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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Prefixes and Suffixes

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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A Midsummer’s Musing on Miscellany

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

Our regular readers might note that our study of American English periodically includes smaller but still noteworthy items we collect from research and reader correspondence. It's been several months since our last musings on miscellany, so we thought we'd return for more as we approach midsummer 2020. (To review miscellany from the past two years, …

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Detaining the Double Negative

Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, at 11:00 pm

We recently reviewed how negative constructions both serve English expression and muddy it more than positive constructions will. Another aspect of English negation that deserves a closer look is the double negative. To convey something is incorrect or untrue, English offers words such as no, not, nothing, barely, scarcely, and hardly, as well as terms with cancelling prefixes such as improbable and …

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Adjectives and Adverbs: Another Look at -ly

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Those who study English grammar will eventually review the adverbial ending -ly. GrammarBook last wrote about Adjectives and Adverbs: When to use -ly in October 2007; the post has remained on our website since then to offer guidance on using the suffix. More than eleven years later, however, we—and you too, perhaps—still often encounter misuse of the ending. For …

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Notwithstanding, Can We Withstand Confusion of Meaning?

Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Developing a rich vocabulary through the reading and writing of English adds color to our thoughts, our speech, and our lives. Through a growing lexicon, we convey and connect to others with clearer intention and meaning using greater precision and eloquence. We also sharpen our ability to see relationships among words by understanding their roots, …

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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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More Mulling Over Miscellany

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A few weeks ago we explored some English miscellany, linguistic bits perhaps too small for full and separate treatment yet still worthy of a closer look. Much of the miscellany to consider comes from you, our faithful, thoughtful readers. In our last article, we referred to such items as fireflies in a jar. Today we’ll …

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Orwell and Newspeak

Posted on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, at 11:00 pm

It’s not just professors and snobs who deplore the decline of English. The great essayist and novelist George Orwell (1903-50) had much to say about the corruption of language—and how it enables tyranny. The warning was clear: a distracted populace with diminished reading, writing, and speaking skills is vulnerable. Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, is …

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Making Sense of Morphemes

Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A GrammarBook.com reader recently wrote to us with a question about the use of morphemes in American English. We thought this was a good opportunity to review the subject in further understanding the structure and parts of our language. Language, like matter, can be broken down from its largest to its smallest components. The five …

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A _____ Walks Into a Bar

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at 11:00 pm

The phrase A ______ walks into a bar has provided the take-off point for an uncountable number of jokes over the years. No matter what one’s opinion is of bars, we hope that everyone can appreciate the lessons in English grammar contained in the clever sentences that follow: A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying …

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Putting Out the Patrol for Made-Up Words

Posted on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, at 2:15 pm

Estimates of English’s total word count vary, but linguists agree the number ranks near the top of the world’s vocabularies. A May GrammarBook newsletter article cited English as having as many as 300,000 distinctly usable words. With so many residents in a vernacular, impostors posing as real words are bound to slip in. They start as mistakes …

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The Elusive En Dash

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 3:40 pm

When a compound adjective precedes a noun it is describing, we often need a hyphen: prize-winning recipe, twentieth-century literature. If a compound adjective comprises more than two words, we use as many hyphens as are needed: a three-day-old newspaper, a dyed-in-the-wool snob. But try to punctuate the compound adjectives in these phrases: a New York based artist, a …

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Don’t Dis Disinterested

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at 1:10 pm

We recently heard from a reader who defended using disinterested to mean “uninterested.” To most language mavens, this amounts to high treason. The sticklers insist that disinterested can only mean “impartial, unbiased”: you’d want a disinterested judge at your trial—an uninterested judge would just want to go home. Our correspondent made two compelling arguments. His first was pragmatic: countless people nowadays …

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Adjectives and Adverbs: When to Use -ly

Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2007, at 11:09 pm

Do you wonder when to add -ly to a word? For example, should you say, “He speaks slow” or “He speaks slowly.” Let’s find out. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns. They may come before the word they describe: “That is a cute puppy.” Adjectives may also follow the word they describe: “That puppy is cute.” …

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