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.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

18
votes
6answers
5k views

When can the -ing form of a verb be placed before a noun?

My native-speaker's grammatical intuition tells me that: There is a sleeping man under the tree. is fine but There is a fishing man by the river bank. is wrong. Why? I've thought about ...
17
votes
6answers
12k views

“anymore” vs. “any more”

any more requests anymore requests Are these two the same? It seems that "any more requests" is grammatically correct while "anymore requests" is not. Am I right? Why are they different?
12
votes
4answers
2k views

May, might confusion

When should I use each of the following: This may help. This might help. I always get confused about the use of may and might.
8
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a gerund? A noun or a verb? 'His smoking upset me’

I've been studying the Huddleston and Pullum book for four months now. So far only one thing confuses me: the identity of gerund. Is it a noun or a verb? His constant smoking upset me. smoking ...
7
votes
5answers
546 views

Cooking apples and cleaning ladies

Consider the following sentences: Cooking is my favourite activity. Cooking apples are essential for this recipe. Cooking functions in the first sentence as a gerund. How does it function in the ...
37
votes
7answers
9k views

Why use “of” in the phrase “delivered of a baby”?

With all the "Royal baby" craze comes something that really confuses me. All the news media used pretty much the same sentence to make the announcement: The Duchess of Cambridge has been ...
25
votes
7answers
3k views

Can a person happen? Is “Zodanga happened” correct?

I was watching movie John Carter where there was some dialogue like this: — What happened here? — Zodanga happened. Here Zodanga was a bad guy in the movie. I don't understand how a guy ...
20
votes
5answers
129k views

“It worths it”, “it worth it” or “it is worth it”?

Which one is correct and why? I think "worth it" is an adjective phrase. So what is "worth" then? Example: You should try spending money on her. It worths it. You should try spending money ...
4
votes
2answers
32k views

Was vs had been

I guess this question has been asked before, but please take a look the following sentence and tell me if there is a difference between them. When the transaction had been completed, A was still a ...
15
votes
6answers
2k views

Do serious grammarians endorse the “Can I”/“May I” distinction?

Just now, I wanted to ask a question that was something like, "Can I get a thorough list of all the parts of speech that a sentence can be broken down into?" But then a nagging voice appeared in my ...
13
votes
10answers
2k views

What do you call something that is not first in a sequence?

Is there a word to describe something that is not the first element in a sequence, but can be in any other position? A synonym of "not first", in fact. This element is __ in this sequence.
10
votes
3answers
36k views

Difference between “are you done” and “have you done.”

I was just wondering, how can we differentiate "are you done?" and "have you done?", and what is the appropriate way to use each?
10
votes
4answers
16k views

Which is correct: “home in” or “hone in”?

I've heard people say "Home in on something", but I've also heard others say "Hone in on something". Which is the correct expression, and what is the etymology of these?
5
votes
2answers
15k views

Do you need the “why” in “That's the reason why”? [duplicate]

I often hear people say things like “That's the reason why I....” As far as I know, “That's the reason I...” would still be grammatically correct, but I can't find anything stating one way or the ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

How to correctly use the present perfect tense

This link states that: When you use the present perfect tense you have to be talking about a period of time that you still consider to be going on. For example, if it’s still morning, you can say, ...
4
votes
4answers
3k views

“I don't think you X” versus “I think you don't X”

Consider the following two sentences: I don't think you love your father. I think you don't love your father. Is the second sentence correct? I was taught it is wrong.
12
votes
6answers
6k views

Why do we put the verb to be at the end of these questions? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Changing subject and verb positions in statements and questions Look at the following questions - can anyone give a simple grammatical explanation as to why we put the ...
10
votes
3answers
250k views

When to use “lives” as a plural of life?

I am confused when talking about a general idea using "our life" when sometimes I feel like using "our lives". Please tell me the correct answer with appropriate explanation.
10
votes
4answers
9k views

Is “It is you who are mistaken!” correct? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What rules make “Remember me, who am your friend” grammatical? This is a line spoken by the Emperor to Luke in Star Wars. I always wondered if this is grammatically ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

What part of speech is “worth”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the lexical class of the word 'worth' when used in a sentence like “Is this apple worth $3?” In a sentence like the following: The ...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

Why is 'that' sometimes optional before dependent clauses?

Sometimes, the word 'that' to introduce a dependent clause is optional. For example, these sentences both make sense with or without 'that': Long books [that] religious people like tend to be ...
8
votes
4answers
689 views

Is this contraction of 'there is' acceptable to native speakers of English?

In the Slate article, The Curse of “You May Also Like”, the following sentence has a contraction of there is that doesn't sit well with my ear for American or British English. I wonder whether any of ...
7
votes
3answers
7k views

needn't = don't need to?

Are these two sentences equivalent? You needn't pay at once. You don't need to pay at once. If yes, which one would you recommend? Is it an US/GB thing?
6
votes
2answers
19k views

Which preposition should I use here: “thinking of” or “thinking about”?

Thinking of getting an external keyboard Thinking about getting an external keyboard Which one is grammatically correct and why?
5
votes
3answers
32k views

“Is there” versus “Are there”

Are there any questions I should be asking? Is there any articles available on the subject? My instinct is that in the two questions above, it should be 'are' as the subjects of the sentences ...
5
votes
1answer
530 views

What is the possessive for several names?

