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Old Wednesday, September 26, 2007
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This thread has been introduced for Questions of English Grammar, Usage, Style, Spelling so on. All members are free to add anything relevant to account.



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Note: Under this thread, We`ll discuss the questions related to English which puzzle your study. I`ll add Frequently Asked Questions by and by.

1. How do I know when to use different from, different than, different to?

Different is not a comparative word, but rather one of contrast. The word than should actually follow a comparative adjective. Thus, as a writer you should lean toward using different from, e.g., Apples are different from peaches. / My selection is different from yours. Different than cannot be substituted for different from and so therefore it is sometimes useful as an idiom or for beginning clauses if different from would be awkward, e.g., The event turned out different than what I expected. / The college is different than it was when I went to school. The construction different to is chiefly British. One other slight distinction is when a simple noun phrase follows different than and is regarded as elliptical for a clause. You could use this rule: When different is followed by a prepositional phrase, the preposition should be from. When it is followed by a dependent clause introduced by a conjunction (even if much of the clause is elliptical), the conjunction should be than.







2. How do I know whether to use less or fewer?

There is a basic rule that is used to guide the choice of less or fewer. Less is supposed to be used with uncountable nouns (mass nouns), such as paper and paint. Fewer is to be used with things that can be counted (plural count nouns), like books or days. So, according to this rule, we should write or say "fewer dollars" but "less money." According to this rule, supermarket checkout signs should say "ten items or fewer" but most say "ten items or less." However, in spoken English, people increasingly use less in certain constructions where fewer would be the choice if the rule was being followed. For example, you can use less than before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance, e.g., less than two weeks /less than five percent / less than $2,000 / less than 10,000 miles. You can also use or less or no less than with plural nouns in constructions such as: Please explain why you want the job in 25 words or less. / No less than 2,000 people signed the petition. Fowler's Modern English Usage (first edition by H.W. Fowler, R.W. Burchfield, New York: Oxford University Press [3rd ed.], 2004) points out that less has not always been considered incorrect with countable things (its use was frowned upon starting in the 18th century). It really is a matter of the right idiom and not a matter of meaning. If you were to say "there are less than ten bookcases in this room," no one would misunderstand you - but your grammatical ears say "ouch" and ask for fewer.










3. When should I use continuously as opposed to continually?

Continual means frequently recurring or intermittent. Continuous means occurring without interruption or unceasing. Continuous refers to actions which are uninterrupted: The upstairs neighbor played his stereo continuously from 6: 00 PM to 3:30 AM. Continual actions, however, need not be uninterrupted, only repeated: My mother continually urges me to do my homework. / Rivers flow continuously, but the telephone is more likely to ring continually. A related mistake is to use continuous for something that happens at regular intervals. There are other adjectives that mean 'occurring repeatedly over a long period of time': "constant" (implying persistence, steadiness), "ceaseless" and "incessant" (referring to uninterrupted activity), "eternal" (lasting forever), "interminable" (seemingly endless, wearisome), "perennial" (going on year after year, with self-renewal), and "perpetual" (implying both duration and steadiness). So, try to remember to use -al for something which is either always going on or recurs at short intervals and never comes to an end, and -ous for something in which no break occurs between the beginning and the end.









4. Should I use a singular or plural verb with none?

None means 'not one' or 'not any' and it may take either a singular or plural verb. Writers are more or less free to decide which meaning is appropriate in their context. This grammatical construction, which is based on sense rather than form, is called notional agreement or notional concord, and is very common. So, consider none as singular when you want to emphasize a single entity in a group, but consider none to be plural when you want to emphasize more than one. Examples are: None of the books is/are worth reading. / None of us is/are going to the banquet. However, when none means 'no amount' or 'no part', it must be singular: None of the debris has been cleared away. / None of the forest is deciduous. So, if your meaning is 'none of them', treat the word as plural; if it is 'none of it', treat it as singular.





5. What are combining forms as opposed to prefixes and suffixes (general term affix)?


In English, many words have special combining forms which appear only in compounds or only in compounds and derivatives, e.g., electro-, the combining form of electric, appears in such compounds as electromagnet. A combining form can be distinguished from an affix (i.e., prefix or suffix) by one of the following: 1) its ability to occur as one immediate constituent of a form whose only other immediate constituent is an affix (as cephal- in cephalic), 2) its being an allomorph of a morpheme having another allomorph that may occur alone, or 3) is distinguished historically from an affix by the fact that it is borrowed from another language in which it is a combining form or a word. Another way to explain the three types of combining form is: 1) forms borrowed from Greek or Latin that are derivatives of independent nouns, adjectives, or verbs in those languages (for example, cardio-, -phile) and usually appear only in combination with other combining forms of Greek or Latin origin (for example, bibliophile, cardiology); 2) the compounding form of a free-standing English word where this type of combining form usually has only a single, restricted sense of the free word, and may differ from the word phonetically (for example, -land, -man, -proof, -wide); and 3) a form extracted from an existing free word and used as a bound form, usually keeping the meaning of the free word (for example, -aholic, heli-, mini-). In word formation, a combining form may conjoin with an independent word (mini- + skirt), another combining form (photo- + -graphy), or an affix (cephal- + -ic). An affix is different because it can be added to either a free word or a combining form but not solely to another affix.









6. What is a syllable and what determines syllables?

A syllable is a vocal sound or set of vocal sounds uttered with a single uninterrupted articulation and is larger than a phoneme (single sound). A syllable either forms a word or an element of a word. A syllable consists of a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant alone, or by any of these sounds preceded, followed, or surrounded by one or more consonants. The word syllable was first used by Chaucer (c. 1384) and is derived from Latin syllaba 'take or put together', which came from an earlier Greek word. In modern English, word syllables are characterized as either accented or unaccented; in non-accentual languages such as classical Greek and Latin, syllables are classified as either long or short, depending on the quantity of time it takes to pronounce them, due to varying vowel lengths and consonant groupings. The general structure of a syllable consists of three parts: the onset, the nucleus, and the coda. The nucleus is usually a vowel or diphthong. The onset is what comes before the nucleus and the coda is what comes after it. The nucleus and the coda, together, are sometimes called the rhyme. Only the nucleus always exists. All languages seem to allow syllables with empty codas (no consonants after the nucleus) and most also allow empty onsets. A syllable of the form CV (consonant + vowel, with an empty coda) is called an open syllable, while a syllable that has a coda (CVC, etc.) is called a closed or checked syllable. As far as how syllables are determined, they are ascertained by sound. Like much of what people know about their native language, knowledge of syllables is implicit: one can follow the rules even though one cannot state them.










