sense, so SIT is correct.

2. Queen Elizabeth II SAT (not SET) on the Stone of Scone at her coronation.

In this example, SAT, the past tense of SIT, is correct. Again, the sentence is speaking of the Queen "occupying a seat." In addition, when you try the direct object test and ask "What?" or "Whom?" after the subject and verb ("Queen Elizabeth II SAT"...What? or Whom?"), you can certainly see that there is no answer to the question. Once more, this make no sense, so SAT is correct.

Okay. Now that we've reviewed SIT, we need to mention a little exception before going on to SET. As I've said many times before, exceptions to the general rule do occasionally present themselves, so here we go with one using the verb SIT.

SIT can sometimes, but not often, have a direct object. Here's an example.

SIT the patient carefully in that chair.

The meaning--"occupying a seat"--still is correct, but when you try the direct object question... ah ha! There's an answer! "(You) SIT What? or Whom? "...patient..." answers the question Whom? As a result, SIT, here, is correct.

Yes, yes, I know. It's maddening to have these exceptions, but there it is and we just have to accept another example of our very diverse and complicated language.

So...let's move right along with the verb SET.

SET simply means "to place" and DOES have a direct object most of the time.

The principal parts of SET are

Present - set

Present Participle - setting

Past - set

Past Participle - (have, has, had) set

Notice the following examples of the correct use of SET:

1. The Archbishop of Canterbury SET (not SAT) the royal crown on the new queen's head.

In this sentence, SET is used to mean "place". Now, try the direct object test. "The Archbishop of Canterbury SET..." What? or Whom? Yes, now, we have an answer: "" answers What was being "placed", so SET is correct.

2. Many sci-fi writers have SET (not SAT) the action of their stories on distant planets.

Here, again, SET is used to mean "place." Once more, try the direct object test. "...writers have SET...What? "...action..." is the answer, so SET is the correct answer.

I hope you're doing well and following these explanations. They're really very simple if you'll just practice them a little.

Now I have to tell you about another exception to a rule involving SET and all of its principal parts.

In this exception to the general SET rules, notice that this rule involves only the direct object part of the rule, much like the SIT rule above.

In certain situations, SET and all of its parts will NOT have a direct object. Here are a couple of examples:

1. The sun SETS early in the winter. (The sun SETS... What?...Whom? There's no answer, but SETS is still correct. Just stretch your thoughts and think of the sun being "placed".)

2. Some types of cement SET faster than other types. (The sun SETS...What?...Whom? Again, there's no answer, but SET is still correct. Think of the cement being "placed.")

Okay...Now it's your turn. Try the following sentences to see if you can make a grade of 100.

1. In the early days of photography, people (set, sat) motionlessly in front of a camera for long periods.

2. The police officer (set, sat) the explosive device carefully into a box lined with lead.

3. There is only one remaining bowling alley in town where Bobby (sets, sits) up the pins by hand.

4. From where we were (setting, sitting), it looked like a home run.

5. Martin had (set, sat) out his corn long before the first peep of day.

So...How was it? I hope nice and easy! Here are the correct answers and why:

1. SAT...past tense of SIT, means "occupying a seat," and there's no direct object.

2. SET...past tense of SET, means "places", and there is a direct object--device.

3. SETS...present tense of SET, means "places,"and there is a direct object--pins.

4. SITTING...present participle of SIT, means "occupying a seat," and there's no direct object.

5. SET...past participle of SET, means "placed", and there's a direct object--corn.

All right! I hope this is a Whoo Hooo moment for you! If not, just read back over the rules again and see if you can discover something you missed before. I'm also available to answer any questions anytime, so let me hear from you if there's something you're not quite sure about. I love hearing from you.

Well...since it's about dinner-gettin' time, I'm signing off. Have the best week ever and enjoy those you love the most. Peace and happiness, GG


Sunday, October 14, 2007

27. The ACCEPT/EXCEPT Misstep

Hello, Friends, and thanks for visiting again as we take a look at another common grammar problem. Today's lesson is another special request from a good friend who says he's always been confused about these two words. He's not alone! Lots of folks seem to have run across the same dilemma and still aren't sure when to use one or the other.

Let's see if we can clear this problem up. Once again I will say that so many of our little problems like this can be easily understood if we have a good understanding of basic grammar, starting with the eight parts of speech. So... let's start there.

ACCEPT (in all of its forms) is simply a verb and means "to agree" or "to receive something willingly."

Some examples of the correct use of this verb follow:

Did you ACCEPT the nomination to be class treasurer?

I've just about ACCEPTED the fact that J.R. is so lazy he'll never drown in his own sweat.

Couldn't be easier, could it? Now...

What about EXCEPT? EXCEPT can also be used as a verb which probably explains some of the confusion between these two words that sound so much alike. However, the meaning changes when EXCEPT is used:

EXCEPT, when used as a verb (in all of its forms), means means "leave out" or "exclude."

You'll notice that EXCEPT used with this meaning doesn't appear to be used nearly as much as the prior or next use, which should help make this rule about as easy as pie. Here are a few examples:

It's unfair to EXCEPT people from the team that are so skinny you can't see them when they turn sideways.

Our teacher EXCEPTED all students who talked during class from the mid-morning break.

We most assuredly don't hear this use too much anymore, but if you do run across it, just think about the meaning--EXCEPT as a verb means "leave out" or "exclude."

What we DO have trouble with is with the other use of EXCEPT. More often, EXCEPT is used as a preposition. (Remember previous lessons where I have explained prepositions as words that show relationships?)

As a preposition, EXCEPT means "but" or "excluding."-- but its most common meaning is "other than."

Notice the following sentences using EXCEPT this way:

Carolyn was fixin' to cook supper for everybody EXCEPT her one-time boyfriend who stood her up last night.

EXCEPT for Aunt Eleanor who was mad enough to spit nails, the rest of us smiled and ignored Bob's comment about her new hairstyle.

Well, that's about it for the explanations of these words, and I hope you see how easy these are. Now try your hand at a few more examples:

1. The band director (accepted, excepted) Marvin from playing his trumpet in the parade because of the injuries to his mouth from the wreck.

2. All of the boys tore up the corn rows in that fight (accept, except) for Fred who took off running through the woods in the opposite direction.

3. I will not (accept, except) your pilin' up with trash like that any more!

4. Bring me a mess of turnips any day of the week (accept, except) days that don't end in "Y".

5. Greg (accepted, excepted) grits, country ham, and eggs for breakfast as fast as his mama could serve them.

All right! How did you do? I hope this lesson has been as easy for you as the others. Here are the correct answers.

1. EXCEPTED is correct because it is used as a verb and means "left out" or "excluded."

2. EXCEPT is correct because it is used as a preposition and means "but", "excluded", or "other than."

3. ACCEPT is correct because it is used as a verb and means "to agree" or "to receive something willingly." (Although the opposite is intended here.)

4. EXCEPT is correct because ...same as #2.

5. ACCEPTED is correct ...same as #3.

So, how well did you do? I hope you made 100 again and are proud of yourself! See how easy most of these things are? Just keep studying up a little on basic grammar rules, and you'll soon be a Master Grammarian!

The clock on the wall says it's time to finish today's lesson. Hope you have the best week ever. Continue to write and let me know what concerns you have about the grammar problems you hear most often, and I'll address them ASAP. Take care, peace, and much happiness. GG

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Welcome back, Everybody, and I hope all of you are healthy and happy and have been enjoying yourself since our last lesson.

We're moving right along with a new topic, addressed especially for a friend who wondered about this one, so let's put it on the front porch and take a good look at a little problem that shouldn't prove too difficult.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between COMPLEMENT and COMPLIMENT? Yes, they do sound exactly alike but have different meanings--making them HOMOPHONES. (Other examples of homophones are TO, TOO, and TWO.)

I think you'll see that these two words are very easily distinguishable if you'll just use the little trick that follows.

Let's take a look first at COMPLEMENT.

COMPLEMENT simply means something that fills up, makes perfect, or completes. Notice that both COMPLEMENT (along with its other forms) and COMPLETE have two "E's", so the meaning of COMPLEMENT has its own definition right there in the word itself. An example can be seen in a sentence such as this:

Joan's shoes and pocketbook COMPLEMENT her dress since the color gold is used in all three items.

Here, the idea is that the shoes, pocketbook, and dress are all "completed or made perfect" by Joan's idea of using a monochromatic color scheme.

Now, what about COMPLIMENT?

COMPLIMENT (and all of its other forms) just means to praise or admire. Here, we have only one "E'" in COMPLIMENT, so we now have a different meaning.

An example for this follows:

Greg loved to COMPLIMENT Debra's beautiful eyes.

Here, Greg is showing his admiration for Debra's eyes.

Easy, right?

Try the following sentences to see if you have this rule down pat.

(1) Some young ladies are suspicious of a man's attempt to (complement, compliment) their looks.

(2) What a wonderful (complement, compliment) to a baked ham supper is a big bowl of black-eyed peas!

(3) The sound of Whiteville High School's Marching Band (complements, compliments) the floats and other units in the Homecoming Parade.

(4) Steve's gorilla costume was perfectly (complemented, complimented) by hairy hands and feet.

(5) Betty said her blind date was so ugly he'd have to sneak up on a glass of water to get a date--even if he (complemented, complimented) it all night long. did you do this time?

(1) COMPLIMENT is correct because it implies a man's attempt to praise or admire these young ladies.

(2 COMPLEMENT is correct because it suggests how the addition of black-eyed peas is completing or making the supper perfect.

