Archive for November, 2010

9 Most Confusing Confusions in English Grammar

By Gloson On November 10, 2010 93 Comments

grammarmonkeySome English grammar can be really confusing.

So, I decided to write this article to point out some grammar mistakes that cause much confusion, and also how to get them right.

I’ve made all of these grammar mistakes before, which is how I got to write this post, anyway :) .

And now, I present to you,

9 Most Confusing Confusions in English Grammar!

photo by baboon™

1. Subject pronouns and object pronouns

Wrong: He sat between you and I.
Correct: He sat between you and me.

I now fully understand this rule once I took an English lesson about subject and object pronouns.

The subject is the one that does things. (He sees me)

The object is the one who has the thing done to him. (He sees me)

Another type of object is the prepositional object and it is the one which the preposition is directed at. (He sees it with me)

So, here is a table of subject and object pronouns.

Subject pronouns Object pronouns
I Me
You You
He Him
She Her
We Us
They Them

So, if you are using a pronoun as a subject, use a subject pronoun. Same thing on the objects.

It’s “between you and me” because “you and me” is the object of the preposition between.

It’s “I know him” because “him” is the object of the verb “know”.

It’s “William and he read” because “William and he” is the subject.

2. Who or whom?

Here’s a tricky one: “Who/whom did he see at the party?”

Here’s what you need to know:

Who = subject pronoun
Whom = object pronoun

So, to get the answer, change the question to a statement: “He did see whom at the party.”

Whom is an object, so that is the answer :) .

Question: “Who/whom ate all the cookies?” Statement: “Who ate all the cookies.”

Hope I’ve made it clear =) .

3. “Than me” or “Than I”?

Wrong: He runs faster than me.
Correct: He runs faster than I.

Ahh, this is one of the mistakes that I have been frequently making last time :P .

“Than” is a conjunction, which introduces a subordinate clause, so the subjective pronoun “I” is used. See usage note.

The easiest way to make sure this is right is to make the sentence “long”.

“He runs faster than I” becomes “He runs faster than I run”.

“I run slower than he” becomes “I run slower than he runs”.

However, there is an exception in which you have to use the object form of the pronoun. Here’s an example:

“Jon gave Dan more apples than he gave me” –> “Jon gave Dan more apples than me”.

4. “It is me” or “It is I”?trex

Wrong: It is me, the great tyrant Tyrannosaurus!
Correct: It is I, the great tyrant Tyrannosaurus!

It is important to note that “is” is a linking verb, meaning it renames the subject with a subject predicate.

Now, normal transitive verbs have an object. (He sees me) Me = object.

Linking verbs have subject predicates instead. (That guy was I) I = subject predicate.

Here’s another example. – “A dog is a great pet.”

A dog = subject
a great pet = subject predicate

You can see that “subject = subject predicate”. A dog = a great pet. That’s why they are called linking verbs; because they link two subjects.

And since linking verbs link to subjects, subject pronouns must be used. So that’s why it is “It is I” and not “It is me”.

I hope you get what I’m saying. Unfortunately, I think Mario will never get it.

itsmemario

T-rex photo by Esparta

5. i.e. and e.g.

Wrong: Please volunteer to bring some food for the party, i.e., fries, nuggets, and chips.
Correct: Please volunteer to bring some food for the party. e.g., fries, nuggets, and chips

Believe it or not, last time, I thought i.e. and e.g. can be used interchangeably! But I was wrong. i.e. and e.g. have different meanings.

e.g. = For example
i.e. = That is/In other words (for clarifying stuff)

Here are some examples.

To stay healthy, eat vegetables, e.g., spinach. <— Here I used an example of a vegetable.

I love to eat the vegetable that I like the most (i.e., carrots). <— Here I used i.e. because it clarifies the “vegetable that I like the most”. I cannot use e.g. because there is no vegetable other than that.

6. Lightening

This is perhaps the most common spelling mistake ever.

Wrong: Being struck by lightening is a shocking experience!

Correct: Being struck by lightning is a shocking experience!

Lightening
The present participle of lighten.

e.g. I was lightening the load on my camel because it was exhausted.

Lightning
A streak of static electricity through the sky, usually accompanied by thunder.

e.g. You got struck by lightning? That must have been a shocking experience!

Lighting
The arrangement of light, especially in photography.

e.g. The photo was dull because the lighting wasn’t good enough.

Photo by Owen Zammit

7. “If I was” or “If I were”?

Wrong: If I was an elephant, I would give you a ride.
Correct: If I were an elephant, I would give you a ride.

Wrong: If I were rude, I apologize.
Correct: If I was rude, I apologize.

“If I were” is more for situations when you are imagining things, usually followed by a sentence on what you would do in that situation.

If I were you, I would read more books about animals.
If he were an animal, he would be a parrot!

“If I was” is more for things that could have happened in the past or now.

If he was singing that well, he should become a singer. (This is an answer to a girl who told me that when her friend sang just now, her heart melted)

If she really was kind to animals, I respect her. (This is a thought after reading news about a girl saving a cat from drowning, but you are not really sure whether it’s true)

Here is an example of the differences between “If I were” and “If I was”.

If she was hardworking, she would be a famous singer by now. <– I’ve only met her once and all I know is she wants to be a famous singer.

If she were hardworking, she would be a famous singer by now. <– I know her very well; she wants to be a famous singer but she’s very lazy.

Conclusion: “If I were” is for imagination. “If I was” is for things that could have happened.

lie8. Lie down, don’t lie to me, and birds lay eggs

Oh dear. These 3 words are perhaps the most confusing as some parts of the three words are parts of each other.

Lie has two completely different meanings. The first meaning is to rest in a horizontal position. The second is to bear false witness.

Lay means to put into a position of rest or bring forth eggs.

Here are the tenses of the words:

Lie down – lie, lay, lain.
Don’t lie to me – Lie, lied, lied.
Lay eggs – lay, laid, laid.

That’s why they are confusing! They sound similar and you can easily have them mixed up!

Here are some examples of common mistakes when using those words.

Wrong: I have lied on the grass all morning.
Correct: I have lain on the grass all morning.

Wrong: I laid on the couch.
Correct: I lay on the couch.

So, here’s three things to remember when you’re not sure how to use those words:

Remember that lie (don’t lie) and lay are regular verbs, which mean they add the usual suffix “-d” to form the past tense (lied, laid). Their past participles (have lied, have laid) are the same.

Remember that the word lie (lie down) is the most complicated; an irregular verb; doesn’t use “-d”; past tense is lay, and past participle is lain.

Remember that the word lay is the only transitive verb – You can’t “lay” on the bed; you must lay something. You can lay yourself on the bed, though.

photo credits: grandmasandy+chuck, btsergio, Pixieslayer,

9. Take and bring

This is probably one of the most confusing confusions in grammar!

Whether to use bring or take all depends on the perspective. You use take when the item is going away from the perspective and bring when the item is coming to the perspective.

For example, you and your friend are going to a place. You might ask your friend, “Are you going to bring your cell phone?”

If you’re not going but your friend is, you might ask your friend, “Are you going to take your cell phone?”

But still, it can be confusing. So, use substitutes instead.

“Are you going to carry your cell phone with you?”

Problem solved :) .


I hope you’ve enjoyed my post! I hope that you are not confused now. LOL :P .

So, have you ever made the grammar mistakes above? Please share your experience in the comments below. I know I’ve made every single one of them before. :)

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