7. What is the predicate? Is it everything after the subject?

In grammar, the predicate is the statement made about a subject. The grammatical predicate is either a simple verb, or a verb with its complement or object. So, the predicate is the part of a sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject and that usually consists of a verb with or without objects, complements, or adverbial modifiers. The predicate ascribes a property to the subject. The predicates are underlined here: She wrote a book. The book is on the table. Art can be controversial. The earth trembled. So, in the simplest pattern, the predicate consists only of the verb. There are five patterns of predicates: 1) The earth trembled - verbs in this pattern do not require following words to complete their meaning and thus are called intransitive (from Latin meaning 'not passing over'). 2) The earthquake destroyed the city - the predicate consists of a verb followed by a noun that identifies who or what receives the action of the verb. This noun is a direct object. Verbs that require direct objects to complete their meaning are called transitive (from Latin meaning 'passing over'), i.e., the verb transfers the action from subject to object. 3) The result was chaos - the predicate consists of a verb followed by a single noun, but the noun renames or describes the subject. The verb is a linking verb, connecting the subject and the description. The word that describes the subject is called a subject complement (it complements, or completes, the subject). 4) I gave the museum money - the predicate is a verb followed by two nouns. The second noun is a direct object, identifying what was given. The first noun is an indirect object, identifying to or for whom the action of the verb is performed. The direct and indirect objects refer to different things. 5) The newspapers declared him the winner - the predicate again is a verb followed by two nouns but in this pattern the first noun is a direct object and the second noun renames or describes it. The second noun is an object complement; it renames or describes the direct object.












8. Are there different grammar rules for spoken and written English?

Spoken and written languages have important differences, even more than the obvious distinction in physical form. These other differences center around usage, and arise out of the fact that speakers and writers are functioning in different communicative situations. There are also differences in language structure: the grammar and vocabulary of speech is not the same as that of writing. The two modes of communication function quite differently and their status is not the same. Written materials can be legally binding and are also afforded a kind of respect which is rarely accorded to speech. Written English provides a standard that is valued by society. Its relative permanence and wider circulation also differentiate it from speech. Electronic mail has changed writing to become more interactive and there are also mixed media which overlap speech and writing. As far as grammar goes, the spontaneity and speed of most speech exchanges make it difficult to engage in complex planning. The pressure to think while talking means that speech contains looser construction, repetition, rephrasing, and comment clauses. Intonation and pause divide long utterances, but sentence boundaries are less clear. Facial expression and gestures help convey meaning in speech, as do nuances of intonation, contrasts of loudness, tempo, rhythm, and tones of voice. The lexicon used in speaking is often more vague and it also includes more slang, euphemism, and other informal language. The answer, then, to the question is that the grammar is different because of the different structure and function of speech as opposed to writing.











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9. How can I figure out if something should be one word or two, like anytime or any time?

You should choose one dictionary as your general guide for all of your writing so your hyphenation is consistent. To find out if something should be one word or two - look it up. Remember that there may be variants and the first form offered will be "preferred," but other variants listed are also acceptable. This is one of the stickier problems that copy editors worry about - whether a two-word phrase is two separate words, hyphenated, or combined to become one word. Concepts may start out as two words (e.g., common sense), become hyphenated as adjectives, and then eventually become one word (commonsense) as the usage becomes more commonplace. Many words and phrases tend to evolve from separation to linkage. The trend in English is for frequently used word combinations to "grow together" from two words to one, sometimes passing through a hyphenated stage. The two-word phrase "data base," for example, is now most commonly written as one word: "database." So, though the best rule is to check your chosen dictionary, there are a few principles that can be helpful. Two or more adjectives before a noun that act as one idea (one-thought adjectives) are connected with a hyphen. Example: He has a devil-may-care attitude. Use a hyphen in expressions where words have become linked by usage to express one idea, e.g., mother-in-law. Do not use a hyphen after an adverb ending with -ly, e.g., carefully planned project. Do not use a hyphen in a compound using a comparative or superlative adjective, e.g., the best laid plans. Do not use a hyphen in chemical terms, e.g., hydrogen peroxide solution. Do not use a hyphen in a modifier using a letter or numeral as the second element, e.g., Type A personality. When written as words, fractions and cardinal numbers consisting of two words are hyphenated, e.g., two-thirds. Hyphenate words prefixed by ex-, self-, or all-, and some words prefixed by cross-. Do not hyphenate words prefixed by non-, un-, in-, dis-, co-, anti-, hyper-, pre-, re-, post-, out-, b-i, counter-, de-, semi-, mis-, mega-, micro-, inter-, over-, and under- (among others) - unless the second element is capitalized. (But some are hyphenated when the second element starts with the letter ending the first element: pre-empt.) Do not hyphenate most verb and preposition combinations, e.g., the verb check out. Use hyphens when needed for clarity, e.g., dirty-picture magazine.












10. What are irregular verbs?

An irregular verb is a verb which does not conform to an expected inflectional pattern, derivation, or word formation. These verbs mostly exist as remnants of historical conjugations. Examples are the forms of the verbs "be," "take," "throw," etc. There are nearly 250 irregular verbs in the English language. Dictionaries are perhaps the most valuable tool one can use in distinguishing between regular and irregular verbs. If only one form of the verb is listed, the verb is regular. Regular verbs' forms are often not listed in dictionaries because they follow a set of rules that are learned for inflections. Regular verbs are those whose past tense and past participles are formed by adding a -d or an -ed to the end of the verb - and this is how they differ from irregular verbs. If the verb is irregular, the dictionary will list the principal parts of the other forms. We memorize their forms, or look them up in a dictionary. There are seven main patterns of irregular verbs: 1) verbs that take a voiceless -t suffix to mark both past tense and past participles and which can replace the final d of the base, e.g., build, built; 2) verbs that take a -t or -d suffix to mark both past tense and past participle with a change in the base vowel, e.g., feel, felt, felt; 3) verbs that take the regular -ed suffix for past tense but -(e)n for past participles, e.g., show, showed, shown; 4) verbs that have no suffix for past tense forms but take the suffix -(e)n for past participles, with a change in the base vowel for one or both, e.g., break, broke, broken or take, took, taken; 5) verbs that have past tense and past participle forms marked only by a change in the base vowel, e.g., come, came, come or win, won, won; 6) verbs that have past tense forms and past participle forms identical to the base form, e.g., cut, cut, cut; and 7) verbs that have one or more completely unmatched forms, e.g., go, went, gone.













11. Can I use the word peoples instead of persons?

People is a singular noun meaning 'a body of persons sharing a culture' as in "As a people, the Anasazi were known for their basket-making." Its plural is peoples as in "the many peoples of South America." When your meaning is 'human beings', then people is plural and there is no corresponding singular form. Some strict grammarians say that people is a collective noun that should not be used as a substitute for persons when referring to a specific number of individuals. They are saying that people is general and persons is specific. This rule would mean you should say "Ten persons were invited to dinner" (not "ten people"). But people has always been used that way and few make the distinction anymore. Some grammarians consider persons to be better for small, specific numbers. The word person has replaced -man as the second element of many occupational compounds such as chairperson, deliveryperson, and spokesperson.













12. Should I use a singular or a plural verb with a collective noun?

A collective noun refers to a whole group as a single entity but also to the members of that group. A collective noun names a group of individuals or things with a singular form. Examples of collective nouns are: faculty, herd, team. There are collective nouns for people, animals, objects, and concepts. The use of a singular or plural verb depends on the context of the sentence. If one is referring to the whole group as a single entity, then the singular verb is best: The school board has called a special session. When a group noun is used with a singular determiner (e.g., a/an, each, every, this, that), singular verbs and pronouns are normal: The team is away this weekend; they have a good chance of winning. There are other contexts where the plural verb is more natural: My family are always fighting among themselves. When the individuals in the collection or group receive the emphasis, the plural verb is acceptable. Generally, however, in American English, collective nouns take singular verbs. In British English, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals that take plural verbs.















