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.

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60
votes
7answers
32k 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: “...
50
votes
4answers
47k 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 ...
62
votes
9answers
239k 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
9k views

Inversion in “only [adverb] have they”

I have seen this construction quite often: Online ads have been around since the dawn of the Web, but only in recent years have they become the rapturous life dream of Silicon Valley. What is ...
15
votes
4answers
13k views

When should I use the subjunctive mood?

In which cases should I use the subjunctive mood? I suggest that every applicant fill out the form carefully. If she were rich, she would live on Long Island.
7
votes
2answers
17k views

Present perfect for past action with present effect

If I seem tired, can I say: "I haven't slept last night"? If not, why have I been told that we use present perfect for actions that have present effects?
20
votes
7answers
9k views

How does one know when to use a gerund or an infinitive?

As a native speaker of English, the gerund version of this sentence sounds better: infinitive: When used together in chains, extension methods are an unprecedented tool to produce extremely ...
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 ...
8
votes
3answers
4k views

Are there any rules on the positioning adverbs should take in a sentence?

For example: Ever wish you could share information broadly Could it be rewritten to: Ever wish you could broadly share information Are there any rules for the position of the adverbs.
20
votes
3answers
39k views

“How do we call (something) in English?”

Is it really wrong to say "How do we call something in English?" instead of "What do we call something in English?"? The former's not unusual in Philippine English at all (probably it's because of the ...
52
votes
5answers
437k 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?
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 ...
15
votes
4answers
6k views

“going to” vs “will”

I know several questions were asked about the difference between "going to" and "will". Based on several answers (see, for instance, here, here and here), I understood that "will" is more spontaneous ...
7
votes
3answers
9k views

Changing subject and verb positions in statements and questions

We always change subject and verb positions in whenever we want to ask a question such as "What is your name?". But when it comes to statements like the following, which form is correct? I don't ...
10
votes
3answers
10k views

If the English language is always evolving, why do we need to learn and follow grammatical rules?

Since language evolves over time — the best example I can think of is slang where it mostly doesn't follow grammar rules — why is there a need to preserve grammar or stress that proper ...
21
votes
8answers
31k views

Is there any difference between Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous?

I have studied "present perfect" and "present perfect continuous" for a week. I know forms, verb and helping verb I should use when I write them. For me, they have nearly same definition because I ...
16
votes
4answers
96k views

“I like to do (be) something” vs “I like doing (being) something”

This is what I read in an answer to a previous question: Verbs Followed by Either Gerund or Infinitive Sometimes the meaning changes according to the verb used. <…> (dis)like &...
13
votes
1answer
208k views

Is “group” singular or plural? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is a company always plural, or are small companies singular? When I'm referring to a group of multiple things, should it be considered singular or plural for the purposes of ...
40
votes
11answers
30k 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 ...
30
votes
13answers
37k 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"?
21
votes
2answers
5k views

Omitting “and” in a sentence

He called her, emailed her, texted her, tweeted her—all to no use. Strictly speaking, I would need to write texted her and tweeted her, but I'm omitting and to convey a rhythm and sense of urgency. ...
29
votes
7answers
75k 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 ...
8
votes
0answers
7k views

Past tense or present tense to describe something that 'happened in the past' but is still true? [duplicate]

For example: "Last week, I found out that NASA stands for 'National Aeronautics and Space Administration.'" or "Last week, I found out that NASA stood for 'National Aeronautics and Space ...
33
votes
4answers
146k 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 ...
19
votes
2answers
31k views

Why do we say “It's time we ate” and not “It's time we eat”?

Why do we use the simple past but not the present or future in the following expressions: Don't you think it's time we went a little further Don't you think it's time we ate Don't you ...
14
votes
5answers
13k views

Why do some adjectives follow the nouns they modify?

Right now I can only think of one instance in which this regularly occurs. The adjective proper is sometimes placed after the noun it modifies, e.g: Reptilia: A class of cold-blooded oviparous or ...
11
votes
6answers
8k views

“I didn't realize it was him.” [duplicate]

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 dolt ...
6
votes
3answers
14k views

Is it: My apples and orange are/is wrong?

Simple question: My apples and orange are wrong or My apples and orange is wrong I am not a native English speaker, and I am having some trouble choosing between plural are or singular is for ...
62
votes
1answer
233k 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?
20
votes
7answers
392k views

“I'm well” vs. “I'm good” vs. “I'm doing well”, etc

The greeting How are you? is asking How are you doing in general? — How are you? I'm well. [Misunderstood the question.] because well as an adjective which means: in good health especially ...
42
votes
7answers
93k 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 ...
20
votes
5answers
7k views

“I think him to be about 50” or “I think he is about 50”?

I have two options. Which one is correct? a) I think him to be about 50. b) I think he is about 50. If both are correct, should I avoid one or the other?
7
votes
3answers
24k views

Correct usage of ‘on’, ‘at’ and ‘in’

As a foreign English speaker who never really studied too much English grammar other than the basics at high school, I often struggle to decide what is the correct preposition to use in certain ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

Non-finite clause complementation of complex transitive verbs

This question has been bothering me for a while. It came up when I was reading Chapter 16 of "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language." How to explain the grammatical structure of the ...
9
votes
8answers
5k views

Is the question mark misused in affirmative sentences?

For example, I found the following sentence written by a native English speaker (UK) so I'm going to assume that he knows how to put it the right way, although I wouldn't use this form. I now have ...
35
votes
5answers
72k 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?)...
9
votes
1answer
8k 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, "...
6
votes
4answers
43k views

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

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
4k 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?
3
votes
2answers
6k views

Why do we use the base form of verbs instead of the past form in past tense questions?

In regard to this answer, my question is similar but that answer is not clear. I want to know why we use base form of verb, e.g. 'go' to form the past tense instead of past form such as 'went'? ...
27
votes
2answers
330k 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 ...
33
votes
8answers
3k 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the accepted stance on using “they” in a singular form? [duplicate]

Is it good English to say "They have just left", when talking about a single person (perhaps someone you don't know the gender of)? (I am a native English speaker, I'm looking for the view held by ...
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 ...
14
votes
7answers
8k views

Is “running” a gerund or a participial adjective?

An enlightening experiment Google Books yields only 39 results, and instead asks me if I wanted to say “an enlightening experience”, and eagerly shows an impressive 10,000 results when I click on ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Subject/Complement Agreement. How to describe problem with “The thing is the objects.”

In my ell answer, version 32, I provided the following, problematic, wording (especially bold italic), and I need help to better understand this issue so I can fix my answer:1 The thing is ...
48
votes
6answers
132k 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”?...
55
votes
1answer
336k 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"?
11
votes
4answers
27k views

Can you say “are not we all?” instead of “aren't we all?”

Because "aren't" translates to "are not" I pose the question, can you use both interchangeably (in the context of "aren't we all?")? "Are not" sounds very grammatically incorrect in this situation. ...
8
votes
4answers
29k views

How do you call..? vs. What do you call…?

It seems an open-and-shut case, the correct version for asking the word of something in English is What do you call…? And yet the sheer number of second-language speakers of English who ask daily, ...