One grammar category that seems to be widely untaught is the names and functions of various verb tenses. For those who have studied a foreign language, the existence of these constructions is not so foreign, but native English speakers rarely learn what the subjunctive – in English – even is, let alone how to use it correctly. The same goes for past perfect and conditional or hypothetical phrases. If you knew what these tenses were called, maybe you would better understand the rules for combining them. If you had known these rules earlier, perhaps you could have used them more often.Read More
After you receive your grade and read your professor’s comments you might have a lot of those “if only” thoughts. “If only I had looked up that concept.” “If only I had taken extra time to proofread that.” “If only I had read the assignment more carefully.” “If only I had started earlier and done more research.” “If only I had realized I was contradicting myself.” “If only I had re-read the class reading before starting to write.” Then suddenly the film of your life starts to run backwards. You are back 4 days before the assignment is due and have all the knowledge you have now! Fantasy, right? Not necessarily. Quite often professors will:Read More
What is a Homophone?
There are many more words in the English language than one might expect, given how similar their pronunciation and spelling can be. They're usually nouns and adjectives, except for those that function as conjunctions or contractions. Once you accept that English contains many pairs or groups of deceptively similar words with different meanings, then you will have a better understanding in sight of how to speak and cite and write the right ones.Read More
Sharing your story in a clear, compelling way is an important skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life, from writing personal statements to presenting yourself in interviews. It’s also a skill that’s not often emphasized in high school and college English classes, where literary analysis is highly prized. How can you hone this skill?Read More
In this blog post, our resident grammar girl reviews the impossibly confusing rules for singular subjects that refer to plural groups; subject-verb agreements involving"each", "all", and "none"; and last (but not least!) "neither", "neither", and "nor" and how they relate to your verb choice. Read More
The English language comprises a plethora of words that can change meanings with the addition of a prefix or a suffix. For example, the prefix re signifies that the base word to which it attaches is happening again, as in "do" and "redo". In theory, one could add re an infinite number of times to the front of a word, and the effect would continue to do the same thing; the word's function would be repeated however many times the prefix re appears. The fact that such a pattern exists in English recalls an aspect of the language (there it is again, re in recall to call to mind again) that dates back to its origins. As much as English is a language full of exceptions to the rules, it also presents patterns that, when understood, can shed light on how and why we use the words that form the English language.Read More
Within the realm of punctuation, apostrophes on plurals and possessives can also lead to questions. There are patterns for forming plurals, though, and so that you do not have to wonder about when and where to put an apostrophe.Read More
One advisory that students hear a lot, especially in earlier years of English class, is "avoid a comma splice." A comma splice is an excessive use of commas without the proper elements of a complete sentence to justify the commas. When to use a comma versus a semi-colon depends on the type of sentence you have. Below are the sentence types that call for commas.Read More
They may seem small, but punctuation marks can make all the difference in how we read and understand the English language. The title of what has become an iconic little book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, exemplifies the level of ambiguity that can result from the presence or absence of a comma. This chapter focuses on several oft-mistaken categories of punctuation marks – the comma, the semi-colon, the apostrophe, quotation marks – and how, when, and where to use them properly.Read More
"I could care less where we go to dinner."
"It was really unique."
"Between you and I, that movie wasn't very good."
To many, there is nothing unusual about the statements above. Indeed, most of us use some variation of them frequently. But to a grammarian or someone with a depth of knowledge about the rules of English, these utterances can be cringe inducing. They sound good, but they are grammatically or semantically incorrect.Read More