13. Can I ever end a sentence with a preposition?

The word preposition (examples: at, in, of, to) is so named because such words normally precede the position of their objects in a prepositional phrase. Some people then took this definition to mean that a preposition always had to come before its object and could never end a sentence. Latin has a rule against ending a sentence with a preposition, but English has no such rule. If a sentence is unusually long, and the ending preposition will be a long distance from its object, then it is best to avoid ending with the preposition. It is sometimes preferable to avoid ending with a preposition, and sometimes it is preferable to end with a preposition. "Where are you from?" is more natural than, "From where are you?" As general practice, one should avoid ending a sentence with a preposition as a matter of style rather than grammar. If the sentence sounds good and clear and ends with a preposition, then go with it. On this subject, a story involving Winston Churchill is often told. When an editor dared to change a sentence of Churchill's that appeared to end inappropriately with a preposition, Churchill responded by writing to the editor, "This is the kind of impertinence up with which I shall not put." His purpose was to illustrate the awkwardness that can result from rigid adherence to the notion that prepositions at the end of sentences are always incorrect.
















14. Can I begin a sentence with a conjunction?

Many have tried to get writers of English to stop using coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) to start sentences. Generally, coordinating conjunctions are used to join words, phrases, and clauses that are balanced as logical equals and are used to coordinate two independent clauses. Because coordinating conjunctions are used to hold together elements within a sentence, some teachers have discouraged their students from starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions. However, their real mission is to help their students learn to avoid sentence fragments like, "And smart, too." It is important to know that when you are writing in informal contexts and decide to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, you must be sure that what follows it is an independent clause, capable of standing alone as a sentence. In formal writing, it is best to avoid beginning any sentence with a conjunction.














15. How can I tell if a word is an adjective or an adverb in a sentence?

The only way to tell whether a word is an adjective or adverb is to determine what it modifies. Adjectives describe or modify nouns and pronouns. They specify which one, what quality, or how many. Adverbs describe or modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs (note that two of the three have verb in them, as does adverb - which can be a way for you to remember) as well as whole groups of words. Adverbs specify when, where, how, and to what extent. Adjective-noun combinations are: old city, two pears, generous gift. An example of an adjective-pronoun combination is: sly one; one of a pronoun-adjective is: it was nice. Examples of adverb-verb combinations are: nearly destroyed, quickly forgotten. Adverb-adjective combinations are: very generous, extremely happy. An adverb-adverb combination is: very quickly. Sometimes an adjective is erroneously used for an adverb and vice versa. For example: We take it very serious (the adjective) should be: We take it very seriously (the adverb). An adjective may go just before the noun it modifies (yellow bird) or follow a linking verb (the bird was yellow). Where to put adverbs often perplexes. Typically, an adverb goes just before a verb - but it may also go at the beginning of a sentence or clause; it may also be placed at the end, particularly if it gets the emphasis: The brook is rising rapidly. The placement of the adverb can dramatically affect the meaning of a sentence, making it awkward or ambiguous, so care must be taken to review one's writing. If an auxiliary is helping the verb, then it is fine for the adverb to go between them: We will soon know the election results. But if a verb has more than one auxiliary, things get complicated. The adverb normally goes after either the first or second auxiliary, depending on what it is supposed to modify. If it sounds right, it is likely to be right. An adverb made up of a number of words often follows a verb phrase. If the adverb begins the sentence, it can either modify a clause or the entire sentence. And, as a rule, the adverb should not separate a verb from its object: Keir solved quickly the puzzle. / Keir quickly solved the puzzle.












16. How can I find out which prepositions or particles can follow a verb?

Many verb combinations are easy to understand because you can work out their meanings from those of the individual verbs + prepositions (or verbs + particles). An example is: Put the dish down = Place the dish in a lower position. At other times, the combinations are more difficult to understand. An example is: Cholera broke out in that country. The verb break does not have the meaning it has in phrases like break a window. And out does not mean 'outside in the open'. The combination has to be understood as one unit. When a verb + particle or verb + preposition is a unit of meaning like this, it is a phrasal verb. The absolute best way to find out what prepositions or particles can follow a verb is to buy a dictionary of phrasal verbs. Not only will you find out what works together, but you will have the definitions of these combinations, and examples of usage. The same combination of words may be used in a variety of grammatical structures. One example is ran up in: A girl ran up to him. / The spider ran up the wall. / The soldier ran up a flag. These sentence patterns are all quite different, even though the meanings are related. In a phrasal verb dictionary, you will be presented with the possible structures for each phrasal verb. Another excellent source is a grammar book, like Applied English Grammar (Byrd, Patricia, Beverly Benson, Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001) or Grammar in Context (Elbaum, Sandra, Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle, 2001). There may be some verb + preposition lists online, but you may not be able to ascertain whether such a list is correct or complete. However, a collegiate or unabridged dictionary will also provide guidance about what prepositions work with a verb. For phrasal verbs, many will be defined in separate entries, e.g., "break out." Or a combination like "ran up" will be handled as a run-on to the main entry for "run," usually by defining it and offering an illustrative example which includes the preposition "up," e.g.: to spread or pass quickly from point to point --chills "ran up" her spine. A phrasal verb is also called verb-particle construction, verb phrase, multi-word verb, compound verb, or two- or three-part verb.
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17. Can you offer some guidance on using comparatives and superlatives?

The positive form of an adjective or adverb is the basic form listed in a dictionary, e.g." "red," "awful" (adjectives); "soon," "quickly" (adverbs). Adjectives and adverbs can show degrees of quality or amount with the endings -er and -est or with the words more and most or less and least. The comparative form is the greater or lesser degree of the quality named, e.g., "redder," "more/less awful," "sooner," "more/less quickly." The superlative form is the greatest or least degree of the quality named, e.g., "reddest," "most-least awful," "soonest," "most/least quickly." Without knowing for sure (i.e., looking in a dictionary), you can often tell by sound whether to use -er/-est or more/most. Double-check in a dictionary. If the endings -er/-est can be used, a dictionary will usually list them. Otherwise, use more or most. There are a few irregular adjectives and adverbs. For those, you must memorize how these change the spelling of their positive form to show comparative and superlative degrees. The adjectives are: "good>better>best," "bad>worse>worst," "little>littler,less>littlest,least;" "many, some, much>more>most." The adverbs are: "well>better>best," "badly>worse>worst."







18. What is litotes?

Litotes (Greek for 'smooth, plain; small, meager') is a figure of speech in which an affirmative is expressed by a contrary negative. Emphasis is given to a deliberate understatement by denying its opposite. To do this, you would say something like: He's not a bad singer; That's no ordinary automobile; I am not unfamiliar with organizing a household; That is not a bad idea; That is no small problem; She is not the friendliest person I know. The opposite of litotes is hyperbole. There are more than sixty different figures of speech, which are various forms of expression that are different from the "normal" arrangement or use of words and which lend beauty, force, or variety to writing. Some of the figures of speech are: alliteration, amphiboly, analogy, antanaclasis, antiphrasis, antithesis, aposiopesis, apostrophe, diallage, dissimilitude, enantiosis, epistrophe, euphemism, hendiadys, henopoeia, heterosis, hypallage, hyperbation, hyperbole, hysteron proteron, irony, meiosis, metaphor, metonymy, mimesis, onomatopoeia, oxymoron, periphrasis, personification, simile, synecdoche, and trope.









