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“English Excellence In The New Millennium”

“English Excellence In The New Millennium” 150 HELPFUL HINTS FOR GRAMMAR Selected from The Grammar Guide






Selected from The Grammar Guide Authored by K. W. Wright

(Copyright 2008)



The primary objective of 150 Helpful Hints For Grammar is to meet the everyday grammatical needs of spea kers an d w r iters in English. Its pu r pose is no t aim ed at solv ing ev ery pos sible gram m ar- r elated problem or answering every grammatical query that might arise in a communication situation. That task is better accomplished by The Grammar Guide, an in-depth, all-encompassing, 300 page, functional grammar publication written by the same author and creator of The 4S Approach To Literacy And Language (4S) and the Accelerated English Program (AEP) and from which these excerpts have been borrowed.

150 Helpful Hints For Grammar offers “corrective” information that is easy to understand and apply to deal with many of the everyday grammar errors and concepts that people encounter regularly and need to master should they wish to raise their English speaking and writing skills to a superior level. Using relevant examples, and where necessary, adopting a learner-friendly, definitional and explanatory approach, this brief 14-page booklet is a valuable aid to both the person for whom English is their primary language as well as for those for whom English is being learnt as an additional or second language.

a - an

The correct use of the Indefinite Articles, a and an, is determined by the sound of the initial or first alphabetical symbol (letter) of the word that follows it, not just by the fact that the following word begins with a Consonant or a Vowel.

When the following word begins with a Consonant Sound such as “b


kangaroo” - a mouse” - a 1920 invention” - “a yellow rose”.


etc. the Indefinite Article “a” is used, e.g. “a boat” - “a farmer- “a










With the special exception of the Long Vowel ‘u’, when the following word begins with a Vowel Sound, the Indefinite Article “an” is used, e.g. an apple” - “an aviary” - “an empty glass” - “an emu” - “an igloo” - “an iceberg” - “an ostrich” - “an oboe” - “an uncaring person” - but NOT an utility”.

The most common a and an errors occur with words that begin with the Long “u” Vowel and with the Consonant “h” when it is silent. As the Long ‘u’ Vowel initially ”

makes a Consonant ‘y

sound as in “you”, a” is used to precede Long “u” Vowel

words as “unicorn”, “unit”, “uniform”, “unity”, “united”, e.g. a unicorn- “a united approach”. This is despite the fact that the symbol “u” is a vowel”.

” sound, the

Indefinite Article “a” is used, e.g. a hand” - “a horse” - “a hunter”, etc. In contrast, when the initial “h” is silent or diminished in its sound, the Indefinite Article, “an” is used, e.g. an hour” - “an honest person” - “an honourable discharge from the army”.

When a word beginning with the Consonant “h” clearly sounds its “h

absolutely The Adverbial word, absolutely, means “completely”, “perfectly”, “conclusively”, “totally”, “requiring no further qualification”, etc. It is because of its meaning that it is incorrect to use absolutely to further qualify or modify Adjectives that also indicate the highest possible degree of perfection or completeness such as “absolutely pure; absolutely superb; absolutely perfect; absolutely marvellous; absolutely genuine; absolutely complete, etc. While “absolutely” is used to give additional emphasis to the description being expressed, it is unnecessary and should be avoided.


accede / exceed

Advocate should not be followed by "that". The correct construction is: I advocate his being suspend not I advocate that he be suspended.

The word, accede, usually means ”to agree” or “to give consent”, e.g. That manager will accede to any request from his staff that is reasonable. It can also mean “to come to an important office or position”, e.g. The prince was still a young teenager when he acceded to the throne.


The word, exceed, means “to go beyond”, “to surpass”, “to excel”, ”to be greater”, e.g. It can be dangerous to exceed the speed limit. -- The scholar exceeded all his parent’s expectations. Yesterday’s temperature exceeded all previous records.

accept / except

The word, accept, is a Verb and usually is used to mean “to receive” or “to take” something that is offered, e.g. I decided to accept his offer for my car. It can also mean “to believe” or “to acknowledge” something as being true, e.g. Do you accept that he was telling the truth?

