Meghan JonesUpdated: Jul. 30, 2021
The English language can be seriously perplexing. These 20 rules even boggle the minds of grammarians. Find out which ones you're using wrong, how to fix them, and which ones you can get away with ignoring.
“Me” vs. “I”
This is one rule you probably heard starting back in elementary school. If you uttered, “Me and Mike went to the store,” you probably heard someone admonish, “MikeandI!”The problem with that, though, is that many people end up over-correcting. Though “Mike and I went to the store” is right, in some sentences, itiscorrect to use “me”—it depends on whether the first-person pronoun is a subject or an object. Here’s an easy way to know: Take out the other person, and see if “me” or “I” makes sense. “Me went to the store” is incorrect, but “My mom met me at the store” is perfectly fine. So it’s grammatically correct to say “My mom met me and my dad at the store,”not“my dad and I.”
“It’s” vs. “its”
Use the wrong form of “its,” “there,” or “your,” andyou’re(a contraction of “you are”) sure to have the grammar police wagtheir(the possessive form of “they”) fingers at you. But we do have to admit, when it comes to “it’s” vs. “its,” the confusion is easy to understand. In virtually every other situation, an apostrophe indicates possession. Bob’s car. Lisa’s house. Reader’s Digest. But when it comes to “it,” the possessive form is the formwithoutthe apostrophe. “The rabbit crawled intoits burrow” is the correct use.In the case of “it’s,” the apostrophe means the word is a contraction of “it is.” It serves the same function as the apostrophe in “won’t” or “shouldn’t.” Find out some grammar myths your English teacher lied to you about.
Who vs. whom
Boiled down, this rule is simple. “Who” refers to the subject of a sentence or clause, while “whom” refers to the object. But when you actually get down to using the two words in a sentence, that’s when things get dicey. You would ask, “Who went shopping with you?” since “Who” is the subject. But you could also ask, “With whom did you go shopping?” since “You” is the subject.Grammarly recommends a tip that should help you figure it out, if you’re truly determined to. Substitute the “who/whom” pronoun with “he/him” or “she/her,” rearranging the sentence if necessary. “Shewent shopping with you” (“who”), but “You went shopping withher” (“whom”).
From “goose/geese” to “mouse/mice” to “foot/feet,” English is full of plural forms that leave even native speakers scratching their heads. And for some words, the plural form of the word is exactly the same as the singular form. Consider “deer,” “sheep,” and even “aircraft.” In the case of “aircraft,” it may be because the word “craft,” as in a vessel, originated as an “elliptical expression.” This means that it used to be a longer phrase and the scythes of time removed some words. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the old expression may have been something like “vessels of small craft.” “Deer,” though confusing, is pretty tame compared to thesehilarious irregular plurals you won’t believe are real.
British vs. American spellings
Even within the single language of English, we’re not guaranteed standardized spelling. Or, rather, “standardised,” as people on the other side of the pond usually spell it! The fact that there are British and American spellings of different words is a bane of linguists and study-abroaders in English-speaking countries. For the different spellings, we can thank those pesky American revolutionaries. In 1789, Noah Webster of Webster’s Dictionary fame spearheaded the push toward “American” variations on some words. For the most part, the alterations of the words involved removing “superfluous” letterslike the U in “colour” and the final “-me” in “programme.” Learn more about why Brits and Americans spell words like “color” differently.
Ending sentences with prepositions
This is one rule that grammar sticklers love to argue about. (See what we did there?) Because the word “preposition” derives from a Latin word meaning “to place before,” some insist that prepositions should always go before their prepositional objects. However, while that’s true in Latin grammar, dictionary.com claims that“EnglishgrammarisdifferentfromLatingrammar,andtheruledoesnotfitEnglish.” The sentence, “This is one rule about which grammar sticklers love to argue,” just doesn’t flow the way “…love to argue about” does. And yet, the debate rages on.Here are some more grammar rules it’s probably safe to ignore.
