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183 votes
7 answers
76k views

How do the tens­es and as­pects in English cor­re­spond tem­po­ral­ly to one an­oth­er?

Non-na­tive speak­ers of­ten get con­fused about what the var­i­ous tens­es and as­pects mean in English. With in­put from some of the folk here I've put to­geth­er a di­a­gram that I hope will pro­...
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  • 146k
365 votes
22 answers
124k views

Is there a correct gender-neutral singular pronoun ("his" vs. "her" vs. "their")?

Is there a pronoun I can use as a gender-neutral pronoun when referring back to a singular noun phrase? Each student should save his questions until the end. Each student should save her questions ...
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  • 3,817
94 votes
13 answers
179k views

Are collective nouns (and in particular companies) always given a plural verb form, or are certain ones treated as singular?

I'd say Microsoft have a way of bending the rules and I know that McLaren have won the championship. While this sounds strange, I believe it is correct English (sorry, I'm not native). But when it's ...
user avatar
  • 1,764
155 votes
10 answers
52k views

What’s the rule for using “who” and “whom” correctly?

I can never figure out whether I should use who and whom. Most people use who for both colloquially, but some people say this is not correct. What’s the rule for using who and whom correctly?
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  • 2,082
66 votes
9 answers
35k 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: “...
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  • 5,003
128 votes
7 answers
52k views

When should com­pound words be writ­ten as one word, with hy­phens, or with spaces?

Some compound words are written without hyphens (nonaggression, nonbeliever), some with hyphens (well-intentioned), and others with spaces (post office). Is there a rule or good guide as to which ...
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  • 57.6k
64 votes
5 answers
31k views

When is a gerund supposed to be preceded by a possessive adjective/determiner?

I assume that the following sentences are grammatically correct: He resents your being more popular than he is. Most of the members paid their dues without my asking them. They objected to the ...
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  • 21.2k
139 votes
17 answers
186k views

When should I use "a" vs "an"?

In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why? He ate __ green apple. I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've ...
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  • 4,870
160 votes
12 answers
42k views

When is it appropriate to end a sentence in a preposition?

Like many others, I commonly find myself ending a sentence with a preposition. Yes, it makes me cringe. I usually rewrite the sentence, but sometimes (in emails) I just live with it. To, with... ...
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  • 1,735
85 votes
7 answers
101k views

Are there rules about using "that" to join two clauses?

He will understand that I was not joking. He will understand I was not joking. Which of the sentences is correct? Are there any specific rules about the use of "that" in the sentences I ...
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  • 57.6k
246 votes
10 answers
245k views

Do you use "a" or "an" before acronyms / initialisms?

99% of the time, I'm clear on when I should use "a" versus "an." There's one case, though, where people & references I respect disagree. Which of the following would you precede with "a" or "an," ...
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  • 3,786
155 votes
6 answers
381k views

"My wife and I's seafood collaboration dinner"

I just stumbled upon a Reddit post titled: My wife and I's seafood collaboration dinner. How does it look? Sure enough, the top comment immediately points out that it should be "my wife's and my". ...
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  • 95.4k
294 votes
6 answers
138k views

What is the rule for adjective order?

I remember being taught that the correct order of adjectives in English was something along the lines of "Opinion-Size-Age-Color-Material-Purpose." However, it's been a long time and I'm pretty sure ...
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  • 95.4k
179 votes
12 answers
1.0m views

When to use "If I was" vs. "If I were"?

If I was... If I were... When is it correct to use "If I was" vs. "If I were" in standard English?
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  • 2,021
60 votes
4 answers
53k 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 ...
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98 votes
3 answers
153k views

What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in "‑s"?

What is the possessive of a noun ending in ‑s? Are these both right, or is the second one wrong? the boys' books the boss' car
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  • 57.6k
140 votes
11 answers
19k views

When to use “that” and when to use “which”, especially in relative clauses

When is it appropriate to use that as opposed to which with relative clauses?
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  • 4,870
48 votes
4 answers
11k views

How should I punctuate around quotes where the punctuation required by the quote interferes with the punctuation of the sentence?

