Special Report

21 English Grammar Rules That Confuse Everyone

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16. None can take a singular or plural verb

Because “none” is derived from “not one,” which is singular, it usually takes a singular verb, as in “none of the pizza is left.” Style guides, on the other hand, agree that none can have a plural verb in some situations, when the “nothing” that the word refers to is plural, as in, “I ordered three pairs of shoes, but none of them are here yet.”

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17. Compound possession

When there are two subjects in a possessive phrase, you must determine whether the two people possess the object together, or separately. For example, in the phrase “Kareem’s and Kumar’s houses are red,” Kareem and Kumar do not share ownership of their red houses. On the other hand, “Kareem and Kumar’s houses are red,” means that Kareem and Kumar share ownership of multiple red houses.

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18. It’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition

While Latin grammar dictates otherwise, English grammar permits ending a sentence with a preposition. What kinds of grammar snobs have you been hanging out with?

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19. Animacy hierarchy in possessives

Possessives, such as “Tina’s cat” are formed with reference to the animacy hierarchy, which basically moves in decreasing order of humanness, going from human to animal to inanimate object. The closer to a human that the possessor of the phrase is, the worse the ‘of’ construction sounds. This is why “the cat of Tina” sounds strange but “the hood of the car” sounds completely normal.

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20. The difference between among and, well, between

Grammar sticklers sometimes maintain that “between” can refer to no more than two things (“between noon and one,” “between Houston and Dallas”) while “among” is used for three or more things or for things that aren’t differentiated individually (“among the pine trees, oaks, and maples,” “among friends”). But “between” is perfectly correct for numerous items. You wouldn’t say “I couldn’t decide among chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry” or “The treaty among Italy, France, and England wasn’t signed.”

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