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185 votes
7 answers
77k 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...
  • 149k
371 votes
22 answers
128k 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 ...
  • 3,877
97 votes
13 answers
181k 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 ...
  • 1,804
157 votes
10 answers
53k 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?
  • 2,112
67 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: “...
  • 5,073
134 votes
7 answers
53k 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 ...
  • 58.3k
66 votes
5 answers
32k views

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

I assume that the following sentences are all acceptable: He resents your being more popular than he is. Most of the members paid their dues without my asking them. They objected to the youngest girl’...
  • 21.5k
142 votes
17 answers
188k 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 ...
  • 4,960
166 votes
12 answers
43k 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... ...
  • 1,795
88 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 ...
  • 58.3k
252 votes
10 answers
248k 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," ...
  • 3,846
155 votes
6 answers
395k 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". ...
  • 96.1k
299 votes
6 answers
140k 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 ...
  • 96.1k
181 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?
  • 2,041
62 votes
4 answers
54k 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 ...
143 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?
  • 4,960
101 votes
3 answers
154k 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
  • 58.3k
49 votes
4 answers
12k 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 ...
43 votes
3 answers
101k 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 “‑...
21 votes
2 answers
18k 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...
  • 687
54 votes
3 answers
37k 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,...
  • 1,124
46 votes
6 answers
85k 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 ...
232 votes
13 answers
494k 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?
  • 5,073
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 ...
  • 1,023
69 votes
9 answers
272k 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 ...
  • 1,874
32 votes
5 answers
38k 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" ...
  • 11.3k
160 votes
16 answers
441k 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.
  • 12.3k
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 ...
  • 775
110 votes
15 answers
1.2m 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 ...
  • 3,634
49 votes
2 answers
117k 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 ...
  • 729
307 votes
10 answers
224k 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. (...
  • 7,294
73 votes
5 answers
913k 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 ...
  • 1,453
61 votes
14 answers
59k 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 ...
  • 4,385
26 votes
5 answers
110k 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 ...
  • 269
24 votes
3 answers
8k 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 ...
  • 2,177
42 votes
6 answers
65k 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 ...
  • 560
18 votes
1 answer
4k 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 &...
  • 315
53 votes
4 answers
134k 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? ...
  • 5,244
25 votes
3 answers
57k 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 ...
  • 353
30 votes
3 answers
5k 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?
  • 3,348
20 votes
1 answer
117k 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 ...
137 votes
2 answers
913k 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?
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 "...
  • 437
123 votes
15 answers
276k 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 ...
104 votes
11 answers
523k 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.
  • 10.2k
37 votes
4 answers
20k 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 ...
  • 21.5k
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 ...
  • 273
312 votes
1 answer
386k 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 (—)?
  • 58.3k
54 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?
  • 633
43 votes
6 answers
58k views

Correct position of "only"

Which is grammatically correct? I can only do so much in this time. or I can do only so much in this time.
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