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Questions tagged [grammar]

This tag is for questions about morphology and syntax, the two elements of grammar. DO NOT USE THIS TAG IF YOUR QUESTION IS ABOUT WHETHER SOMETHING SPECIFIC IS GRAMMATICAL. For such cases use the 'grammaticality' tag. Also do not use this for punctuation or spelling (orthography); those are not about grammar, and they have their own tags.

171
votes
3answers
7k views

Where were “should”, “shall”, and “must” in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
65
votes
15answers
70k views

One of us is wrong, aren't we?

I have just learned from what I consider a reliable source, that the following sentence is correct: One of us is wrong, aren't we? I would never in my life have written this, but I am assured that ...
62
votes
9answers
232k views

When do I use “I” instead of “me?”

From some comments in the answers for common English usage mistakes (now deleted, 10k only), there's confusion around the usage of I vs. me: While the sentence, "the other attendees are myself and ...
60
votes
7answers
30k views

Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article?

I can’t for the life of me figure out where to use a and where to use the — and where there is no article at all. Is there a simple rule of thumb to memorize? The standard rule you always hear: “...
60
votes
9answers
5k views

Is it ever worth the time and effort to correct someone else's grating grammatical mistakes? [closed]

Whenever I hear statements like "It was a great deal for he and I" and "Call Karen and I in the morning," I die a little. Such solecisms, as Twain said in another context (Cooper's prose style), "...
59
votes
1answer
215k views

Why use “need not” instead of “do not need to”?

The header of psyco.sourceforge.net states: High-level languages need not be slower than low-level ones. Why use need not instead of do not need? What does it mean? Also, why no to before be?
55
votes
1answer
335k 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"?
54
votes
10answers
22k views

Grammatically correct sentence where “you're” and “your” can be interchanged? [closed]

Most grammar checkers are capable of detecting the the misuse of "your" and "you're"; providing the necessary correction. I'm curious though, is there any sentence that can be constructed where ...
54
votes
4answers
9k views

“What would you with the king?” -From the book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”

In the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, in order to show how punctuation changes meaning and can be used for jokes, it says: Instead of “What would you with the king?” you can have someone say in ...
52
votes
5answers
465k 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 ...
50
votes
8answers
7k views

What exactly is an “adverb”?

From comments to “Weekdays” used as an adverb", I learn that The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says "open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.", shows the word weekdays is an adverb. It seems to me ...
50
votes
4answers
45k views

When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive?

Some verbs are followed by ing, e.g. I enjoy swimming. We can't say I enjoy to swim. Likewise, some verbs are followed by to, e.g. I decided to make a plan. Which particular verbs are followed by ...
49
votes
5answers
412k views

Difference between “I have got” and “I have gotten”

I see these two expressions are used almost identically in different contexts. Is there a difference between I have got and I have gotten?
48
votes
9answers
14k 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 ...
46
votes
4answers
7k views

Usage and origin of “sister” in expressions like “sister company, sister ship, sister site” etc

The term sister is often used figuratively to refer, for instance, to a “sister company” for a company within the same group, or to a “sister site” for sites that belong to the same family. This ...
46
votes
6answers
127k 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”?...
42
votes
7answers
35k 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 delivered ...
41
votes
7answers
10k views

What is this strange sentence by Walt Whitman?

The future is no more uncertain than the present. —Walt Whitman This is supposed to mean "The future is certain, just like the present." But it means the opposite... I learnt in school that no more ...
40
votes
7answers
89k 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 ...
40
votes
11answers
28k views

What does “it” refer to in “it's raining”?

I wanted to leave the question title as is so as not to take away from my amusement :). Anyway, It's raining. What is raining? Is it the sky? The clouds? The weather? The rain? What is "it"? Any ...
38
votes
9answers
10k views

Why is 'Where's it' Grammatically incorrect? [duplicate]

I want to explain to the Spanish developers of a website why this text label sounds wrong: If your column isn't country data, where's it? IMHO, you have to say "Where is it?" - but I don't know ...
38
votes
4answers
12k views

Is there an Extended Backus–Naur form (EBNF) that covers all of English?

Is there an EBNF (Extended Backus–Naur form) that covers all of English, and if so, what is it?
36
votes
6answers
5k views

Is “the girls are want to gossip” correct?

Is this the correct use and placement of want? The girls in the office are want to gossip. Does anyone have a reference citing this use?
35
votes
7answers
30k views

“None of us is” vs “None of us are”, Which is Correct? [duplicate]

Background We have a motivational poster in our office that says: None of us is as smart as all of us. I think that it's grammatically incorrect, and here is my reasoning: All of the tigers have ...
34
votes
7answers
109k views

Why “go off”, as in “alarm went off”?