19. What is a malapropism?

This funny term takes its name from Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals (London: Printed for John Wilkie, 1775), who habitually confused long words. (Sheridan patterned her name after the French mal à propos, 'inappropriate'.) Malapropism is the ludicrous but unintentional misuse of words, especially mistaking a word for another that looks or sounds much like it (also an instance of this). The sounds of the word actually used strongly resemble those of the intended word, but there is no similarity in meaning (e.g., horoscope / stethoscope, physical / fiscal, parakeet / parquet, enormity / enormousness). You will find many malapropisms pop up in the speeches of politicians and the chatter of children. Reader's Digest offers this one from a little girl saying the Pledge of Allegiance: "I pledge a lesson to the frog of the United States of America, and to the wee puppet for witches hands. One Asian, in the vestibule, with little tea and just rice for all." Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, loved to use malapropisms, especially by Charlie Brown's sister, Sally, e.g., "I'm writing a story about some cave men. They're sitting around a campfire, see, when all of a sudden they're attacked by a huge thesaurus!"







20. What is an indirect object? What is a direct object?

In a sentence, when the predicate consists of a verb followed by a noun that identifies who or what receives the action of the verb, that noun is the direct object. So, in "The earthquake destroyed the city," the city is the direct object. The direct object is the noun 'governed' by a transitive verb. In a sentence, when the predicate consists of a verb followed by two nouns, then one is the indirect object, identifying to or for whom the action of the verb is performed. So, in "The government sent the city aid," the city is the indirect object and aid is the direct object. The indirect object is related to either a transitive or intransitive verb. The indirect object is the person (or place or thing) affected by the occurrence of an action, although not directly or primarily acted on. The direct object and indirect object refer to different people, places, or things. Other examples are: Businesses gave the museum money. / One company offered its employees bonuses. The indirect objects in these are the museum, its employees. The direct objects are money, bonuses. A number of verbs can take indirect objects (such as allow, bring, buy, deny, find, get, give, leave, make, offer, pay , read, sell, send, show, teach, and write). With some verbs, the indirect object must be turned into a phrase beginning with to or for, as in: admit, announce, demonstrate, explain, introduce, mention, prove, recommend, say, and suggest. Examples are: The booklet explains the new system to workers. / The workshop recommended journal-keeping for participants.









21. When should I use whom instead of who?

Use who when a nominative pronoun is appropriate, and whom when an objective pronoun is appropriate. Who is a nominative pronoun (meaning it acts as a subject) and is used: 1) as the subject of a verb, as in "It was Paul who rescued the dog."; 2) as the complement of a linking verb, as in "They know who you are." Whom is an objective pronoun (meaning it serves as an object) and is used: 1) as the object of a verb, as in "Whom did you see?" and 2) as the object of a preposition, as in "That is the group to whom the credit belongs." Who and whom seem to cause more difficulty than other pronouns. Thus, when in doubt, substitute him and see if that sounds right. If him is OK, then whom is OK. For example: "You talked to whom? You talked to him." It would be incorrect to say "You talked to he," and few native English speakers would make that mistake.









22. When do you use lie and lay?

To lay is to place something; to lie is to recline (though there are other meanings). Lay is followed by an object, the thing being placed. For example: He lays the book down to eat. To lie is to recline, as in: She lies quietly on the chaise lounge. The best way to explain it is that lie in the sense of 'to recline' or 'be situated' is intransitive and cannot take a direct object. But lay meaning 'to place something' or 'put down' or 'arrange' is always transitive and requires a direct object. Because lie is intransitive, it has only an active voice, while lay can be active or passive because it is transitive. Part of the source of the confusion is the past tense of lie, which is lay: She lay on the chaise all day. The past participle of lie is lain, as in: She has lain there since yesterday, as a matter of fact. The past tense of lay is laid, as is the past participle.









23. Can I use and (or but, etc.) at the start of a sentence?

Yes. The old "rule" that you cannot begin a sentence with a conjunction has actually gone by the wayside. In casual writing or speech, a sentence can start with and or but. Though these words are mainly used to join elements within a sentence, they have been used to start sentences since the 10th century. Many style guides even say that but is more effective than however at the beginning of a sentence. But, in any case, do use variety in the way you start sentences and try to start consecutive sentences with different words. The groundless suggestion that it is incorrect to begin a sentence with but or and is as silly as saying it is incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition.








24. Should I put a comma before and in a series of items?

The use of a serial comma in a series such as: bread, butter, and beer) is a matter of taste. You can either leave it in or take it out: (bread, butter and beer) works as well. It is important that you choose your style and be consistent in using it. Remember, though, that a serial comma's absence can sometimes change the meaning, so do read your sentence carefully. The http://alt-usage-english.org/ cites the example of an author who dedicated his novel thus: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God. Clearly the author should not have omitted the serial comma in this case. Use commas in a compound sentence to clarify meaning or add emphasis. Use a comma to separate clauses of a sentence which have and between them. If there's no and, use a semicolon instead: She hadn't left the computer all week; by Friday she was climbing the walls.











25. What is a linking verb?

A linking verb is usually a form of "be," "become," or "seem" that identifies or links the predicate complement (either a nominative or adjective) of a sentence with the subject. Example: Achilles is a lion. Is links Achilles with lion or identifies Achilles with a lion. Achilles is the subject of the sentence and is a lion is the predicate. Other verbs that can serve as linking verbs include: come, feel, get, go, grow, lie, look, prove, remain, sound, stay, and turn. A linking verb is also called a copula or copulative verb.
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26. What is the difference in usage for like versus as?

Like may be used as a preposition but the general rule is as comes before a clause. If the word is followed by a clause (a group of words with both a subject and a verb), use as: He liked the restaurant, as any gourmet would. If no verb follows, choose like: He walks like a platypus. As and as if are followed by a verb, but like never is. In casual usage, like is gaining steady popularity as a preposition, as in "He tells it like it is" / "She eats ice cream like it is going out of style," which means that the "rule" that like is not followed by a verb can be suspended. You can say, "She felt like meditating." The informal use of like to introduce a clause is fine in conversation or casual writing, but to be grammatically proper, use the "as comes before a clause" rule.







27. What is the rule for determining whether or not to write out a number as a word?

In general, write out the first nine cardinal (1-9) numbers; use figures for 10 and above. Write out the first nine cardinal (1-9) numbers (except for address numbers 2-9, dates, decimals, game scores, highways, latitude/longitude, mathematical expressions, measurement/weight, money/financial data, percentages, proportion, scientific expressions, statistics, technical expressions, temperature, time, unit modifiers, votes, and numbers not written out in a proper noun) and any number that begins a sentence; use figures for 10 and above. The first nine ordinal (1st-9th) numbers are usually written out, especially when describing order in time or location.











28. Does a comma go after i.e. or e.g.?

Both abbreviations i.e. and e.g. are preceded by a mark of punctuation, usually a comma. In American English, both are generally followed by a comma, though not in British English, and are not italicized. E.g. may also be followed by a colon, depending on the construction. In British English, the term is often written as eg with the periods omitted.











29. When do you use that and which?

In current usage, that refers to persons or things and which is used chiefly for things. The standard rule says that one uses that only to introduce a restrictive or defining relative clause - one that identifies the person or thing being talked about. An example is "The fort that Keir built has to be taken down" and the clause "that Keir built" describes which fort has to be taken down, i.e. it is restrictive. In contrast, which is used only with nonrestrictive or nondefining clauses. This type of clause gives additional information about something that has already been identified in the context. An example is "The students have been complaining about the assigned novel, which is hard to understand." The clause "which is hard to understand" is nonrestrictive as it does not indicate the specific novel being complained about. In a sentence including a nonrestrictive clause, the sentence would still be clear even if the clause were omitted. One will find that which sounds more natural than that in such a sentence, which is a great double-check of the grammar. Some people very strictly use that only in restrictive clauses and which in nonrestrictive clauses. However, even in good prose one will find the use of which in restrictive clauses is very common and considered grammatically acceptable. An example is "I would like to find a website which will tell me all about writing a research paper."













30. What is the rule for determining whether to use a or an?

The rule is: Use an before a word beginning with a vowel sound, however the word is spelled. Hence you say an MBA, an hour, but a BA, a horologist. You say either an historical event or a historical event, according to whether you pronounce the h. The rule is that if the h- is sounded, then a is the proper form. The indefinite article a is used before words beginning with a consonant sound, y and w sounds. The sound, not the actual letter, determines which you use. It is not unusual to find a before a word starting with a vowel or an before a word starting with a consonant.









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31. What is redundancy in writing?

Samuel Johnson wrote that writers should "avoid ponderous ponderosity." Redundancy refers to the use of language that can be eliminated without incurring a loss of meaning. Redundancy (or tautology) is the adding of words or phrases that add nothing to the overall meaning because their senses have already been expressed. Redundancy in writing usually comes from these sources: 1) Wordy phrases, for example: "in view of the fact that" instead of "since" or "because"; 2) Employing obvious qualifiers when a word is implicit in the word it is modifying, such as "completely finish," e.g., If you have incompletely finished something, you haven't finished it at all; and 3) Using two or more synonyms together, as in "thoughts and ideas." We hear many phrases spoken each day that are redundant: same exact, advance planning, mix together, actual fact. We all could use more diligence in weeding out redundancies in our writing - and speech.






32. What is ambiguity in writing?

Ambiguity is any writing whose meaning cannot be determined by its context. A word, phrase, sentence, or other communication is called ambiguous if it can be (reasonably) interpreted in more than one way, i.e., when at least two specific meanings can make sense in the chosen context. Ambiguity should not be confused with vagueness, in which a word or phrase has one meaning whose boundaries are not sharply defined, i.e., the meaning is not clear in the context. Ambiguity may be introduced accidentally, confusing the readers and disrupting the flow of reading. If a sentence or paragraph jars upon reading, there is lurking ambiguity. It is particularly difficult to spot your own ambiguities, since authors tend to see what they mean rather than what they say. It is strongly recommended that you let another person read what you have written before submission or publication.








33. What should be the spacing between sentences?

Traditionally, students in typing classes have been taught to put two spaces between sentences. In typewritten texts, one space between words was fine, but two spaces seemed necessary to make the break apparent. To be strictly accurate, only one standard word space should be inserted between the end of one sentence and the start of the next. However, strict application of this rule in the world of automated composing systems can cause readability problems, because several factors affect how the spaces appear in the composed text. The issue of spacing between sentences should be decided for individual typing jobs, not applied across all projects as a standard. If readability won't suffer, only one space should appear between sentences; if readability is an issue, two spaces can be used. Whichever choice you make, ensure that it is implemented uniformly throughout the text.









34. Do adverbs always end in -ly?

No. Though many adverbs are formed by the addition of -ly to an adjective (sad/sadly), there are many other formations: 1) those beginning with a (apart); 2) compound adverbs (downstairs, underfoot); 3) adverbial phrases or adverbials (for a time); 4) conjunctive adverbs or conjuncts (the word so in "She has a lot of energy, so she puts everyone to shame"; 5) derivational adverbs formed with -fashion, -style, -ward, -way, -wise; and 6) adverbs of time ending in -s, such as: always, backwards, ever, now, often, once, soon, etc.









35. What is syntax?

Syntax is the way words are put together in a language to form phrases, clauses, or sentences. The syntax of a language can be divided into two parts: 1) syntactic classes such as: noun, verb, and adjective; and 2) syntactic functions, such as: subject and object. Syntax is the set of natural rules or patterns that govern how units conveying messages (i.e., words and word parts such as prefixes) are combined in a language to form meaningful sentences. The syntax of a sentence is actually a hierarchy and the analysis of a sentence's syntax is concerned with: 1) the ordering of the grammatical sequences within phrases; 2) agreement between concomitant entities (i.e., agreement of number and gender between subject and verb, noun and pronoun), and 3) case as mandated by the position and function of words within the sentence. English is a syntactic language, i.e., it uses word order to indicate word relationships. Inflected languages, such as Greek and Latin, use word endings and other inflections to indicate relationships.







36. When do you use that and which?

In current usage, that refers to persons or things and which is used chiefly for things. The standard rule says that one uses that only to introduce a restrictive or defining relative clause - one that identifies the person or thing being talked about. An example is "The fort that Keir built has to be taken down" and the clause "that Keir built" describes which fort has to be taken down, i.e. it is restrictive. In contrast, which is used only with nonrestrictive or nondefining clauses. This type of clause gives additional information about something that has already been identified in the context. An example is "The students have been complaining about the assigned novel, which is hard to understand." The clause "which is hard to understand" is nonrestrictive as it does not indicate the specific novel being complained about. In a sentence including a nonrestrictive clause, the sentence would still be clear even if the clause were omitted. One will find that which sounds more natural than that in such a sentence, which is a great double-check of the grammar. Some people very strictly use that only in restrictive clauses and which in nonrestrictive clauses. However, even in good prose one will find the use of which in restrictive clauses is very common and considered grammatically acceptable. An example is "I would like to find a website which will tell me all about writing a research paper."









37. What is the rule for determining whether or not to write out a number as a word?

In general, write out the first nine cardinal (1-9) numbers; use figures for 10 and above. Write out the first nine cardinal (1-9) numbers (except for address numbers 2-9, dates, decimals, game scores, highways, latitude/longitude, mathematical expressions, measurement/weight, money/financial data, percentages, proportion, scientific expressions, statistics, technical expressions, temperature, time, unit modifiers, votes, and numbers not written out in a proper noun) and any number that begins a sentence; use figures for 10 and above. The first nine ordinal (1st-9th) numbers are usually written out, especially when describing order in time or location.









38. Is it ok to say off of?
It is certainly true that the compound preposition off of is used in English, but it is considered an idiomatic or dialectal usage, as is out of. The of is often criticized as redundant or superfluous, but that is not a concern when the writer or speaker is using the phrase idiomatically (i.e., informally). In more formal writing, you would say, "The actress stepped off the stage," but in informal speech or writing you could say, "The actress stepped off of the stage." However, the use of off of when intended to mean 'from' as in "I borrowed five dollars off of him," is considered non-standard. The construction off of is more common in American English than in British English. Other compound prepositions to which this information may be applied are: inside of, out of, outside of. In other words, you can say, "He waited outside the building" or "He waited outside of the building."









