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Top 10 Errors in English that Aren’t Errors

In 1762, Bishop Robert Lowth did a grave disservice to the English language when he published his Short Introduction to English Grammar. Rather than basing his grammatical rules in the usage of the best educated speakers and writers of English, he arbitrarily chose to base them on the Latin grammatical system. The result is that many modern usages in English, particularly an alarming number of rules of normative usage and Standard Written English, are based upon those false origins.

Picture-1-26-Tm

These very rules continue to plague us to this day as they are still used as the foundation of many modern school English curriculums. And so, with this list, I hope to finally put an end to many of these foolish rules. [Did you see what I did?]

10

Between is for two only

The “tween” portion of “between” is a reference to the number 2, but the Oxford English Dictionary says this: “In all senses, between has, from its earliest appearance, been extended to more than two.” Many pedants try to enforce the use of “among” when speaking of groups larger than two. Even the pickiest speaker does not naturally say, “A treaty has been negotiated among England, France, and Germany.”

9

Till versus ’til

Because ’til looks like an abbreviation for “until”, some people believe that this word should always be spelt ’til (some don’t object to leaving off the apostrophe). However, “till” has been in regular use in English for over 800 years, longer than ’til. It is completely correct English to say “till”.


8

Persuade versus convince

Some people have the strange belief that you must “persuade” someone to “convince” them, but you cannot “convince” a person. In fact, persuade is a synonym (means the same thing) for convince – and this usage goes back to the 16th century. It can mean both to attempt to convince, and to succeed in convincing. It is not common anymore to say things like “I am persuaded that you are an idiot” – though this is also correct English.

Grammar-Nazi-Tm

7

Healthy versus healthful

While it is admittedly logical and traditional to make the distinction between these two words, but phrases such as “part of a healthy breakfast” have become so common nowadays that they can not be considered wrong (except by pedants). It is also interesting to note that in English, adjectives connected to a sensation in the viewer (such as happy) are often transferred to the object or event they are viewing, for example: “a happy coincidence” or “a gloomy landscape”.

6

Off of

For most Americans, the natural thing to say is “Climb down off of [pronounced “offa”] that horse, Tex, with your hands in the air”; but many U.K. authorities urge that the “of” should be omitted as redundant. Where British English reigns you may want to omit the “of” as superfluous, but common usage in the U.S. has rendered “off of” so standard as to generally pass unnoticed, though some American authorities also discourage it in formal writing. But if “onto” makes sense, so does “off of.” However, “off of” meaning “from” in phrases like “borrow five dollars off of Clarice” is definitely nonstandard.

It is also quite common in New Zealand to use “off of” as well – presumably as a result of the English being spoken in the Empire at the time of New Zealand’s founding.

5

None: singular or plural?

Some people insist that since “none” is derived from “no one” it should always be singular: “none of us is having dessert.” However, in standard usage, the word is most often treated as a plural. “None of us are having dessert” is perfectly fine. I spent many days debating this point with my Ancient Greek tutor via email quotations of its use as a plural (my tutor believed it to be singular only). Neither of us could convince the other but I firmly stand by my belief that it can be used as both plural and singular. ????!


4

Who and That

There are actually many instances in which the conservative usage is to refer to a person using “that” rather than “who”: “All the politicians that were at the party later denied even knowing the host”. This phrase is actually more traditional than “politicians who”. It appears that this issue has sprung mostly from the politically correct idea that it is demeaning to refer to a person as “that” rather than “who”. In some sentences it is clearly better to use “that”: “She is the only person I know of that prefers whipped cream on her cereal.” And in the following case, it would be ridiculous to use “that” for “who”: “Who was it that said, ‘A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle’?”

Grammar-Nazi2-Tm

3

Sentence Starting with a Conjunction

It offends those who wish to confine English usage in a logical straitjacket that writers often begin sentences with “and” or “but.” True, one should be aware that many such sentences would be improved by becoming clauses in compound sentences; but there are many effective and traditional uses for beginning sentences in this way. One example is the reply to a previous assertion in a dialogue: “But, my dear Watson, the criminal obviously wore expensive boots or he would not have taken such pains to scrape them clean.” It would be wise to make it a rule to consider whether your conjunction would sound more natural in the previous sentence or whether it would lose its emphasis by being demoted from its place at the start of a new sentence.


2

Sentence Ending in a Preposition

If you want to keep the crusty old-timers happy, try to avoid ending written sentences (and clauses) with prepositions, such as to, with, from, at, and in. Instead of writing “The topics we want to write on,” where the preposition on ends the clause, consider “The topics on which we want to write.” Prepositions should usually go before (pre-position) the words they modify.

On the other hand, if a sentence is more graceful with a final preposition, leave it that way. For instance, “He gave the public what it longed for” is clear and idiomatic, even though it ends with a preposition; “He gave the public that for which it longed” avoids the problem but doesn’t look like English. A sentence becomes unnecessarily obscure when it is filled with “from whoms” and “with whiches”.

The famous witticism usually attributed to Winston Churchill makes the point well: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

1

Split Infinitives

For the hyper-critical, “to boldly go where no man has gone before” should be “to go boldly…” It is good to be aware that inserting one or more words between “to” and a verb is not strictly speaking an error, and is often more expressive and graceful than moving the intervening words elsewhere; but so many people are offended by split infinitives that it is probably better to avoid them except when the alternatives sound strained and awkward.

There are some very obvious times that the split infinitive is far superior:

Murders are expected to more than double next year. (split infinitive)
Murders are expected more than to double next year. (intact infinitive)

However, you could say: “Murders are expected to increase by more than double next year” – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the split infinitive example above.

Source: Common Errors in English Usage

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • cparker

    so horrible with grammar, they all look right to me. thanks for the lesson but i will still use the wrong phrases.

    • I are great at grammers… :P

      • fed

        Me is bester on grammers.

        • mARC

          You guyses are gooder then I at you’re grammers?

  • bucslim

    Ain't 'ain't' a word?

    • sakurakira

      Ain’t is a contraction of “am not.” So, you can legitimately say “I ain’t afraid.” However, your usage above is not correct. You would not say “Am not ‘ain’t’ a word?” Unfortunately the word has become so tainted in America and associated with ignorance that it’s best not use it, even if said usage is done correctly.

      Similarly, “shan’t” (shall not) is also not used commonly anymore, although I think it’s quite fun.

    • Zach

      Ain’t is a multi-use contraction of am/are/is not. Why else would there be an ‘i’ in it?

  • BHO

    Im sure loads of people will find this interesting.. this all went way over my head tho…..

  • Callie

    I was an english major in school and I thought I had grammar down. Some of these ended up surprising me, though. Thank’s jfrater!

    • Jill

      An English major who can't use an apostrophe properly. Lovely.

  • Callie

    apparently I’m not good. That was supposed to be thanks…not thank’s….wow

  • Randall

    Don’t tell any of this shit to William Safire… he’ll blow a gasket.

    But frankly I agree with the list. Good grammar is one thing. I expect it and respect it. Flawless grammar, on the other hand, is…. almost creepy.

    This is a list which I heartily approve of. (Breaking rules is fun, too).

  • Simons

    LOL at the Grammar Nazi! Nice list, were you an english major in college? I think you should do an official “Ebonics language lesson” list =D

  • Cheeshygirl

    Aha, grammar! One of my favorite subjects. Thank you for educating the masses. I’ve argued many times with instructors over grammar “rules” that were outdated and ridiculous. Awesome list!

  • miller

    Prime examples of why the english language is ridiculous.

  • Jen

    I’ve been watching a lot of Judge Judy recently on youtube, and one thing I’ve noticed is the startlingly prevalent usage of a bastardized past perfect when simple past would work just fine.

    For instance: I had went, he had sad, she had came.

    They love the word had. And pretty much every single litigant on the show has spoken like that.

    • toria

      It is had gone, had saId, had cOme. :) Grammar nazi :)

  • DanOhh

    One of my “pet peevs” is double negatives. I’m not someone who is in great command of the english lang. BUT, when I hear someone use a double negative there is a “ping” in the back of my head and I have to correct that person. i.e. “We don’t got no…” (PING)Grammar Nazi.

  • DanOhh: I hate double negatives too.

    Jen: “had had” is okay in many cases as it is different from just “had” on its own, but I definitely don’t like the examples you cited – that would irk me a lot!