“Good” or “well”?
The big quandary with this one is that “good” is primarily an adjective (though it could be a noun), and “well” is an adverb. When people say, “I’m doing good,” they’re using “good” as an adverb to modify the verb “doing.” Technically, “I’m doing well” is the correct phrase, and “I’m doing good” actually means that you’re doing good deeds like a superhero. But, if you’re not hung up on being correct, it’s not worth it to stress about it—people will almost definitely know what you mean! There’s nothing “funner” than this debate on grammar!
“Badly” or “bad”?
Less hotly debated than “good” vs. “well,” but equally confusing, is its moral counterpart: bad. Whether you “feel bad” about something as in feeling sorry or remorseful, or “feel bad” as in feeling sick or unpleasant, it should be “bad,” not “badly.” The confusing part about this, though, is that “badly” is also an adverb. But, simply because of the different usages of the verb “feel,” the only time “I feel badly” would be completely correct is if you were using “feel” to mean physically discern something by touch. If your hand is numb because you slept on your arm weird, you might feel badly. Here’s another rule, though, where context clues will almost definitely ensure that people know what you mean, regardless of whether you’re using the phrase correctly.
Apostrophes on words ending with S
Is “I went to Lucas’ for dinner” or “I went to Lucas’s for dinner” correct? Grammarians are divided, but the Oxford Living Dictionaries suggest this rule: Add an apostrophe and an S, as in the latter example, when you would actually pronounce the additional S while saying the sentence out loud. This extra S business gets even more confusing when the word ending with S is also plural. In that case, add an “-es” to the end and throw the apostrophe at the very end: “The Joneses’ car was blocking my driveway.” Here are more ways you’re still using apostrophes wrong.
“Could care less”
“I couldn’t care less” means exactly that. You care so little that you could not care any less. Not so confusing! Whatisconfusing about this one is the fact that people seem to think that “could care less” means the same thing, when it’s really the exact opposite. According to Grammar Girl, “The phrase ‘I couldn’t care less’ originated in Britain and made its way to the United States in the 1950s. The phrase ‘I could care less’ appeared in the U.S. about a decade later.”Harvard professor Stephen Pinker has suggested that people started saying “I could care less” sarcastically, meaning that they actuallycouldn’tcare less, and that this version of the expression—without the intentional sarcasm—stuck.
When to capitalize
You know to always capitalize proper nouns like names, but the lines get a little blurry with things like titles and locations. When you’re talking about the eastern United States, do you need to capitalize the E in “eastern”? You don’t, because you’re using “eastern” as an adjective. However, in the case of “the East Coast,” you should capitalize the E because the word “east” is part of the noun phrase. Yup, it’s enough to smoke your head for sure! The rules are pretty nuanced when it comes to different types of words. To see if you’re doing it right, check out this list of words you never knew needed to be capitalized.
Abbreviations with seemingly random letters
The English language is rife with abbreviations that just don’t seem to make sense. Why does the abbreviation for “number” have an “O,” for instance? And where did wordsmiths get “lbs” from “pounds”? But in most cases, thereisa linguistic explanation, usually having to do with an earlier spelling or meaning of the word. For instance, in the case of “Mrs.” and its seemingly random “R,” that abbreviation used to be short for the word “mistress,” as in the feminine equivalent of “master,”not “missus.” Over time, the connotations of “mistress” changed, but the spelling of “Mrs.” didn’t. By the way, here’s the difference between acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms.
“E.g” vs. “i.e.”
Speaking of abbreviations, what the heck are these two short for, and why are they so similar? Well, wonder no more. “E.g.” is short for the Latin expressionexempli gratia,which means “for example.” So “e.g.” is the expression you should use before providing an example or examples: “I like all of the common Thanksgiving foods, e.g., stuffing, turkey, and cranberry sauce.” Many people use “i.e.” in this context, though, while “i.e.” means something completely different. “I.e.” stands forid est, or “that is.” Use “i.e.” when you’re trying to explain or clarify something you just said: “I’ll get back to you soon, i.e., before the end of the week.”
