This tag is for questions about how grammar works, e.g. different grammatical usages, how they can be used, or what they mean. For questions that ask whether something is grammatical, please use the "grammaticality" tag instead.

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3
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1answer
3k views

Singular or plural verb after “what”

Which sentence is more grammatically correct? He is being tried on what look like trumped-up charges. He is being tried on what looks like trumped-up charges.
33
votes
5answers
69k views

Is “either” only used with two options?

Does “either . . . or” apply to only two options? For example, can I say, “It can provide either 100, 150, or 400 amps of power”? Or should it just be “It can provide 100, 150, or 400 amps of power”?...
22
votes
9answers
1k views

The hidden flaw in “singular they”—what to do about reflexive pronouns?

We have a highly regarded answer by nohat to a question about gender-neutral pronouns, in which he points to the "singular they" and its long history of use in English. (Note that he also advises ...
24
votes
7answers
3k views

When did “while” and “whilst” become interchangeable?

I think most folk happily use either "while" or "whilst". I've a vague recollection that at one time "while" indicated the passing of time and "whilst" was essentially the same as "whereas" or "...
8
votes
7answers
8k views

Use of the superlative when only two items are present

When speaking with my mother a couple of days ago, I read to her a message I was sending to my cousin on her behalf ending with: "... the birthday of your youngest." [implying her child] She ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

A good and exhaustive book for English grammar [closed]

Before marking this post duplicate or voting to get it closed (the reason for which I simply don't get just because it is a grammar forum after all! If I am seeking recommendation for a book that ...
33
votes
2answers
207k views

Is there an apostrophe in a master's degree?

The question asks it all really. When referring to a master's degree, do you use an apostrophe or not? That is, is it "a master's" or "a masters"?
15
votes
4answers
31k views

What are sentences like “the longer X, the more Y” called and can they be used in formal written English?

What is the type of sentence exemplified below called? Is it appropriate to use it in a scientific paper and formal written English in general? 1. The more pronounced the variation, the more the ...
22
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5answers
5k views

Why do we use the object instead of the subject pronoun in constructions like “stupid me”?

I'm trying to find out how come we say lucky me and stupid us rather than lucky I and stupid we. My understanding is that this is not a recent invention, but a relic from the distant past where it was ...
21
votes
3answers
6k views

Is there an EBNF that covers all of English

This almost feels like a SO question. Is there an EBNF that covers all of English, and if so, what is it?
23
votes
4answers
71k views

Is there a more common phrase that means “preponed”?

I was aware of this and this stackexchange post discuss the same. There is no prepone in English. Ok, then how do I say Our meeting is preponed in correct way? What is the correct word/phrase for ...
8
votes
1answer
70k views

Which is correct: “he don't” or “he doesn't”? [closed]

Which one is correct in a sentence? He don't He doesn't I guess "he doesn't" should be correct because he is third person singular but I've seen some people using do with he. Which one ...
7
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6answers
3k views

Use of “ever” in non-negated sentence

Is the sentence grammatically correct: I do recall ever seeing my mother in the light of day.
6
votes
4answers
4k views

Why do not we ask negative questions without a contraction on the not after the verb?

I have found multiple questions touching on this but not a single one that has a comprehensive answer. The information is all there but in little bits. "Do you not" vs. "Don't you&...
4
votes
1answer
3k views

How are embedded quotations used?

How would embedded quotations be used when quoting from passages/sources within an essay? What would be the difference between normal quotations and embedded quotations?
8
votes
5answers
3k views

“I didn't realize it was him.”

Overheard on an elevator today, I didn't realize it was him. Corrected by the know-it-all, He. "I didn't realize it was he." The know-it-all then went on a rant about how everybody is a ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

How do I determine subject and subject complement in “A side-effect is the spread of commercialese to other domains.”?

Consider this example: Commercialese is an instrument of art, designed to enrich and invigorate our language—surely you will all agree with this—, and we should encourage newcomers to learn ...
3
votes
3answers
148k views

My family *is* or My family *are*? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Are collective nouns always plural, or are certain ones singular? Which is correct: The rest of the staff is or are? The rest of my family is or are? I've done a bit of ...
2
votes
1answer
64 views

Mixed conditional: more

I wonder how many conditional sentences' types are possible. Basically, there four main and two mixed types. By mixing tenses, it could be up to nine of them. Are the rest viable? I came across the ...
2
votes
2answers
354 views

Classification - There is/are

What is the official 'name' for the 'there is' / 'there are' construction? Is it a verb phrase or a lexical verb? I'd say possibly a verb but it must be the most difficult term to Google.
41
votes
8answers
7k views

Why is there no plural indefinite article?

The takes either a singular or a plural subject. A/an only takes the singular. When we pluralize a noun preceded by an indefinite article, we simply drop the article (sometimes replacing it with ...
11
votes
5answers
3k views

'How to' vs 'How do I'

This question is inspired by comments on a question on stackoverflow. The original poster wrote: How to correct this error? And comments say that it's an incorrect question. Better is How ...
6
votes
1answer
8k views

“I saw him crossing” vs. “I saw him cross”

I saw him crossing the road. I saw him cross the road. Which one is correct and why?
12
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2answers
6k views

Is “man” the opposite of “woman”?

I heard someone today say that lad is the opposite of lass. And we picked up a debate on whether woman is actually the opposite of man, which led me to question whether nouns can have opposites at all....
11
votes
2answers
17k views

Should I use the singular or plural verb in mathematical formulae (“Two and two make/makes four”)?

