“My friend and I” vs. “Me and my friend”

One mistake many people (not just high school students) commonly make is saying my friend and I when they should say me and my friend, or vice versa.

This becomes such a source of confusion because, as you grow up, parents and teachers constantly correct you when you say “Me and my friend are going to go hang out.”

Well-meaning adults correct you and say, “You mean my friend and I are going to go hang out.” And, as a result, you learn that my friend and I is the correct phrasing in this instance, but you don’t learn in which situations you are supposed to use it.

So, as a result, for fear of correction, you say my friend and I in EVERY situation, rather than just when it is correct. This over-reaction is called “hypercorrection” — correcting an error even when the error isn’t occurring.

My friend and I is the correct phrase when it’s used as the subject of the sentence, but not when it’s the object.  Consider:

  • John and I are going to go hang out.
  • A new friend is coming over to hang out with John and me.

In the second example, since the phrase is the object of a preposition, the correct use is me instead of I.

How can you make sure you don’t repeat this error? Just eliminate the “friend” from the sentence and see how it sounds:  “… hang out with I” or “hang out with me“? Now it’s clear that the latter is correct.

The proper use of I and me is tested on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on standardized tests. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

“Like” vs. “As”

The words like and as are used for comparisons, but people often use the word like for all comparisons, instead of using the appropriate word for each circumstance.

Like is a preposition that should be used to compare two nouns or noun phrases, and is used like an adjective (to modify one noun and show its comparability to another noun.

As, on the other hand, is a conjunction that is used to connect and compare verbs or verb clauses, and is used like an adverb (to describe or compare the manner of an action being taken).


  • “To John, his cell phone is like a piece of sports equipment — one day and the screen’s already cracked.”
  • “John treats his cell phone as he treats his baseball glove — toss it on the floor when he’s done. No surprise it’s so scratched up.”

Just remember, whenever you’re comparing actions, use as instead of like:

  • Although many adults think modern pop music is like the product of a marketing committee pandering to poor taste, modern pop music isn’t any worse than it was 30 years ago: young people simply have different tastes from adults, as they always have.

The difference between like and as is tested on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on standardized tests. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

“Who” vs. “Whom”

It’s easy to get who and whom confused, but there is a very easy trick to remember the difference.

Whenever you are about to use who or whom in a sentence, try replacing it with he or him (or they or them), and then use the one that sounds right. 

Who is a nominative pronoun, and acts as the subject in a sentence or clause, while whom is an objective pronoun, and acts as the object in a sentence or clause. But for some reason it’s easier to remember that the same is true of he versus him or they versus them, and naturally choose the right one.

Just remember that the ones with the “m” on the end (whomhimthem) all are used the same way.


“Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, is the character who always steals every scene.”

Note that he (or she, in this case) would sound right replacing the who, while him (or her, in this case) would sound wrong.

“Thomas Barrow, on the other hand, is the valet whom I love to hate.”

Note that here, “him I love to hate” works, while “he I love to hate” makes no sense.

It sounds very weird when you replace the word, but it works very well.

There’s an even more important strategy for who and whom on the SAT, ACT, and GMAT, and it’s very simple.

When these tests ask you to choose between who and whom, what answer do you think they expect a low-scoring student to choose? Not what you would think. They will expect that a low-scoring student will choose whom because they don’t know the rules for who and whom and so will choose whom because it sounds more “intellectual.”

Therefore, when in doubt on the SAT, ACT, or GMAT, choose who and you’ll likely get the answer correct.

Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and GRE. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!


The “Ages of Three Children” Puzzle

A census taker approaches a woman leaning on her gate and asks about her children. She says “I have three children and the product of their ages is 36. The sum of their ages is the number on this gate.” The census taker does some calculation and (correctly) claims not to have enough information. The woman enters her house, but before slamming the door tells the census taker, “I have to see to my eldest child, who is in bed with measles”. The census taker then departs, satisfied, knowing the answer.

This question tests your ability to factor a number.  Whenever a problem discusses “products” or “factors”, or “divisibility” or a “remainder of zero”, that problem likely involves breaking down a number into its factors.

The factors of 36 are 1 and 36; 2 and 18; 3 and 12; 4 and 9; and 6.  (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 36). So, each child’s age must be one of those factors, and they must multiply to 36 and add up to the mysterious “number on the gate”, which is not given. 

The possible ages of the children, then, are:

1, 1, and 36 (and the number on the gate would be 38)

1, 2, and 18 (and the number on the gate would be 21)

1, 3, and 12 (and the number on the gate would be 16)

1, 4, and 9 (and the number on the gate would be 14)

1, 6, and 6 (and the number on the gate would be 13)

2, 2, and 9 (and the number on the gate would be 13)

3, 3, and 4 (and the number on the gate would be 10)

Based on the above, the census taker must not have been able to figure out the ages using the number on the gate — so the number on the gate must be 13 (the only sum that could come from more than one sets of factors). So, the census taker knows that the children are either 6-year-old twins and a 1-year old, or else a 9-year-old and 2-year-old twins

Once the woman mentions an “eldest child”, the census taker knows that the correct answer is the 9-year-old and 2-year-old twins.