  • DiscHuker

    i wonder what the grammar nazis of old would think about text message english. roflmao, u l33t 84574RD

  • courtney

    “Be careful what you wish for…” Is that phrase considered a grammatical error? Also, could someone explain to me when it’s appropriate to use “who” and “whom”?

    ‘K bye.

  • Joss

    Hooray for this list! I can’t wait to snottily say, “Well, ListVerse told me…” when someone corrects my grammar. :P

  • DiscHuker

    in the southern US we say “fixin to” meaning i am about to do something. I am fixin to go the store. does anyone know the origins of this phrase? i can’t begin to guess what this evolved from.

  • copperdragon

    the pictures were hilarious!

    “I ain’t not gonna disagree with where you’re at.”
    Who uses whom anymore?

    What about using “goes” to indicate “says” or “said”.
    i.e. (in valleygirl twang) “So then he goes ‘Mulholland Drive is dangerous at night.’ and I go ‘Not if you drive a Porsche.'”

  • islanderbst

    Thanks J; one of my friends whom is a grammar nazi, so now I have new ways to her sense of grammar offend.

  • courtney: I don’t see anything wrong with “be careful what you wish for” – it is certainly a very common phrase which is reason enough to consider it now a part of English.

    As for who and whom – the technical terms are that who is the nominative and whom is the accusative. The easy way to see this:

    The Dog [nominative] bit the man [accusative]

    Therefore, Who bit whom?

    Whom is the thing that something is done to, “who” is the thing doing it.

    Another famous example: “For whom the bell tolls”

    What is doing the thing? The bell – it is tolling – therefore it is the nominative. You could also look at it like this:

    The bell [nominative] tolls for whom [accusative]? It [the bell – nom] tolls for John [acc]

    This is a difficult concept in English because we only use these cases in pronouns now. In the old days you might have had something like this (and this is still the case in many languages):

    Let us say that “um” is the ending we use for the nominative, and “us” is the ending we use for the accusative:

    Dogum bites manus (this would mean “The dog bites the man”)
    Manus bites dogum (this STILL means “the dog bites the man – because the endings tell us what the doer is and to whom it is being done)

    Dogus bites manum (this would mean “the man bites the dog”)

    In Lain and Greek, this is the case always – and it makes it very easy to write poetry because the endings are all the same and word order ceases to be important.

    Phew! That was complicated!

  • Sidereus

    Good list, and I’m sure there are many more to be found in the English language. Even though the “old timers” and “grammar nazis” try to restrict the language, we cannot help but acknowledge the fact that English is a live and thus changing language with new rules and exceptions born all the time. Good use of language basically comes down to three principles:

    1) It is understood by the reader or listener.
    2) It conveys precisely what it means to convey.
    3) It is elegant and pleasing to read or hear.

  • Randall

    copperdragon:

    “Who uses whom anymore?”

    It’s funny… sometimes you gotta use words like “whom,” particularly in writing, when it’s correct, but even in speech, because “who” just doesn’t *sound* right… you’re compelled to say “whom.” But what’s funny about it is, with me, at least–I’m forced to make a face when I use “whom,” or put a little arch inflection on it, as if to say, “how ironic that I am using this antiquated word form, because grammar demands it.” And yet, as I say… sometimes “who” just doesn’t cut it.

    “goes” is less offensive to the ear than peppering a sentence with “like.”

    “So then he, like, goes, ‘Muholland Drive is, like, dangerous at night.” And I like, go, “Not, like, if you drive a Porsche.”

  • T

    why god…why?

  • SlickWilly

    This is way too much for a thursday morning work hangover.

  • Mom424

    My grammar skills are not too shabby. The problem most people have is that they do not listen to what they are writing. The rules are important, but pacing more so. The rules always take a back seat to flow. Read aloud if you cannot do it in your head.

    And folks my pet peeve; lose/loose
    lose; to miss from ones possession, to suffer defeat
    loose; free from restraint, not rigidly attached
    please….

  • steve

    I heard the Churchill (attributed) quote as “this is the type of pedantry up with which I will not put”, which makes rather more sense.

  • PeteFloyd

    Lame.

  • stevenh

    RE double negatives – English is NOT arithmetic.

    I say: “In (spoken) English it is very possible that 2 positives make a negative.”

    You disagree saying: “Yeah, right!”

  • stevenh

    Pet Peeves:

    your in place of you’re – I often see this in these comments.

    “…to try and do…” / “…try to do…” – (1) no good / (2) good – there is (usually) only one action.

  • CRE

    Thanks, ListVerse, for helping dumb down the world another notch. If one’s writing is clear, and sounds well, then the rules are not always that important, although, if it is well writen, and clear, chances are that the rules were followed. THe ending with prepositions thing is the worst. It makes the speaker sound less intelligent in most cases in which it is commited. Sometimes it can sound alright, but typically the statement can sound more eloquent if proper grammar is followed. Even “please turn off the light” sounds better than “please turn the light off”. The worst, however, are people who use superfluous prepositions (i.e. “this is where I’m getting off at” or “where do you live at”). I thought the most notable exception from this list was contractions, though. I’ve been brought up to never use contractions, and to always use the full version of the words. THis breeds proper communication, though. How often have you found yourself unable to tell whether someone is saying “can” or “can’t”, when saying “cannot” removes the ambiguity fro the statement. Double negatives can be acceptable also (such as “I will not be dissuaded”). Finally, the one that real gets me anymore is “irregardless”. That is as much of a word as “ain’t”.

    • I get what youre saying entirely, however here in Britain there is much less of a problem with contractions, i.e. can't is pronounced carnt as opposed to can, yet when you Americans adopted these British terms into your dialect, those differences became much more subtle; hence it becomes more difficult to interpret the whole meaning of a sentence

  • SlickWilly

    I don’t believe “I will not be dissuaded” counts as a double negative, because the meaning of that statement is not analgous to “I will be persuaded.”

  • Lizim

    Jfrater,

    Damn you and this list! Just when I thought you could not be any more intellectually attractive you appeal to the tiny little “Grammar Nazi” that lives inside of me.

    Personally, ending sentences with prepositions makes my blood boil. Growing up in Chicago it was hard to avoid.

    “I’m going to the store. Do you want to come with?”

    With who?

    • 4lulznlols

      With WHOM? :)

    • rr

      This usage stems from the German verb mitkommen. “Kommen Sie mit?” = Are you coming with? Of course you can argue that the correct translation should be “Are you coming?” But you can see why German immigrants, and their descendants, would add the “with.” I personally find it to be charming quirk. And I think it means something slightly different than “Are you coming?” That question makes me think the speaker is asking “Are you ready yet?” Whereas “Are you coming with?” obviously means “Are you coming with me/us?”

  • SlickWilly

    Jfrater: I order you to cease and desist. All the women on this site swoon over your “intellectual” wit and “roguish” good looks and you’re constant cockblockery, intentional or otherwise, is simply an aggression that will not stand. You’re presence here makes it infinately harder for lowly dorks like myself to score some digital poon.

    Whatever, this place is a fucking sausage fest anyway.

  • christopherborne

    I was always under the impression that “none” could be singular or plural depending on the prepositional phrase following it (or is understood), e.g. “None of the students like The Great Gatsby.” versus “None of the cottage cheese is contaminated.”.

  • Lizim

    Slick,

    My husband is more of a “cockblocker” than jfrater seeing as how I know him, love him, and respect him. (not that I don’t respect you jfrater, just in a different way.)

    Congrats to you, however, for looking for “digital poon” on a smart website, rather than just paying $39.95 a month for porn.

  • troyfamu

    JFrater…great list.

    Most grammar errors in the south have nothing to do with ignorance of the rules. They are a result of laziness in the speaker compounded with years of hearing something the “wrong” way. I don’t care how someone talks in a typical conversation, but one can still be chided for having lax grammar in the business world.

  • Lizim

    He CRE,
    “I’ve been brought up to never use contractions, and to always use full words.”

    Please just look at that sentence.

  • ryanh

    When writing, I use a rule that splits prepositions into two groups to determine whether I can end a sentence with one. I leave the preposition at the end of idiomatic phrases like “put up with,” or “come down on.” Otherwise, I tend to put them before the verb.

  • Lucky

    I hate to actually admit it, but I am a total grammar nazi. I’m constantly correcting people’s grammar, so much so that I kind of annoy myself. lol. Words matter, dang it!

  • torn and frayed

    Lizim

    Shouldn’t that be “with whom”?