Some style guides insist upon it; some don’t. A teeny comma has caused more than its share of debates in the grammar world. What it is, exactly, is the comma that goes before the last item in a sequence. Consider: “At the store, I bought apples, pears, bananas, and blueberries.” Does that comma after “bananas” need to be there or not? Sometimes itisnecessary to preserve the meaning of the sentence, as in, “I love my friends, chocolate and rock music.” Chances are, chocolate and rock music are not the friends you were referring to, so a comma after “chocolate” is a grammatical must. But, in the fruit example, it doesn’t change the meaning, so some grammarians argue that the “and” serves the same function as the Oxford comma, and the comma isn’t needed. The Oxford comma is just one of manycommon spelling and grammar rules no one can agree on.
“Which” vs. “that”
“Which” and “that” are both relative pronouns, meaning that they begin an independent clause and connect it to a dependent clause. Essentially, they serve the same grammatical purpose, so people use them interchangeably. But…should they? According to the rules, “which” should only be used with a comma, while “that” should be reserved for comma-free clauses that are essential to the meaning of the sentence. Consider: “I liked the cookies that Isabel made better than the store-bought ones,” vs. “We ate the cookies, which Isabel made, in less than five minutes.” But, in truth, this is some deep-cut grammar pedantic-ness, and people don’t really tend to strictly adhere to it.
Seriously, English—why don’t “though” and “through” rhyme?! Why is the O pronounced differently in “comb” and “bomb”? Or “plow” and “slow”? (This hilarious poem explores even more examples, in rhyme, no less!) The English alphabet only has 26 letters, but each of those letters may have up to seven different pronunciations. And don’t get us started on the words that you’re supposed to pronounce differently in different cases. For instance, you’re technically supposed to be pronouncing “the” like “thee” when the next word starts with a vowel sound. But if you don’t take that into account every time you say “the”—which is, after all, the most common word in English—we certainly won’t fault you for it! Here are 12 more grammatical errors even smart people make.
Adding confusion to the matter of letters with multiple pronunciations is the fact that sometimes, letters are there, but you don’t pronounce them at all! Why does “island” have an S? What is the purpose of the K in “know”? And whyis there a G in “phlegm”?In many cases, the silent letters are present because the pronunciation of the words changed as the language evolved, while the spelling stayed the same. Other times, the disparity is because the words came from other languages, such as “tsunami” from Japanese and “rendezvous” from French.
“Lay” or “lie”?
When it comes to commonly confused words, there may not be a more understandably mixed-up pair than “lay” and “lie.” The words aren’t interchangeable, though many people use them that way. “Lay” needs an object, while “lie” doesn’t take an object. Technically, saying “I need to lay down” is incorrect, because you have to laysomethingdown. “Please laythat expensive book down on the table carefully” is the correct use of “lay.”But the real confusion comes from the fact that the past tense of “lie” is… “lay”! “He wasn’t feeling well, so he lay down” is correct. The past tense of “lay,” meanwhile, is “laid.” It’s enough to make your head hurt so much that you might need tolie down, as are these otherthings you’ve probably been saying wrong.
“Neither”—singular or plural?
When you say “neither,” you’re referring to more than one person or thing, so “neither” should take a plural verb form, right? Well…no. Both “neither” and “either” are always singular if the two things you’re talking about are singular: “Neither the dog [just one dog] nor the cat [just one cat]isresponsible for the mess.” The same goes for “Neither of the pets is responsible”—even though “pets” is plural, “neither” still means “neither one.” The only time it works to pluralize the verb is if one or both of the subjects is plural: “Neither Lady Gaga nor the Backstreet Boysareperforming tonight” is correct, since the closest subject to the verb, “the Backstreet Boys,” is plural. Phew!
“None”—singular or plural?