The word, except, is usually used as a Preposition meaning “other than” , “excluding” or “but”, e.g. All the students went to the concert except Miriam. – Except for the poor accommodation, we enjoyed our holiday. Except” can also be used as a Verb form and mean to “exclude”, or “leave out”,e.g. The coach decided to except the injured player from training. – Again, it can be a Conjunction and mean “unless”, e.g. I will not lend money to your brother again except you be his guarantor. N.B. Other variations in meaning can be found in most quality dictionaries.

accidentally There is no such word as accidently in English. The correct spelling of the Adverb is accidentally which is formed from the Adjective, “accidental” which in turn, is formed from the Noun, “accident”, e.g. The police said the accident was accidental as the driver of the truck accidentally had hit the culvert when swerving to avoid a falling tree branch.

accused of

The Verb form, accused, is always used with the Preposition “of”, e.g. The teenagers were accused of driving recklessly. – The farmer accused his neighbour of trespassing. It is incorrect to use the Preposition “with”, e.g. Cp. He was accused with stealing.

adjacent to

The Adjective, adjacent, is always used with the Preposition “to”, e.g. My friends live adjacent to a park. It is incorrect to use “adjacent from” or “adjacent with”.

adjective /

A very common error in Grammar is to use an Adjective instead of an Adverb when


expressing “how” something occurred or was done, e.g. My horse can run real fast. (really) – She speaks very soft. (softly) - Do this as quick as you can. )quickly)

admission / The word, admittance, is restricted in meaning to “being admitted to a place”, that admittance is, it refers to the “physical act of entering a place or location”, e.g. A security clearance is required for admittance to this area.” The word admission has a number of different meanings, e.g. (i) the right of entry to a place – (ii) a fee for entry – (iii) a confession to having done something – (iv) an acknowledgement that something is true.

advice / advise The word, advice, is a Noun, i.e. the name of something that means “an opinion” or “recommendation”, e.g. What advice would you give to those new police recruits? The word, advise, is a Verb, i.e. a doing , or mental action word and means “to offer an opinion”, “to recommend as wise” or “to give counsel”, e.g. I advise you not to buy that old, second-hand lawnmower. - The mountain climbers were advised of the risks of climbing in the rain.

N.B. The Noun-form of a word is usually spelt with a “c” while the Verb form is spelt with an “s”. Cp. licence - license; prophecy - prophesy, etc. N.B USA spelling.



The word, advocate, should not be followed by "that". The correct construction is: I advocate his being suspend not I advocate that he be suspended.

affect / effect

The word, affect, is always used as a Verb form and can have a number of meanings such as “to influence”, “to produce a change”, “to put on a pretence of”, “to feign” or “to assume the character of”, e.g. The dismissal of the captain will affect the team’s performance.– When he speaks to women, he affects an American accent.

The word, effect, is usually used as a Noun and means “result” or “consequence” and also “accomplishment” or ”fulfilment”, e.g. The effect of the flood was devastating on the houses along the river. – Theresa’s responsibility was to put the new marketing strategy into effect. W hen used as a Verb form, “effect” usually is used to mean “to produce, to make happen, accomplish or bring about, e.g. The new Chairperson of the Board has the opportunity to effect many improvements in the company.

afflicted / inflicted

The Verb form, afflicted, means “to be distressed or troubled greatly with physical or

m ental pain”, e.g. Shannon is afflicted w ith diabetes. It is incorrect to say “inflicted

by” something, i.e. My aunt is afflicted by rheumatism.

The Verb form, inflicted, means “to lay on” or “to impose suffering or a penalty” and is followed by the Prepositions “on” or “upon”, e.g. The punishment the court inflicted on the cruel dog-pound owner was just. The strenuous training program inflicted upon the athletes by the new coach caused great dissension.


When using the word, affinity, one can say: There is an affinity between those two children or He has an affinity with that stallion. but not an affinity to or an affinity for someone or something.

aggravate /

The Verb form, aggravate, means to make something “worse, more severe or


serious”, e.g. Walking up the stairs aggravates my sore knee. It also can mean “to exasperate” or “to provokesomeone, e.g. Your constant criticism aggravates her.


is this latter meaning that can cause confusion with the word, irritate, which means

to anger, annoy, vex” and also “to produce an uneasy physical sensation”, e.g. The actor was irritated by the constant public criticism by the journalist. That vapour coming from the airconditioner is irritating my eyes.

agree The Verb, agree, can be used with a variety of Preposition depending on the sense of the sentence. (i) Expressing an “opinion”, e.g. I agree w ith you about that. or The scientists do not agree about climate change. - (ii) Indicating “consent, e.g. I will agree to that condition. - (iii) Coming to an “understanding”, e.g. Can we agree on a new strategy? - (iv) “Consistency”, e.g. Their accounts agree in most details.


