Questions about the rules of English. This tag is overly broad and discouraged.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

6
votes
3answers
9k views

Correct usage of ‘on’, ‘at’ and ‘in’ from a foreigner’s point of view

As a foreign English speaker who never really studied too much English grammar other than the basics at high school, I am often struggling to use the correct form in certain phrases. At being ...
7
votes
7answers
6k 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is it true that “I before E, except after C”?

I almost hesitate to ask this, because it is hard to believe no one else asked it; but it isn't showing up in the "similar titles" list. What is special about 'C' that switches the 'IE' immediately ...
5
votes
2answers
824 views

Character vs Charm - Pronunciation

Is there a rule to understand how the group "Cha" has to be pronounced? "Character" sounds with a hard first syllable, while "Charm" sound softer, but I don't find how to tell which sound to use ...
7
votes
4answers
7k views

“-ee” and “-er” word endings

There are a few examples of pairs of words ending with -ee/-er like employee and employer or advisee and adviser. What I was curious about is if there was any rule that would describe the relationship ...
11
votes
1answer
8k views

When should a singular word ending in “y” end in “ies” plurally?

Words like "sky" and "money" have "ies" as a plural suffix (i.e. "skies" and "monies") but other words like "monkey" and "Emmy" do not ("monkeys" and "Emmys"). Is there a rule dictating the use of ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

Are there any “-nk-” or “-nc-” words in English where there isn't a “ng” before the “k” sound?

In words like think and lank, we actually seem to be saying "thing-k" and "lang-k." Can anyone thing-k of any words or rules for sound use where this doesn't happen?
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 ...
2
votes
2answers
421 views

A case of optional “that”: “check the” vs. “check that the”

Consider the following use case: Please check the username and password are correct. Please check that the username and password are correct. In this case, I would say that that is required ...
2
votes
1answer
626 views

Overusing “and” and how to fix it

Several months ago, I was writing a fan-fiction story set in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe and I ended up constructing this sentence: "...Sonic and his allies and Dr. Robotnik and his allies..." ...
17
votes
2answers
7k views

Why does the 'b' in absorb change to a 'p' in absorption?

The question pretty much says it all. Why is "absorbtion" an incorrect spelling?
4
votes
0answers
56 views

Standardization authority [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Regulatory bodies and authoritative dictionaries for English Where do accents and dialects come from? I can run faster than _. (1) him (2) he? If the English language is ...
7
votes
1answer
600 views

Is there any rule for pronouncing words beginning with “re-”?

It’s hard for me to guess how to pronounce words beginning with re- correctly. Sometimes it is /rɛ/ as in reference, but sometimes it is /ri/ as in report. Is there any rule about this?
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Problem with -ance/-ence

OK, so I'm ashamed to admit that as a native speaker I think I've missed something somewhere. I was typing up some documentation and spellchecker kept bugging me. So I looked up some words and found ...
5
votes
3answers
218 views

Using “allium” as an adjective

I’d like to use the Latin word for garlic, allium, as an adjective, but can’t find any examples of this being done. Is there a rule for doing this with nouns ending in ‑um? Alliumnal sounds good, but ...
2
votes
7answers
2k views

Who/What decides if a word is “proper” English?

I was taught since kindergarten that "ain't" isn't a proper English word. I was wondering, who determines which words are acceptable and which words are not? Do words ever go from "improper" to ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Ending a clause with a preposition, rule of thumb or hard rule? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When is it okay to end a sentence in a preposition? So we've all heard the admonishments from our teachers not to end a clause with a preposition A plumber visits a ...
1
vote
2answers
284 views

Usage of “go to” vs “go”

I'm trying to explain the difference between "go to" and "go" and I'm not sure what the actual rule is. I've tried searching about it, but I couldn't find anything. When should I use "go to" and when ...
1
vote
1answer
831 views

How to guess the pronunciation of some inconsistencies in English?

I’m not a native English speaker, and I have a lot of problems when is comes to pronouncing words like archive, archon, zealot, heal, health. Why is the ch sometime pronounced like a k? Why is the ...
1
vote
5answers
2k views

Is the “an” rule applied when a sum of money is in between? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When should I use “a” vs “an”? I have recently seen this image: Should "a" have been used instead of "an" in the "...an $100,000 apartment" ...
0
votes
2answers
18k views

Me too or I as well [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is it correct to use “me too” and “I too”? Which one is correct to use Me too or I as well? For example - Suppose my friend says I want to go ...