(3) COMPLEMENT is correct because it refers to the sound of the band completing or making the parade perfect.

(4) COMPLEMENT is correct because it implies how the hairy hands and feet completed or made the costume perfect .

(5) COMPLIMENT is correct because it suggests praise or admiration of the date (in the negative form).

Well, all right! I hope you made 100 on this little quiz and now completely understand these two homophones. Just keep in mind the two "E's" rule and you'll be good to go.

That time has come again, folks. As I write this, it's about pink of the evening, so I'm signing off for now. I hope all goes just perfect for you until we meet again. Do continue to give me ideas and suggestions about these lessons and I'll get right to them as soon as possible Much peace and happiness to you and yours, GG

Sunday, September 30, 2007

25. The SAW / SEEN Spin

Hey, all of you Grammar Stars! It's good to have you back again and ready for a new lesson. I hope you've all been as busy as bees on a watermelon rind, enjoying yourself and being happy.

Today's lesson is another special request and I am eager to address it since I think this one is especially peculiar to our Southeastern North Carolina area -- and maybe throughout most of the South. Let me know. At least I haven't seen this one addressed in any grammar books (as a separate problem) that I've seen recently or even in the past. This one belongs to us!

So what is it?

This hindersome and annoying mistake is heard just about everywhere around Columbus County N. C.-- the irritating misuse of SEEN for SAW. If you live around here, I know you've probably heard it dozens of times, so I'm now going to see if we can clear up the cobwebs on this one now and forever!

First, though, here's a quick review of verb tenses. All English verbs have six tenses and I'll use examples from today's subject lesson to go through them.

PRESENT - I see, you see, he/she/it sees, we see, you see, they see

PAST - I saw, you saw, he/she/it saw, we saw, you saw, they saw

FUTURE - I shall see, you will see, he/she/it will see, we shall see, you will see, they will see

PRESENT PERFECT- I have seen, you have seen, he/she/it has seen, we have seen, you have seen, they have seen

PAST PERFECT - I had seen, you had seen, he/she/it had seen, we had seen, you had seen, they had seen

FUTURE PERFECT - I shall have seen, you will have seen, he/she/it will have seen, we shall have seen, you will have seen, they will have seen

Now, don't worry about all of this technical language just now. There ARE things you need to know about all of these tenses, including what they mean and when they are used, but for right now, we're concentrating on just SAW and SEEN.

Okay. So this is the kind of thing we hear way too much:

I SEEN (instead of SAW) that movie last week at the Cinema... or...

Betty SEEN (instead of SAW) her second cousin at the Harvest Festival in Whiteville last November...or...

Did you know we SEEN (instead of SAW) some good talent at the Columbus County Fair last night?

Groan...Hearing this mistake makes me about as crazy as a lost dog in a meat market. PUH - LEEZE! Spare me!

Just remember this and you'll get it right every time:

Use SAW ONLY when you are speaking or writing in the PAST TENSE and when HAS, HAVE, or HAD is NOT a part of the verb.


I SAW the football game last night at Legion Stadium.

Here, the football game happened obviously in the past (last night), and HAS, HAVE, or HAD is not a part of the verb.

Use SEEN only when you are using HAS, HAVE, or HAD as part of the verb.


Louise HAD SEEN that TV program several times by the time Kenwood saw it.

Here, SEEN is correct because Had is part of the verb.

There is one little thing you should keep in mind: If the subject and verb are separated from each other, the broken apart verb still remains the verb of the clause you are working with. This happens most frequently in sentences that ask questions. For example:

Have you SEEN my little brother?

In this sentence, the subject is YOU and the verb is HAVE SEEN, even though HAVE SEEN is not together. I'm not sure we have much trouble saying something such as, "Have you SAW my little brother?", but this has been known to happen, so if this has been troublesome for you, just remember, once again, that using HAVE in a sentence such as the preceding requires us to use SEEN -- not SAW.

Try a few on your own.

(1) Ricky (saw, seen) his flat bed trailer being used in the parade.

(2) I never (saw, seen) such a big sweet potato!

(3) Have you (saw,seen) the oysters being served at Dale's Seafood this week?

(4) Greg (saw, seen) his sister's pocketbook hanging on the back of the chair.

(5) Mrs. White had (saw, seen) many apples disappear from her kitchen until she decided to catch the culprit.

I hope you see how very easy these sentences are. Here are the correct answers:

(1) SAW...because there is no "H" word part of the verb (HAS, HAVE, HAD) , and past tense is obviously required.

(2) SAW...same as (1)

(3) SEEN...HAVE is part of the verb

(4) SAW...same as (1) and (2)

(5) SEEN...HAD is part of the verb

All right! Isn't that easy? Just watch out for the "H" words as a part of the verb, and you'll never have trouble with SEEN again!

Well, it's about time to let you go, and since we've moved that ox out of the ditch, let me wish you a great week with lots of happy things for you and yours. Next time we'll continue with some of the special requests I've been receiving. Keep your ideas for lessons coming! Much peace and time to relax. Warmest regards, GG

Sunday, September 23, 2007

24. Different FROM or Different THAN

Hey, Friends! How has your week been? Have you been trying out your grammar expertise on your friends and family? Go right ahead! Let's see if we can spread good grammar everywhere we go and make everyone as smart as a tree full of owls. :-)

Today's lesson comes as a special request--something I love to hear -- since YOU hear as many mistakes as I do and I want to give you a voice.

Now... how many of you have found yourself trying to figure out what you should say when it comes to using ...different FROM... or ...different THAN? Thank goodness, this is one of the easiest and shortest rules to know (most of the time), so if you HAVE found yourself in this dilemma, you shouldn't have any more difficulties after this lesson.

Here's all there is to it:

RULE #1:

Use ...different FROM...almost all the time. Technically, ...different FROM... simply precedes a noun or pronoun. How easy is that?

Here are a few examples:

1. Jack is so different FROM Tom, his brother -- Tom's about as bright as a burned - out light bulb! (Here, FROM precedes TOM, a noun, so, of course, FROM is correct, not THAN.)

2. These cloud formations are different FROM THOSE. (Same thing, different words. FROM precedes THOSE, although THOSE is not a noun, but a pronoun. Remember the rule? Pronouns work as well as nouns. THAN is wrong.)

3. Thad proved that ice skating is different FROM roller skating. (Once again, FROM precedes roller skating, a noun, so FROM is the only thing we can use. Again, THAN is wrong.)

Got it? I am going to assume that you're as sharp as a brier and do. Therefore, we'll move on to the other phrase, ...different THAN..., and see how to use it correctly.

Oh, yes. There IS a time when we CAN use ...different THAN... although I'll have to be honest and tell you that some grammarians would say not even to mention this part of the rule. However, because some of you scholars out there might wonder why I didn't include the next section, I figured I would at least give it a brief acknowledgment.

RULE # 2:

Use... different THAN...right in front of a clause ( a group of words with with its own subject and verb. Many times you will see several different clauses in one sentence. Nevertheless, you only want to focus on the clause that follows ...different THAN...)

Before I say more on this topic, I think it might be helpful to review CLAUSES with you.

All clauses in sentences have at least one subject and verb. Some clauses are called Subordinate (or Nonessential) Clauses, and others are called Independent (or Essential clauses.) We won't worry about this part of clauses until a little later, though. For now, let's just think about clauses being little groups of words with a subject and verb. Here are some examples:

1. The job was quite different THAN what I imagined.

In this sentence, there are two different clauses: "The job was quite different..." is one clause and the subject is JOB and the verb is WAS. However,
that's not the only clause. The second clause is "...what I imagined." Here, I is the subject and IMAGINED is the verb. Yes, this is a pretty short one,
but it's still a clause.

Now, are you putting all of this together? Do you see how THAN can be used correctly? It's correct because THAN is followed by the clause, "..what I
imagined." and NOT by a noun or pronoun which requires us to use FROM, not THAN, as seen in RULE #1.

2. Mary's performance was much different THAN she wished it had been.

Here, we have, not two, but three different clauses. "Mary's performance was much different..." is one clause. Another separate clause is "...she
wished...", and the third clause is " had been."

Don't let a number of clauses throw you. Yes, there are three clauses in this sentence, but the only one we are concerned with is the one that follows
THAN. We can prove that THAN is correct because the subject ("she") and verb ("wished") follow it.

Okay. Now I need to add a little thought that, I hope, won't confuse you. Once again, our complicated language has all kinds of exceptions and variations to major rules, and if you keep this in mind, you'll understand, I think, why it was necessary for us to take a look at ...different we just did. However...

you can actually use EITHER ONE of these phrases SOMETIMES, depending on the wording of a sentence, but ONLY if a clause follows the phrase and if the use of ...different FROM...produces awkwardness. Notice this example:

1. Music is much different today (from, than) what it was 100 years ago.

In a sentence like this, take your choice. Either FROM or THAN would be correct because a clause follows the phrase in question and we don't see any awkwardness with FROM in the sentence. a sentence like the following, we can see what happens sometimes when FROM doesn't work:

2. Neal's new home was much smaller (from, than) he wanted it to be.

Here, FROM doesn't make any sense. Surely you wouldn't say, "Neal's new home was much smaller FROM he wanted it to be." (You could, of course, add the word "what" after "smaller" and everything would change.) :-)

Okay, so this begs the question: What's the easiest way to keep all of this straight?

Answer: Just avoid using THAN. Use FROM and for all practical purposes, you'll be right nearly all the time. Anytime you have doubts, think of the suggestions offered here and use some good ole common sense when using FROM if it sounds awkward -- just use THAN if it comes before a clause (only).

Well, I hope this has been a help and, since it's about time to close up shop, let me wish y'all a wonderful week. Study your grammar rules,and keep the great ideas coming in. They will be the subjects of future lessons. Peace and Happiness, GG

Sunday, September 16, 2007

23. Pronouns as Indirect Objects

Hey, Y'all! I hope you've had a wonderful week and are as happy as a toad frog under the drip of a house. Around here in Columbus County, we finally got a little bit of rain, although it was NOT a fence lifter...more like a dry weather shower. Maybe soon...

Now back to some more lessons to help you with grammar problems. Today's focus is the third on pronouns used in the objective case, INDIRECT OBJECTS. Our first lesson discussed pronouns used as OBJECTS of PREPOSITIONS and last week's lesson discussed pronouns used as DIRECT OBJECTS.

But first, a quick review:

I hope you all now remember that objective case pronouns look like this:



I...HE...SHE...WE...THEY...WHO...and WHOEVER. These are called nominative case pronouns and we will look at them a little more closely soon.

Now, though, let's concentrate on objective pronouns since we have such a tough time with them.

In our last two lessons, we first reviewed pronouns used as OBJECTS OF PREPOSITIONS. Remember that the object of a preposition is part of a prepositional phrase. In the often mentioned sentence, "The airplane went _________ the cloud," many of the words that would fit into the blank are prepositions and all prepositions have an object. In this sentence, the object is "cloud". Hence, "_______the cloud" is the prepositional phrase. What we were concentrating on here, though, was NOT an object of a preposition as a NOUN, but one used as a PRONOUN. Here are some examples of prepositional phrases with pronouns as the objects:

...for ME (not I)...through Sherwood and HIM (not he) Becky and HER (not she), ...around the team and US (not we)...over the pitcher and THEM (not they)...

...and I can scarcely bear to mention this killer of English teacher sanity...between you and ME ( NOT I)..aargh...puh-leeze...NOT...!!!

Secondly, we also reviewed pronouns used as DIRECT OBJECTS. Direct objects answer "What?"or "Whom?" to the subject and verb and are nouns or pronouns. Here are some examples:

George threw the ball. George threw WHAT? "ball" is the answer, so "ball" is the direct object. Now this sentence uses a NOUN as the direct object, and this type of use is not difficult at all. It's when the PRONOUN is needed for a direct object... boy, oh, boy, do we have a problem! Here are some examples for you to peruse. Read on...

Martha joined Andrea and (I, me) at the crash up derby. Martha joined... WHOM? Andrea and ME (NOT I), because we must use the objective form of the pronoun when the word in question is used as a direct object, and that's exactly what it's doing here. Here's another:

We watched Kevin and (he, him) in the music video. We watched ...WHOM? Kevin and HIM (NOT he), because, again, we must use the objective form of the pronoun when the word in question is used as a direct object, and that's what we have here.

...So, now, all of this brings us to today's lesson. You will see just how important what you've already learned is when we begin this one, since it's imperative that you understand what a DIRECT OBJECT is in order to determine what an INDIRECT OBJECT is.

In its simplest definition, an INDIRECT OBJECT answers the question "to whom?" or "for whom?" to the subject and verb or "to what?" or "for what?" after an action verb. Only sentences with DIRECT OBJECTS can have an INDIRECT OBJECT. (However, interestingly enough, DIRECT OBJECTS don't require INDIRECT OBJECTS.) INDIRECT OBJECTS are usually nouns and pronouns and will ALWAYS come between the verb and the DIRECT OBJECT and NEVER after a preposition. Let's look at some examples:

Steve bought Judy and (I,me) some lunch.

Okay, how do we figure this one out? First, choose the subject and verb. Here, the subject is STEVE and the verb is BOUGHT. Next, check to see if there's a DIRECT OBJECT in the sentence by asking yourself the DIRECT OBJECT questions :

Steve bought...WHAT? or WHOM? Is there an answer? Yes, indeed...and that thing or person is LUNCH, which makes LUNCH the DIRECT OBJECT, and, which, by the way, is also a noun. (Incidentally, if you thought that the WHOM? question was answered by the compound JUDY AND ME, look at the sense of the sentence. How could Steve "buy" two people. Come on, Y'all, I don't think people are for sale! What he paid money for was LUNCH. He wasn't buying two people.)

Now, how do INDIRECT OBJECTS fit in? First, say the subject, verb, and DIRECT OBJECT to yourself and then ask the "to whom?'',"for whom?", "to what?", or "for what?" questions.

Steve (subject)...bought (verb)... WHAT? or WHOM?... lunch..TO WHOM? or FOR WHOM? etc. ...and, of course, you see that you have an answer.

Steve bought lunch FOR WHOM? The compound Judy and ME answers the question so ME becomes the INDIRECT OBJECT. Judy and I is wrong, wrong, wrong!!! Since the pronoun must be in objective case, ME must be used, NOT I. Remember that ME is objective case and I is nominative case.

Try a few on your own.

1. Engineers gave many students and (we, us) enough awards to fill a banquet hall.

2. Trish gives little Larry and (he, him) her full attention.

3. Stuart brought Polly and (she, her) a delicious piece of pig pickin' cake from the party.

4. Uncle Bill offered Walter and (I, me) another piece of watermelon.

5. Our church granted Lucas and (I, me) permission to use the Fellowship Hall Monday evening to organize a Scout meeting.

So, were these easy? I surely hope so. Here are the answers and why they are:

1. Engineers (subject) gave (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...awards...TO WHOM? FOR WHOM? (etc.)...students and US (NOT WE).

2. Trish (subject) gives (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?... attention...TO WHOM? FOR WHOM? (etc.) ...Larry and HIM (NOT HE).

3. Stuart (subject)... brought (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...cake...TO WHOM?...FOR WHOM? (etc.)...Polly and HER (NOT SHE).

4. Uncle Bill (subject)...offered (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...watermelon...TO WHOM?...FOR WHOM? (etc.) Walter and ME (NOT I).

5. (subject)...granted (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...permission...TO WHOM?...FOR WHOM? (etc.) Lucas and ME (NOT I).

Just remember that an INDIRECT OBJECT must have a DIRECT OBJECT to be in a sentence. If you'll ask the questions to determine both DIRECT and INDIRECT OBJECTS, choosing the correct pronoun will make you happier than a clam at high tide, because you'll know what to say--correctly!

Well, that's it for today, Everybody. Thanks for visiting and to many of you for passing on some good ideas for future lessons. There are lots of you out there greatly bothered by some of these grammar errors, and I'll do my best to address them all! Have a wonderful week and much happiness to you all, GG

Monday, September 10, 2007

22. Prounouns as Direct Objects

Hey, Everbody! I hope you're all having a great week and that you're impressing your friends and family with your grammar know-how. Welcome back to a new lesson.

Today we will continue looking at the objective use of pronouns. Last time we discussed another very common mistake--using the wrong pronoun when the pronoun in question is the OBJECT of a PREPOSITION.

Today, we'll be taking a look at pronouns as something different, DIRECT OBJECTS.

First, however, let's review what a DIRECT OBJECT is. As we discussed in an earlier lesson, DIRECT OBJECTS are always nouns or pronouns and simply answer " What?" or "Whom?" to the subject and verb of a sentence.

Here's an example sentence:

Alvin watched the ship come in to shore.

In this sentence, ALVIN is the subject, and WATCHED is the verb. Next, all you need to do is ask the questions "What?" or "Whom?" If there is an answer, that noun or pronoun becomes the DIRECT OBJECT.

ALVIN WATCHED "What?" or "Whom?"... Ah, ha! There's NOT an answer to "Whom?", but there IS to "What?" and that answer is SHIP. It's also a noun, making SHIP the DIRECT OBJECT.

Let's try another:

Jan helped Mary Anne clear the table.

In this sentence, JAN is the subject, and HELPED is the verb. Now ask the "What?" or "Whom?" questions again. Once more, an answer will make the word a DIRECT OBJECT.

JAN WATCHED "What?" or "Whom?" ...Yes, indeed! MARY ANNE answers the question "Whom?" here and it's also a noun. Therefore, MARY ANNE becomes the DIRECT OBJECT.

Pretty easy, huh? I'm going to assume you are eagerly nodding "yes". However, in these two sentences, both of the DIRECT OBJECTS are NOUNS--not PRONOUNS...and this is where the problem comes in. Way too many times, we want to use the wrong case of pronouns, especially when a DIRECT OBJECT is compound in a sentence.

First, remember this: These are the objective case pronouns: ME...HIM...HER...US...THEM...WHOM...and WHOMEVER.

The subjective case pronouns that we often confuse with the objective case pronouns are these: I..HE...HER...WE...THEY...WHO...and WHOEVER. We'll study more about the subjective pronouns later. Just remember that, for now, we're concentrating on objective pronouns.

Here's, unfortunately, what we see and hear too much:

Bill joined Butch and I at the dinner table....Aargh! This use is dead wrong! Please notice why.

Pick out the subject and verb. BILL is the subject and JOINED is the verb. Now ask the DIRECT OBJECT questions.

BILL joined "What?" There's no answer.

Bill joined "Whom?" All right! Now we have an answer...the pronoun should be the answer (but is it I or ME?)

All you have to do now is remember that if the "What?"or "Whom?" question has an answer, use the objective form--ME, not I.