When the word, all, is used as a Pronoun and means “everything”, it is followed by


S in g u la r V e rb , e .g . A ll is lo s t!” th e C a p ta in c rie d a s th e s h ip h it th e re e f. W hen

a ll

clearly has a plural meaning because of the presence of a Plural Verb is used, e.g. All of the animals in that zoo were brought from South East Asia.

all ready /

The term, all ready, is a word group in which all is a Pronoun and ready is an


already Adverb, e.g. Are you all ready to leave for the beach? - All ready means “completely

or “totally ready”. In contrast the word, already, is an Adverb meaning “before” or “before now”, i.e. it refers to “time”, e.g. He had finished the job already by the time we got there to assist him.


all right The term, all right, is a word group made from two words like all wrong -- Even though the spelling “alright” appears in some dictionaries, it is traditionally incorrect

to write all right as alright or as allright or all-right.

all together / The word group, all together, means “all in one place” or “at the same time”, e.g. altogether Let’s go by bus to the exhibition so that we can be all together. – The missing paintings were discovered all together in a secret compartment under the staircase. The compound word, altogether, is an Adverb and means “entirely, completely” or “on the whole”, e.g. She has altogether misunderstood my intentions. The defeated team weren’t altogether pleased with many of the referee’s decisions.

alternate /

alternative mean “arranged to follow one after the other”, i.e. “in succession”, e.g. The Council by-laws require residents with odd and even numbered addresses to water their gardens on alternate days.(Adj). – When alternate is used as a Verb form, the pronunciation changes by stressing the first syllable instead of the second one, e.g. The work rosters of those security officers alternate with each other.

The word, alternate, is commonly used as both an Adjective and a Verb form to

The word, alternative, is used as either an Adjective or as a Noun and usually means “a choice between two or more options or things”, e.g. The alternative facing the company was either to sack ten workers or to reduce everyone’s wages. - Rather than retreat, the general’s alternative strategy was to call for more reinforcements.

always / all ways

The Adverb, always, means “all the time” or “on every occasion”, e.g. My grandfather always wakes up at six o’clock in the morning. The word group, all ways, means “every possible way”, e.g. That retail store is trying all ways to prevent shoplifting.

among / When there are two people or things, between is used. When there are more than

between two, among is used, e.g. Stand between those two marble columns. - Sitting among the audience was a clown. - Memory Jogger: “Both between and two have tw.” It is

a common error to use “between” for more than “two” e.g. The referee rushed between all the football players as they began to fight. (among).

amount / The word, amount, is usually used for a quantity or volume that cannot be counted


or measured precisely, while number refers to a quantity that can be counted, e.g. No amount of money can compensate for the suffering she has experienced. - There have been a number of accidents at that new intersection. It is incorrect to say:

There have been an increasing amount of robberies in this area. (number)


See a / an


The Conjunction, and, like the other Co-ordinating Conjunctions”but” and “or” should only stand before a Relative Pronoun when joining two co-ordinate Adjectival Clauses, e.g. He is the person who gave that map to me and who said to contact you. It is incorrect to use and before a Subordinate Clause, e.g. I bought a used car yesterday with a new engine and which was once owned by a racing driver.

and I / and me

The Pronoun, I, is Nominative Case while the Pronoun, me, is Objective Case. When

the Pronoun is part of the Subject of a sentence, I is used, e.g. My brother and I went to the theatre. When the Pronoun is the Object of a Verb or a Preposition then me

is used, e.g. The theatre passes were given to my brother and me.

anyone / any one

as far as /

so far as

as I / as me


The word, anyone, is a Pronoun, meaning “any person” or “any individual” and should

never be followed by “of”, e.g. Anyone is eligible to enter this

the word group, any one, is an Adjective and Noun combination and can be used with “of”, e.g. Any one of those runners could win this race. Cp. You may choose any one answer to this examination question. i.e. one, single or one-only answer. In

English, there is no hyphenated, compound word as “any-one”.