  • Lizim

    You caught me!

  • Cedestra

    29. *Douche Alert!*
    32. ::sigh:: Jamie, have my babies… No, wait! What am I saying?

  • seamas

    Interesting.

    One fundamental point though : english grammar is not regulated by laws, academies, or other means.
    English grammar is “regulated” by usage. Mirroring English laws basis in common law.
    (…seen the London Daily Telegraphs’ april fools on a secretive unit to police the language ? [It is] Funny.)

    What is acceptable in New York may not be acceptable in London, Toronto, Christchurch, Nairobi or Glasgow, but is still english. And understood.

    This is one of reasons why we ain’t not divided by a common language.
    Innit ?

    /Scots
    //have a really terrible Cockney accent
    ///steve is right about the Churchill quote

  • DiscHuker

    lizim: i meant to mention it on another list, but i forgot which one it was revealed on…

    thank you and your husband for his service for our country.

  • Rebel

    Were murders to “increase by more than double”, it would mean that they had more than trebled. In order to represent the equivalent amount to “expected to more than double”, one would have to say “increase to more than double”.

  • SlickWilly

    Lizim: Well, I kind of have to cruise for the digital poonani on these websites. All my credit cards are maxed out. When it comes to porn, the gap between more and enough never closes. *sigh*

  • Rebel

    As for prepositions at the end of a sentence, if my daughter were to stop me on the stairs to tell me to bring a different book for her bedtime story but I continued upstairs and brought the one I already had, she might say the following, with 6 prepositions at the end:

    What did you bring that book I didn’t want to be read to out of on up for?

  • ReporterChick

    My biggest pet peeve is when people say “We was” or “them stuff”. I can’t stand that.

  • Lizim

    Disk,

    Thanks! He’s not in Iraq, thank god. He does anti-piracy and drug ops. You would not believe the crazy things that people do to try to smuggle drugs and goods in and out of the US.

  • t

    to CRE:

    If you talked to me using perfect grammar I would laugh and think you were a total weiner.

  • Lizim

    Rebel: At least you read to your kids! 6 at the end of one sentence that has to be some kind of record!

  • t

    I cringe when people say, “I seen it,” instead of saw.

  • xdarkhorsex

    I ain’t never did done knew mosta these there rules. I always did thunk my grammer was ok until de day she keeled over and was done dead

  • Egg

    HAH! My grammar is horrible. I wonder if things are equally complex in other languages?

  • Randy

    CRE: “How often have you found yourself unable to tell whether someone is saying “can” or “can’t”, when saying “cannot” removes the ambiguity fro the statement.”

    The above quoted sentence is a run-on question. “How often have you found…” is a question and should therefore end with a question mark (?). Let me proof your question/statement in this way: “How often have you found yourself unable to tell whether someone is saying ‘can’ or ‘can’t’? Saying ‘cannot’ removes the ambiguity fro[m] the statement.”

    As you can see, the corrected version is much better. You also forgot your “m” at the end of from. :)

    jfrater: Great list!

  • bucslim

    If you’re looking for perps here, look no further than your local newscast. Shure, Iv’e misspelt and missewezed werdz beefour, but those idiots positively destroy grammar and usage on a daily basis.

    Reason? Well they’ve pass through our hallowed halls of Journalism school. Having been through it myself I must say the emphasis wasn’t on writing or speaking well, it was making sure the anchor had his hair properly shellacked. The females worried more about the twinkle in their blue eyes more than reading the copy let alone writing it. The sports dude was more concerned with spraying out the condensed local version of ‘ESPNese,’ and the weather guy was buzzing from his last bong hit.

    Dunno if it’s that way in other English speaking places but Americans have always had a ‘who gives a fuck you know what I mean’ attitude about grammar and speaking correctly. Probably attributable to some of the other schlock on TV – Jethro Bodine from Beverly Hillbillies and Cooter from the Dukes of Hazzard come to mind. . . .

  • xdarkhorsex

    heh heh you said cooter

  • you should have included the pronunciation of “often”

  • Yogi Barrister

    Some pretentious ass on another website asked this question about the upcoming Superbowl, “Whom are you rooting for?” I found this to be really annoying, and not because he used a preposition at the end. “For whom are you rooting” would have been even more annoying, although very correct.
    I wish the abuse of the word “irony” would have made this list.
    BTW Is my eyesight failing, or is Jamie using smaller type?

  • Bob

    Here’s a good one: “try and” vs. “try to.” Some folks will tell you the latter is proper and the former improper, but the former usage actually predates the latter.

    I think a useful distinction is that between “grammatical rule” and “stylistic rule.” The first is something like making your verb and noun agree. The latter might actually be something like the above distinction, or the “between” vs. “among” question, or any number of the other “errors that aren’t errors” listed above.

    In other words, the “errors” may not be things that “break” the language, but they may (they also may not be) jar the ear and ruin style.

  • Che

    “try and” and “try to” mean two different things, at least where I come from.

    I see your point, though.

  • riley

    I have a friend who always thought that the word “maybe” was spelled and pronounced “naby”… yes with an “n.” He was 17 years old when I met him and corrected him and he nearly died. He couldn’t figure out why nobody had ever told him that the word “naby” started with an “m.”

    I also have a HUGE pet peeve about people saying “alls” as in “alls you have to is talk to her.” That drives me crazy!!
    As well, I HATE it when people say “unthaw” or “dethaw.” To “unthaw” is to “freeze,” therefore you don’t say “I have to unthaw the meat” because that would mean you have to freeze it. It’s like people are getting “thaw” and “defrost” messed up somehow… but does it ever drive me crazy!!

  • stevenh

    re post 59, 60 – See Post 28 …

    Jamie – this did NOT count as a ‘first post’ :)

  • troyfamu

    Yogi Barrister: You are correct…about the font. Which of the following are correct?

    1)For whom was this small font selected?

    2)Who is this small font for?

    3)Whom chose this font; and for who?

  • Lizim

    OH! When people pronounce the word ask as axe, it really drives me nuts.

  • CRE

    Lizam: I was speaking more in regards to spoken usage of contractions, as inm my example. When writing, I use them out of necessity.

    Cedestra: Why am I a douche for advocating proper grammar? I’d rather be branded a douche thanb come across as intellectually deficient (or, at the very least, verbally lazy).

    Randy: You’ll have to excuse my lack of diligence in writing a quick post on a forum. I know the proper way to format a sentence, like the one that I did, I was simply not concerned with being perfect on here.
    Also, 4 years ago I severed the median nerve in my right wrist, so have little feeling, even after surgery, in any of my right hand, except for my pinky. So yeah, sometimnes I miss letters. That’s also why I use contractions when I write.

    t: You can think I’m a weiner all you want. Nobody uses perfect grammar, but I hold myself to a higher standard. Would you call me a weiner because I work out? That is keeping myself physically to a high standard. What about because I read? By reading, I hold myself to a higher intelectual standard, by staying abreast of current events, philosophy, and what have you. DOes that make me a weiner? Incidentally, I teach a college prep class for hgih school students, so I get paid to speak with the best grammar I can muster. It’s a matter of offering the best product (my spoken words) as possble. Would you prefer your child be tutored by someone who speaks well, or someone who soulnds as if they were taught grammar by Jeff Foxworthy?

  • Lizim

    Now you leave poor Jeff Foxworthy alone!

  • MzFly

    Thanks for this list. I have always struggled with the preposition rule. Sometimes it makes more sense and just flows more naturally to end in that manner. I’m glad to know I’m not completely wrong.

  • MzFly

    Talking about confusing pronunciations; I had a friend once ask me, “Is there a different spelling for the (pronounced THEE) and the (pronounced THU)?” We were in High School at the time and it took me a moment to realize she was talking about the same word.
    Some people are more likely to pronounce it with a hard e and some are more likely to soften in. I tend to lean toward a softer pronunciation.

  • Tobias

    What really pisses me off is when people say “Is” twice. You might not have noticed it yet, but once you’ve heard about it, you realize that absolutely everybody says it. Watch a Presidential debate and you’ll hear “The problem is is that we don’t have…”. And the most annoying thing is everybody knows it’s wrong, it’s just an unconcious habit, hell, even I do it sometimes.

  • Lewis_RATM

    I hate when people say ‘I before E, except, after C’. There are so many exceptions!’weird’ ‘Their’, it’s just stupid!

  • otay

    Here’s the one that really gets my goat!