39. Should I avoid clichés?

Clichés are sometimes the most efficient way to express a complicated idea, but most of the time they are used because the writer has not thought out a better way to convey what he or she means. Certainly in anything but the most informal writing, clichés should be avoided. Originally, the word cliché was a French word for a 'stereotype block or cast' used in printing and, later, in photography. By the late 19th century, it came to mean 'a stereotyped or commonplace expression or phrase'. Examples of clichés are: forbidden fruit, have a nice day, sell like hot cakes. Though cliché is defined as a 'word or phase that has lost much of its force through overexposure', generally we find that clichés are very handy while at the same time are somewhat frowned upon. As Fowler said in Modern English Usage (Burchfield, R.W., ed., The new Fowler's modern English usage [3rd ed.], New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), "What is new is not necessarily better than what is old...The hardest worked cliché is better than the phrase that fails." Clichés are often spoken of in a pejorative manner, as expressions that have become annoying. You will find, though, that you sometimes need clichés when no other phrase fills the bill or when a phrase that others may say is cliché does not strike you as being stale.








40. What is an intransitive verb?

An intransitive verb is a verb or verb construction that does not require or cannot take a direct object, e.g., run, sleep. Here's an intransitive verb in action: She ran for the Olympic gold medal. The action ends rather than being transferred to some person or object, or is modified by an adverb or adverb phrase. Typically, an adverb or prepositional phrase modifies an intransitive verb or the intransitive verb ends the sentence. A transitive verb, however, takes a direct object, for example: She makes the best apple pie I've ever tasted. Note that certain verbs, such as "run," have transitive and intransitive senses. Thus you could say: He runs the local produce shop. To determine whether a verb is intransitive ask whether the action is done in some way, in some direction, or to some degree.
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41. How can I find the spelling of a word if I do not know it?

To find the spelling of a word you do not know, start with what you do know - like the first, second, third letters. You know alphabetical order, so that is a big tool for finding words. Say you want to learn how to spell separate. You know it begins with an s and it is followed by a vowel. You start in the dictionary at the letter s and choose the vowel you think is most likely, like e - so you are looking under se. You sound out the word and figure out that the next likely letter is p - so you are now looking under sep. When you get to the first letter you are unsure of - like the fourth letter in separate - then you check the different possibilities. You will find separate pretty quickly as you read down the list of words in the dictionary. If not, try to think of a similar-sounding word that you know is spelled oddly. Perhaps you are trying to find knight and it sounds like knife, which you do know how to spell. You are on your way to the correct spelling. However, the problem is harder when you do not even know the first letter of the word. You will have to choose somewhere to start - for a word like catamaran you would start either in c or k and follow the same procedure by sounding out and trying to figure out the next letter or letters. You will learn a great deal about spelling by doing this and though it may seem tedious, it is a lot better to go through an exercise like this and learn a correct spelling. It is equally important to read the entry's definitions when you find the correct spelling of the word. Reading the entry reinforces your learning and sets that word in your memory. Remember that correct spelling is key to conveying what you mean in writing. Also, remember that sometimes a word is listed in a dictionary as an inflected form of an entry word or as a derivative or run-on. By learning about all the features of your dictionary, you will know to check all parts of an entry and will often find the spellings you need in the other parts of a dictionary entry.








42. Should I capitalize the names of seasons, such as Spring and Summer?

The seasons of the year are not capitalized as a rule, except in some literature like in poetry when a season is personified. However, it is certainly ok to capitalize the names of the seasons, especially when doing so often makes it clearer that you are talking about a season. Spring is the first season of the year, astronomically from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice. In the US, it is generally thought of as March, April, and May. Spring's etymology is from Old English as 'the place of rising or issuing, esp. of a stream, river, etc.' The second season, Summer, is astronomically from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox and the word's history goes back to Old Norse sumar, though the word has cognates outside Germanic languages. Autumn, the third season, is astronomically from the autumnal (descending) equinox to the winter solstice, popularly September, October, and November. Autumn derives from Latin autumnus. The term Fall is used in North America as the ordinary name for Autumn; in England it is rare except in literary use and some dialects. Winter, the fourth season, extends astronomically from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox and is considered to be December, January, and February. Winter's etymology goes back to Gothic wintrus.







43. When do I capitalize the word earth?

If you are talking about the Earth as a proper noun, as a planet or celestial body, then you can capitalize Earth and use no article (the): How far is Earth from the Sun? But it is also fine to leave it as lowercase and use the with earth if you are talking about it as the planet we live on: The earth rotates on its axis. It is ok to do the same with the sun and the moon. When you are talking about the ground or soil as a surface or stratum, then you must lowercase the word: The archaeologists excavated the earth at the site. The word earth is derived from Greek era. Here is something interesting - we never hear people say the Mercury, the Pluto - but we do say the Earth, the Moon. Using the definite article "the" in front of an uncapitalized "earth" has its roots in the worldview that we are separate from and fundamentally different. (P.S. There is a town called Earth, Texas.)









44. How can crossword puzzles help me with spelling?

The crossword is the most popular and widespread word game in the world. It is easy to see how it helps with spelling - you cannot get too far in a puzzle if you do not spell the word correctly! Crosswords encourage people to use dictionaries, both specialized crossword dictionaries as well as collegiate and unabridged volumes. The constructor of a puzzle uses unabridged dictionaries. The solver of crosswords has to write words guessed from clues provided by the constructor. Crossword puzzles encourage logical thinking and correct spelling. When the first book of crosswords was published in 1924 it became a best-seller and crosswords replaced mah-jongg as the most popular American game. It may seem that crossword-solving is a trivial pursuit, yet it has been claimed that crosswords extend one's vocabulary, stimulate the mind, and encourage a healthy skepticism towards accepting things at their face value. Improving your spelling by getting involved in any type of word game can be fun and profitable.







45. Why don't we just spell words the way they sound?

Following a spelling system (even ours in which many words have spelling variants) allows us to communicate better. There are billions of English speakers and the English language is estimated to have at least a million words. Choosing to spell words the way they sound would create an infinite number of variants, as we each hear sounds slightly differently. Kindergartners use what they know about letters and sounds to write messages using invented spelling, or spelling words by the way they sound. By learning to stretch out the words to help them hear individual sounds, kindergartners can label a picture. Your child may write "br" for "bear" or "i mad mi bd" for "I made my bed." Using invented spelling actually helps children practice the letter-sound relationships they need for reading. In this very early stage of spelling, the child attempts to communicate a message but the child may be the only one who can decipher the message. That right there is the answer to this question - that our ability to communicate would be greatly impaired if we did not have a spelling system for our English vocabulary.









46. What makes spelling correct?

The English spelling system is the result of a process of development that has been going on for over 1,000 years. The complications we deal with today are the consequences of major and minor linguistic, social, etc. events which have taken place over this period. Lexicographers look at actual usage - in print, in speech - for the data that makes up dictionary entries. Spelling is one of those pieces of data. The spellings given in dictionaries - and the order of entries which have spelling variants - are based on the study of how words are spelled in print. The role of the lexicographer is clearly descriptive, not prescriptive. Learning to spell requires learning the peculiarities and irregularities of many, many words. Knowledge of the history of English spelling can provide the framework needed to retain much of this information. The strongest reasons for learning the history of English spelling are: 1) that it enriches our understanding of the past, 2) makes us more adept at reasoning, and 3) sensitizes us to the richness of English orthography.







