Category: Singular vs. Plural

Plural and Possessive Forms with Names Ending in y or i

Posted on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, at 11:00 pm

How do you form the plural of a proper noun that ends in y such as Murphy? Should you change the name to Murphies? Given how other English words ending in y form their plurals, you would think so. Examples: puppy / puppies army / armies supply / supplies However, proper nouns are not pluralized …

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2019’s Word of the Year is Inclusive, Not Divisive

Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Have you heard that Merriam-Webster chose the word they as the "Word of the Year"? And that it was chosen as the "Word of the Decade" by the American Dialect Society? We are not surprised. You probably recall that we ran three articles in July-August 2019 discussing the singular they (How Did They Get in …

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Year-End Quiz 2019

Posted on Tuesday, January 7, 2020, at 11:00 pm

What fun it has been completing another twelve-month trip in our always-running grammatical journey. The year 2019 led us through both familiar and exotic terrain as we considered more of the many parts driving our language. In particular we are grateful for the continuing desire to learn among you, our faithful readers. Your interest and …

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Christmas ‘Log Review

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

Every year, for six weeks or so, I get a taste of what it's like to be a superstar. From late October to early December, I am accosted daily by an aggressive mob of stalkers who know where I live. Their urgent need for my attention seems to be their only reason for being. No, …

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Singular They Part III

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Thank you to the many readers who commented thoughtfully on both How Did They Get in Here? (July 3, 2019) and How Can They Be Singular? (July 31, 2019). Today we'll wind up our discussion of the singular they, including modern arguments for its use. When we ran this series in 2015, we received little …

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How Can They Be Singular?

Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at 11:00 pm

The title of our first newsletter this month was How Did They Get In Here? That article looked at careless mismatches of the normally plural pronoun they with a singular antecedent. We suggested simple fixes. But there is more depth to this topic, and in today's newsletter we'll explore the singular they a little further. In two weeks we'll wind up, at least …

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Drawing the Subject Out of Hiding

Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, at 11:00 pm

We typically know what a sentence subject is and where to find it: Mary baked the cake. The train left on time. Baseball games are long. Those with a keen eye—as well as those who have read our rules on subject-verb agreement—will also spot the subjects in the following sentences (and understand why the verbs …

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More on “More Ear-itating Word Abuse”

Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Last month we reran More Ear-itating Word Abuse by our late writer Tom Stern. The article first appeared in August 2013. We heard from many readers, and their comments were just about evenly split between: For years I've hated hearing people mispronounce these words. Thank you for shining a spotlight on this subject. and You …

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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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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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A Real Feather-Ruffler

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Up until the late eighteenth century, Brits spoke with an American accent. So says the noted language scholar Patricia T. O’Conner. The “English” accent as we know it didn’t develop until the late 1700s. That’s when British snobs started doing things like dropping r’s, adding and subtracting h’s, saying “pahst” instead of “past,” and “sec-ra-tree” and “mill-a-tree” …

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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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Staying on Target with Ranges

Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Writing often brings us to spots in sentences where we need to convey the extent of something, such as locations, distances, or durations. Most of these constructions will include between or from. The question then becomes how to be grammatically correct in connecting the range being specified. For example, we wish to communicate where to find a bakery, …

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Clarifying the Conditional Tense

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at 11:00 pm

The conditional tense—also sometimes referred to as the conditional mood—communicates what happens, will happen, might have happened, or would have happened if we do, will do, or did do something. The situation described can be real or imaginary; in either case, an action relies on something else (a condition). For that reason, most English sentences …

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