In contrast,

The word group, as far as, should be used when “distance” is being referred to, e.g. “W e clim bed as far as w e c o u ld d o w n th e o ld w e ll.” In a ll o th e r c irc u m s ta n c e s , so far as is more acceptable, e.g. So far as I know, my neighbour is away for a month. – My debt to you is paid in full so far as I am concerned.

, Case) should be used -not me, which is Objective Case, as the statement really says:

the Pronoun, I, (Nominative

In comparative statements such as He is as rich as

He is as rich as I am rich.- i.e. I is the Subject of the Verb, am.

back again It is incorrect to add the Adverb, again, to back when it is also used as an Adverb, e.g. I am going back again to Malaysia next month. The correct usage would be: I am going back to Malaysia next month. The reason is that “going back” means “going again” and therefore it is unnecessary to add “again” a second time as one would be saying: I am going back again again to Malaysia next month.

beside /

The word, beside, means “at the side of”, The dog sat beside the car waiting for its


m aster. The w ord,

besides, m ean s “as well as”, e.g. B esides w alking regularly, I go

swim m ing every Saturday m orning. It is a com m on m istake to use beside instead of besides, e.g. Beside being good at sport, Jane is an accomplished pianist. (besides).


See among / between

blond / blonde

The word, blonde, is traditionally used as an Adjective to describe the hair colour of

fe m a le p e rs o n . T h e w o r d , blond , is us ed as an Adjectiv e to des cribe the hair colour of a male person as well as a Noun, e.g. That blonde lady dyes her hair as she wants



be a blond just like her blond boyfriend.

bring / take

The Verb, bring, refers to a motion or act “to” or “toward” someone or something, e.g.


ill you please bring your laptop computer when you come?. W hen take is used as


Verb, it refers to a motion or act “away” or “from” someone or something, e.g. I will

take you to the airport. - M ake sure you take your umbrella with you. It is incorrect to say: I will bring you to the train station. (take)

can / may

The word, can, implies “ability” or “to be able”, e.g. We can come to the movies after all. - Can you see the parade from there? The word, may, implies “permission”, e.g. May I sit here? - You may start this test now. It is a common error to use can when asking “permission”, e.g. Can I come with you to the movies? (may)


When compare means “to examine”or “to show contrast”, one says compare with, e.g. Let’s compare my low salary with his huge income. W hen compare means “to show similarity”, one says compare to, e.g. If you compare my brother to his brother you will see just how much alike they are.


continual / Continual is used to described a continuing action that is broken by brief intervals, continuous e.g. The patient kept up a continual moaning throughout the night. Continuous denotes something that continues uninterrupted or in an unbroken form, e.g. The mourners formed a continuous line from the church all the way to the cemetery. Memory jogger:-Continual is shorter than continuous because it has been broken.”

dependant /

The word, dependant, is a Noun meaning: Someone who depends on someone or


something, e.g. That man’s dependants include his in-laws as well as his children. The word, dependent, is an Adjective describing someone who is a dependant. Tertiary students usually are dependent on their parents for financial support.

difference of

One can talk about people having a difference of opinion on an issue or about the / between difference between two policies.

different from

When making comparisons, it is grammatically incorrect to say different to. The correct com parison is different from , e.g. H er hair style is different from m ine. That m ovie w as different from w hat I thought it w ould be like. It is a com m on error to say:

different to, e.g. Is that dress is different to the one you wore yesterday? (from)

differ with

When in “disagreement”, one should say: I differ with you on this issue. However, because a comparison is being made, it has become common practice to also say: I differ from you on that matter. (See different from)


A double comparative description of an Adverb or an Adjective is not acceptable

com paratives

w hen c om paring tw o persons, places or things . It is in co rre ct

to sa y:

H e is m o re older

than she. or Th at rope is longerer than this one. The correct com paratives would be:

He is older than she. and That rope is longer than this one.


Only "s" and "f" are doubled on the end of multi-syllabic words unless the word has


been formed from a single syllabic word with a Prefix, e.g. possess, caress, distress,


success, compress - bailiff, sheriff, tariff. spelling of fulfill.

Compare: refill, recall , instill and the US


In English, a double negative construction generally should not be used, e.g. I


don’t know nothing. This would mean the opposite to what was intended, i.e. I do know something. The exception is when one wants to give special emphasis to a positive attribute, e.g. Max is definitely not an unskilled driver. In other words, Max is a very skilled driver.