47. What are some rules for forming plurals?

The most basic way to form a plural is to add s to the word: apples, cats, mothers. If the word ends in ch, s, sh, ss, x, z, or zz, then you add an es: bunches, thesauruses, dishes, sixes, chintzes. Proper nouns of this type always add -es: Magoulas, Magoulases. Most of the words that end with f, ff, or fe are made plural by changing the ending to -ves, (such as loaves and wives) but there are exceptions that must be memorized or looked up, e.g., beliefs, gulfs, roofs. A few nouns ending in f or ff, including beef, dwarf, hoof, scarf, wharf, and staff have two plural forms: beefs or beeves; dwarfs or dwarves. A word that ends with a combination of a vowel plus y will have an s added: bays, birthdays, cowboys, keys. A word that ends with a combination of a consonant plus y will change the y to ies: babies, faculties, French fries. Proper nouns ending in y form their plurals regularly, and do not change the y to i as common nouns do, e.g., the two Sandys. Words that end in o usually just get s added, but there are exceptions that must be memorized or looked up, such as: echoes, potatoes, volcanoes. Some nouns ending in o preceded by a consonant have two plural forms: buffaloes or buffalos; cargoes or cargos; mosquitoes or mosquitos; zeros or zeroes. Most nouns ending in i form their plurals by adding -s: alibis, khakis, skis, but there are exceptions (chiles). A few nouns undergo a vowel change in the stem: foot, feet; goose, geese; louse, lice; man, men; mouse, mice; tooth, teeth; woman, women. Compounds written as a single word form their plurals the same way that the final element of the compound does. Compounds ending in -ful normally form their plurals by adding s at the end. Compound words, written with or without a hyphen, that consist of a noun followed by an adjective or other qualifying expression form their plurals by making the same change in the noun that is made when the noun stands alone. Some nouns, mainly names of birds, fishes, and mammals, have the same form in the plural as in the singular. Many words indicating nationality or place of origin have the same form in the plural as in the singular. A few names of tribes or peoples have the same form in the plural as in the singular. Many nouns derived from a foreign language retain their foreign plurals. The plural of a word being used as a word is indicated by 's.









48. I always confuse the endings -able and -ible. Are there any useful tips to remember?

The adjective suffixes -able and -ible mean 'capable of', 'fit for,' or 'worthy of' and also 'tending to,' 'given to,' or 'causing'. The suffixes are pronounced the same, so they can be a spelling nightmare. There are no simple rules, but here are some useful tips. If the base word is not changed in any way then add -able. This works most of the time: comfort>comfortable, predict>predictable, understand>understandable. There are many more words ending -able than -ible. Words that can end in -ible often have negative forms that are created by adding il-, im-, in-, or ir- , e.g., illegible, impossible, inedible, irresponsible. Also, the suffix -able is often applicable for words that have noun forms ending in -ation, while the suffix -ible is often applicable to words that have noun forms ending in -ition, -tion, -sion, and -ion. One other helpful thing to remember is that -ible is not used after vowels, e.g., agreeable, permeable. The best advice is to learn the most common -ible words and use -able for the rest. And if you are unsure, look it up in a dictionary.









49. How do I know whether to double a final letter when adding a suffix?

We double the final consonant of a word before we add -ed, -er, -est, -ing, -able and -y to show that the vowel has a short sound. When a one-syllable word ends in a consonant preceded by one vowel, double the final consonant before adding a suffix which begins with a vowel. This is also called the 1-1-1 rule: one syllable, one consonant, one vowel. Examples are: bag, baggage; bat, batted, batting, batter. (The two notable exceptions to this are bus, gas.) When a multi-syllable word ends in a consonant preceded by one vowel, and the accent is on the last syllable, double the final consonant. Examples: confer, conferring; control, controlled; begin, beginning. In words of more than one syllable ending in a consonant, especially l, British English generally doubles the final consonant, and American English generally does not, though it is certainly acceptable. Examples: canceled, cancelled; labeled, labelled. Remember that only some letters are doubled: b, d, g, l, m, n, p, r, t.







50. Does the ability to spell indicate one's intelligence, education, or desire?

Poor spelling ability really does not have a relationship to general intelligence. However, desire, education, and intelligence do have something to do with excellent spelling ability. And the personality traits of being meticulous and organized certainly have an impact on one's ability to spell well. From some surveys that have been done, it has been found that the top spellers were more organized than the average spellers. So, the ability to spell well may be more related to personality traits or habits than other factors. You are also likely to be a good speller if you have a deep interest in language, its roots, the connections between different words via meaning and sound, and in the poetic quality of words. To improve one's spelling if one is not naturally good at it takes practice. You have to look things up, keep a spelling journal, take quizzes, etc., if becoming a better speller is your goal. With practice, you can train yourself to take pictures of words. You can add words consciously to your visual memory. Visualization is very helpful because spelling is primarily a visual activity. Many good spellers depend on visual memory to determine whether a word looks right or wrong. The more finely tuned your visual memory becomes, the better your spelling will be. Paying closer attention to the way words look also encourages you to notice the world around you more. This is a great side effect - increasing your powers of observation!
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51. Can you help me with proper apostrophe use?

The apostrophe is used when leaving out a letter or number in a contraction, e.g., can't, wouldn't. The apostrophe is used for omitted letters, e.g., rock 'n' roll, and for omitted numbers, such as the class of '72, the '20s. The apostrophe is used for plurals of letter abbreviations with periods and single letters, e.g., p's and q's; two A's and four B's. Plurals of multi-letter combinations and plurals of numerals end in s with no apostrophe, e.g., VIPs, 1000s. The possessive of singular nouns ending in s, including nouns ending in s, x, z, ch, or sh, is formed by adding 's, e.g., witness's affidavit. However, if the next word begins with s, then add only an apostrophe, e.g., witness' story. The possessive of singular nouns not ending in s is formed by adding 's, e.g., VIP's seat, baby's food. The apostrophe follows the s of a word with two sibilant sounds, e.g., Kansas', Moses'. The apostrophe is added for the possessive of a noun that is plural in form but singular in meaning, e.g., mathematics' formulas. The apostrophe follows the s for the possessive of plural nouns that end in s, e.g., girls' movies. For the possessive of a plural noun that does not end in s, add 's, e.g., women's rights. For singular proper nouns, add only an apostrophe for the possessive, e.g., Achilles' heel. No apostrophe is used for personal pronouns, such as: hers, his, its, mine, ours, theirs, whose, your, yours. Indefinite pronouns require an apostrophe, e.g., one's lover. For other pronouns like another and others, follow the rule for singular and plural, e.g., another's and others. For joint possession, the 's is added to the word nearest the object of possession, e.g., Francis and Kucera's book. The apostrophe is not used in names of organizations unless actually part of the legal name. The apostrophe is not used in plurals of numerals or multiple-letter combinations.











52. I need help with there/their/they're. How can I make sure I use the right form?

The confusion stemming from these words is that they are homophones: they have the same pronunciation but differ in meaning and/or derivation. There is a location, their is the possessive case of the personal pronoun they, and they're is a contraction for they are. If you have written they're, ask yourself if you can substitute they are. If you have written their, ask yourself if the thing referred to belongs to someone, as in: Their seats were taken when they left to go to the bathroom. For there, use this hint: it has here as part of it, which reminds you that you should be talking about a place. For their, use this hint: it has heir as part of it, which reminds you that you should be talking about possession.










