Really this is like shooting fish in a barrel.
What do I mean? Well this heading has come from an article “10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid“, I just found by a random Google search for grammar problems, BUT, and here’s the fish in the barrel, once again it is not grammar but SPELLING or MEANING (see my book for whole chapters on this subject) that they are having such a hissy fit about!
See the full article on the web site for examples of each “flagrant grammar mistake” but here it is in summary:
#1: Loose for lose: SPELLING/ WRONG WORD
#2: It’s for its (or God forbid, its’): SPELLING
#3: They’re for their for there: SPELLING
#4: i.e. for e.g.: WRONG WORD
#5: Effect for affect: SPELLING/ WRONG WORD
#6: You’re for your: SPELLING
But wait what about this – number 7? Could it be a real grammar issue? I’ll include the examples from the web site also, as this one takes a little more to work out:
#7: Different than for different from
No: This setup is different than the one at the main office.
Yes: This setup is different from the one at the main office.
Yes: This setup is better than the one at the main office.
I had to look this up in a couple of dictionaries to check. The point the article writer is making (trying to make) is that “different” is a describing a characteristic and is not a comparison type word (such as “better”).
Right. Dictionary time. First one I opened on my computer (the “New Oxford American” that comes free and standard with an Apple Mac, so just a plain everyday dictionary) was ambiguous. At first I thought it showed that “different than” could be valid, but then on closer inspection neither of the grammatical uses of that definition (conjunction or preposition) actually fit the above. So maybe the writer is correct. Lets check another dictionary. This time online at dictionary.com - which is based on the very respected (and good) “Random House” dictionary.
[than, then; unstressed thuhn, uhn]
1. (used, as after comparative adjectives and adverbs, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison): She’s taller than I am.2. (used after some adverbs and adjectives expressing choice or diversity, such as other, otherwise, else, anywhere, or different, to introduce an alternative or denote a difference in kind, place, style, identity, etc.): I had no choice other than that. You won’t find such freedom anywhere else than in this country..From “Than”: dictionary. com
My goodness. There is the word “different” right there. In black and white (or red and black and white in this case, because I highlighted it – but it’s just black and white in the dictionary)! Here is the problem; the writer of this article is STUCK on definition number one, whereas there are SEVERAL definitions and usages of the word “than” (I’ve only included the first two) and definition numer two indicates “than”, in this meaning, is used in sentences like “This setup is different than the one at the main office.”
Check it out for yourself. Try some other dictionaries.
So this one also comes down to MEANING and not grammar either. Dang.
What about the last ones?
#8 Lay for lie
No: I got dizzy and had to lay down.
Yes: I got dizzy and had to lie down.
Yes: Just lay those books over there.
Hmmm? Back to the dictionaries.
Lay 1 and lie 2 are often confused. Lay is most commonly a transitive verb and takes an object. Its forms are regular. If “place” or “put” can be substituted in a sentence, a form of lay is called for: Lay the folders on the desk. The mason is laying brick. She laid the baby in the crib.
Lie, with the overall senses “to be in a horizontal position, recline” and “to rest, remain, be situated,etc.,” is intransitive and takes no object. Its forms are irregular; its past tense form is identical with the present tense or infinitive form of lay : Lie down, children. Abandoned cars were lying along the road. The dog lay in the shade and watched the kittens play. The folders have lain on the desk since yesterday.
In all but the most careful, formal speech, forms of lay are commonly heard in senses normally associated with lie. In edited written English such uses of lay are rare and are usually considered nonstandard: Lay down, children. The dog laid in the shade. Abandoned cars were laying along the road. The folders have laid on the desk since yesterday.
From “Usage note: of “Lay”: dictionary. com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lay
OK. There’s quite a bit in there and you may find some of that is over your head, but it’s pretty simple and definitive really.
- “Lay” is basically transitive (a verb needing an object, like, for example, “build” in “build a house” – build is a transitive verb in this sense, needing the object “a house” for it to make sense).
- Whereas “lie” is intransitive” (a verb requiring no object, such as “eat” in “I eat” or “swim” as in “I swim”) and so goes without an object. For example: “lie down” – “down” is not an object, it is just an adverb describing more about “lie”, or “rubbish lies along the roadside” – in this case “along” is a preposition [showing positional relationship] and not an object. Oddly enough actually I can’t think of a straight use of “lie” without some sort of adverb or prepositional usage – unlike the other intransitive verbs I mentioned; you can say “I eat”, “I read”, but not really “I lie” (in THIS meaning – you CAN say ”I lie” in the sense of not telling the truth, but that’s ANOTHER word. English – you gotta love it sometimes!).
The other point of interest is that in FORMAL usage these difference are noted and pretty strictly stuck to, but in informal usage the use of “lay” instead of “lie” may be common and acceptable. So in THIS case, #8, the writer is actually correct and although this is really still technically just a case of wrong word or meaning (“lay” for “lie”) it DOES need grammar to explain it really, so we will concede THIS is a grammar point – or at least half grammar. So, yes! One out of 8 (so far) – way to go! Heh heh.
Lets check out the last two …
#9: Then for than. SPELLING!
#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
No: I could of installed that app by mistake.
Yes: I could have installed that app by mistake.
OMG! OMG! OMG! A real grammar point! Yee hah!
“Have” is a “helping” or “combining” or “auxiliary” or whatever else you want to call it “verb” – it is used with ANOTHER verb to give different tense to the verb:
25. (used with a past participle to form perfect tenses): She has gone. It would have been an enjoyable party if he hadn’t felt down cast.
If you don’t know what a “past particle” is, or a “perfect tense” is, try these links (I have tried to find good, simple ones, for you – not easy!) or a “good” grammar book, but don’t worry about it too much – these are just complex grammar words to indicate this “helping/ auxillary verb” (have) changes the tense of the verbs it goes with.
And so. We have “10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid” of which a whole one and a half out of ten (1.5 / 10) are ACTUALLY grammar! Doh.
As I said, shooting fish in a barrel this is!
Does anyone have any REAL grammar “mistakes” or questions or anything? Post them here, or even better in the “Questions” page and I’ll look into them for you.