If “neither” is singular, “none” should be too, right? Honestly, with this rule, even strict grammar nerds tend to throw up their hands and say, “Use your judgment.” Usually, if the subject of the sentence is an uncountable noun, a singular verb makes sense: “None of the beer is left.” But if the subject represents a concrete number of people or things, you can usually get away with using a plural verb—and it tends to just sound better, too, as in “None of my cousins are coming to dinner.” If your brain can handle it after all this info, read on for more little grammar rules you can follow to sound smarter.
Originally Published: September 19, 2019
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.
- Who v whom. ...
- Sentences ending with a preposition. ...
- Starting a sentence with a conjunction. ...
- Different to v different from. ...
- One word sentences. ...
- Split infinitives. ...
- Who v that.
The 12 Rules of Grammar are:
Every sentence should start with a Capital letter in the first word. Every sentence should either end with a full stop (or) a question mark (or) an exclamation mark. Every sentence should have SVO (Subject – Verb – Object). The Subject and Verb forms are interrelated in the sentence.
However, 12 basic rules serve as the foundation of English grammar. The topics of these rules are nouns and pronouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and punctuation.What is the 5th hardest language? ›
- Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
- Arabic. ...
- 3. Japanese. ...
- Hungarian. ...
- Korean. ...
- Finnish. ...
- Basque. ...
The seven rules are: studying phrases nor single words, do not study grammar rules, study grammar from speeches unconsciously, learn from the real English, study through listening rather than reading, repeat more to gain deep understanding, and learn from question-answer stories.What are the 7 types of grammar? ›
- Case grammar.
- Cognitive grammar.
- Construction grammar.
- Generative grammar.
- Lexical-functional grammar (LFG)
- Mental grammar.
- Theoretical grammar.
- Transformational grammar.
Language consists of four rules: phonemes, morphemes, syntax, and semantics.Which language has the most grammar rules? ›
Hungarian grammar seems like the road to death for an English speaker. Because Hungarian grammar rules are the most difficult to learn, this language has 26 different cases. The suffixes dictate the tense and possession and not the word order.What are the most important grammar rules? ›
- Adjectives and adverbs. ...
- Pay attention to homophones. ...
- Use the correct conjugation of the verb. ...
- Connect your ideas with conjunctions. ...
- Sentence construction. ...
- Remember the word order for questions. ...
- Use the right past form of verbs. ...
- Get familiar with the main English verb tenses.
CBSE Class 12 English Grammar 2022 For Term 1 & Term 2: English Grammar for 12th CBSE is essential, though optional, as it teaches you reading, writing, and speaking skills. You become well-versed in a language only if you are thorough with grammar.
The explanation of Class 8 English Grammar includes topics sentences, Conjunctions, order of words, Interjection, Subject and Predicate, Articles, Noun and their kinds, Punctuation and Capital letters, Pronoun, Active and Passive voice, Verbs, Direct and Indirect, Adjective, Comprehension, Adverb, Story Writing, Tense, ...What is the 20 hardest language to learn? ›
- Mandarin. Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion. ...
- Icelandic. Number of native speakers: 330,000. ...
- 3. Japanese. Number of native speakers: 122 million. ...
- Hungarian. Number of native speakers: 13 million. ...
- Korean. Number of native speakers: 66.3 million. ...
- Arabic. Number of native speakers: 221 million. ...
- Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Polish. ...
- Russian. ...
- Turkish. ...
Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.Which country is best in grammar? ›
Sweden has emerged as the nation with the highest English language proficiency, according to the EF EPI English Proficiency Index. The Scandinavian nation tops the list with a score of 70.94.Which grammar is best? ›
- Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.
- Oxford Modern English Grammar by Bas Aarts.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab.
- Grammar Exercises from the University of Bristol's Faculty of Arts.
- Grammar Monster.
- Oxford Dictionaries.
The "Golden Rule" was proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth during his Sermon on the Mount and described by him as the second great commandment. The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".What is the golden rule of language? ›
1 – A sentence is a group of words that has a complete thought, meaning or idea. 2 – Every English sentence starts with a Subject followed by a Verb. 3 – Every English sentence must have a verb. 4 – A Subject tells who or what the sentence is about.What is speak English only rule? ›
EEOC Regulation 29 C.F.R. § 1606.7(a) provides that a rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times in the workplace is a burdensome term and condition of employment. Such a rule is presumed to violate Title VII.
The various kinds of grammatical categories include the following: number, definiteness, tense and aspect, case, person, gender and mood.What is 7th grade grammar? ›
In seventh grade, grammar instruction focuses on concepts such as: Using prepositional phrases and clauses correctly. Understanding and use of all parts of speech, including plural nouns, possessive nouns, verb tenses, adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, and conjunctions.How many kinds grammar? ›
In English, there are two kinds of grammar: prescriptive grammar & descriptive grammar.What is the 80/20 rule for languages? ›
The Pareto Principle in language learning means that 20% of the things you learn contribute 80% of your total improvement. In other words, much of the things you learn aren't nearly as relevant as a select few, which are the things that really drive your learning.What are the 7 stages of language? ›
- Stage 1: Instrumental Stage. Child uses language to express needs. ...
- Stage 3: Interactional Stage. Language used to communicate and form relationships. ...
- Stage 2: Regulatory Stage. ...
- Stage 4: Personal Stage. ...
- Stage 5: Heuristic Stage. ...
- Stage 6: Imaginative Stage. ...
- Stage 7: Informative Stage.
- Norwegian. This may come as a surprise, but we have ranked Norwegian as the easiest language to learn for English speakers. ...
- Swedish. ...
- Spanish. ...
- Dutch. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Indonesian. ...
- Italian. ...
And The World's Weirdest Language Is…
Chalcatongo Mixtec, also known as San Miguel el Grande Mixtec, is a verb-initial tonal language. Verb-initial means its sentences begin with verbs, which is something it only has in common with 8.7 percent of languages, including Welsh and Hawaiian.
- English (1,132 million speakers)
- Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
- Hindi (615 million speakers)
- Spanish (534 million speakers)
- French (280 million speakers)
- Arabic (274 million speakers)
- Russian (258 million speakers)
- Portuguese (234 million speakers)
- Subject-Verb Agreement Errors. ...
- Sentence Fragments. ...
- Misuse of Contractions and Apostrophes. ...
- Passive Voice. ...
- Dangling Modifiers. ...
- Comma Splice. ...
- Run-on Sentences. ...
- Ending a Sentence in a Preposition.
"Secrets of English Grammar" is an advanced level study book for adult writers who do not speak English as their mother tongue. In 45 chapters averaging around 1500 words each, it offers detailed, non-technical description and explanation of problematic grammar topics within academic and professional writing.
There are 4 levels of grammar: (1)parts of speech, (2)sentences, (3)phrases, and (4)clauses.How many 10 tenses are there? ›
Hence there are 12 tenses in English Grammar. The fact that there is past, present and future time does not mean that there are three tenses. Silly. English has two tenses: past and present.What are the 6 rules of teaching grammar? ›
An internationally recognized linguist and teacher trainer in the area of English Language Teaching, Scott Thornbury, has proposed six (6) Rules of Teaching Grammar (context, use, economy, relevance, nurture, appropriacy).Why is Class 11 Tougher than 12? ›
This is just because there is a sudden hike in syllabus of class 11th as compared to class 10th.. Class 11th is full of concepts that is needed to be revised regularly... Students who feel class12th more tough then he/she must have not studied class 11th..Is Class 12 very difficult? ›
If you have studied properly as expected from an average student then you can pass board even if exam comes a little tough. So don't worry about difficulty level , go study and give your best and you would surely get good marks as exam do come difficult sometimes but not that you need to worry to get passed.Is it best of 5 taken in class 12? ›
The best 5 subjects rule refers to that out of 6 subjects which you have taken in your 10th and 12th class, only the top 5 subjects in which you have secured more marks will be taken to calculate your percentage.What is a grammar class 6? ›
The English grammar of CBSE class 6 include in the syllabus: Articles, Noun, Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives, Adjectives, Agreement of Verb and Subject, Preposition, Verb, Tenses, Active And Passive Voice, Reported Speech, Sentences, Kinds of Noun, Uses of Articles (A, An and The), Degrees of Comparison, Correct Use ...What is 8th grade grammar? ›
Eighth grade grammar covers verbals, including gerunds, participles and infinitives. learn what verbals and verbal phrases are, as well as how they function within certain sentences. recognize gerund examples; properly form and use gerund phrases.How many levels are there in English grammar? ›
Understanding English levels
The CEFR has six levels from A1 to C2. For each level, the CEFR describes what a learner can do when speaking, reading, listening and writing in English.