Of course, you can, once again, as stated last time, try the trick for leaving out the compound part. That is, read the sentence to yourself and leave out the "...and Butch" part. I surely hope you wouldn't say, "Bill joined I at the dinner table." Please make my day and say you would say, "Bill joined ME at the dinner table."

Now, try a few on your own.

1. The principal told Louise and (we, us) about the new attendance policy.

2. Our seniors nominated Martin and (I, me) for class treasurer.

3. Joe warned Stuart and (he,him) that playing hookey from school was about as dumb as trying to sneak daylight past a rooster.

4. Tom's tennis serve challenged Martin and (she, her).

5. Sandra likes Mary and (I,me) very much.

How did you do? In all of these sentences, the objective forms of the pronouns should be used, because all of them are used as DIRECT OBJECTS.

1. ...principal told...What? or Whom? US

2. ...seniors nominated...What? or Whom? ME
3. Joe warned...What? or Whom? HIM

4. ...serve challenged...What? or Whom? HER

5. Sandra likes...What? or Whom? ME

Okay, Everybody. I hope this has helped some. If you read the last lesson, I'm sure you're beginning to see a pattern with these objective forms. If so, that's great! This will help you apply your knowledge to other examples that may puzzle you.

Next time, we'll take a look at the final of three types of problems with objective case.

Thanks for visiting, and remember that I'd love to hear from you with suggestions for future topics. Have a great week. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, September 2, 2007

21. Pronouns as Objects of Prepositions

Hello, again, Friends, and welcome back to the Grammar Guide. Once again, I have heard another one of my colleagues mention a problem that bothers her, and one that is very annoying to me, as well. As a matter of fact, just this past week, I heard a TV commercial with the voice - over announcer saying, "This cereal is the very best for you and I." GRRRRR. What's going on here? Whatever happened to learning the little rule about omitting the "you and" and THEN reading the sentence to yourself? With this technique, you will naturally hear what the right answer should be!

All right. So let's give this frequently seen problem a look and see if we can clear up the confusion.

Technically, grammar rules tell us that the objective form of a pronoun is used as the object of a preposition. Now, the only problem with this is that if you don't remember what objective pronouns are or what the object of a preposition is, reading a rule like this is about as useful as a trap door on a rowboat.

So, first, let's take a look at objective pronouns. You will notice that there are only six of them that change form, depending on whether you need nominative
or objective case. YOU and IT don't change. (We'll get to nominative case later.)

ME..........HIM.........HER.........US.........THEM........ WHOM....... and...WHOMEVER.

These are the pronouns to use when the word in question is either a direct object, indirect object, or object of a preposition. (Notice how the word OBJECT is a part of each phrase.) Our focus today, however, is NOT on the direct object use or on the indirect object use, but only on the OBJECT of a PREPOSITION use since this one seems to give us the most trouble.

Now for those of you who have been regularly visiting the Grammar Guide, you may remember that we had a discussion already about prepositions in the second lesson, "Behind the Preposition AT". For a quick review, I'll just mention that old standard example sentence,

The airplane flew ____________ the cloud.

Many, many words that fit into the blank above are prepositions: over, between, under, in, through, around, at, to, toward, against, beside, etc. Simply put, prepositions show a relationship between words.

Now, what about prepositional PHRASES? One interesting thing to remember is that prepositions don't stand alone . (If you ever see a word such as those listed above standing alone, the word is NOT a preposition anymore--it has changed into an adverb. Example:

Come NEAR. Your perfume smells delicious! (NEAR is simply an adverb, telling WHERE, something adverbs do.)

This kind of use, however, doesn't happen nearly as much as one like this:

Come NEAR the STOVE and see how the butter beans taste. (Here, NEAR becomes the preposition and STOVE is the object. The entire phrase is called the prepositional phrase.)

Now that you know what prepositions and their phrases are, we'll move on to today's problem.

How do we determine which object of the preposition is correct when the objects are COMPOUND PRONOUNS? Example:

The note tacked on the door was for Kate and (I, me).

Notice that FOR precedes the compound parts: ... Kate and (I, me). This should be a clear signal to you that the correct answer is being used as the object of a preposition. That means we must use the objective case pronoun, so ME is the correct answer. (Remember the list above with the six correct objective pronouns?) Try another:

A terrible argument broke out BETWEEN Kim and (he, him). Again, BETWEEN is a preposition, so there's your signal that the correct word must be in objective case since the word in question is the object of the preposition. Hence, HIM is correct.

Try a few on your own:

1. The baseball flew over the head of the pitcher and (they, them).

2. Chicken bog is one of the best meals available according to our friends and (we, us).

3. For Pat, Elsie, and (she, her), this was a first at gigging frogs.

In sentence 1, OF is the signal word alerting you that you have a prepositional phrase with THEY or THEM as the object. The correct answer must, of course, be THEM since it is the objective form of the pronoun.

In sentence 2, ACCORDING TO is called a compound preposition, and works the same way a one- word preposition does, but if you notice the little word TO , you also have another signal that we have a prepositional phrase, requiring the objective form of the pronoun, US.

In sentence 3, FOR is the signal word alerting you that you have a prepositional phrase and its object is either SHE or HER. Since objects of prepositions can only be in objective case, HER is correct.

Finally, if all else fails, just do what I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson: Read the sentence to yourself (or silently think it through), saying each of the given possible answers alone without the compound part. For example:

The baseball flew over the head of THEM. (Leave out "...the pitcher and...") See how this sounds right?

Chicken bog is one of the best meals available according to US. (Leave out "... our friends and...")

For HER, this was her first time gigging frogs. (Leave out "...Pat, Elsie, and...)

While it is VERY true that we can't always listen to what SOUNDS right, this is one time when we can. Woo, Woo! Be thankful for small blessings :-)

So, that about does it for today. I hope this is all nice and clear to you and that you will never use the wrong pronoun again. Have a good week and many happy days to you. Peace and happiness. GG

Sunday, August 26, 2007

20. Subject - Verb Agreement - Part III (Compound Subjects)

Hello, all of you Grammar Stars. I hope you've had a great week and are now ready to tackle some more problems we have with Subject - Verb Agreement.

As stated in the first two lessons we did on this topic, it is very important that you know what the subject of a sentence is if you are trying to figure out which verb is correct. In those lessons, however, we only discussed SINGULAR subjects requiring SINGULAR verbs and PLURAL subjects requiring PLURAL verbs. Today we'll take a look at COMPOUND subjects and discuss how they can require either SINGULAR or PLURAL VERBS.

Quick Review:

Remember that the subject of a sentence is simply what or who the sentence is about and it (or they) will be a noun (s) or pronoun(s). Verbs simply tell something about the subject, show action, or indicate a state of being.

Now in our earlier examples, we tried to determine which verbs were correct in sentences such as these:

1. Johnny (love, loves) pig pickings more than anybody in Whiteville, I believe.

In this sentence, JOHNNY is who the sentence is about and it's a noun, so it's the subject. JOHNNY is also one person, so the subject is SINGULAR, which means that the verb must also be SINGULAR. Therefore, since LOVES is singular, LOVES is the correct verb to use.

2. The football players (is, are) hot when they practice outside in August.

Here, PLAYERS is who the sentence is about, and it's a noun, so it is, therefore, the subject. PLAYERS is also more than one person, so the subject is PLURAL this time, requiring a PLURAL verb. As a result, ARE is the correct verb since it is PLURAL.

Okay. So now let's add another facet of Subject - Verb Agreement.

What happens when the subject of a sentence is compound? Now I'm sure you know that the word COMPOUND means MORE THAN ONE. So... here we are referring to sentences that have two or more subjects joined by the little conjunction AND.

Here are some examples:

1. Oil AND natural gas ARE are the most common heating fuels in the United States.

The subjects of this sentence are the COMPOUND words OIL and GAS. Because we are speaking of two things joined by AND, we need to use the PLURAL form of the verb which is ARE, not IS.

2. Butch, Mack, and Paul SWIM in Lake Waccamaw every time they get a chance.

The subjects of this sentence are the COMPOUND words BUTCH, MACK, and PAUL, and since all three names joined by AND make up the subject and also make it PLURAL, the verb must also be PLURAL. Therefore, SWIM is the correct verb form because it is also PLURAL.

But what happens when COMPOUND subjects are joined not by AND, but by OR or NOR (often seen as NEITHER...NOR or EITHER...OR)? In this case, the verb agrees with the subject NEARER the verb.

Notice these examples:

3. Neither the son nor his parents SPEAK highly of their next door neighbor.

The COMPOUND subjects are SON or his PARENTS, but the first subject is singular (SON) and the second subject(PARENTS) is plural, What to do? Because the SECOND subject is PLURAL, the verb must also be PLURAL. Hence, (SPEAK, not SPEAKS, is correct.)

4. Either the Senators or the Governor usually ATTENDS official events in Raleigh.

This time we have the opposite example. The COMPOUND subjects are SENATORS or the GOVERNOR, but here the second subject(GOVERNOR)is SINGULAR. Even though the first subject is PLURAL (SENATORS), the correct verb is the SINGULAR verb ATTENDS because it must agree with the second subject, GOVERNOR.

For our final look at Compound Subjects, we'll discuss two little words and a word phrase that you should become very familiar with:

EACH...EVERY...and MANY A...