The American convention in quotations is (typically) to place punctuation inside quoted text. But I always run into situations where the punctuation of the quote interferes with the punctuation of the ...
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22 votes
2 answers
17k views

Agreement in "[Singular Noun] Is/Are [Plural Noun]"?

My fish's native habitat is rice fields. My fish's native habitat are rice fields. Which one is correct? I'm pretty sure it's the first, since 'is' modifies 'habitat,' but it still sounds weird...
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  • 687
54 votes
3 answers
36k views

Why is the subject omitted in sentences like "Thought you'd never ask"?

"Thought you'd never ask" is "I thought you'd never ask" with "I" omitted. "Hope this helps" is "I hope this helps" with "I" omitted. In English grammar, normally every sentence should have a subject,...
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  • 1,124
43 votes
3 answers
100k views

Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe?

Many questions already ask about this topic (What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in "‑s"? , When did it become correct to add an “s” to a singular possessive already ending in “‑...
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46 votes
6 answers
82k views

I <verb> and am <rest of sentence>

I sometimes find myself writing something like this: XXX is a project I admire and am very interested in. The "I <verb> and am <something>" feels strange here. It somehow sounds more ...
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228 votes
13 answers
492k views

Which words in a title should be capitalized?

Are there any concrete rules that say which words (parts of speech) in a title should start with a capital letter? What would be a correct capitalization for the title of this question?
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  • 5,003
67 votes
9 answers
267k 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 ...
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  • 1,824
21 votes
7 answers
5k views

"He didn't know where New Jersey was"

I know the past tense carries the past tense in every dependent clause, but referring specifically to places or to things that are eternal, like the Earth, seems a bit weird and therefore we sometimes ...
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  • 1,033
158 votes
16 answers
438k views

Should I put a comma before the last item in a list? [closed]

Should I put a comma before the last item in a list? I would like crackers, cheese and some soda. I would like crackers, cheese, and some soda.
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  • 12.2k
32 votes
5 answers
37k views

"There Is"/"There are" depends on plurality of the first list element or not?

It seems I put a stick in the anthill at ELL. Bounty assigned by outside party, two lengthy, reference-citing answers, one "-1" (awarded the bounty), one "-2", two others scored "0" and "-2" ...
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  • 11.2k
107 votes
15 answers
1.1m views

Which is correct, "you and I" or "you and me"?

When the phrase is used as an object, why so many native speakers are saying "you and I" instead of "you and me"? I'm not a native speaker but I thought "you and me" is correct. Not sure if this falls ...
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  • 3,554
46 votes
2 answers
114k views

A number of questions "has been" or "have been" asked?

Formally, is it correct to write: A number of questions has been asked here. or: A number of questions have been asked here. As a non-native speaker of English, I would prefer the former: the ...
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  • 699
306 votes
10 answers
223k views

What is the correct way to pluralize an acronym / initialism?

For example, if I wanted to write the equivalent of There are many automated teller machines in this city. Would it be There are many ATMs in this city. or There are many ATM's in this city. (...
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  • 7,274
71 votes
5 answers
906k views

Should I put myself last? "me and my friends" vs. "my friends and me" or "my friends and I"

I've always been taught to put myself last when referring to myself in the same sentence as others but the usage of "me and..." seems to be everywhere these days. The misuse of the word "me" instead ...
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  • 1,433
15 votes
1 answer
5k views

Agreement With Compound Subjects Joined by And

I was surfing the internet the other day when I found this phrase: Instead your precious time and attention is wasted. To my ears, it sounds wrong. But I'm not a native English speaker, so I consulted ...
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  • 755
60 votes
14 answers
57k views

I can run faster than _____. (1) him (2) he?

Consider the sentence "I can run faster than 15 miles per hour." Its meaning is clear and to my eyes obviously grammatically correct. Now let me present some variations that have given me ...
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  • 4,245
25 votes
3 answers
7k views

"Nikki's and Alice's X" vs. "Nikki and Alice's X"

Which option is grammatical? There will be readings from Nikki Giovanni’s and Alice Walker’s writings. There will be readings from Nikki Giovanni and Alice Walker's writings. Saying it out ...
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  • 2,169
25 votes
5 answers
106k views

User’s Guide vs Users’ Guide

I’ve been looking over what has been posted regarding the use of ’s. I used to be a Technical Writer (years ago). The title of one of our training documents was Users’ Guide. Once, a coworker said ...
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  • 259
43 votes
6 answers
63k views

"Who wants ice-cream?" — Should I say "(not) I" or "(not) me"?

With the enthusiastic question of "Who wants ice-cream?", what is the more correct response? (Not) I. (Not) me. Neither response is a sentence. The first response of "(not) I" sounds ...
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  • 570
51 votes
4 answers
132k views

How to answer a negative question without ambiguity?

I faced a problem to answer a negative question, for example, when someone asks you: Don't you have any money? It's a yes/no question but how should one answer the question without ambiguity? ...
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  • 5,185
20 votes
1 answer
116k views

Which is correct: "has died" or "died"?

To me, using Present Perfect form means the event can occur again. So, saying someone has died may not be grammatically correct. Also, I noticed (it might be just coincidence): passed away ...
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25 votes
3 answers
56k views

Comma after introductory words, phrases, clauses: unacceptable, obligatory or optional?

I am no native speaker and always confused about the comma in introductory phrases, in particular in prepositional phrases. Is there any hard rule when a comma must be set? If I make a google search ...
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  • 353
50 votes
18 answers
15k views

How should I phrase a question that must be answered with an ordinal number (e.g., the third prime)?

I want to make a question having an answer as follows: 5 is the third prime number. The bold part is the answer. How to phrase the question?
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  • 593
135 votes
2 answers
908k views

"Which" vs. "what" — what's the difference and when should you use one or the other?

Most of the time one or the other feels better, but every so often, "which" vs. "what" trips me up. So, what's the exact difference and when should you use one or the other?
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101 votes
11 answers
509k views

What is the correct way to use infinitive after the verb "help": with or without "to"?

What is the correct way to use infinitive after the verb "help": with or without "to"? For example: Please, help me to understand this. or: Please, help me understand this.
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  • 9,873
37 votes
4 answers
19k views

Pluralization rule for "five-year-old children", "20 pound note", "10 mile run"

Why are year, pound and mile in the singular form in the phrases below? five-year-old children 20 pound note 10 mile run Is that because they're acting as adjectives, which are always invariable in ...
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  • 21.2k
30 votes
3 answers
4k views

Is it correct to hyphenate with compound premodifiers? If so, where is the hyphen placed?

For example, "file system" and "related". Is it "file system-related"? It will appear as if it is a compound of "file" and "system-related", won't it?
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  • 3,308
3 votes
4 answers
3k views

Do you pluralize the singular possessions of / items or people associated with individual members of a plural group?

In a situation where say a group (or at least a plurality) of men is being addressed — for example on a sign passed by many married men — which is correct? "Remind your wife." or "...
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  • 437
306 votes
1 answer
385k views

When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

I generally know how to use a hyphen, but when should I use an en-dash (–) instead of an em-dash, or when should I use a hyphen (-) instead of an em-dash (—)?
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  • 57.6k
120 votes
14 answers
274k views

When should I use "a" versus "an" in front of a word beginning with the letter h?

A basic grammar rule is to use an instead of a before a vowel sound. Given that historic is not pronounced with a silent h, I use “a historic”. Is this correct? What about heroic? Should be “It was a ...
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17 votes
1 answer
3k views

When are attributive nouns plural?

If I want to say: "development of special weapons was the first point in Hitler's program..." I will say this (a better form): "special weapon development was..." OK... is it &...
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  • 305
13 votes
3 answers
10k 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 ...
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17 votes
3 answers
13k views

What is a noun modifying clause?

This is actually a question that came up when I was studying Japanese. Unfortunately my grasp of the technical language of syntax is very limited, and I never fully comprehended the idea of a noun ...
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  • 273

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