The GMAT Test includes many questions that test your ability to break down and solve problems involving probability.  If you like problems like this, you might enjoy taking the GMAT and earning an MBA.  Contact me for information about classes and tutoring, either locally in Austin or online via The Princeton Review’s LiveOnline classrooms!


The “Dog Running Between Two People” Problem

“Jim & Jan, 600 feet apart, walk toward each other. Jim walks at 100 ft/min, while Jan walks 50 ft/min. Their dog is standing next to Jim, and when Jim starts to walk toward Jan, the dog runs toward Jan at 300 ft/min, then turns around and returns to Jim, and so forth until all three meet.  Approximately how many feet does the dog run?”

The first time you encounter a question like this, it sounds like it involves calculus, or at least a lot of algebra. The GMAT loves including questions like this on its test.

One of the common question types on the GMAT is the “rate problem”: you are given rates for people moving or completing a task. When two people are both doing the same “job” — for instance, walking — you can simply add their rates together to find out their combined speed.

In this case, Jim and Jan are traveling toward each other at a combined rate of 100 ft/min + 50 ft/min = 150 ft/min.  You can use the Distance formula (D = rt) to calculate that the time they will talk is equal to the Distance of 600 feet divided by their combined rate of 150 ft/sec, or 4 minutes. They won’t meet exactly in the middle — Jim will travel 400 feet, while Jan will travel 200 feet — but we don’t need to calculate this to solve the problem.

Calculating the actual distance the dog traveled would be difficult using calculus, and would require using functions and limits. However, if you know that the dog will be traveling at a constant rate of 300 feet per second until they meet, it doesn’t matter in what pattern he runs; he will be running for four minutes exactly, and in those two minutes he will travel 1,200 feet. (Ignoring any time lost for the dog turning around to change direction.)

The moral to this story:  when on a test like the GMAT, don’t fall for the test’s attempt to get you to use difficult calculations.  Look for a simple way to solve the problem; virtually all the problems can be solved in under 3 minutes with one of several basic strategies.

If you enjoy math problems like this, you would probably enjoy, and do well on, the GMAT test.  Contact Bobby Hood Test Prep to discuss the various class and tutoring options for the GMAT, both locally in Austin and online through The Princeton Review’s LiveOnline classrooms.

“Free Rein” vs. “A Monarch’s Reign”

The words rein and reign are homophones (they sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings). They are misused often in popular media (and in Facebook posts).

Reign refers to the rule of a monarch over a kingdom. It is usually used as a noun (“Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has lasted just over 61 years, as of last week”) or as a verb (“Queen Elizabeth II began her reign on February 6, 1952″).

Rein refers to the straps you hold when riding a horse to control speed and direction. It also functions as a noun (“Keep aholt of them reins, Hoss!”) or as a verb (” You better rein in those kids of yours before they get out of control.”)

The confusion often occurs because most people are unfamiliar with the word rein, and substitute reign into phrases that properly use the word rein instead, particularly into the phrase free rein.

Free rein is a phrase indicating that you have loosened your grip on the reins of a horse to allow free movement. Thus, employees (or kids) might think they have been given free rein while the boss (or parents) are away.

Often the phrase free rein is incorrectly phrased as free reign, which is a “non-standard” use and should be avoided. Free reign is an easy mistake to make, since rein and reign are homophones and, worse, because the phrase free reign seems to make sense at first glance. However, reign refers to the period of time when a monarch is in power, and generally a monarch has very strong control over the kingdom, and so the idea of giving free reign to a monarch doesn’t actually make sense.

A fun word to describe the mistake of using free reign rather than free rein is “eggcorn”. An eggcorn is a type of malapropism in which a non-standard phrase that results when a similar-sounding word is substituted for the correct word, resulting in a phrase that has a different meaning, but is still somewhat plausible.

Other examples of eggcorns: “mute point” for “moot point”, “shoe-in” for “shoo-in”, “peak my interest” for “pique my interest”, and so on. Just watch your Facebook wall and you’ll see them flow past every day. These are good examples of errors that, once seen, cannot be “unseen” for the rest of your life.

Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and GRE. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

Myth: Never End a Sentence with a Preposition

There are many so-called grammatical “rules” that are simply myths. The rule that well-written English sentences should never end with a preposition is one that many self-appointed Grammar Guards insist on.

However, the rule against ending sentences with prepositions is a remnant of Latin grammar, and it robs the English language of the flexibility that makes it so effective to use in writing.

Of course, it’s always best to write simple, declarative sentences that end on a strong note, so this isn’t a tactic you should often avail yourself of. But it’s perfectly acceptable to do so, and not something to shy away from.

Otherwise, you might end up writing awkward sentences:

“Breaking Bad is a show I’m very fond of.”


“Breaking Bad is a show of which I am very fond.”

If you’re writing a cover letter or a resume, you should probably avoiding ending sentences with prepositions, since the reader might not be aware that this supposed rule is simply a myth. But otherwise, feel free to let words flow as they may, and prepositions stay wherever they end up.

Knowing proper grammatical style can help you in daily life, in your professional life, and on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

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