This rule is pretty straightforward, but lots of folks have trouble with it. Here's what you should remember:

Use a SINGULAR verb with any subject that is preceded by EACH, EVERY and MANY A. Just keep in mind one very important thing. No matter how many people, places, or things your subject is about, don't use a PLURAL verb if EACH, EVERY, or MANY A comes in front of the subject.

Here are some examples:

5. Each county in North Carolina HAS its own local government.

Yes, there are 100 counties in North Carolina, but because EACH precedes COUNTY (the subject), the SINGULAR verb must be used (HAS), not the PLURAL verb HAVE.

6. Many a person TRIES to dance, but not all enjoy it.

There may be millions of people who try this, but because MANY A precedes PERSON (the subject), the SINGULAR verb must be used (TRIES), not the PLURAL verb (TRY).

7. Every student in our school HOPES to graduate with his class.

There may be hundreds of students in this school, but because EVERY precedes STUDENT (the subject), the SINGULAR verb must be used (HOPES), not HOPE.

Well, there you have it! I hope all of this makes sense to you and that you're using the very best English you can. Drop me a line sometime and have a wonderful week. Peace and happiness, GG

Saturday, August 18, 2007

19. Mispronounciation Madness- Part I (UNDOUBTEDLY and MRS.)

Hey, all of you Grammar guys and gals once again! I hope you're all enjoying yourself and becoming better speakers and users of the Southern version of the language of our ancestors every day. Keep practicing on those rules that have given you trouble and soon you'll be impressing all of your friends.

Today, we'll take a look at a few words commonly heard around Columbus County that are mispronounced much TOO MUCH! If you've never heard them mispronounced, I'm going to guess you're new to our area. Never fear, the first time will come. Let's see if we can clear up the problems with just a little effort. These are easy.

1. The first one of these words is the word "UNDOUBTEDLY".

Now as you can see, the word ends with "...eDly", not "...eBly".

Here's a common way this word is used:

"Buster undoubteBly felt sick after eating five cat head biscuits with butter and molasses."

Obviously, you can see (and I hope hear) that the word is NOT undoubteBly, but undoubteDly.

If you've ever fallen into the trap of mispronouncing this one, PUH -- LEEZE say you won't ever do it again! If a poor English teacher hears it, he or she might have a major ear shut down.

2. The second of today's commonly mispronounced words is "MRS."

Lots of folks have no problem correctly pronouncing this, which should sound like this: "MIZ - IZ", or even "MIZ" as we Southerners like to shorten it. Both are correct. Really! Some, though, pronounce "MRS." as follows:

"MIZ - RIZ."

Oh, the horror! Please remember that the "R" is silent in this word, so MIZ-RIZ is NEVER correct!!

We hear this a lot. Here's a typical sentence where this error might appear:

"George was so ugly Mrs. Jones had to borrow a baby to take to church."

We just need to remember that we are not speaking of MIZ-RIZ Jones, but MIZ - IZ Jones.

Ok, Everyone -- and I hope this is all nice and cleared up. You won't make these errors again now, will you?

Have a wonderful week and much peace and happiness to you all. I'd love to hear from you! GG

Sunday, August 12, 2007

18. The Irregardless Imposter

Hey Y'all! I hope all of you are doing well and practicing becoming Grammar Stars.

Today's lesson will be nice and short! Some of the earlier ones I've done have been pretty lengthy but couldn't be helped, so I'm going to try to focus on some other rules that aren't so long. (Hey, I want you to come back!) We'll cover some of the ones needing more explanation eventually, but now for something brief... :-)

Have you ever heard anyone say something like this:

"Grace takes her orange pocketbook with her everywhere, IRREGARDLESS of the color of her clothes" ?

Whoa! This sentence is using a word that is not in our language--IRREGARDLESS.

The prefix IR and the suffix LESS are both negatives, so to use both of them in one word is to make the word a double negative. Remember when an earlier lesson discussed double negatives? At that time, you learned that using double negatives in a sentence is incorrect. We discussed the error in writing or saying such things as, "I don't have no reason to go outside when it's 105 degrees in the shade." In this sentence, using both DON'T and NO in the same sentence constitutes using double negatives, so, of course, this is an incorrect usage.

Now, while it's true that in the example sentence, IRREGARDLESS is not a SENTENCE with double negatives, but a WORD with double negatives, the rule still stands. Double negatives just aren't acceptable unless you mean to make the sentence or word positive, and I don't believe the first sentence means that Grace takes her orange pocketbook with her everywhere because she DOES care whether her clothes match her orange pocketbook. Likewise, the speaker in the second sentence surely doesn't actually mean that he DOES have a good reason to go outside when it's 105 degrees in the shade! Just think about what makes sense and you'll be fine.

Therefore, NEVER use the word IRREGARDLESS! There's just no such word in English!

Your sentences should sound (and look) like this:

REGARDLESS of the rain, Bobby jogs from the courthouse to the depot every morning... or...

Mrs. White sang louder and more off-key than anyone else in the church choir, REGARDLESS of the pained expressions on the faces of the congregation... or ...

REGARDLESS of being hungry enough to eat the south end of a north bound skunk, Henry waited on his sister to come to the table.

So, there you have it. Just never say or use IRREGARDLESS. Today's lesson is a shorty. How great it would be if all of our English rules could be this easy!
Have a great week and be happy. Peace, GG

Sunday, August 5, 2007

17. The Annoying A Words--A LOT, ALL RIGHT, ASK

Hello Grammar Bloggers once again! I hope you've had a great week and that you're continuing to work on improving any little grammar problems you may have had that we have covered. Practice and you'll soon be the grammar expert in your circle of friends. :-)

Because my last blog was pretty long (and couldn't be helped since LIE and LAY can be complicated), you're going to be able to enjoy a nice short lesson today. Nevertheless, "short" doesn't mean "unimportant". Mercifully, we do have some fairly short and to the point rules and today we'll take a look at three of them:

Three of the most common usage errors we often see deal with the words A LOT (not alot), ALL RIGHT (not alright), and the mispronunciation of ASK.

(1) Simply, there is no such word in our language as ALOT! Never! This error is a nonstandard form and should be avoided always. We do, however, see many, many people write A LOT as one word (alot) , but now you know that doing this is a major boo boo. When you mean a great number of things, use A LOT-- two separate words. Actually, A LOT is overused quite a bit and should be replaced with more specific information whenever possible.

Here's an example:
Ronald has helped his friends A LOT. (You're not seeing the two words together--separate them!)

However, the better sentence would be
Ronald has often helped his friends by sharing his tomatoes with them.

(2) Again, as with ALOT, the word ALRIGHT is a nonstandard form of English and should be deleted from your writing. This problem is seen everywhere-- in published books, newspapers, pamplets, and just about anywhere we see the written word . What are the editors of these publications thinking?

When you mean "everything is correct", use the two words separately--ALL RIGHT (not alright). Here are some examples:

We kids were ALL RIGHT. (Not alright)
Is it ALL RIGHT with you if we come directly? (Not alright)
I'm ALL RIGHT with watching that TV program. (Not alright)

(3) The final mistake has become increasingly common, although this one is strictly a pronunciation error -- saying AX/AXE for ASK.

Just turn on your TV or listen to people all over the place and you'll hear things such as

"Libby AXED him if he would lend her a pencil..." or

" Let me AXE her where she's going..."

Granted, it's probably easier to say AXE than ASK, but that doesn't mean you should do it. If we keep on AXING people the way we're doing it now, we're all going to end up a bunch of murderers on death row.

Well, that's it for today, Y'all! I hope you'll jump on this lesson like a hawk on a bitty. Enjoy your week and do let me hear from you when you need a grammar question answered. Peace and happiness to you all, GG

Sunday, July 29, 2007

16. LIE or LAY--What Do You Say?

Hey, Everybody! I hope you're all doing well and continuing to enjoy these long (hot) summer days. Thankfully, the frog strangler I hoped for last time finally appeared! Did we ever need it! More would be all right, too. :-)

Today's lesson will attempt to address a problem many grammarians say is the toughest one in our language and I'll have to say that I'm in complete agreement--at least my experience supports that. Let's see if we can get these verbs straight once and for all. There honestly is an easy way to figure it out and if you use this method, you should be fine and never make a mistake again.

The verbs LIE and LAY (and some of their forms) seem to give people trouble--big time! So what is the problem and why is this so? There are several possibilities and I'll go through them-- one step at a time--hoping things will be clarified for you.

First, let me remind you about something you already know: Verbs have many tenses and forms. What this means is that, depending on the tense, person, and number, verbs often change form. For example, in present tense, you know that the verb WALK would be conjugated the following way:

I walk (1st person)
you walk (2nd person)
he, she, it walks (3rd person)

we walk (1st person)
you walk (2nd person)
they walk (3rd person)

Here, only the 3rd person singular verb changes (S on the end of WALK) while the other five remain WALK. However, if you continued to conjugate this verb in past tense, future tense, etc., you would be adding "ed" and other words, such as SHALL, WILL, HAD, HAVE, and even ING in the progressive form. Now don't let this confuse you--only remember here that verbs change forms sometime!

Okay, so now let's take a look at the verb LIE. There are two very important things to remember about this verb:

(1) LIE (and all of its forms) means "to rest or to recline". This means not only people and animals, but anything.

A newspaper LIES on the floor. (not LAYS)
A coat LIES on the chair. (not LAYS)
A truck LIES on its side. (not LAYS)
The leaves (LIE) on the ground. (not LAY UNLESS you're using past tense)

See how many times you've heard (or said?) this incorrectly? When you're trying to decide whether to use LIE or LAY (or one of its forms), ask yourself, "What does the word in question --LIE or LAY--mean?" If it means" resting or reclining", then use LIE (1st and 2nd person singular or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person plural, present tense) , LIES (3rd person singular, present tense), LAY (past tense), or LYING (progressive form).

