Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Pesky Rules #1

Learning the English language rules is not easy!

Oh, the joy of learning English!
In March I shared my cheat-sheet about the pesky comma.
I learned English as an adult and the comma became my worst nightmare when I started writing.
Where it's needed and don't need it?
I rely on the editors to catch my mistakes, but I really should use my cheat-sheet more often. I bet my editor would have fewer headaches.
I will continue sharing my cheat-sheet next week about the use of the pesky comma.

But this week let's talk about some of the pesky rules:

Normally, an apostrophe symbolizes possession: "I took Mandy's purse."
Apostrophes can also replace omitted letters: "I don't, I can't."
When used as a possessive pronoun: "The dog had a toy. I took its toy."
For the shortened version of "it is" use the version with the apostrophe: "It's raining outside."

Fewer or less?
We use "fewer" when discussing something countable: "Fewer than ten people saw the flying object."
We use "less" for intangible concepts: "I spent less than one hour coloring the picture."

Dangling modifiers
These are ambiguous, adjectival clauses at the beginning or end of sentences that often don't modify the right word or phrase:
"Rotting in the pantry, our Mandy threw the onions in the garbage." The structure of this sentence implies that Mandy is a zombie rotting in the pantry.
But when you place the modifying clause right next to the word or phrase it intends to describe:
"Mandy, threw the onions, rotting in the pantry, in the garbage." Then we know the onions went bad in the pantry and not Mandy.

Me, myself, or I?
Me and I always function. as the object.
"My friend and I went to lunch."
"Sara asked Betty and me to go hiking."
"I ate five apples."
When you've referred to yourself earlier in the sentence: "I made myself breakfast."

Who or whom?
It's not always easy to tell subjects from objects but to use an over-simplified yet good, general rule: subjects start sentences (or clauses), and objects end them.
"Who is a bully?"
"Careful whom you call a bully."

Lie or lay?
This is a pretty confusing rule:
The word "lay" must have an object, so we don't say: "I'm going to go lay down." Someone lays something somewhere: "Mandy lays her pen on the table."
You lie. Unless you lay, which means lie but in the past tense:
Present Past
Lie Lie Lay
Lay Lay Laid

Next time we'll talk about nor versus or, than versus then, irregular verbs and a few other things, and I will continue sharing the pesky comma rules cheat-sheet. Don't miss the posts!

In this short story collection I mentioned a few stories about the humorous part of learning a new language along with stories from my nursing years.

Available in eBook and audiobook: