Grammar, particularly English grammar, can be confusing and strange and often contains many exceptions and hard-to-follow rules. Even fluent, native English speakers can struggle with writing clearly and correctly. Listed below are 10 confusing English grammar rules that you may have trouble with. Study, and you may find yourself doing better on your next essay.
Who versus whom is a grammar rule that always throws people off. In general, “whom” should be used in place of an object of a verb or a preposition. An easy trick to remember: if you can use him or her to answer the question, use whom. If you can only use he or she, use who. For example: Who would like to go on vacation? vs To whom was the letter addressed?
This rule is a little more grey and depends on the context. In a chat with a friend, or a casual note, it’s fine to end a sentence with a preposition. However, if you’re writing a formal paper or a letter, it’s considered incorrect grammar. This is when “who vs. whom” can come in handy and help you construct your sentences with vigor and taste.
E.g. and i.e. are both abbreviations of Latin phrases and can be used to further explain your point. E.g. stands for exempli gratia, which translates to “for the sake of example.” It can be used to introduce one or two (no more than that!) examples to your sentence. I.e., on the other hand, stands for id est, and means “that is” or “in other words.” Using both of these phrases correctly can really elevate your writing.
Neither is a strange linking word, and it can be confusing to know how it works with singular or plural verb tenses. It’s also confusing because there’s not one rule. There are conditions to it.
Let’s break it down a little: When neither is on its own it takes a singular verb. For example: Neither sandwich tastes good. If you’re using the phrase “neither…nor…” then you have to look at whether the nouns are singular or plural, and where they are situated in the sentence. If the subject closest to the verb is singular, then the verb is singular; if it’s plural, the verb is plural.
These two are very easy to mess up. They both look the same and are often pronounced the same, but they are used very differently. Affect is a verb and means to bring about change. Effect is usually a noun and is the result of change. An easy way to remember the difference between the two is this: Affect always results in an effect, because A comes before E in the alphabet.
Take and bring both imply movement, but they’re used very differently. They can cause confusion if you want to create a specific atmosphere in your writing. Bring has the implication of movement forward, of addition. For example, “John is bringing enough chicken to share at the party.” Take, on the other hand, implies movement away and subtraction. For example, “John took his chicken back home.”
None works like neither does when it comes to the rules of being singular or plural. If the word it’s modifying is singular, then none is singular and it takes a singular verb. If the word it’s modifying is plural, then none is plural and the verb is, therefore, plural.
Some examples: “None of the apple was eaten.” Apple is singular, and therefore none and the verb is singular as well. “None of the ballplayers were on the team bus after the game.” Ballplayers is plural, and so the verb and none are plural as well.
The question of whether to use which or that has been happening for a long time, and it often seems like the two words are interchangeable grammatically. This is not the case, but fortunately there is an easy way to remember which one to use: If the sentence doesn’t need the clause that the word in question is connecting, use which. If it does, use that. Examples: I bought a purple dress, which is my favorite color. My prom date wore the tuxedo that he rented at the mall.
The Oxford comma is falling out of style. However, it’s still important to understand what it is, and then you can choose whether to use it or not. An Oxford comma is the comma used after the second to last item in a list of things. It can be used to reduce confusion in the list and clarify what exactly is happening within the sentence. As an example, “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and BTS” sounds kind of strange and like Lady Gaga and BTS are your parents; however, with the Oxford comma changing the sentence to “I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and BTS” shows that you love three separate entities: your parents, Lady Gaga, and BTS.
Adjective order is something that’s not often talked about but very noticeable when it’s performed wrong. It’s an interesting look at what makes English so unique. When you’re describing an object in English, there is a very specific word order that adjectives should go in based on what aspect of the thing they are describing. The true adjective order is as follows: 1) Quantity or number 2) Quality or opinion 3) Size 4) Age 5) Shape 6) Color 7) Proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material) 8) Purpose or qualifier. If you break the order in any way, it feels really weird and incorrect. For example, “I love that beautiful old big green antique car” is correct, but “I love that green old big antique beautiful car” is incorrect.
So now you have 10 explanations for confusing grammar rules. Now you can go forth and conquer the writing world correctly!