Either is a lw a ys fo llo w e d by or. E ithe r sh o u ld ne ve r be fo llo w e d by nor, e.g. W e can go to either the theatre or to the art show.

either or / The word groups, either - or and neither - nor, both form what are called Correlative neither nor Conjunctions. Both require singular verbs when used with singular nouns in the subject of a sentence, e.g. Either a cat or a dog is an ideal pet for a child. In contrast, when one or both the specific subjects are plural, the verb is also plural, e.g. Neither the dog nor the cats have been fed. - Either the parents or the students have to pay for the books.


It is a common error to use or with neither, e.g. I like neither that blue tie or that red one. (nor) – It is also incorrect to use a plural verb when two singular subjects are joined by either / or and neither / nor, e.g. Either David or Mica are going to mow the lawn as neither Peta nor Anda were able to do it yesterday. (is and was)


farther / further

few / fewer / less

One should say essential to rather than essential for, e.g. The purchase of new equipment is essential to our firm being able to compete price-wise.

The word, farther, relates to “distance” whereas further means “in addition”, e.g. Farther out in the bay, is a ship. - The judge asked if the defendant had anything further to say. It is a common error to use further to express additional distance, e.g. Would you please park your car further up the lane way? (farther)

Few and fewer are used for Number while less is used for Quantity in bulk or size, e.g. I’ll be ready in a few minutes. The fewer partners, the less profits to share.

It is a common error to use less instead of fewer when taking about “a number, e.g. There were less people at the annual art show this year. (fewer)


In English, the Suffix, ful, should not be written as full in multi-syllabic words. When

ful-ending word is pluralised, ‘s’ is added to ful, not to the base or root word, e.g. handfuls not handsful, spoonfuls not spoonsful, cupfuls not cupsful.



See farther / further.

forego / forgo

In fore and for words, the Prefixes determine the meanings, e.g. forego means “to go before” while forgo means “to go altogether without”.

good / well

The word, good, can be used as either an Adjective or a Noun but never as an

A d ve rb . In tu rn , w e ll, is usually an Adverb that expresses “how”. It is a com m on error


say: I feel good. or You did good. It is correct to say: I feel well and You did well.

(Adverb). It is also correct to say: You did a good job. (Adjective) and I did it for the good of the company. (Noun).


The Adverb, hardly, shouldn’t be used with “can’t”. It is correct to say: I can hardly hear because of the noise. - but not: I can’t hardly hear because of the noise.

I / me

The First-Person Pronouns, I and me, often are used incorrectly. When the word is the Subject of a sentence, I always is used, e.g. Denise and I go to the same school.

The reason is that the Pronoun, I, is Nominative while the Pronoun, me, is Objective.


is a com m on error to say: Peter and m e are brothers. However, when the Pronoun


the Object or Indirect Object of a Verb, or the Object of a Preposition, then me must

b e use d , e.g. W ill you help me? - P lease pass me the sugar. - Jodi sent a card to me.


is incorrect to use constructions such as: The new laws will benefit you and I.

identical with

The accepted construction is: That bike is identical with this one. not That bike is identical to this one. While identical to is commonly heard, identical with should be used. An alternative construction is to say: These two bikes are identical.


See infer / imply


independent of

The correct Preposition to use with independent is of, not from or to, e.g. His firm is independent of all the other computer companies.

indifferent to

One should always say: indifferent to rather than indifferent of, e.g. His deep-seated selfishness made him indifferent to the plight of the less-fortunate people around him.

infer / imply

A speaker implies - a listener infers after hearing what was said, e.g. The political candidate implied that his opponent was dishonest. - One contestant inferred that the panel had shown bias in its comments about male vocalists.

instil into

It is grammatically correct to say instil into rather than instil in, e.g. We must instil into the next generation an appreciation of other cultures.


See aggravate / irritate

its / it’s

The word, its, is a Possessive Adjective, e.g. Give the dog its bone. – The word it’s is a Contraction and means “it is”, e.g. It’s very cold outside. = It is very cold outside.


