Special Report

21 English Grammar Rules That Confuse Everyone

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11. Compound subjects

When talking about two people at the same time, the verb must agree with the compound subject. Sometimes it’s straightforward, as in “Max and Stan are walking the dog.” But if there is an “or” or “nor” in the subject, the verb will agree with the most recent noun, as in “Max or Stan is walking the dog.”

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12.Coordinate vs cumulative adjectives

Cumulative adjectives – which are usually from different categories such as age and size – don’t get commas, while coordinate adjectives do. To determine if your adjectives are cumulative, try to either change the order of adjectives or add the word ‘and’ between them. If the meaning is not the same, then they’re cumulative adjectives, as in “a modern Japanese electric car.”

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13. Split infinitives

An infinitive is a verb preceded by “to”, as in “to go” or “to teach.” While it is acceptable in speech and informal writing to split infinitives with adjectives, as in “it was hard to completely follow his logic,” it should be avoided in formal writing.

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14.The difference between who and whom

“Who” describes the subject of a sentence, while “whom” is the object. If you can’t figure it out, substitute the “who/whom” pronoun with “he/him” or “she/her.” “Who” will correspond with “he/she,” while “whom” will correspond with “him/her.”

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15. The “kind of” rule

The “kind of” rule is why artists paint “still lifes” instead of “still lives,” and why the “Toronto Maple Leafs” hockey team are not the “Toronto Maple Leaves.” Because a still life is a kind of painting, rather than a kind of life, and the Maple Leaves are a sports team rather than a kind of leaf, their pluralization does not follow the regular rule for pluralizing the words “life” or “leaf.”

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