If Alice and Bob each has a house, are these "Alice and Bob's houses" or "Alice's and Bob's houses"? Does that change anything if each of the houses belongs to both of them?
5
votes
3answers
25k views

“Wasn't” vs “weren't” [duplicate]

Which one would be correct? I wish it weren't raining today. I wish it wasn't raining today. I wish it were raining today. I wish it was raining today.
3
votes
6answers
6k views

When would you say “I seen it.”

I am not looking for explanations of why "I seen it" is wrong (though with sight there's an unfair grammatical burden that doesn't impact the other senses, whose past tense and past participle are the ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Difference between 'part' and 'a part'?

This question may seem to be very simple, but something I get confused whenever I want to speak. I read a book entitled "re-start your English", and saw a sentence. this is a leg. it is part of ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

“last year” vs. “the last / whole of the last year” vs. “whole the last year”

I would have question related to other question I asked today. I know that: last year refers to something that happens in the last year (which could be yesterday if today is 1.1.) the last year — ...
1
vote
2answers
892 views

would have and would in non conditional statements

Can we use both would have and would in non conditional past statements? For example: Last year during the summer, I would go home on weekends. past habitual Last year during the summer, I ...
14
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the name for the grammatical device of putting “not” after a verb to negate it?

Here's a passage (more or less taken randomly) from the American Standard Version of the Bible from 1901: 1 Peter 3:14 (ASV) 14 But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ...
11
votes
3answers
8k views

Prepositions at the end of sentence and whom

I believe it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. That seems to be the consensus here as well. Now I think that when who is the object of a preposition, it should technically be whom, e.g. ...
11
votes
3answers
6k views

When to use 'an' and when to use 'a' with words begining with 'h'?

Some h-words need 'an' for the indefinite article (I will be there in an hour). Other h-words need 'a' for the indefinite article (It is a history of sadness). Is there a general rule?
9
votes
5answers
3k views

Parts of speech and functions: “Bob made a book collector happy the other day”

Having been bamboozled by various questions and answers on this site, I'd like to know what are the parts of speech (POS) and grammatical functions of the words and phrases in the following sentence: ...
9
votes
1answer
794 views

When can a noun be used attributively?

Nouns can modify nouns: cat food, coffee cup, gold ring, laser surgery, flood insurance. It seems to me there are even cases where a noun sounds better than the corresponding adjective: sociology ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Can you use “same” without “the”?

I've been racking my brain trying to think of a grammatically correct sentence that uses same without the earlier in the same (see!) phrase. It is the same It is the very same I have 10 ...
8
votes
2answers
476 views

Can I say “Coming!” for “I am coming!”, and why?

In some languages we can remove the subject (and sometimes a verb too) from a sentence. In Toy Story 3, the kid says "Coming!" instead of "I am coming!" to her mother. My questions are: 1.) Can I ...
8
votes
3answers
513 views

What difference does using 'had' make to those two verb tenses, and if so, what is it?

What is the difference between if I had studied and if I studied? Can you provide an example of when one usage would be more appropriate than the other?
7
votes
3answers
712 views

“Be like” usage

Of late, I have been noticing a lot of casual memes floating around, particularly on Facebook, that involve this phrase. Typical constructs could be like the following examples: B*&^%$# be ...
6
votes
2answers
342 views

Unorthodox article placement

In my English class yesterday we looked at the following example: Monica is such a beautiful woman. We learned that the above sentence could also be written as: Monica is so beautiful a ...
6
votes
2answers
35k views

Which one is correct? “has been taken already” or “has already been taken”

I'm creating a registration form. I want to display a message if a particular username already exists. So which sentence is correct? This username has already been taken by another user. Please ...
5
votes
2answers
6k views

“Subject, verb, direct object, object complement” versus “subject, verb, indirect object, direct object”

Reading English Grammar (HarperCollins College Outline, published by HarperResource, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) I found a chapter (Sentence Basics) that explains that in English there are ...
4
votes
2answers
6k views

Analogy: “as if” vs. “as though”

This is something that confuses me from time to time. When making an analogy in literature, is it better to use the phrase "as if" or "as though", or is it completely a style thing? E.g. She ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Regionalism or just bad English?

I've encountered a particular type of writing occasionally and it being, derp, in writing, it's hard to tell whether there's an accent behind it. The English used seems to me to be simply incorrect, ...
4
votes
7answers
2k views

Confusing structures with modal verbs

I have skimmed through the part on modals of a classic grammar book (Murphy's "Grammar in Use") and picked up all the structures that look strange to me. Could you, please, explain how often they are ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

How is 'get' being used in these sentences?

What grammar structure is this? Bob got/had me drunk. She's got me spending. Get moving! Get going! That music gets/has me dancing! He had/got me stumped. She had/got me stoned. Is it possible to ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Should I use “will” or “would” here?

I doubt they will exchange the 20 inch monitor. OR I doubt they would exchange the 20 inch monitor. Which is correct, and why?
3
votes
2answers
565 views

What's the correct form of the negative subjunctive?

It is essential that [some parameter] be not reset during the day. (1) It is essential that [some parameter] not be reset during the day. (2) Which one is the correct form? I do know the ...
3
votes
1answer
816 views

“Compound nouns list” or “compound noun list”?

I couldn't help but wonder every time I saw such a noun phrase. I've seen both forms used equally often, so I guess both of them can be used interchangeably. But do I guess right? Some examples: ...