Sunday, March 14, 2010

Grammar Hammer

A preposition is something that you should not end a sentence in. And you should not start a sentence with a conjunction. However, some words may only start a sentence under certain conditions. I notice all of these tiny grammatical errors, and sometimes make the same errors myself knowingly, but I usually don’t worry about it because in the words of one of my favorite podcasters, “This is the kind of pedantry up with which we shall not put!”

One of the finer points of grammar that I notice being violated most often is the use of were and was. I think that most people just don’t really know the difference. All the time, I hear people say “If I was… I would…”

Here’s a chart of correct uses.

Were vs. Was Possible Contrary to the fact (correct grammatically)
Present If I am a rich man, I don’t have to work hard. If I WERE a rich man, I wouldn’t have to work hard.
Past If I WAS a rich man, I didn’t have to work hard. If I WERE a rich man, I wouldn’t have had to work hard.
If I had been a rich man, I wouldn’t have had to work hard.

Sorry to those of you who got a ton of tweets about this post because I keep editing it.


Tamara Robertson Turner said...

The things I don't like to hear are "anyways" (It is anyway) and "Those ones" Yuck.

marydalene said...

My biggest grump is people who say an object is "entitled" (enter title os thing here). I just want to go, "Really? How can an inanimate object be entitled to anything?" Of course, that's not really bad grammar so much as it is incorrect usage of a word.

jared and mary 2 said...

According to Grammar Girl (a fine podcast) it is OK to end a sentence with a preposition if the meaning of the sentence would be changed without it. For instance, "Where are you at?" means the same thing as "Where are you?" so the at is improper. "What are you?" is very different from "What are you in?" therefore it is OK to end with the preposition in. There are many that would argue that the sentence should be rewritten to avoid ending with "in" but I take a more practical view and agree that it is acceptable.

The thing that really annoys me is that I didn't pay enough attention in school because I didn't care at the time, and now my grammar knowledge is compromised. That's why I listen to the Grammar Girl podcast. Trying to catch up.

Joanne said...

My pet peeve is "orientated," used in training someone. You are oriented not orientated! Ick!!

Janet said...

Very few people know about the subjunctive tense in English, and I am always impressed when others use it correctly. I think we all have our pet peeves when it comes to language. One of things that makes me cringe is when people mix up less and fewer. I have to apologize to Tamara; I say "those ones" in casual language--although I'd never write it! I do avoid "anyways."

For those of you who like language and humor, may I recommend a few books: Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss; Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language by Richard Lederer; and Woe Is I by Patrica T. O'Conner.