Category: Subject and Verb Agreement

We the People, or…?

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 11:00 pm

For much of the last two months, we have been analyzing why the subject pronouns I, he, she, we, they and the object pronouns me, him, her, us, them are chronically misused and confused. In this final installment, we'll deal with flawed sentences like Politicians should respect we the people and It's a happy outcome …

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The Subjunctive Mood

Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 11:00 pm

An e-newsletter fan came across this sentence: If I were very lucky, I would get the chance to go. She asked, "Shouldn't I be followed by was, not were, since I is singular?" This type of question is common within English grammar, particularly because it walks the line between the conditional tense and the subjunctive mood. The difference lies in that the subjunctive …

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Exchanging English Over the Pond: U.S. and U.K. Part III

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, at 11:00 pm

We hope you’re enjoying our exploration of U.S. and U.K. English as much as we are. Part I and Part II of our series looked at variations in spelling and word choice between the dialects. Our review continues with a closer look at American and Commonwealth grammar. Prepositions Different phrasing involving prepositions between U.S. and …

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Sweating the Small Stuff

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at 11:00 pm

At a football game a few years ago, the University of Notre Dame sold soda in cups that said, "Figthing Irish." Did no one at this distinguished school have the time or pride to proofread a two-word slogan? Here are a few other items we've seen and now wish we hadn't … Back to Basics  …

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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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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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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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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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Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structures: Part Two

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

Understanding sentence structures helps us shape the art of good writing. In Part One of our discussion, we identified the four foundational sentence constructions and reviewed the first two, simple and compound sentences. We’ll next look at complex and compound-complex sentences. Complex Sentence A complex sentence has one independent main clause and at least one dependent clause, …

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What Does vs. What Do

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

Should we say, "What does Gloria and I have in common?" or "What do Gloria and I have in common?" If you turn the question around to place the subjects first, you would say, "Gloria and I does/do have what in common." Gloria and I are the subjects so we need a plural verb. Which …

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