Fifth grade grammar is where students will find out how to construct narratives with paragraphs. It's time for them to shape those blocks into chunks of information for others to decipher. This requires understanding writing conventions like figurative language, idioms and word relationships.
- N is a finite set of nonterminal symbols.
- S, an element of N, is the start symbol.
- E is a finite set of terminal symbols.
- N and E are disjoint.
- P is a set of production, or ordered pairs over (N + E)* x (N + E)*
Writing: It is the most difficult of the four language skills. It requires a command over vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. When children graduate to writing short paragraphs, it also involves establishing links among different sentences. All these help in creating meaning.Which is the highest type of grammar? ›
Detailed Solution. Above grammar generates string abcaa. Type-3 or a regular grammar is a formal grammar that is right-regular or left-regular, given grammar is left-linear regular grammar hence it's a type-3 grammar.What is the hardest English level? ›
The Cambridge exam suite is the most difficult English test to understand because it is actually a set of several tests for different skill levels and student profiles.What is hardest to speak? ›
1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world.Which language is toughest? ›
- Mandarin Chinese.
6. Arabic. Why it's hard: Despite 221 million native speakers that you can potentially learn from, Arabic is still one of the hardest languages to learn. First, vowels are not included when writing.Which is Type 0 grammar? ›
Type-0 grammars generate recursively enumerable languages. The productions have no restrictions. They are any phase structure grammar including all formal grammars. They generate the languages that are recognized by a Turing machine.Which is the oldest grammar of the world? ›
The oldest known grammar handbook is the Art of Grammar (Τέχνη Γραμματική), a succinct guide to speaking and writing clearly and effectively, written by the ancient Greek scholar Dionysius Thrax ( c. 170– c. 90 BC), a student of Aristarchus of Samothrace who founded a school on the Greek island of Rhodes.Which grammar is most important? ›
- Proper Use of Commas. In written language, the comma is a small mark that has a big job. ...
- Subject-Verb Agreement. Subjects and verbs in sentences must agree in number. ...
- Pronoun and Antecedent Agreement. An antecedent is a word a pronoun replaces. ...
- Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
- Dutch. ...
- Norwegian. ...
- Spanish. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Italian. ...
- French. ...
Is it really the hardest language? As we've seen, then, English is pretty challenging. But it's not the only contender for the World's Most Difficult Language. Other notoriously tricky languages include Finnish, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin.Is C2 a good grade? ›
Proficient (EF SET score 71-100)
In everyday speech, this level might be called “bilingual”, as in “I am bilingual in English and French.” A well-educated native English speaker is technically at a C2 level. Relatively few English learners reach this level because their professional or academic goals do not require it.
- Read: Reading is one of the secret weapons to improve your grammar skills. ...
- Use a grammar manual: It is a very useful idea to have a grammar manual nearby that you can consult when writing. ...
- Write more and quiz yourself: ...
- Re-reading aloud: ...
- 5 Consult others and learn from feedback: