Category: Possessives

Their, There, and They’re—What’s the Difference?

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2021, at 9:00 am

One of the hardest things to master in English is the difference among three very similar words: their, there, and they're. Because these words have similar spellings and nearly identical pronunciations, they tend to be commonly misused. Learning to put each one in its correct place is a great way to write more clearly. Or, …

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Is It Masters Degree or Master’s Degree?

Posted on Monday, March 8, 2021, at 9:00 am

Many may wonder whether to add an apostrophe to master's degree, something than can confuse even those with a highly advanced education in working with words. We will address a few facets concerning this term, including apostrophes, possessive use, and capitalization. Do You Use an Apostrophe When Spelling Master's Degree? The most direct answer is …

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Expressing Possession of Gerunds

Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, at 11:00 pm

A gerund is the present participle (-ing) form of a verb functioning as a noun in a sentence. Example: He responded by laughing. (The gerund "laughing" is the noun object of the preposition "by.") A gerund phrase is a gerund plus another element such as an adverb, an adjective, or a noun. Example: Saving money …

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Expressing Possession Greater Than One

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Communicating joint ownership can be a grammatical no-man’s land for many of us. Whether we were listening, speaking, or writing, we’ve probably found ourselves with statements similar to these: Chuck and Joe’s vacation resorts are in South America. Chuck’s and his vacation resorts are in South America. Theirs and Marla’s meetings are on Tuesday. Marla …

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Clearing the Air of Errors in English

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at 11:00 pm

The adage is true when it comes to our language: Old habits really are hard to break. Notwithstanding classroom instruction, lifelong reminders, correction from others, and even GrammarBook newsletters, certain misuses of English survive like drug-resistant viruses. Yet we grammarians and linguists march on. After all, even the Roman Empire had to give way—eventually. As …

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Picking Proper Pronouns: Part II

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Last week we began our review of using pronouns that help guide rather than trip our written eloquence. We started with pronouns as clause subjects, for objects, before assertive or attributive expressions, and after than or as.  Today we’ll look at pronouns before a gerund, for an infinitive, and for complements of forms of the …

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Picking Proper Pronouns: Part I

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Many of us have been there before: We're writing or speaking with confidence in our content. For a secret second, we might even feel, well, educated. Then, unbeknownst to us, improper pronouns leak in and sabotage the impression we were making. Worse yet, we may not know how or why our eloquence tripped. Using the …

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How Did They Get In Here?

Posted on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Writers today have problems keeping their sentences internally consistent. This is especially true of print journalists. Because of staff cutbacks at financially challenged newspapers, many articles are proofread hastily, if at all. Combine that with the shocking decline in Americans’ English language skills over the last fifty years or so and you get sentences unworthy …

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Predicating Our Knowledge of Predicates

Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, at 11:00 pm

A thorough review of English structure includes understanding subjects and predicates in broader terms. While the concepts of subjects and predicates in their totality may not be as commonly taught as they once were, a brief study will both reinforce our facility as writers and grammarians and further acquaint us with grammatical terminology. Today, we’ll focus on the predicate, the engine of the …

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Declining or Just Changing?

Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 11:00 pm

If you think you know your English, Ammon Shea’s Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation might make you question your most cherished notions. The book has a lot to offer grammar sticklers with open minds, but it will challenge—and enrage—most traditionalists. People who care about language tend to deplore the slovenly habits of their …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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What Is a Gerund and Why Care?

Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, at 11:00 pm

What is a gerund and why do you need to know? Maybe it would be better to answer the second part of the question first so that you have some motivation to identify gerunds. If you are able to pick the gerund(s) out in your sentence, you will avoid a grammar gaffe that often goes …

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Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due

Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 11:00 pm

America prizes its holidays and other days of distinction. Whether for federal, state, civic, or religious observance, we have a slew of causes for commemoration. In the grammatical world, designated days have stature and so receive proper-noun treatment. At the same time, confusion can still seep in over style. For example, do we write Thanksgiving …

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Confusing Possessives Revisited

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at 11:00 pm

As the second Sunday in May approaches, many of you may be wondering how to write the name of the holiday—is it Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day, or Mothers Day? We first looked into the topic of where to properly place holiday apostrophes in a 2008 newsletter. Today we provide an update. The Chicago Manual of …

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Plurals and Possessive Apostrophes with Names Ending in s, ch, or z

Posted on Thursday, September 7, 2017, at 8:02 pm

Some topics in American English grammar may require repeat visits and discussions, mainly because they can remain elusive even after practice, review, and application. One of those topics is how to form the plural and possessive forms of names ending in s, ch, or z. Most of us are likely comfortable with creating the plural …

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