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How’s Your Grammar?

(Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

One of the unintended consequences of writing this blog has been the need to re-learn some grammar and punctuation rules from my elementary school days. I was reminded of this recently from a post I saw on Facebook. Someone who was unhappy with the immigration situation created a demonstration sign that said, “Respect ARE Country – Speak English.” Naturally the sign should have said, “Respect OUR Country.”

Is English The Hardest Language?

On a business trip I sat next to a Chinese youngster who had finished a summer internship at Yellowstone Park. And I asked him about English versus Chinese. He told me that English was very easy to read and write but very hard to speak. He did speak very good conversational English but with a very heavy accent. I suppose every language has words that sound alike but have totally different meanings depending on how they are used in a sentence.

However, English seems to have more than its fair share. “Their,” “There” and “They’re” sound the same but have three totally different meanings. “Its” doesn’t mean the same as “It’s.”

Some Common Grammar Mistakes

Here are a couple of my favorites that you don’t see as often as the ones I shared above.

  • Advise and Advice: Advise means to recommend. “I would advise you to follow your doctors orders.” While advice means to give guidance.
  • Complementary and Complimentary: Complementary adds something to make things better. “The song selection was very complementary to the wedding.” Complimentary refers to something given free. “I have complimentary tickets to the opera.”
  • Conscious and Conscience: Conscious referrers to being aware or awake such as regaining consciousness. An example of conscience is the ability to know right from wrong, such as having a guilty conscience.
  • Principle and Principal: The noun principle is a rule or basic belief. “It’s the principle of the thing.” Principal is a descriptive adjective referring to the most important thing. “Principal Jones will give the lecture.” An easy tip to remember this one is that the adjective “principal” is your pal. The last three letters of the word.
  • Adverse and Averse: The adjective adverse means harmful or unfavorable. “The union members were working under adverse conditions.” Averse, also an adjective refers to avoidance of a condition. “The patient was averse to the prescribed treatment.”

Some Final Thoughts

I’m sure over the past year that I’ve been doing this blog I’ve probably interchanged some of the wording above. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not always trying to get things correct.

For those who really know their grammar misuse of words is like fingernails on a blackboard. Not pleasant. So I am going to do my best to adhere to the strict rules of grammar from now on. Because I know that a preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with.

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