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181
votes
7answers
72k 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...
358
votes
22answers
116k 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 ...
92
votes
12answers
169k views

Are collective nouns always plural, or are certain ones 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 ...
152
votes
11answers
49k 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?
66
votes
9answers
34k 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: “...
126
votes
7answers
49k 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 ...
63
votes
5answers
30k 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 ...
135
votes
17answers
184k 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 ...
83
votes
7answers
99k 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 ...
159
votes
12answers
40k 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... ...
239
votes
10answers
230k 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," ...
143
votes
6answers
349k 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". ...
93
votes
3answers
150k 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
58
votes
4answers
51k 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 ...
293
votes
6answers
133k 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 ...
179
votes
12answers
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?
46
votes
4answers
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 ...
137
votes
12answers
18k 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?
20
votes
2answers
16k 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...
42
votes
3answers
97k 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 “‑...
222
votes
13answers
487k 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?
45
votes
6answers
76k 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 ...
68
votes
9answers
257k 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 ...
50
votes
3answers
34k 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,...
154
votes
16answers
427k 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.
103
votes
15answers
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 ...
33
votes
5answers
35k 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" ...
46
votes
2answers
109k 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 ...
307
votes
10answers
218k 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. (...
69
votes
5answers
869k 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 ...
60
votes
12answers
51k 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 ...
20
votes
7answers
4k 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 ...
43
votes
6answers
58k 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 ...
24
votes
5answers
98k 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 ...
51
votes
4answers
125k 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? ...
23
votes
3answers
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 ...
132
votes
2answers
881k 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?
49
votes
19answers
14k 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?
36
votes
4answers
18k 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
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 ...
19
votes
1answer
111k 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 ...
119
votes
14answers
267k 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 ...
24
votes
3answers
52k 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 ...
18
votes
3answers
12k 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 ...
303
votes
1answer
383k 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 (—)?
73
votes
8answers
221k views

Is it correct to use “their” instead of “his or her”?

Is this sentence grammatically correct? Anyone who loves the English language should have a copy of this book in their bookcase. or should it be: Anyone who loves the English language should have a ...
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 ...
96
votes
11answers
478k 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.
27
votes
3answers
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?
100
votes
10answers
17k views

“A/An” preceding a parenthetical statement

When a/an precedes a parenthetical aside (sometimes seen in informal/conversational writing), should the vowel rule depend on the first word in parentheses, or the next word in the "regular" flow of ...

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