    “I have more hair then you” …… improper usage of then and than. They are not interchangeable.

  • MW

    The rule about not ending sentences in a preposition has always bothered me a bit. Not because I commonly do it, but there are a few instances in which I feel that one HAS to do it for the sentence to make sense.

    Example:

    “Where is the cat?” – “The cat is over THERE.”

    Sure, you could say “the cat is lying on the sofa.” But to be required to is a bit ridiculous.

    Also, what is the rule for verbs that end in propositions such as “to throw up” or “to go above and beyond”? I can’t very well think of any alternatives to “I have thrown up.”

    And is a sentence such as “The ball traveled upwards.” correct?

  • Idreno

    Someone above mentioned double negatives and I have a very humourous example to cite.

    When I was in school, I remember that one of the students got into a verbal fight with one of the female security guards. The student eventually called the guard a very upsetting name to which she replied:

    “Oh no you didn’t! Oh no you ain’t never not did nothing, uh-uh!!”

    To this day, I believe this is the greatest example of double negatives that exists in English. It still makes me laugh my head off!

  • Doug

    over here in England, ’till’ is a word for what you call a cash register. you need to write ’til to avoid confusion, see

  • Lizim

    MW how about “I have vomited”? Or “He went above and beyond what was required”.

  • otay

    MW: “I have hurled” lol

  • otay

    To whom it may concern: I have regurgitated that in which i had previously ingested. ;)

  • SlickWilly

    Doug: “Till” is a very common word across the pond in the states as well. I worked in retail and food services industries for many years and the most common word for your drawer is your “till” or your “bank.”

  • otay

    This is a little off subject, but something i find interesting. Americans (i am American) spell many words differently than the British. Examples: Colour, color; neighbour, neighbor; flavour, flavor. Does anyone know why this is, and when it happened? Obviously it was the Americans that decided that the “u” was not needed and discarded it in their spelling.

  • Csimmons

    Oh great, I get back from school to find a list on english?!?

  • Randall

    otay:

    There’s quite an interesting story behind this.

    Believe it or not, after the Revolution, when the nation was in its infancy, there was a move on to solidify the break with England SO forcefully that people were even recommending a change in the official language (which of course was crazy–and we still don’t have an “official language”). Anything the break with the motherland.

    Well, as part and parcel of this, certain wise brains in the dictionary/linguistics business decided they could do *something* to set us apart. Now remember, even at this late a date, spelling was not quite as consistent or set in stone as it is today. The spelling of names and words was varied and could change from document to document. So this wasn’t such a crazy plan. We’d set *American* spellings for common words, and show the Brits a thing or two about our independence.

    So, the francophone spelling for many words were changed (that this did more to dis the French than the English no one seemed to notice). Hence, color for colour, flavor for flavour. Lexicographers like Daniel Webster worked hard to get these spellings standardized and generally accepted and used (his was the first American dictionary) and here we are today.

  • Randall

    otay:

    In addition, if you look into it, you’ll find that many “American” words were “frozen” in place–i.e., they remain unchanged from the 18th century, whereas in the intervening time, the Brits dropped them and found new words. And so slowly the languages grew *slightly* apart.

    If I recall, “truck” is an example of this. It originally referred, of course, not to the things we see today on the highway, but to any sort of dolly-like cart as well as large wagons. (or waggons as the spelling might put it back then). This term was also used in Britain up to the 17th century… but as time wore on, and technology advanced, in Britain the term became “lorry,” whereas in the US it remained “truck.” When the internal combustion engine was invented and what we’d today consider “trucks” went on the road, the two different terms became set for the same vehicle–in the two separate countries.

  • ArcticBanana

    I loved this list, but I must say that it seems that you deem certain words/phrases to be correct grammar solely on the basis that they are used in everyday language… Just because a majority of the population phrases something a certain way doesn’t mean it is grammatically correct… Just putting that out there :)

  • Csimmons

    umm…quick question, why’s the comment print small?

  • Csimmons

    Hold on, isn’t the name of the list incorrect, shouldn’t it be “Top 10 english misconceptions” or something.

  • Callie

    I don’t know if anyone is still reading these, but there’s a pretty simple trick for who and whom that (of course) has a few exceptions but its pretty steadfast:

    If the phrase you’re trying to use can be answered in question from with “him/her”, use Whom

    If the answer is he/she, use who.

    EX: 1
    To Whom It May Concern
    Who does it concern?
    It concerns HER
    Therefore, use whom

    EX: 2
    Who will be at the party?
    SHE will be at the party
    Therefore, use who.

    Hope that helped…god I’m such a dork :)

  • Grammar nazi

    nothing wrong with nazis..

  • Kevin

    The actual Churchill quote was: “That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

  • otay

    Randall – Thank you for the interesting answer.

    A couple years ago, a girlfriend from Australia spent a month here in the States with me. I quickly learned that “boot” and “bonnet” were not articles of clothing.

  • Kevin: in fact no – he did not say that:

    Winston Churchill was editing a proof of one of his books, when
    he noticed that an editor had clumsily rearranged one of Churchill’s
    sentences so that it wouldn’t end with a preposition. Churchill
    scribbled in the margin, “This is the sort of English up with which
    I will not put.” (This is often quoted with “arrant nonsense”
    substituted for “English”, or with other variations. The Oxford
    Dictionary of Quotations cites Sir Ernest Gowers’ Plain Words
    (1948), where the anecdote begins, “It is said that Churchill…”;
    so we don’t know exactly what Churchill wrote. According to the
    Oxford Companion to the English Language, Churchill’s words were
    “bloody nonsense” and the variants are euphemisms.)

    Source: http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxprepos.html

    What I gave above is the closest to the original quote (not Churchill’s but the first description of the quote) – no one knows EXACTLY what he wrote – but the first time someone quoted him as saying it, they used the version I included above. :)

  • Nelia

    Things that piss me off –
    Double negative
    double negatives that are being taught to children in public (I heard “I ain’t getting you nothing!” in a toy store once, and I’ve never forgotten it).
    On accident – my fiance says this, drives me nuts.
    And my mother was the ultimate grammar Nazi, so I can honestly say that I use “who” and “whom” properly. She also hated when one of us would say something along the lines of, “Mike and me are going out.” I can hear her now, “What would you say if Mike was not going? Me is going out? I think not!”
    I’ll be teaching English as a second language soon, I’d better brush up on my obscure grammar. Thank goodness for Listverse, otherwise I would have screwed those poor Czech bastards right up!

    CRE – Sitting down will be SO much easier once you remove the stick. I promise.

  • Catriona

    Another difference between America and NZ/Aust is the use of ‘z’ instead of ‘s’ familiarise, summarise etc.
    I really hate people saying ‘are yous coming too,’ makes me cringe…it’s very common here in NZ.
    Also people who think ‘specific’ is said ‘pacific’
    I know I sometimes get ‘borrow’ versus ‘lend’ wrong often and still get corrected by my mother for it ;)

  • Catriona

    oops very bad sentence…I know I sometimes get ‘borrow’ versus ‘lend’ wrong and still get corrected by my mother.

  • BrotherMan

    #72 MW: How about “I have just vomited?” :)

    Great list, Jamie! I only knew of #2 and #6 so it is great to see that I am not completely ignorant on some of this stuff.

  • BrotherMan

    I recall a list that was similar to this WAY back during the olden days of The List Universe. It was a list about grammatical pet peeves or something of the sort.

  • Brotherman: you are right – it was 10 common English language errors.

  • Catriona: you are right on the “yous” thing – but the interesting thing about it is that it is an attempt to restore something we used to have (but dropped for some reason) – which is “ye” and “thou”

    Ye is plural or formal (like French vous)
    Thou was singular or familiar (like French tu)

    The “thou” form fell out of use and we are left with confusion when addressing hoi polloi – so some people in a naturally evolving attempt to differentiate say “yous”. I have not seen any other example of a word falling out of use and naturally being restored in later generations.

    You is the oblique/objective version of ye incidentally. So one would have said “Ye bit the dog” or “The dog bit you”.

    The funny thing is that most people think of “thou” in the sense of phrases like “holier than thou” and consider it formal, when in fact it was informal – to a point of often being used as an insult.

    You may find this interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-V_distinction

    The T-V distinction is a term that refers to second person pronouns relating to politeness or formality.

  • Scott

    I found this list very interesting.