53. What ways can I use dictionaries to improve my spelling?

Good spellers have a dictionary by their side, a quiet companion that they check constantly and learn from. You should have one within arm's reach at your desk - even if you have a computer and Internet access. You should have a dictionary by your bedside or wherever you read or write. Whenever you feel unsure of the spelling (or meaning, etc.) of a word, you should look it up. This is a great opportunity for improvement of your spelling. If you are a poor speller and you have problems finding the words you look for in dictionaries, then you have to put in some extra effort to familiarize yourself with all the possible spellings for particular sounds. You can also take this approach: you know alphabetical order, so that is a big tool for finding words. Say you want to learn how to spell "separate." You know it begins with an s and it is followed by a vowel. You start in the dictionary at the letter s and choose the vowel you think is most likely, like e, so you are looking under se. You sound out the word and figure out that the next likely letter is p - so you are now looking under sep. When you get to the first letter you are unsure of - like the fourth letter in "separate" - then you check the different possibilities. You will find separate pretty quickly as you read down the list of words in the dictionary. Having success with either of these methods boosts your self-esteem in the area of spelling and is positive reinforcement. Another way you can use a dictionary to improve your spelling is by paying attention to the way the entries are separated into syllables. You can file words into your memory in easily retrievable pieces so that the next time you go to spell it, you can pull out the pieces and build the word, e.g., to-mor-row. The syllable division can also help you recognize common prefixes, roots, and suffixes which will be useful in spelling related words. Reading the definitions is another tool for spelling improvement. The stronger the associations you make with a particular word, the more likely you are to remember its spelling. Knowing the word's meaning will allow you to put it in your everyday vocabulary. The origin or etymology of the word is another aid to better spelling. Each word often shares its root or roots with other words and these associations may help you spell it and its relatives correctly. Proper pronunciation is also an important part of correct spelling. You can make a list of problem words and look up each one in a dictionary, and then say each aloud while looking at the correct spelling. In doing this, you can make a conscious connection between the sounds you are making and the correctly spelled word on the page.












54. How can I become a better proofreader?

Good proofreading takes practice and an important part of learning how to spell is to learn how to proofread. Becoming a better proofreader can help you catch spelling errors. First, though, it is important to understand the difference between reading and proofreading. In most reading you get a good general sense of what is going on and the relations of various things involved in the document. By contrast, careful proofreading is about gaining a more thorough understanding of the structure and character of the document. As far as tips, type instead of handwrite whenever possible. Type is clearer and your familiarity with your own handwriting makes it look right in many instances when it is wrong. You can use an electronic spell checker either before or after your own proofreading, but you must pay special attention to any mistakes before correcting them. It is important to spend a little time becoming familiar with the errors or types of errors. You will lessen your chances of making such mistakes in the future - or at least make it more likely that you will catch them. It is important to read for meaning. Paying attention to the context helps you correct grammatical mistakes and find things like misused homophones (like their, there, they're). When you write something new, allow it to simmer for awhile. Give your eyes a break. Set it aside and do not look at it for 24 hours. When you come back to the piece fresh, you will no doubt spot many errors that you would have otherwise overlooked. Reading from a lighted surface (such as your computer monitor) causes a great deal of eyestrain. It is a good idea to print out your document on paper and then proofread it. You will have a much easier time seeing the words. We often have a tendency to read whole sentences; however, when you proofread, you should make a point to read each individual word. Oftentimes, using your finger to underline each word as you read helps call your attention to mistakes.











55. If more than one spelling is given in a dictionary or more than one form of the plural, how do I choose? Should I stick with one source when I am working on a document?

Let's answer the second question first. You should choose a main dictionary on which you rely for most of your word information and to assist you with consistency in choosing spellings, forming derivatives, and explaining meanings. However, it is great to have more dictionaries available if you cannot find a word or a piece of information in your main resource. You might even want to take a best of approach when there are variations. If two out of three dictionaries list a certain spelling first and another as the variant, then you can go with that as the spelling to use. In answering the first question, you must understand how most dictionaries choose the order of variants. All variants shown are acceptable in any context unless the dictionary assigns a restrictive label indicating otherwise. The label would say something like chiefly Brit, var of or dial var of. Most dictionaries offer two types of variants - equal and unequal. For equal, these variants occur with virtually equal frequency in electronic and printed citational evidence (i.e., in written usage). These are usually shown with an or in between: e-mail or email, ocher or ochre. The first one may be slightly more common than the second, but both are standard and can be used according to personal choice. For unequal, the first form occurs most frequently and it is followed by also and other less frequently found forms: ambiance also ambience, rhyme also rime. The use of the conventions or and also applies not only to main entries but to all boldface entry words, including inflected forms, plurals, and run-on entries which have variant forms.
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I'm perplexed by the difference between like and as ?

the word like is a preposition, not a conjunction. It can, therefore, be used to introduce a prepositional phrase ("My brother is tall like my father"), but it should not be used to introduce a clause ("My brother can't play the piano like as he did before the accident" or "It looks like as if basketball is quickly overtaking baseball as America's national sport."). To introduce a clause, it's a good idea to use as, as though, or as if, instead.

Like As I told you earlier, the lecture has been postponed.
It looks like as if it's going to snow this afternoon.
Johnson kept looking out the window like as though he had someone waiting for him.
In formal, academic text, it's a good idea to reserve the use of like for situations in which similarities are being pointed out:

This community college is like a two-year liberal arts college.
However, when you are listing things that have similarities, such as is probably more suitable:

The college has several highly regarded neighbors, like such as the Mark Twain House, St. Francis Hospital, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the UConn Law School.



2. Taller than I / me ??

When making a comparison with "than" do we end with a subject form or object form, "taller than I/she" or "taller than me/her." The correct response is "taller than I/she." We are looking for the subject form: "He is taller than I am/she is tall." (Except we leave out the verb in the second clause, "am" or "is.") Some good writers, however, will argue that the word "than" should be allowed to function as a preposition. If we can say "He is tall like me/her," then (if "than" could be prepositional like like) we should be able to say, "He is taller than me/her." It's an interesting argument, but — for now, anyway — in formal, academic prose, use the subject form in such comparisons.
We also want to be careful in a sentence such as "I like him better than she/her." The "she" would mean that you like this person better than she likes him; the "her" would mean that you like this male person better than you like that female person. (To avoid ambiguity and the slippery use of than, we could write "I like him better than she does" or "I like him better than I like her.")




3. More than / over ??

we usually use "more than" in countable numerical expressions meaning "in excess of" or "over." In England, there is no such distinction. For instance, in the U.S., some editors would insist on "more than 40,000 traffic deaths in one year," whereas in the UK, "over 40,000 traffic deaths" would be acceptable. Even in the U.S., however, you will commonly hear "over" in numerical expressions of age, time, or height: "His sister is over forty; she's over six feet tall. We've been waiting well over two hours for her."





4. I need help with who and whom!

One of the most frequently asked questions about grammar is about choosing between the various forms of the pronoun who: who, whose, whom, whoever, whomever. The number (singular or plural) of the pronoun (and its accompanying verbs) is determined by what the pronoun refers to; it can refer to a singular person or a group of people:

The person who hit my car should have to pay to fix the damages.
The people who have been standing in line the longest should get in first.






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