I was wondering why does something goes off, when it in fact does the opposite bomb goes off - it blows up alarm goes off - it turns on Why not goes on?
33
votes
5answers
65k views

Should I use “ related” or “-related”

What is the correct use of the term "related?" For example, should I use it like computer related, or is it more proper to use computer-related (where the word "computer" is just part of my example?)...
31
votes
9answers
4k views

“Too much pills and liquor” or “Too many pills and liquor”?

When you mix a mass noun with a plural, do you use "much" or "many"? I haven't been able to find any information about this.
31
votes
9answers
2k 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 ...
31
votes
4answers
129k views

Can “due to” and “because of ” be used interchangeably?

Is it fine to use due to in place of because of ? How about the other way around? Are any of these sentences ungrammatical? He was lost because of the storm. He was lost due to the storm. He lost his ...
30
votes
13answers
7k views

How can I reliably and accurately identify the passive voice in writing or speech?

How can I reliably and accurately identify the passive voice in writing or speech? I'm not interested in advice about whether or not to use it yet... I just want to know for sure what it is, so that I ...
30
votes
13answers
33k views

“May” & “Might”: What's the right context?

I may not be coming in tomorrow... I might not be coming in tomorrow... When should I use "may" and "might"?
29
votes
6answers
3k views

What is the best way to explain how to choose between “its” and “it's”?

Probably one of the most frequent grammar mistakes in the English language is: The dog sat on it's mat. Since spelling checkers don't catch it, and it is even logical, since you would correctly ...
29
votes
14answers
8k views

Sentence in which “its” and “it's” can be interchanged without changing the meaning? [closed]

A friend posed the following word puzzle to me: Can you think of a sentence that keeps the same meaning whether you use "it's" or "its"? He asserted that this puzzle does in fact have a solution. ...
29
votes
7answers
73k views

Where should the comma be placed in the salutation of a letter?

Sometimes I see a comma after the proper name: Hello Mr. Black, In order to give you.... But my native language is not English and I think that the comma in this phrase should be placed ...
29
votes
2answers
358k views

“Have you got a chance to” vs “Did you get a chance to”

What is the difference between following two statements? Have you got a chance to look into this? Did you get a chance to look into this?
28
votes
5answers
92k views

Difference between “I am really sorry” and “I really am sorry”

I know they are slightly different, but I can't tell how. I've read about the usage of the word "really" in a negative sentence. But it didn't tell me about how the position of the word "really" can ...
28
votes
2answers
201k views

“On a page” or “in a page” for a web page

Which is the correct usage: Something on a page OR Something in a page By page, I mean a web page, not a physical book page.
28
votes
2answers
192k views

comprise or comprise of [closed]

I have found a similar topic addressing the use of "comprise" but my question is not exactly in line with that one. I did ask this question there to keep the topic related to the use of "comprise" ...
27
votes
7answers
7k views

“wanna” at the end of a sentence

I'm not a native speaker. A pupil wrote "wanna" at the end of a sentence: You can go if you wanna. It sounds odd to me, as if something had to follow wanna (as opposed to want to/ want, which ...
27
votes
7answers
4k views

Why is “A Nation Divided” in this headline instead of “A Divided Nation”?

I wonder why "A Nation Divided" is in this headline instead of "A Divided Nation". To me, from how I am taught, isn't an adjective supposed to go before the noun? I am not a native speaker.
27
votes
2answers
314k views

How to use “to + V-ing”?

I saw some scenarios that used the structure "to + V-ing", such as the following: Looking forward to hearing. Disposed to using few words. I would like to apply what I learned in school to helping ...
27
votes
8answers
122k views

Why do you say “friend of mine” instead of “friend of me”?

I think friend of mine can be translated to my friend. In that case, doesn't friend of me make more sense? If we translate friend of mine to one of my friends then I guess friend of mine makes sense ...
26
votes
4answers
121k 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 ...
26
votes
7answers
49k views

Is “et al.” used as a singular or plural subject?

When referring to multiple authors by using the name of the first author and "et al.", is it correct to grammatically treat this as one person or multiple persons? Gamma et al. are saying in their ...
26
votes
4answers
3k views

How do the rules of English inform understanding of one of our language's most disputed sentences?

Yes, historical context is important, but forget it for a moment. Taken at face value, what does the text mean? A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right ...
26
votes
5answers
9k 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 ...
25
votes
6answers
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 can ...
25
votes
7answers
9k views

Is it possible to start a grammatically-correct English sentence with the word “Than”?

Question: Is it possible to start a grammatically-correct English sentence with the word "Than"? If no, what other English words share this property? Background: Trevor claimed that it is ...
25
votes
2answers
199k views

Correspond to vs. Correspond with

Is there any significant difference between Correspond to and Correspond with? I only mean in the sense of "matching", here, rather than "communication". I've looked at a few sources, but I can't ...
24
votes
2answers
216k views

When to use “rather than” versus “instead of”?

I never really gave a deep thought at this but recently a teacher of talked about language and there was an implicit question in it. something like there is a difference between "rather than" and "...