See lie / lay

learn / teach The Verb, learn, refers to the acquisition or the gaining of knowledge or skills by someone, e.g. This year I am going to learn how to ride a horse. To teach, means to impart knowledge or skills to someone else, i.e. to give instruction, e.g. My brother said he would teach me to skate. It is incorrect to say: I will learn you how to do this.

lend / loan The word, lend, is a Verb while loan is a Noun, e.g. When the bank would not lend me money to buy a car, my brother gave me a personal loan. It is correct to say: I will lend you my caravan. - but not - I will loan you my caravan. It is also incorrect to say:

May I have a lend of your fishing rod. (loan)


See few/fewer/less

lie / lay

The verb form, lie, has two distinct, different meanings: (i) “to tell a lie or an untruth” and (ii) “to rest or to recline”. There are very few problems when lie is used to mean “to tell a lie or an untruth”. The verb form s and tenses are: lie - lying - lied - lied, e.g. Do not lie to me about where you have been. - He is lying about his actions. - I lied to the military about my age. - Those boys have lied before about drinking alcohol.

The other meaning of lie is “to rest or to recline”, e.g. My aunt likes to lie on the verandah after lunch. The verb forms and tenses of lie, when it means “to rest or to recline” are: lie - lying - lay - lain, e.g. I like to lie in my hammock. - The dog was lying in the gully. – She lay on the couch. - You could have lain there longer.

Regardless of its meaning, the verb, lie, never has an “object” because it is an Intransitive Verb Form. A 4S rule to remember is that when lie, lying, lay or lain means “to rest” or ”to recline”, they are followed by words that can tell “where” or “when” but never “what”, e.g. Do you ever lie in bed after midday? - I enjoy lying in the rain. - The thief lay still on the roof as the security guard walked by. - How long has that log lain across the path?


It is important to remember that the Verb Form, laid ,cannot be used to mean “to rest” or ”to recline”. It is incorrect to say: The old pensioner laid on the couch. The correct Verb Form is lay. The Verb Form, laid, must always have an object, e.g. My pet hen laid seven eggs last week.

Most grammatical problems occur when speakers and writers use lie wrongly to mean “to p la c e d o wn ”. T h e firs t ru le to re m e m b e r is th a t - You c an not “ lie d ow n” an y thing or anyone.

It is totally incorrect to say: Lie those pipes along the side of the trench. or Did you lie that old blanket on my bed? or The paramedical said to lie the injured cyclist on the foo tpa th. In e ach case, the correct verb form to use is lay, e.g. Lay those pipes along the side of the trench. etc.

Whenever the required meaning is “to place down” and there is an “object” that is “placed down”, lay not lie, always should be used, e.g. The groundsman is going to lay new turf on the football field. - Do you know how to lay carpet?

The verb forms and tenses of lay meaning “to place down” are: lay- laying - laid - laid, e.g. His job is to lay bricks. - I am laying all that top soil today. - She laid the quilt on the bed. - We have laid a new path. The Infinitive Verb Form to lay meaning to place down, is Transitive and usually has an Object.

The main problem between lie and lay arises because lay can mean both “to place down” and have a object, e.g. Those workers lay hundreds of metres of pathway every week. - and also ”to rest or to recline” when used in the Past Tense, e.g. The patient lay in pain for hours.

It is important to remember that only the Verb Form, lay, can mean both “to place down” and ”to rest or to recline”. It is incorrect to say: The injured w orker is laying on a bench. It should be “is lying”. It is also wrong to say: The exhausted runner laid under a tree. It should be “lay”.


See such as / like

-ly In English, many Adjectives can be changed to Adverbs simply by adding the Suffix, ly. Som e words also can be an Adjective as w ell as an Adverb, e.g. H e is a fast driver and - He drove fast around the bend. Errors are made when Adjectives are used for Adverbs. This commonly occurs when the Suffix ly is left off the end of Adverbial words, e.g. He ran quick. instead of - He ran quickly. – She spoke slow. - instead of - She spoke slowly.


See lend / loan

many / much

The Adjective, many, refers to “number” or “units” while much refers to quantity, volume or bulk, e.g. Many of the people at the public meeting had much to say about the new road rules.


See can / may.


See I / me


See many / much



Neither is always followed by nor. Neither should never be followed by or, e.g. Neither his sister nor his brother knew that James had decided to join the navy.

neither nor

See either - or / neither - nor.


The Pronoun, none, always takes a singular verb as it means “not one”, e.g. None of the students has passed the test. i.e. Not one of the students has passed the test.


See amount / number.