I remember somebody correcting me once when I said, "Two and two makes four", since the conjunction and would imply the use of a plural verb. They would prefer I said: Two and two make four. I'...
7
votes
1answer
740 views

Using verbs with multiple meanings

Is it grammatically incorrect to use a verb with multiple meanings so that the meanings are used at once? I'm thinking of a line from the classic Flanders Swann song Madeira M’Dear: … he hastened ...
3
votes
4answers
6k views

Is this correct? “One of the things that makes him great is…” [duplicate]

One of the things that makes him great is he brings it every night. I'm pretty sure it should be that make him in the plural, because one of the things is referring to a lot of things and a lot of ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

What's the subject of “There is my biscuit!” ? And how about “There is one biscuit left”?

What's the subject, grammatically speaking, of these sentences? There is my biscuit! My biscuit is there! There is one biscuit left. I don't really know how to analyze these. The following ...
4
votes
5answers
1k views

“What's” in indirect questions

Lets consider the following: The book doesn't explain, "What's the wisdom behind education?" Changing this to an indirect question becomes the following: The book doesn't explain what the ...
16
votes
3answers
3k views

What kind of construct is 'would that that were all'?

There is a place in Bram Stoker’s Dracula where I can’t quite parse the grammar: 8 May. — I began to fear as I wrote in this book that I was getting too diffuse. But now I am glad that I went ...
9
votes
4answers
6k views

“Mom and Dad” vs “Dad and Mom” [duplicate]

I'm curious if the order implies anything here. I'm pretty sure "Mom and Dad" is standard in English. The issue was hard for me to google, so I'm asking it here: Is using "Dad" before "Mom" incorrect,...
5
votes
2answers
7k views

“is” vs “are” when followed by a number

I read the following sentence on YouTube and initially thought it was grammatically incorrect: Here are 10 minutes of the movie Black Hawk Down! I thought "are" should have been "is" but then I ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Use of “do” in affirmative statements [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do you use “Did + 1st form” instead of “2nd form” When is do used in affirmative sentences? For example: I do think that this is going to be... Is it only used ...
0
votes
1answer
5k views

I'd better vs I better [closed]

English is not my native language, so I'm wondering, should I say: I'd better go away now. or: I better go away now. or even (I think I've heard this one): I better go now. Thanks in ...
0
votes
4answers
2k views

Which is right: “In one of the computers” or “On one of the computers”?

Do you say IN one of the computers or ON one of the computers? Which is right?
26
votes
7answers
34k views

Is using passive voice “bad form”?

Whenever I create a document in Microsoft Word, it complains about a lot of my sentences being in passive voice. But, when I read that sentence aloud, it sounds fine to me. I am not sure if it is just ...
30
votes
4answers
30k views

How does the phrase “used to” work, grammatically?

It is common to hear people say "used to" to indicate that they did something in the past but no longer do; for example, "I used to play basketball." How would "used to," used in that context, fit ...
15
votes
6answers
1k views

What are the principles that make certain lists sound euphonious?

Has this ever happened to you: You write a question, include a list or two in the discussion, and then come back to edit that list because the order doesn't sound "right"? Off the top of my head, I ...
3
votes
2answers
16k views

Is the sentence “There is a large number of labourers who want to migrate to Japan for work.” correct? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: A number of questions “has been” or “have been” asked? There is a large number of labourers who want to migrate to Japan for work. I type this ...
1
vote
2answers
15k views

Difference between verb+preposition and phrasal verbs

I am reading a book on grammar. Now I can't understand the difference between the verb+preposition and phrasal verbs. For example He never thinks about(or of) other people. and put on your ...
13
votes
2answers
83k views

“Most of which” or “most of whom”?

I am very uncertain about when to use "most of whom," "most of who," or "most of which." Please give concrete examples instead of only rules like, "this is the subject, so you should..."
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Are there specific rules to build expressions with or without articles?

In English, there are lots of expressions built using articles like: at the station to the cinema play the piano have breakfast (no article) take a bath take a shower Are there specific rules or ...
5
votes
2answers
5k views

Rule for adding “and” or hyphens between numbers that are spelled out fully in text

For example, take the number 342. It could be written out a number of different ways when spelled out fully. Three hundred forty two Three hundred and forty two Three hundred and forty-two What is ...
5
votes
2answers
17k views

Should I say 'What I wanted to say is' or 'What I wanted to say was'?

Following Martha's advice I am splitting up a question Compound sentences, the punctuation and mooore. Let's put what I said / wrote something in the past. And now I want to elaborate some key points ...
8
votes
2answers
469 views

Chainsaw-equipped or chainsaw equipped?

Is it chainsaw-equipped or chainsaw equipped? And with what kind of former words to use "-" properly?
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Meaning of “x is 35 times less than y" [closed]

I’m not sure of whether this is grammatically correct, although I've encountered the same expression many times before. Most Google searches show it produces 35 times less carbon than the report ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

position of “only”

Which sentence is correct? (A) Mosquito larvae can only be seen through a microscope. (B) Mosquito larvae can be only seen through a microscope. (C) Mosquito larvae can be seen only through ...
2
votes
2answers
416 views

“Give him a box that everyone knows what it contains.”

"Give him a box that everyone knows what it contains." Is this correct English? It sounds wrong to me.
20
votes
4answers
78k views

“Criteria” versus “criterion”

I came across several forums and articles saying that criteria is plural and criterion is singular. Some gave me the impression that criterion is used to denote a set of rules. What is the correct ...
4
votes
3answers
358 views

Subject with a Gerund: “is” or “are”?

Making adult decisions are/is really not fun. What is the proper answer and why? My gut says "is" but I can't explain why.