  • Earnest Iconoclast

    English is a Germanic language, not a Romance language like some grammarians tried to make it. Germanic languages have no problem ending sentences with prepositions.

    “Walk right in!”
    “What are you standing on?” – “On what are you standing?” is really awkward and NOT correct.
    etc…

    A lot of our spelling is messed up because regulators tried to force Germanic words into Romance spellings.

    CRE, the rule is usually that one should avoid the use of contractions in formal writing. Speech is generally considered more casual and allows for more relaxed rules. For someone who claims to hold himself to a higher standard, you sure make a lot of mistakes in your typing…

  • Earnest: I think it is a combination of both romance and germanic – but generally speaking it is considered better English to abhor romantic terms and use the germanic equivalent whenever possible.

  • Catriona

    jfrater: oh, and I thought it was just children who didn’t know better and hadn’t been corrected by their parents ;)

  • Catriona: haha it is, smart arse :) I was just pointing out that their ignorance at least stems from a need in English to restore the plural second person! I hate it as much as you do! Let’s start a campaign to bring back “thou”!

  • Catriona

    Somehow can’t see the NZ kids using ‘thou’ can you?

  • SarahJ

    What about, “I want them apples please?”.

  • Jane

    Hey CRE:

    “Alright” is not a real word. It’s a bastardization of “all right”. I’m sorry for this, but if you go on about being “Captain Perfect Grammar” you can also expect to be corrected by 400 Listverse readers.

  • stevenh

    Hey Jamie:

    I think that I’ll have to move to NZ as well…retire there…

    If the company I work for only knew how much time I’ve spent on LV in the past 24 hours they would fire my sorry ass…

  • J. Coustark.

    Catriona. I don’t think it’s a matter of not being corrected by their parents that is the problem. A lot of the parents don’t know any better themselves and couldn’t care less.

  • macabresoren

    As usual, I’m ignoring all the other comments because I find these nitpicking debates to be a waste of time… But I love this list. Grammar is one of the only things I’m good at (though I don’t always express it so well over the Internet), and I’m proud to say I knew the correct usages of nearly all of these, and that I agree with your opinions on when it’s okay to use the “incorrect” versions.

    Great list.

  • Raisa

    Some people insist that since “none” is derived from “no one”.

    Wrong– it’s derived from “not one”.

  • J. Coustark.

    SarahJ. can you wait until next year, I’ll have a full crop by then.

  • Csimmons

    stevenh: You think you’re on there a lot? I am on here during class through my phone! Of course I don’t comment, I just read lists.

  • knav3

    sorry, i didnt read all the comments and i dont mean to be a dick, but number 5 is wrong, because youre not talking about none, you’re talking about us, so us is plural, therefore you would have to use are, because us is plural, maybe that sentence is a bad example. The subject of the sentence is us, therefore it would be plural, or else you wouldnt be able to use US or none, then the sentence would be, “i wont have dessert, neither will anybody else.”
    that would be closer, but the sentence with “is,” is wrong. sorry.

  • SarahJ

    J.Coustark. Thankyou I can wait until then.

  • Raisa

    knav3 — #5 is not wrong. The word “none” is not synonymous, and does not refer to, “us” or any plural group. Historically, the word “none” originated as a shortened version of “not one”. Accordingly, in any sentences that uses the word “none”, the phrase “not one” can /always/ (if the sentence is correct) be used interchangeably. This is because when you use the word “none”, the subject of the sentence is the “one” referred to in “not one”.

    For instance: “None of us is going to the meeting.”
    This is correct because, as I’m sure I’ve made clear, “none” is synonymous to “not one”. You can test whether the sentence is correct by switching the two. “Not one of us is going meeting” is still correct. If you were to say “None of us are going” that would be incorrect, as you certainly can’t say that “Not one of us are going.” (“One” is the operative word– it’s the subject, and it’s singular.)

    As a side note, none cannot possibly refer to “us”– “us” cannot be the subject of a sentence. It’s a pronoun. I don’t even need to point out that “Us are happy” is incorrect.

  • Stupid grammar! No one really cares about grammar and English. I don’t understand why you have to learn this in school.

  • Exluddit

    Once in a while I encounter a person here in the US who is learning English. Very often they are baffled by the grammar and oddball colloquialisms that they encounter. My advise to them is to learn the “hard and fast” grammar rules, but understand that they exist only so that they can be broken.

  • CRE

    Earnest: go read my posts again, particularly that one about being disabled. I suck at typing, especially on my laptop, which I am stuck with until I get a new power supply for my desktop. That said, my formal writing is beyond reproach, I just don’t have the time or desire to have someone edit my posts to a forum before I submit them. Contractions in formal writing are unprofessional. In casual writing, they are not a problem. Verbal communication is a diffent story altogether. Try working around heavy equipment sometime, where the need for clear communication is paramount, and you will see why I have developed a tendency not to use cotractions when I speak (although I also have not said that they are grammatically incorrect, I simply do not personally use them).

    Jane: alright is a perfectly acceptable word, whose use goes back to at least 1893. If you want to correct me, make sure you are correct yourself. Makes you look less pretentious.

  • CRE

    And I will save all of you who cannot comprehend the meaning of “I do not claim to have perfect grammar” the trouble of pointing out that yes, I realize that the last sentence of my last post was a fragment. It is ok, though. Last time I stepped out of my boat, I stil sunk (though I’m working on the whole walking on water bit even right now).

  • funbutfunctional

    I always enjoy this kind of thing. I teach English as a foreign language so i have to be aware of how I apeak and write.

    If you’ve enjoyed this list I would recommend ‘Troublesome Words’ by Bill Bryson. Lots of good examples of grammar rules, mistakes and examples of getting them amusingly wrong.

  • funbutfunctional

    *speak and write. Sometimes I’m not very good at it….

  • DJ

    goof_ball, I have a supervisor that feels the same way. He pisses me off with his grammar. He likes to say or write things that are wrong just because he knows it pisses me off.

    To me, the bad grammar in the assorted notes that are posted around my workplace is not something that is funny, it’s unprofessional. There is a place for proper grammar, and this is most certainly that place.

    My big pet peeve outside of that? People that use a ‘t’ instead of ‘ed’ for words in the past tense. Oh, sure, I know this was taught as the norm at one time, but haven’t we moved beyond it yet?

  • Sunshine

    In South Africa we use English spelling. Words like colour. Please could someone let me know if this type of spelling is considered correct in America?

  • Whoever it was asking about the or/our spelling differences in US/UK English, you might find this interesting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_spelling_differences#-our.2C_-or

    It is rather too long for me to boil down here as it all happened over a long period if time :)

  • Catriona

    J.Coustark. Yes you are right, thank goodness for the parents who correct our grammer and encourage us to use dictionaries ;)

  • astraya

    I am teaching English in Korea. EVERY DAY I am struck by the rules-within-rules-except-when-there-are-exceptions of English grammar. I have said on many occasions something like “The purpose of language is communication. If you can communicate clearly using bad grammar, go ahead and do it, but your best chance of being understand by the greatest number of people is to use correct grammar”. That said, there have been hundreds of times I have had to take the line of least grammatical resistance, in order for the lesson not to get bogged down.
    Comments on the original 10, but not on the comments.
    #7 I found out only recently that “healthful” is actually an English word and not Konglish (Korean English). Know that I know that it is actually an English word, I will never use it anyway.
    #6 “Off of” is also used in South Australia, which was settled at the same time as NZ. They also used “Where do you live to?” which used to drive me crazy!
    #2 “Put up with” is one “concept”. The sentence could be rendered “This is the sort of English which I will not tolerate”.

    “You all” is fairly common, but I cringe. One of my colleagues recently said “who all”. She had noticed fast food bags in the staff room, and said to our Korean colleagues “Who all’s been to (fast food outlet)?”. More than one bag = more than one “who”????

    If there are any grammatical errors in this, please don’t point them out. I’ve had a long day with Korean high school students.

  • atraya: I hear “who all” quite often – not from the Brits, but from kiwis and interaction with Americans on the internet. It is a very weird phrase. On another note – I had a holiday in Korea once and loved it – what a great country. I will definitely go back sometime!

  • Danielle

    Loved this list.
    I live in Australia, and whilst I think it’s possible people would make the #4 mistake (“who”/”that”) I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. Maybe we speak better English than you do over there?? Haha, I’m just kidding.
    The folks over in NZ never use archaic English, so don’t worry.

  • Sunshine

    Thank you,
    In South Africa we say two very incorrect things. The first is we say ‘aswell’.. I am coming aswell.. translated means I will also be coming. The second is when we say ‘just now’.. I will be there just now.. it means a little later. Other English speakers find this very strange.

  • Randall

    “who all” isn’t necessarily an example of flat-out “bad grammar,” though–anymore than “y’all”… these are in fact regional “dialect-isms.” This is the beauty of English–it has a flexibility and weirdness that allows it to be in flux, changing and sucking in influences from other languages all the time–not just words, but styles of speech, cadences…. hence the sing-song sound of Southern American speech, Creole, Cajun, etc.

    Atraya: my sympathies, though, trying to teach this stuff to non-English speakers. It’s amazing that people get it as well as they do.

  • Sunshine: I agree that the “just now” thing is very weird. I do think that “as well” is actually perfectly fine English and is found in other English speaking nations as well :) NOTE: As well is ALWAYS spelt as two words :)

  • NoPunyNerd

    Who all, you all (almost always contracted as y’all) and what all are commonly used in Texas. No, not by everyone, but by many. Examples: Who all’s going to the barbecue? Are all of y’all going? What all are you bringing? (Yes, people do say all of y’all sometimes.)

    Sunshine: The spelling of colour is considered foreign rather than incorrect in the US. We use “as well” in the US to mean “also” just as you did in your example.

    Question for the grammar aces: Can someone please explain the difference between sprang and sprung in plain English? Either I’m confused about its proper use, or the word sprang is disappearing from the US vocabulary. The same goes for shrank and shrunk. “The dog sprung from his bed.” “The sweater shrunk in the wash.” Wrong, right?

  • NoPunyNerd

    Question for the grammar aces: Can someone please explain the difference between sprang and sprung in plain English? Either I’m confused about its proper use, or the word sprang is disappearing from the US vocabulary. The same goes for shrank and shrunk. “The dog sprung from his bed.” “The sweater shrunk in the wash.” Wrong, right?

  • NoPunyNerd: Sprang is the past tense, sprung is the past participle (requiring the use of an extra verb) – the following two sentences are both correct:

    She sprang to help the sick man.
    The flowers have sprung up in the garden.

    And – many thanks to Disney for abusing “to shrink” – the following is correct:

    Honey, I shrank the kids (the movie is WRONGLY titled Honey, I shrunk the kids)

    Also correct is:

    I have shrunk the kids, or also acceptable (and nicer in my mind) is Honey, I have shrunken the kids.

    Hope that clears it up :)

  • NoPunyNerd

    Thanks, Jamie … that’s exactly what I thought. Unfortunately, on this side of the pond, shrunk and sprung are used in most instances. It drives me crazy every time I hear it — including on CNN, National Public Radio, network news, Congress, you name it! I feel compelled to say, sometimes aloud, “No, it shrank,” or, “No, it sprang.” I suppose that drives those around me crazy.

  • Dan

    reminds me of a point my friend brought up a while back.

    all words in the english language can be categorised into Verb, adverb, adjective, noun etc.

    But the word ‘very’ when used in certain context does not, such as ‘This very heart’ (shakespeare) in what context is the word there?

  • astraya

    Randall: I didn’t mean to imply that “who all” is bad grammar. I just “described” that a colleague had said it. What amazes me about English grammar is that we learn most of it, at least intuitively, by the time we are 5. During my primary school years, the education department phased out grammar and I got none from then on. Any grammar I know is self-taught.

    jfrater: I’ve had a ball teaching English in Korea, though high school students are a whole lot noisier and a whole lot less conversational than language academy students. At the high school I don’t have any English-speaking colleagues, so will probably contribute more to Listverse discussions to keep sane.
    I’ve got half a mind to submit a list about Korea, but I’m not sure exactly what. “Top 10 English mistakes made by Korean students of English” might have limited appeal.

    My last comments (hopefully):
    In any “real” language (eg not Esperanto) the language came/comes first, then the grammar was/is formulated to describe it.
    Grammar changes all the time. Just about everything we now accept as “good” grammar started off as someone’s “shock-horror-the-end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it”.
    For every “if you say this you will sound like an uneducated yokel” there is an equal and opposite “if you say this you will sound like a pretentious wanker”.

  • Phender_Bender

    Uhh… Good list? I consider myself sort of a grammar-nazi when speaking (even though English is my second language). Still anything relating to grammar puts me to sleep.

  • I’ve caught my fair share of people harassing me about my tenses. Language can only evolve by being used in different ways. I type the way I speak. I even make it a point in the lists to put proper notes in. Even when you don’t see it right off, there is still a way that it is read. Hence, my capital letters in the middle of a sentence and my constant mish-mash of past/present/future verbage (see new word, you know what I’m saying and that’s all I care about). Evolution of language, a far cry from Esperanto. But, hey, what are you going to?

  • Killerbees

    I work with many intelligent people, but I hear the following waaay too often:

    1. If you have any questions, please contact myself or Larry.

    2. There’s two jelly donuts left on my desk.

    3. We should have went to the lab already.

  • BrotherMan

    #96 jfrater:

    I get it…you smart ass :D

  • Octavian

    Your example “Murders are expected to increase by more than double next year” does not contain a split infinitive. The infinitive used is “to increase.” “Double” functions as a noun, I think.

    However “by more than double” would technically suggest something above tripling, as an increase of double an amount leaves triple said amount.

  • EXE

    Octavian– no, double was a verb there. You just copied the sentence wrong– you took it to be ‘Murders are expected to increase by more than double…’– the actual sentence was ‘Murders are expected to more than double…’

    And what’s the deal with passives? Why are passive sentences wrong? If they are wrong, why does the passive voice exist? I think that passives are not necessarily wrong; I think that in many cases the active voice sounds better than the passive, but that if one wishes to use the passive then hats off to them. I think that people should realize, however, the differences between the two, expecially if you’re planning to take a language– in my Latin class, we cannot translate a verb as passive if it is active.

  • Octavian

    I did not “take it to be” anything–I pressed control and v, which is a command to copy exact sentences, not what anyone thinks he or she read. I was talking about the example that follows “However, you could say…”

    I have nothing against passives, but they often add clumsiness.

  • EXE

    Sorry; I thought that you were copying the original example as opposed to what you actually were copying.

  • Diogenes

    a can full of Words
    worms for the soil
    lexicon of slang
    manure for the mind
    nutrients and salvation

  • shaunism

    I think splitting infinitives is totally valid in English – we should embrace this versatility in our language.

    Re: Persuade versus convince: I believe this is a case where the meanings of the words have evolved; I would never use convince as would persuade.

  • English has a 2nd person plural… y’all. :)

    Passive voice is bad because it usually obscures who or what did the thing. It also implies that something “just happened” instead of being done. For example “Mistakes were made.” Um.. . okay, WHO made the mistakes? Or when a kid comes in and says, “The window was broken.” when he really means that HE broke the window. Saying “I broke the window.” shows who did it while the passive kind of implies that it just happened.

    This is a great quote about English: “English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.”

    Verbing weirds language. I love that you can use nouns as verbs, verbs as nouns, etc… in English.

  • Me, Myself and I

    Did you know that English is apparently, one of the hardest languages to learn.
    Like, “where” and “wear”
    “read”, “reed”, “read”
    “led”, “lead”, “lead”
    etc…

    But, if its so difficult, why do so many people learn it as a second language? They learn it is Frace, Sweden, and I dont know where else, Germany I think, in some schools.

  • Me, Myself and I

    “in France”, not “is France”

    Sorry

  • Me, Myself and Do I really have to type this every time?: Try Icelandic.

  • Octavian

    Try Chinese.

  • Mandarin even!

  • Mandarin’s grammar is easy; it’s the sounds that are hard.

    When I read “The Power of Babel” I learned about a language in Africa that has 16 “genders”; and have you ever seen what poor Irish people go through trying to learn Irish Gaelic?

    My friends who’ve learned English as a second language have told me the hardest things are prolific idioms and exceptions, spelling and phrasal verbs. I imagine the first two are common in any language as a foreign one.

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  • PennGos

    I guess I am a Grammar Nazi, because I prefer to twist awkwardly my written and spoken English to better conform to accepted grammatical standards. I am saddened and appalled by the lack of attention paid to these important rules and the general erosion of English. We are become our own Idiocracy.