O / Oh

Both O and Oh are Exclamations and fit the Part of Speech category of the

Interjection. O is used when no Exclamation Mark immediately follows it, e.g. O dear!

w hat a sad sight. Oh is alw ays used w ith

you gave me a fright. Oh, so you think I should buy that one.

an E xclam ation M ark or a C om m a, e.g. O h!

ones / one’s When ones is used by itself, it is a Pronoun, e.g. I like the ones in the display window. When it has an Apostrophe, it can be both a Possessive Adjective or a Contraction for “one is”, e.g. I think one’s first responsibility is to one’s children. – One’s hopeful that this bitter row will now end. (One is).


The Adverb, only, should always precede the word it qualifies, e.g. Only the Premier can resolve this impasse between the political factions. – If only she were here. – I have enough money for only one drink.

onto / on to When on is being used as an Adverb, the form, on to, is used, e.g. We drove on to the next town. When a Prepositional sense is required, onto, is used, e.g. The vase fell onto the tiled floor.

past / passed

The word, past, can be used as an Adjective, an Adverb, a Noun or a Preposition but not as a Verb, e.g. That is past history. (Adjective) - I just saw Molly walk past. (Adverb) – In the distant past, it took weeks to get to England from Malaysia. (Noun) - He raced past the winning post. (Preposition).

The word, passed, is a Verb. Compare: The boy passed the oranges over the fence to his friend. (Verb)

plural subjects / plural verbs

See subjects - verbs.


When Present Participles or Verbal Nouns / Gerunds are preceded by a Noun or

His parents are concerned about John’s drinking.


by a Pronoun, the Noun or Pronoun should be Possessive, e.g. We are not happy

about him coaching our team. is incorrect and should be: We are not happy about h is c o a c h in g o u r te a m . – H is p a re n ts a re c o n c e rn e d a b o u t Jo hn dr i nking . s hould be:

question mark

A question mark is never used for an Indirect Question, e.g. They enquired at the service station about the condition of the by-pass road. Cp: Direct Question - They asked the service station attendant, “What is the condition of the by-pass road?"


recover /

The word, recover, is a Verb form that explains that something that was lost or


stolen has been found or retrieved, e.g. The stolen jewellery was recovered when

th e p o li c e ra id e d

a new cover, e.g. I have decided to recover my old, torn, lounge suite.

th a t a p a rtm e n t. T h e V e rb fo rm , r e- cover , r ef er s t o gi v i ng s om et hi ng

reform / re-form When improvements or changes are being carried out, reform is used. When something is being “formed again” such as a sporting club that had been disbanded or ceased to function, re-form is used, e.g. The manager said he intended to totally reform the office procedures. - The local soccer club has been re-formed after being defunct for six years.

reinforce /

The Verb form, reinforce, means to strengthen or make stronger, e.g. You will


need to reinforce the base of that crumbling wall. The Verb form, re-enforce,


means to enforce a law or regulation again, e.g. The zero tolerance law on drink- driving needs to be re-forced if the road toll is to be reduced.


The Relative Pronoun, who, is Nominative Case and is used when related to a Noun or Pronoun that is the Subject of a sentence.

Whom is Objective Case and is used when a Noun or Pronoun is an Object or in a Phrase., e.g. The lad who spoke to you wants to know with whom you are working now. While who, whom, and that can be used to refer to “people”, which should only be used in reference to animals and things, e.g. Is he the one that chased the dog which was near your fowl house? It is a common error to use wrong Relative Pronouns, e.g.- I work with a man who my uncle taught. (whom) – Is that the girl which lives down the street. (who).

remit back

It is incorrect to say remit back as the Verb form remit means: to send back, e.g. The overpayment for the goods was remitted to the client.

sensitive to

It is correct to say, sensitive to, not sensitive of, e.g. She was sensitive to his feelings of defeat and despair.

shall - should / will - would

When a future expectation is being expressed shall or should is usually used, e.g. I shall be keen to see you on Sunday. - I should like to spend some quality time with you. For all other general statem ents, w ill or w ould is used, e.g. I w ill help you w ith your homework. – When would you like to go shopping?

When strong feelings, opinions or determination are being express by First-Person


ro n o u n s , i.e. “I” and “we ”, w ill is u se d , e .g . I w ill not agree to that. W e w ould never

condone drug use.