Right here, I have to interrupt this lesson to call something to your attention that may have contributed to your confusion with LIE. Did you notice that the past tense of LIE is LAY? This is not the same LAY as the next verb we're going to study. Unfortunately, LAY here is not only the past tense of LIE, but it's also another verb with completely different forms in number, person, and tense. AARGH!! If only our forefathers had "invented" another past tense word for LIE! No wonder this is so tough! Don't worry, though. Just keep in mind the first rule above and ask yourself what the verb in question means --"rest or recline". If "rest or recline" is what is meant in the sentence, then use a form of LIE.

(2) The other very important thing to remember about LIE (and all of its forms) is that there is no direct object following LIE in any of its forms.

Do you remember what direct objects are? They are simply nouns or pronouns that answer the questions "What?" or "Whom?" after the subject and verb in a sentence.

Here are some examples:

John threw the ball.

"John" is the subject and "threw" is the verb. Now say the subject and verb to yourself and then ask the questions "What?" or "Whom?". If you have an answer that is a noun or pronoun, then you have a direct object in the sentence.

John threw what? "Ball" is the answer and it's a noun, so "ball" is the direct object.

Now, notice this sentence:

Susie lies out in the sun every weekend.

"Susie" is the subject and "lies" (not lays) is the present tense form of the verb.

Why? Try the direct object test:

Susie lies what? This doesn't make sense -- there's no answer to that. Some folks might think the answer is that she wants to lie in the sun... but remember that the direct object must be a noun or pronoun--not a group of words as seen in this sentence. Also lying in the sun doesn't answer "What?" but "Where?"

Next, let's take a look at LAY. Fortunately, we don't seem to have quite as much trouble with LAY and its forms as we do with LIE and its forms, but problems do crop up sometimes, so we'll review this also. Just as it is true with LIE, there are two very important things to keep in mind about LAY:

(1) LAY (and all of its forms) means "to put or place" something. It always names the thing that is put somewhere.

Please LAY the book on the table. (Not LIE)
Did you LAY the strawberries on the counter. (Not LIE)
I'm LAYING your News Reporter here so you can read it. (Not LYING)
I LAID your jacket on the bed. (Not LAY)

Again, if you're in doubt about which form of LIE or LAY is correct, ask yourself what the word in question means in the sentence. If it means "putting or placing something", a form of LAY is correct, and the actual verb LAY should be used in 1st and 2nd person singular and 1st, 2nd and 3rd plural, present tense or one of its other forms, such as LAYS (3rd person singular, present tense), LAID (past tense) and LAYING (progressive form).

(2) LAY (and all of its forms) always takes a direct object. Remember to ask "what?" or "whom?" after saying the subject and verb and if you have a noun or pronoun answer, then a form of LAY is the correct verb to use. Notice this example:

Did you LAY the straw where I wanted it?

"You" is the subject and "Did lay" is the verb. Now try the direct object test.

You did lay "What?" or "Whom?" Yes! There's an answer to "what?" and that answer is "straw", so you'd be correct to use a form of LAY, which in this case is LAY (not LIE). Try one more:

She LAID the baby next to the kitten for the photograph.

"She" is the subject and "laid" is the verb. Again, try the direct object test.

She laid what or whom? Yes, once more, an answer! This time the answer is "baby", so using LAID (not LAY) is correct.

So how are you doing? Ready to try a few sentences on your own? Here goes...

(1) Lake Waccamaw (lies, lays) in the heart of Columbus County, NC.
(2) The leaves have (lain, laid) in their yard for months.
(3) We have been (lying, laying) on this beach for four hours.
(4) The mail (lay, laid) on the dining room table.
(5) Grandma (lay, laid) her cares aside after hearing the good news about her grandson.

I hope this wasn't too tough. Here are the answers and explanations.

(1) " lies" is correct because it it is a present tense form of the verb LIE and means (in this case) "resting or reclining." Now, this might sound strange, but remember that in this context, not only people and animals do this--everything else does, too. The other reason is that there is no direct object in this sentence. LAKE WACCAMAW LIES "what?" or "whom?" makes no sense. There is no answer to the question.

(2) "lain" is correct because it is the past participle form of the verb LIE and means "resting or reclining." Once again, there is no direct object in the sentence. LEAVES HAVE LAIN "what?" or "whom?" makes no sense. There is no answer.

(3) "lying" is correct because it is the present participle form of the verb LIE and means "resting or reclining," and, as before, there's no direct object in the sentence. WE HAVE BEEN LYING "what?" or "whom?" makes no sense. There's no answer.

(4) "lay" is correct because it is the past tense form of the verb LIE and means "resting or reclining," and, again, there is no direct object in the sentence. THE MAIL LAY "what?" or "whom?" makes no sense. There's also no answer to the question.

(5) "laid" is correct because it is the past participle form of LAY and means "putting or placing something," and there is (finally!) a direct object. GRANDMA LAID "what?" or "whom?" This time there is an answer--"cares."

Wow! This has been a long lesson, and I'll have to admit that I've been worried I might lose some of you, but in case you're still here, I hope things have been clarified somewhat.

Here's it all in a peanut shell:

(1) Use LIE and its forms when the meaning in the sentence is "resting or reclining" and there's NO direct object

(2) Use LAY and its forms when the meaning in the sentence is "putting or placing something" and there IS a direct object.

By the way, the verb LIE meaning "to tell an untruth or fib" has nothing to do with the LIE in this lesson. As a matter of fact, some of the principal parts of this LIE are also different. They are LIE, LYING, LIED, AND LIED.

Practice thinking about the rules we've looked at today and you'll have this down pat faster than a knife fight in a phone booth. Also, do me a big favor and remember that you don't LAY out to get a suntan, you LIE out to get one. It's true!! Let me know if another practice on these verbs would be helpful.

Take care this week and enjoy all the good things life has to offer. Peace and happiness, GG

Monday, July 23, 2007

15. The Fewer-Less Mess

Hey, Grammar Bloggers! How are you all doing in this sizzling heat? What we need around here in Columbus County right now is a real frog strangler, but, so far, no luck.

Okay, to help pass the time today we'll take a look at a grammar problem suggested by one of my former English students (and a very good one at that!) who is also an English major. One of his pet peeves is the misuse of FEWER and LESS, especially seen in grocery store signs advertising items for sale, but most certainly not exclusively there.

So what is the problem with these two adjectives? It seems that FEWER and LESS are often used interchangeably when they should not be. Here's a very simple way to get this straight once and for all:

Simply put, FEWER should be used when you are referring to nouns that can be counted or that name a number of SEPARATE objects and are PLURAL. An example is shown here:

Buy FEWER apples than you did last week. (It would be easy to count the apples--whether there are two or twenty, so FEWER is correct. Also notice that apples are separate objects and they are referred to in the PLURAL form.)

LESS should be used when you are referring to nouns that cannot be counted easily or that name a WHOLE collection, quantity, or group and are referred to in the SINGULAR form. An example of this use is shown here:

We cooked LESS rice last night than we did the night before. (Here, counting the rice would be pretty hard to do. We are referring to a WHOLE "quantity" of rice and notice that the word RICE is SINGULAR.)

Pretty easy, huh? Let's see how well you do with the following sentences:

(1) The rent was (fewer, less) than $400.

(2) Grandpa tells (fewer, less) funny stories than Grandma.

(3) Our new neighborhood has (fewer, less) children than our old one had.

(4) My lawn has (fewer, less) weeds now than it had last summer.

(5) My new car cost me (fewer, less) money than my neighbor's car cost him.

The correct answers are

(1) less
(2) fewer
(3) fewer
(4) fewer
(5) less

In sentences 1 and 5, LESS is correct because the rent and money are being referred to as a group or quantity, and both nouns are SINGULAR.

In sentences 2,3, and 4 the opposite is happening. The stories, children, and weeds can be counted, (although it's true that it might be a little difficult to count the weeds--especially in my yard). Notice, though, that all three nouns are plural. Therefore, the correct answer is FEWER. This is a great way to double check the use if you have any questions.

Okay, I'm signing off for today. Enjoy your week and thanks a bunch for visiting. GG

Sunday, July 15, 2007

14. The Wacky Wasn't - Weren't Error

The Wacky Wasn't/Weren't Error

Hello, Everybody! I hope you've all had a great week and have been able to relax and enjoy the summertime. Have you noticed any grammar errors on signs, in newspapers, on TV, and from people you've heard speaking? I'd love to hear about them. (No names, please!) Maddeningly, for me, a day doesn't go by without some mistake rearing its ugly little head! Since I've been writing this blog, I'm amazed to hear from so many people that feel as I do. We can do better! And nearly everyone has pet peeves about our language.'s lesson will address one I used to hear in school all the time! I don't know if this is mainly a Columbus County boo-boo, but it surely is heard around here enough to belong to us.

Groan...What's up with the misuse of WASN'T and WEREN'T? Here's the kind of thing I've heard way too many times:

Lewis WEREN'T going to the lake today unless Ann went with him.

I WEREN'T the only one who failed that test.

It WEREN'T me who wrecked that car!

Now, please tell me that none of you would ever say anything like these examples!!

What's going on in these sentences is that one of the wrong past tense forms of the verb "to be" (WEREn't) is being used instead of the correct one (WASn't). By the way, for some reason, this problem doesn't seem to appear very much unless the negative part of these words--the n't--is added. ( For example, it's rare to hear someone say, "Lewis WERE going to the lake today unless Ann went with him." Whew...Thank goodness.) The verb "to be" is probably the most irregular verb in our language and we do have lots of different kinds of trouble with it. However, for now, we're going to focus only on this part of the problem.

This is all you need to know: Just remember that the use of WEREn't is only correct when it is used with 2nd person singular and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural subjects. Now for anyone out there who may have forgotten what this means, just think about conjugating verbs. Did you ever do that in school?

The conjugation of verbs simply means the arrangement of verbs by tenses, number, gender, case, etc. Here, we mean tense, number, and gender. If you've ever studied a foreign language, you've very likely been introduced to this, since being able to conjugate a verb can be an important part of learning the language. Nevertheless, if you haven't studied a new language, never problem. Let me show you.

Here's the conjugation of the verb TO BE in the past tense:


I was (first person)

You were (second person)

He, She, It was (third person)


We were (first person)

You were (second person)

They were (third person)

Did you notice that WERE is shown only beside "You" (second person singular), "We" (first person plural), "You" (second person plural), and "They" (third person plural)? Now how does this relate to the three sentences above? In the conjugation, only PRONOUNS are used, but they "stand for" the subject that the verb agrees with in the sentence. the first sentence, "he" would stand for "Lewis." You can see that "he" is third person singular, so the correct verb is not WERE, but WAS. (Or WASN'T in this case.) Incidentally, this is the only time when the gender issue applies -- if a female or "it" is the subject, both would also use WAS.

In the second sentence, "I" (the pronoun) is actually used, so you can see above that only WASn't is correct (first person singular)

In the third sentence, "It" is, again, third person singular, so WASn't is correct. I must say here that this example sentence is not a good one at all because there is no antecedent for "It" in the sentence -- that is, there's no word that stands for "It." The sentence would be much more agreeable if it read "I'm not the one who wrecked that car," but because this error is heard so often in conversation, I have reluctantly included it. Try your best to avoid this type of weak sentence, but if you must say this, at least get the verb right! Use WASn't!! Thank you.

I hope you all have a great week! Thanks again for visiting. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, July 8, 2007

13. The Bring/Take Confusion

Hey, Y'all... Once again, I hope you're all doing well and enjoying those delicious veggies and fruits that are coming in from the garden right about now. There's nothing like our Southern corn, tomatoes, butter beans, field peas, strawberries, watermelons, blueberries, peaches, boiled peanuts, etc. Ah, joy!

Now, after that reminder that we live in a blessed locale, we'll tackle today's lesson. This one has been inspired by a former colleague of mine, another English teacher, who suggested that we address one of her pet grammar peeves heard all the time: The misuse of BRING and TAKE.

These two verbs shouldn't be much of a problem for any of you if you'll just keep a few thoughts in mind:

First, let's begin with the definition of each word. BRING simply means "motion TOWARD someone or some place." If you can associate COME with BRING, use BRING--COME to the picnic and BRING some fried chicken.

TAKE means "motion AWAY FROM someone or some place." If you can associate GO with TAKE, use TAKE -- GO home and TAKE your loud-mouthed friends with you.

In other words, just ask yourself which way something is moving. Is it COMING or GOING? If it's COMING, someone's BRINGING it. If it's GOING, someone's TAKING it.

Now sometimes you can get into a foggy area where you're not sure which one of these two verbs should be used. The best way to determine which word is correct depends on your perspective--on which end of the journey you're talking about, the ORIGIN or the DESTINATION. For example, say you have been invited to a friend's home for dinner. "What should I BRING?" you ask your friend. "BRING dessert," she answers. In this case, both you and your friend are speaking of the dessert at its point of DESTINATION. A few minutes later, you ask your brother, "What kind of dessert should I TAKE?" Your brother says, "TAKE peach cobbler." Now you are both speaking of the dessert from its point of ORIGIN.

For a little practice, try the following sentences to see how well you understand these rules:

1. In the afternoon Shirley Jo will (bring, take) the children to the exhibit.

2. (Bring, Take) your bathing suit with you to the beach.

3. Bill wanted his wife, Samantha, to (bring, take) him his bedroom shoes.

4. Samantha told him to (bring, take) them himself.

5. You should (bring, take) that extra watermelon to our next door neighbors.

Okay, I'm hoping this was pretty easy. Sentences number 1 and 5 should be TAKE. (Think "moving away from" or "going.")

Sentences 2,3,and 4 should be BRING. (Think "moving TOWARD" or "COMING TOWARD.")

So, how did you do? Pretty easy, I hope. The misuse of these two little verbs can be very annoying, so be careful and be sure you know which one is correct to use. Maybe if more of us use them correctly, we can influence others -- including some newscasters, speakers, and anyone else who (especially) speaks to us through the media.

See you next time and let me know about more of your pet grammar peeves. Meanwhile, enjoy the scrumptious bounty from our fields! Have a great week. GG

Monday, July 2, 2007

12. Hanging Around

Hey, Y'all! I hope you're all enjoying your summer! While you're "hanging around" the beach, pool, or enjoying a vacation to some exotic locale, keep in mind today's topic--one that we seem to hear quite a bit. Which past tense verb is correct to use: HANGED or HUNG? This one really shouldn't be difficult at all if you'll just keep a couple of things in mind.

First, though, try these sentences to see if you know the difference between the two uses:

1. The criminal was (hanged, hung) at high noon.

2. The mourners (hanged, hung) a weath on the family's door.

3. The mob (hanged, hung) its enemy in effigy.

4. My boyfriend got mad and (hanged, hung) up on me.

5. Robert (hanged, hung) out with his friends all weekend.

So, how did you do? HANGED is correct in only two sentences: 1 and 3. HUNG is correct in 2, 4, and 5. Now, as you may know, the main problem we seem to have with these two past tense verbs is illustrated in the use of HANGED in sentences 1 and 3. We often misuse this verb and use HUNG instead.

Here's all you need to remember: The verb HANG has two correct past tenses: HANGED and HUNG. The only time you need to worry about using HANGED is when the sentence is referring to THE EXECUTION OF A PERSON OR PERSONS . When you use HUNG, you are generally referring to the placement or suspension of an object on a wall, ceiling, hook, or elsewhere.

Therefore, except at the gallows, HUNG is the correct past tense of HANG: He HUNG loose...HUNG out...HUNG around...HUNG laundry, etc.

I hope you see how easy this one is! Enjoy your week and thanks for visiting. GG

Sunday, June 24, 2007

11. Signing Names and Names on Signs

What's up, all you Grammar Bloggers? I hope you've all had a great week and are enjoying doing just what makes you happiest!

Our topic today addresses a question I received several weeks ago, and now I'm finally having a chance to respond.

How do you sign your family name on a Christmas card, sympathy card, birthday card, etc.? Should it simply be "The Browns" or "The Brown's"? Should it be "The Stocks" or "The Stocks'"? And what about signs or plaques you might want to place in your yard or on your house to identify your family name? Would this work the same way as signing a card?

This problem is actually pretty simple to overcome if you'll think it through. First, try to remember some of the things we've already discussed in this blog, and one of them is the apostrophe. Since apostrophes are a part of today's topic, perhaps a quick review of them would be helpful. The APOSTROPHE can be used two ways:

(1) to show the omission of a letter or letters:

cannot-can't, will not- won't, does not-doesn't, and many, many more.

Now, you can certainly see that using an apostrophe in "The Brown's" would make no sense in this context (on a card or sign). No words have been left out, and that's a clear indication that an apostrophe should not be used.

Another way APOSTROPHES are used is

(2) to show possession:

the trunk's size, Justin's camera, Shannon's art, Grace's dignity, and lots of others.

Here, by placing the apostrophe after the name and then before the "item" or "thing" being "possessed", you are indicating that this "item" or "thing" belongs to the person or thing. It is THIS part of the apostrophe rule that we'll need today.

Okay and now to today's topic. If you have a sign or plaque outside of your home that you want to use to identify your family, the correct thing to do is to have it printed the following way IF THE NAME DOES NOT SHOW POSSESSION (or a noun does not follow the family name on the sign ):

If your family name DOES NOT end in an S, simply add an S: The Smiths, The Bowers, The Wards, The Grays, The Crutchfields...(well, you get the idea). This is all you need. After all, you're probably indicating that more than one Smith lives in the home, so the name must be made plural by adding an S to the end. NO APOSTROPHES NEEDED! (If only one person lives in the home, however, the S would be a matter of personal choice as to whether the name should be singular or plural. For example, if a widow or widower lived alone in a home once occupied by his/her spouse and children, he or she might still prefer to maintain that a family of three, four, etc. once lived there. Perfectly okay!)

Now, if there is another noun AFTER the name on the sign, then using the S and THEN the apostrophe is correct. For example:

Welcome to the Turners' Home, ...the Powells' Cottage,...the Scotts' Home..., etc.

Remember that apostrophes in this use show possession--and that's exactly what you're saying. The Turners "possess" this home, etc.

Sometimes folks are confused about names that end in S. Again, if you're planning to have a sign or plaque outside your home and your name ends in S, just go right ahead and spell your name as you normally do. Then place an "es" after the s. The sign would simply say

The Stockses, The Hookses, The Markses, The Dickenses...and so on. Looks a little strange, but that's the rule. If you don't like this, you could just put Stocks, Hooks, Marks, and Dickens and leave off "The". Your choice.

If, however, you will be using the possessive form--such as placing a noun after the name ending with an S on a sign, then you'll have to do it differently. In this case, you would need to determine if the name has one or more syllables. If the name has only one syllable, then you would place an apostrophe and an S after the name. The name would look like this:

Welcome to the Stocks's Cottage..the Hooks's Home...the Marks's...etc.

If the name ending in S has two or more syllables, then you still place an apostrophe after the name, but omit the S. For example:

Welcome to the Dickenses' Home...the Lewises' Home...the Hankinses' Home...etc.

And, finally, what about signing those cards? It's close to the info. above. Just sign your name and make it plural by adding an S (if it doesn't already have an S on the end), such as The Princes, The Whites, the Halls, the Highs, etc. NO APOSTROPHES NEEDED!

If your name does end in an S, just place "es" on the end of the name. The number of syllables don't matter in this instance. For example, The Joneses, The Soleses, The Morrisses, etc. If you think your name sounds too strange written this way and, it's true--some sure do, just opt out to signing the card "The Walter Edmonds Family". Nothing's wrong with this way!

Well, another blog is ready for you! I hope this all makes sense. Please ask questions if you need a little more explanation.

Have a wonderful week and many wishes for to you for love, happiness, and peace. GG

Sunday, June 17, 2007

10. Subject-Verb Agreement-Part II (Words Between Subjects and Verbs)

Hey, Everybody, and I hope you're all enjoying summer and our Southern heat. Let's all give a shout-out to air conditioners! In today's blog, we'll go back to the topic introduced in our next-to-last blog on Subject-Verb Agreement. In that earlier blog, we discussed the importance of having subjects and verbs in sentences agree in number with each other. In other words, if the subject is singular, then the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must also be plural. Simple enough, huh? Don't I wish!

Now, here is another one of the problems we seem to have with agreement when other words come between the subject and verb -- especially prepositional phrases.

*A quick review: Prepositional phrases are groups of words WITHOUT a subject and verb. These phrases contain a preposition, its objects, and any modifiers of the object in the phrase. Remember the earlier blog about our need to stop placing "at" on the end of sentences? As we discussed that blog, I gave you the little example sentence about the airplane going " ________ the cloud", and said that any word that fit into the blank was a preposition (over, under, into, through, at, near, etc.).

Now, notice the two words that followed the blank: "... the cloud." When you place an object with modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) after the preposition, you have a prepositional phrase.

Other examples of prepositional phrases include "in the house," "of the beach," "until the rooster crows," "between the winner and the loser," "at home," "in the bed," and many, many more. Sometimes, you may even see two or three prepositional phrases side by side: A thick fog swirled around me and over the top of the building.

In this sentence, there are THREE prepositional phrases: "around me," "over the top," and "of the building." It's very important that you can identify prepositional phrases since, generally, they DO NOT AFFECT THE NUMBER OF THE SUBJECT OF A SENTENCE. (We will discuss some exceptions later, but for now, just concentrate on these most common errors.) Many times, people try to make the verb agree with the object of the preposition and not with the subject. Another important thing to remember: Watch out for prepositions that look a little different from the standard prepositions mentioned above: "according to," "along with", "as well as", "together with," and "with." These are also prepositions, so be careful not to think their objects are the subjects in sentences.

Here are some examples to try:

(1) The lawyers in the public defender's office (has, have) excellent credentials.

The right answer is "have" because the subject of the sentence is "lawyers" -- a plural subject. Therefore, the verb must be plural, too. "Has" is singular. If you thought "office" was the subject, a singular noun, then you might have chosen the singular verb, "has", which is wrong. The object of the preposition "in" is "office," but it is not the subject.

(2)Religious ritual, as well as secular celebrations, (mark, marks) the change of seasons in many cultures.

Here, the right answer is "marks" because the subject of the sentence is "ritual" -- a singular subject. Therefore the verbs must be singular, too. The verb "mark" is plural. (Remember the weird fact that in English, we place an "s" on many VERBS to make them singular, and drop the "s" to make many VERBS plural? This is the opposite of how we make some NOUNS singular and plural.) The object of the preposition "as well as" is "celebrations," but it is not the subject.

(3) My sister Rachel's knowledge of teaching strategies (amaze, amazes) nearly everyone.

In this sentence, the subject is "knowledge," which is singular. As a result, the correct verb should be "amazes" -- also singular. By choosing "strategies" (plural) as the subject, you might think that "amaze" is the correct verb, but not so. Since "strategies" is the object of the preposition "of," it is not the subject.

A good idea: Practice searching for the SUBJECTS of sentences, and then determine if the subject is SINGULAR or PLURAL. If it is singular, then the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must be plural. Actually, knowing the correct subjects and verbs of all sentences will pay off big time as you work toward being a Grammar Star! Many problems we deal with can be more easily managed if you know some of these very basic elements of grammar.

Thanks again for visiting and let me know if you have any questions. Have a wonderful (and cool) week! GG

Sunday, June 10, 2007

9. The MYSELF Mistake

Hey, y'all; I hope you've all had a happy, peaceful week.

I promised last time to do Part II of Subject-Verb Agreement, but, because I've heard another grammar problem so much lately, I've decided to postpone the Subject-Verb Part II lesson one more week and address another maddeningly common problem today.

What's up with the growing misuse of "Myself?" I don't recall seeing this problem nearly so much in the past as I see it now...and plenty of folks who should know better -- on TV, in movies, in speeches, etc. -- seem to have adopted this usage as the accepted and correct thing to say. Puh-leeze!! No way! Stay with me and I'll show you what I mean.

Here are examples of some common mistakes with "Myself:"

(1) Josh and MYSELF repaired the copy machine.
(2) Jane drove Sherry and MYSELF to the movies.
(3) The tomato garden was designed by Madison and MYSELF.

Okay, so why is the use of MYSELF wrong in these three sentences? The answer is that MYSELF is a REFLEXIVE PRONOUN, and REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS always refer to someone already mentioned previously or anticipated in the same sentence. An important word to know in this context is the word ANTECEDENT. In other words, the pronoun in question must have an antecedent in the same sentence if MYSELF is to be be used correctly. Also, these antecedents will be either a noun or pronoun. Generally speaking, most people who make this mistake aren't sure if they should use I or Me, so they avoid that confusion by choosing to use MYSELF, which, of course, is always wrong.

To clarify more, look at sentence #1. There is no antecedent for MYSELF. We know that Josh is mentioned, but who is MYSELF? There must be another noun or pronoun in the sentence that MYSELF stands for in order to use MYSELF, but there is not one. For this reason, the correct pronoun to use is "I". One possible example of a way to show how this WOULD work using MYSELF would be to say

I repaired the copy machine myself.

Now we have an antecedent for MYSELF -- "I" means the same thing as MYSELF, so MYSELF is correct (although the meaning has changed).

In Sentence #2, there is, again, no antecedent for MYSELF. Neither Jane nor Sherry means the same thing as MYSELF in that sentence, so MYSELF is wrong. The correct pronoun to use is ME. One possible way to write a similar sentence using MYSELF correctly would be to say something like

I drove Jane and Sherry to the movies MYSELF.

Now, again, we have an antecedent for MYSELF -- "I" means the same thing as MYSELF, so the correct answer is MYSELF. (Once more, the meaning is changed.)

In sentence #3, we once again have no antecedent for MYSELF. Certainly, Madison and MYSELF do not mean the same person in the context of the sentence. The correct answer is ME. Another similar sentence which, one more time, changes the meaning of the sentence could be

I MYSELF designed the tomato garden. (It's perfectly okay to have the subject pronoun and the reflexive pronouns together as in this sentence.)

Now, some of you are probably curious about the other reflexive pronouns that you studied in school Yes, there are others: ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, and themselves. These pronouns, however, do not seem to give nearly as much trouble as MYSELF. Go figure. Anyway, they work essentially the same way the MYSELF pronoun works:

During the Boston Tea Party, the colonists disguised THEMSELVES as Indians. (Colonists=THEMSELVES)
Theseus HIMSELF found the way out of the maze. (Theseus=HIMSELF)
After the meal we brewed herbal tea for OURSELVES. (we=OURSELVES)
She wants to go by HERSELF. (She=HERSELF)
You call yourself a plumber? (You=YOURSELF)

Note: PLEASE NOTICE THAT YOU DO NOT SEE HISSELF OR THEIRSELVES IN THAT LIST ANYWHERE. THERE ARE NO SUCH (acceptable) WORDS IN OUR LANGUAGE!! If you've been in the habit of saying either of these last two, PLEASE try to erase them from your vocabulary and make us English teachers happy ! :-)

This lesson has focused on one aspect of pronouns, but, as you will see, pronouns, along with verbs, create probably more difficulties than any of the other six parts of speech put together! As a matter of fact, there are six different kinds of pronouns, and each is used in different ways and has different forms. What a language we have! Nevertheless, it's ours and we don't want to lose its versatility and beauty, so we'll plug away at the things that are a little more confusing and hope we'll master them all! Incidentally, some details about these reflexive pronouns that I have not gone into depth about include the importance of knowing parts of speech and pronoun case, but I think that with the above information, you will probably be just fine. We'll have to touch on some of these other things eventually, but, for now, I'm trying not to overload you too much.

Thanks so much for visiting again, and have a wonderful week. I love hearing from you, so do write.

Peace and much happiness, GG