  • JayArr

    Wow! I find this banter intriguing, to say the least! My buddy just directed me to this site today, and I suspect I’ll become a regular reader… time permitting.

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned the VERY common misuse of the word ‘impact’ in media today, but OH BOY is that one of my major brain boilers!

  • PennGos: In the time of Caesar, the upper crust lamented that the Latin spoken by the underclass was so debased that it wasn’t even Latin anymore. At every point in time, we bemoan the degradation of our languages. We have to maintain standards, definitely, but also realise languages evolve. This is especially true, I think, as a language acquires more and more foreign speakers, as they will tend towards rules when they don’t know the exceptions (‘I goed to the store’ vs ‘I went to the store’). We must embrace change, while not letting it get too sloppy; a very hard balance to find!

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  • Aoede

    4: It’s only ridiculous in that case because “who” is not being used as a link, it’s being used as a subject.

  • Who is this kid?

  • fadi is from Pakistan – his comment has been deleted. The others are from Milton-Keynes in the UK – their comments have been deleted and the IP banned. I am guessing their teacher just used this list as a resource and they decided to come on later for some fun. Why is it always English children that make the most noise here?

  • Don’t ask me, I’m just a screwed up Yank.

  • Frank

    My pet peeves: People telling other people how they ought to talk. Judging a person’s intelligence based on their adherence to standard grammar. Etc.

  • Mark

    “It is also quite common in New Zealand to use “off of” as well”

    – ‘also’ = ‘as well’

  • Interesting that you say “off of” is in common use in New Zealand. It’s not something I ever really noticed in 20 years of living there. What I did notice though, was people saying, “should of” and, “would of” instead of, “should have” and, “would have.”

    One thing I have often wondered about is when someone says or writes, “that that”? Is it better to use one or two ‘that’s? E.g. “This is the house that that man was talking about.”

    I prefer to use the double that, especially when you’re speaking the phrase and gesturing towards the person or thing you’re talking about. And I have always been told that what you write should be consistent with how you would speak the sentence (assuming perfect conversational skills of course!). Plus, to me, it just seems more elegant and balanced to write/say, “that that.”

    Am I wrong?

  • Tempyra: I think “that that” is OK in some cases – in your example, though, I think you could say “This is the house which that man was talking about” if you want to be clear or more varied, or simply “This is the house that man was talking about” is fine.

    I don’t think people are actually saying “should of” and “would of” – they are saying “should’ve” and “would’ve” – they just might not know it when they write it. ;-)

    Cheers,
    Shaun

  • Oh I’ve heard people say “should of” and “would of” clearly, but it’s often indistinct. It is something I’ve seen people actually right though!

  • Argggh… “write” not “right”. Stupid brain… it’s a homonym!

  • Alex

    Oh.. my god, number 2 (second to last)
    Crusty old timers! i just laughed so hard!

    Amazingly enough, though I’m only 13, I knew most of this… I feel like such a grammar buff :)

  • Brickhouse

    I wasn’t sure if ’til or till was correct (I preferred ’til). I’m a pain-in-the-ass grammar policewoman, too – so these are just great for me. Thanks so much for helping along my cause – as annoying as it is, I know. :)

  • Nope

    Intact infinitives give me the willies.

  • the_claoked schemer

    @stevenh

    Your example of a double positive becoming negative is a handy little tool of the intelligent called sarcasm, which is not that same as saying “Ain’t got no” or what ever nonsense that is.

  • fleabitn

    re #9
    I prefer ’til as the diminutive of until, as the word till can be synonymous with cash register, as in the curious phrase: “Put the take in the till.”

    But now for the big question. Is it okay to say “aks”? as in “She aksed me if I cared.”

  • rose

    Bad grammar is really annoying, but perfect grammar is definitely more irksome. Didn’t know most of these obscure rules, oh and I thought that ‘had had’ was only used in the passive voice? Correct me if im wrong on this please :)

  • Amber

    well honestly this page is okai…but theres really nothing wrong with ”Becareful fro wat u wish for”…It does make sense to me…

    Du3zzzzzz

  • CoganKnowsBest

    Very interesting!!
    I’m sorry to say that in Ireland, grammar is not taught to school students any longer, with the result that most of us speak and write English incorrectly.
    What irks me the most though, is the improper use of apostrophes. For example, I saw a poster in the local shop advertising apples for sale. However, apples was spelled ‘apple’s’.
    I also hate it when people use ‘affects’ in the place of ‘effects’ and, of course, when people mix up ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’ and ‘they’re’.
    I don’t pretend to be perfect myself, I certainly am not. I probably make mistakes too, I may even have made some in this text, but I think we should all strive to at least preserve the basic rules.
    Over here, we often use ‘ye’ to indicate you plural. :D

  • Asher

    Re: #7 …

    A happy coincidence means a lucky coincidence, from ‘hap’ meaning ‘chance’.

    A gloomy landscape refers to a landscape that is gloomy (dark/dim/obscure), not a landscape that makes one gloomy (melancholic)

    Neither of these situations are at all similar to calling a breakfast ‘healthy’, except if we concede that (now) something ‘healthy’ is something possessing healthful qualities. Which the word is taken to mean commonly.

    Other than that failure in logic/example, a very entertaining list for a descriptive linguist such as myself :P

  • T-Ma

    Perhaps you could define “pedant” for us. “Grammar Nazi” is clever but dismissive. I happen to agree with your conclusions in the ten examples listed above, but as an English professor of almost 30 years, I believe that standard usage is important to foster and maintain. It’s not that the language can’t change; all living languages do. But changes need to become part of the standard, not violations of it. Does that make me a “pedant”? Ah, well.

  • SallySweet

    Split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions is a peeve. However, I don’t mind starting sentences with conjunctions as long as it isn’t overdone.

  • SallySweet: Wouldn’t the question, “What for?”, piss you off, kind of sort of?

  • REBELComx

    Ain’t is a word and was used mostly in Elizabethan times. It was a conjunction of “I am not.”

    And the phrase is actually “A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle.”

  • Rissa

    Just an FYI – ‘None’ is actually from a select group of indefinite pronouns: all, any, most, none, some. They are an odd group in the sense that their singular or plural nature is based upon the object of the prepositional phrase that follows the pronoun. For example, you would say “None of the team is here” because ‘team’ is singular. On the other hand, you would say ‘None of the players are here” because ‘players’ is plural’. I know, it’s pathetic that I even know this but when can I say.

  • anaxahra

    Prepositions are fun to end sentences with. :)

  • daikonran

    Another good one is using “funner” for “more fun” and “funnest” for “most fun.” People always give me crap about using “funner” — even spellcheck! They say it sounds wrong and it does slightly, and I realize that there is a debate about fun being a noun and not truly an adjective so it can’t follow the same rules for adjectives where one syllables get -er and -est and 2 or more (generally) have to be accompanied by “more” or “most” instead. But according to that rule, there is nothing wrong with “funner”/”funnest” and when I was a kid, I looked it up in several dictionaries that listed both ways as being grammatically correct.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve found no conclusive evidence to say I am. So, I stand by it.

  • Fentex

    It’s my understanding that the objection to split infinitives derives from attempts to coerce English to Latin grammar.

    In Latin infinitives are single words that simply cannot be split, while English uses separate words to form infinitives and thus has the option to split them.

  • LacyJ

    I would just like to add a wonderful quote from a movie I love dearly, "With Honors". This exchange takes place between a Harvard professor (HP) and a homeless man (HM):

    HM: Which door do I leave from?
    HP: At Harvard, we do not end our sentences with prepositions.
    HM: In that case, which door do I leave from, asshole?

    That always makes me laugh. :)

  • Rod

    I find that most are saying have no instead of haven't, with no instead of without, for no good reason, instead of without. They seem to have forgot the opposites to can, is,will,does, have, did.
    I seen, instead of I saw, I done ,instead of I did, They was instead of they were. It seems that everyone has forgot how to conjugate the verbs

  • Will

    On #2 would it not be right to argue that actually in placing the prepostion last, you create a passive sentence, rather than acting. Also the sentence example you gave reflected more the grammer of Latin, where although in Latin word order makes absolultely no difference to the meaning of a sentence, it is usually written in the order subject, preposition + anything else (i.e. subordinate clause), object, verb.

  • P Smith

    #10 – It’s not among, it’s _amongst_ or _betwixt_ for many, or _amidst_ if you don’t like those words.

    #6 – “Off of” is a preposition of movement, “off” a preposition of location. If the noun is changing locations, one uses “off of”, a reversal of the combined preposition of movement, “onto”.

    #5 – “None” is zero, which is plural. The only singular is one.

    “There are none.” / “None of them are here.”

    #2 – The use of prepositions at the end is similar to the use of intransitive verbs. Sometimes you need an object, and sometimes you don’t.

    #1 – Your example is lousy. Double can be a verb, but only poorly. Use it as an adjective with “to be”, especially in this sentence where it is a statement of existence:

    “Murders are expected to be more than double next year.”

    Of greater importance is the splitting of infinitives with “not”. It should never be placed between the infinitive:

    Wrong: “I told him to not be late.”
    Right: “I told him not to be late.”

  • rogerkni

    Here's a better explanation for how to handle "none" than any of those given so far. It's from a deservedly popular book, "Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English":

    "None has always been closer in meaning to "not any" than "not one," and most authorities agree it's usually plural. Examples: None of Tyson's teeth were chipped. None of Holyfield's fingers were broken.

    If it suggests "none of them," it's plural: None of the fans are fighting. None are excited enough.

    "If it suggests "none of it," it's singular: None of the bout was seen in Pittsburgh. None was worth broadcasting

    "When you mean "not one," it's better to say "not one" and use a singular verb: Not one of Holyfield's fingers was broken."
    ===========

    REBELcomx said:
    "And the phrase is actually "A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle." "

    I'm glad you mentioned that phrase. it originally appeared in the early 60s in Paul Krassner's magazine, The Realist, with the words "a God" in place of "religion." In the mid-to-late 60s Gloria Steinem morphed into something different, for her purposes: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." She's subsequently been given undeserved credit for coming up with the original, strikingly absurd image.

  • Jesus

    Something that has always bewildered me is "naked pictures"of something. As in "naked pictures of my uncle". Are the pictures naked or is my uncle? If my uncle was Scottish you wouldn't say "Scottish pictures of my uncle". Hmm…

  • MOR

    Two things:

    1) Just because something is in common usage does not make it right. Plenty of people are adulterers, but that doesn't make it right.
    2) I am horrified by the English major(s) that didn't know these extremely basic concepts. I can only pray it was the author's interpretation at which they were surprised and not the usage that is old-fashioned.

  • Kat87

    Just because something sounds "more graceful" doesn't make it grammatically correct! I am a proud "grammar Nazi" and a high school English teacher, but even I don't claim to have the authority to tell people to "just leave it" because it sounds nice haha! There are rules that must be followed!

  • Piperlauderdale

    What about split verb phrases? Is the phrase, “Smack my bitch up,” ok? Or should it be, “Smack up my bitch?”
    I’m with you on the prepositions though. Remember the Beavis and butthead movie? “Its that guy whose camper they were wacking off in! I mean, it’s that guy off in whose camper they were wacking!”
    Full cavity searches all around!

  • steve

    Why do I get the impression that the same people who get all up in arms over grammatical errors are the same ones who would be appalled if I used the wrong fork to eat my salad?

    Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that there is something to be said for manners and intelligent speech. I just don’t think its worth getting all worked up over. There are certain things that drive me crazy as well but they have more to do with sounding just plain stupid (at least to me) than from being “incorrect”.

  • opusthepenguin

    Thank you! When I was 11, I had a poem published in “Miles to Go,” the annual literary publication of the Governor’s Program for Gifted Children at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA (aka summer camp for geeks). The mouth-breathing student editor changed my till to a ’til, making me feel as though I’d committed an error. I fretted over that for years. So two thumbs up for Number 9.

    A minor nitpick on Number 7, however. (Which reminds me. If I added an 11th point to your list, it would be the senseless ban on sentence fragments. They can certainly be overused, and they may convey a folksy tone that doesn’t fit certain styles and contexts; but they aren’t automatically ERRORS, for crying out loud!) Anyway, on Number 7, you note that “adjectives connected to a sensation in the viewer (such as happy) are often transferred to the object or event they are viewing.” That’s true, but “a happy coincidence” may not be the best example. “Happy,” in that context, probably means “lucky” or “fortuitous”. That goes all the way back to the English origins of “happy” in the Middle English “hap,” meaning luck or chance.

    Your other example of “a gloomy landscape” is, of course, spot on.

  • Chris Browne

    It should be noted that many Latin scholars over the years have contributed to English grammar, borrowing from Latin rules because of the rigor by which they were enforced. I can’t quote any Latin here because I don’t know any, but I have it on good authority that the reasons for Latin grammar’s rigidity and structure are based upon their rules for word formation and meaning. In English, meaning is derived almost entirely from context (demoting grammar to nothing more than a stylistic choice in our language, despite what many pedants would have you think). In Latin, however, the word carries all the meaning, so arranging words in the wrong order entirely changes the meaning of a sentence. There are one or two examples in English of sentences that will shift meaning if you change words around, but there are many thousands where the order of the words does not change the meaning whatsoever.

    “The donkey sat on the rug” means the same thing as “The rug was sat on by the donkey”. I believe the Subject, Object and Verb ordering of Latin means that the latter (if translated poorly) would come out as “The rug sat on the donkey”.

    It is this principle difference between Latin and English (from where meaning is derived) that causes many people to trip up when trying to apply Latin grammatical rules to English sentences – and why should they?

  • AliciaS

    This is my kind of list! Whether you choose to use the correct grammar or not it’s nice to know what’s correct. On the other hand, as a snob i manage to think less of an educated person who uses bad grammar. It’s everywhere and it annoys the heck out of me. There was an interesting discussion in the comments of one List on (education) discrimination. It was funny to see people discussing the importance of higher education using incorrect English.

    I’m sure there are errors in the last paragraph. I’m too lazy to correct them and its too difficult using an iPhone. I are an college dropout anyway. Ha ha.

    One other thing, I believe that amen’t is the contraction for am not – not ain’t. At least that’s what I think my hardcore academic father told me years ago.

  • Boz Worth

    Most of this is plainly wrong and all of it utterly void of authority. If you believe any of it, you need to spend time on a real grammar site.

  • Nate

    Although I agree with many of these, I don’t know how much I can trust a writer whose use of semicolons is so non-standard:
    “True, one should be aware that many such sentences would be improved by becoming clauses in compound sentences; but there are many effective and traditional uses for beginning sentences in this way.”

    Since there’s a conjuction after the semicolon, a comma would suffice.

  • vermilionskin

    Well written

  • Nigel

    #4, you’re wrong. It’s “whom”, not who, as in, “to whom am I speaking.” whom is the pronoun for who, the removal of the usage from our vernacular directly leads to the confusion over who and that. “that” is not, in truth, an accurate replacement for “whom” as the former refers to objects and the latter peoples, however it is considered less wooden, for a population raised on corn syrup, Cheetos and commercial broadcasts.

    • Kodayl

      “Whom” is just the objective form of the interrogative pronoun “who.” While I do agree that as a relative particle/pronoun, “who” should be used over “that” when referring to humans, whether or not “whom” is used depends on if the antecedent is in subjective or objective case. Consider these examples:

      The woman who took my picture wasn’t a professional photographer.

      I need a photographer who knows how to take a professional photograph!

      The guy whom she mentioned as her most valued client was probably her husband.

      In the example the author gives “Who was it that said…,” “that” would fit, in my opinion, only because of the pronoun “it.” “Who said…” would avoid all of this.

  • Justin

    How about the phrase “pretty much”? lol That one’s very common, very incorrect. How about a list (unless such a thing already exists) of the top misspelled words, that aren’t hard to spell: Hart (heart), beutiful (beautiful), tomarrow (tomorrow), etc…..

  • Justin

    I’ll bet I made at least one spelling error just within that one post lol

  • ishyfishy

    i dint understand a shit

  • Bob Lerner

    >spelt

    That will be all.

  • poopy

    way to go prescriptive grammarians who failed to realize that trying to make English grammar conform to the grammar of a language that is nothing like English (Latin) is much like trying to play a guitar with a bow.

  • JDo

    Some Guy: Hey, where the drug store at?

    Grammar Nazi: Sir, it is improper to end a sentence with a preposition.

    Some Guy: OK, where’s the drug strore at, a**hole?

  • Megor

    My boyfriend and I have argued over healthy/healthful quite a bit. I’m glad I wasn’t technically wrong, since I have no intention of saying healthful.

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