Third-Person Pronouns tend to use shall, e.g. They shall not be going anywhere until they have m ow ed the lawn. N .B. In m odern English, the barriers betw een s h a ll and will have been broken down and shall and will have become optional.

should / would

See shall / will.

singular subjects / singular verbs

See subjects - verbs.


subject - verb agreement

A very common error in Grammar is the failure to ensure that Verbs agree with their Subjects in Number, i.e. Singular and Plural. There are seven basic rules:


A singular subject must have a singular verb, e.g. That kitten is hungry.


A plural subject must have a plural verb, e.g. We were playing in the park.


Two singular subjects joined by and require a plural verb, e.g. The entrance

and the exit were locked.


Singular subjects joined by or or nor require a singular verb, e.g. Max or Noel

will help you. - Neither Meryl nor Marie are coming to the party.


Plural subjects qualified by every and each require a singular verb, e.g. Every

cow and calf was branded. – Each boy and girl is required to sit for this test.

(f) Plural subjects that follow the verb in a construction still require a plural verb, e.g. There are sixteen songs on this CD.


Sometimes a plural subject is allowed a singular verb if the plural forms are

closely related and are notionally felt to be singular in that they combine to describe

single common entity, e.g. This knife and fork is clean. -- The bread and butter is on the table -- That cup and saucer has been used. - Fish and chips is a popular meal.



is a common error to use a Singular Verb with a Plural Subject, e.g. Those units

is for sale. (are) – A ring, a necklace and a brooch was stolen by that customer. (were). It is also a common error to use a Plural Verb with a Singular Subject:- Six women works in my office. (work)

such as / like

It is common practice to use such as for “examples” and like for “resemblances”, e.g. Some police officers, such as those who handle domestic disputes, need very good people-skills. – Those elderly neighbours are like grandparents to my children.

sympathy for / sympathy with

It is acceptable to say: We have sympathy for him in his plight and: We are in sympathy with his situation, but one is sympathetic towards something, e.g. She was sympathetic towards the imprisoned refugees.


See bring / take


See learn / teach


Tense tells about “time”, i.e. when some act or event occurs or occurred. The three c o m m o n T e n s e s a re P a s t T e n se , P re s e n t T e n s e a n d F u ture T e n s e . T e n s e s o f V e rb forms tell “What has happened in the past” - “What is happening at the present time” and “What might happen in the future”.

is a common error to use wrong Tenses, e.g. The men have work for seven days straight. (have worked) – My friends shall be come to see me this afternoon. (coming) — The police are searched for the bank robbers. (searching)


than / then

When making “comparisons”, than is used, e.g. This shirt is cheaper than the one you bought. W h e n “tim e ” is involve d , then is used, e.g. You can paint the shed then you can stack the bales of hay.

that / which


The word, that, is recommended to be used as a Relative Pronoun when the clause it introduces restricts the relationship to a particular or specific thought or concept, e.g. This is the house that my brother bought. W hich is used when referring to less specific and thus more general or broader thoughts or concepts, e.g. There are many overseas places which I would like to visit.

their / theirs The word, their, is an Adjective. Sometimes it is called an Adjectival Pronoun as it

performs the function of both an Adjective and a Pronoun, e.g. This is their new home. The word, theirs, is a Pronoun and can be further defined as a Possessive or Genitive Pronoun, e.g. This is my seat and those are theirs. There is no such word as their’s. It is incorrect to use their’s as a possessive form, e.g. That house is their’s

/ their’s

verbs - subjects

See subjects - verbs.

was when The word group, was when, is an Ellipsis form, i.e. it has an understood omission. In the construction: The last time I worked as a gardener was when I lived at the beach. - “was whenhas an omission, e.g. The last time I worked as a gardener was


time - the occasion - the year - the period etc. when I lived at the beach.


See good / well.


See that / which.

who / whom

The word, who, always refers to a person and is the Subject of the clause, e.g. That is the teacher who teaches me music. In turn, whom is always the Object of the activity, e.g. To whom may I give this? - It is difficult to work out who is helping whom. It is a common error to use which for a person, e.g. Is that the man which asked you where I lived? (who)

who’s / whose

The word, who’s, is the contraction of who is, while whose is a Possessive adjective, e.g. Who’s ready for dinner? – Whose car were you driving on the weekend?


See should / would

would of

It is incorrect to use the construction, would of, e.g. I would of gone with you but I was ill. The correct construction is: I would have gone with you but I was ill.



Personal Grammar Notes