Tag Archives: grammar

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.”

versus

“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!

“Lie” vs. “Lay”

The difference between the verbs lie and lay can be very confusing, so it’s worth taking a look at the difference periodically to make sure you are using them correctly.

Of course, both words have multiple meanings, but the meaning that creates confusion is the “reclining / positioned flat” meaning.

The technical difference between the two is that the infinitive to lay is transitive, and so requires an object, while the infinitive to lie is intransitive, and does not take an object.

In PRESENT TENSE, you lay something down, while you or an object simply lie down.

Consider:

“Hang on a sec while I lay my iPad here on the table, then I can come lie down on the couch and watch Walking Dead with you.”

Now the iPad and the other technical gadgets lie lonesome on the table while you lie on the couch, and lay your hand on the remote control in case the show gets too scary and you need to pause it.

PAST TENSE makes it more complicated. In past tense, lay becomes laid, while lie becomes lay (!!!)

So, in past tense, the choice is between laid (past tense of to lay) and lay (past tense of to lie).

Consider:

“When she was about to turn on Walking Dead, I laid my iPad on the table and lay down on the couch to watch the show.”

Then the iPad and the other gadgets lay on the table while I laid my hand on the remote…

PERFECT TENSE sounds awkward with these verbs, regardless: “The iPad and the other gadgets have laid on the table for hours while I have lain on the couch watching Walking Dead.”

You can see confusion come up with these verbs all the time in literature and popular media:

The popular childhood prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep…” is technically correct (while you can lay yourself down, you can’t lay down in present tense).

Pop songs almost always get it wrong: “Lay Down Sally” (Eric Clapton) should be “Lie Down Sally” (unless he’s carrying her to  bed); “It’s Ecstasy when You Lay Down Next to Me” (Barry White) should be “It’s Ecstasy When You Lie Down Next to Me”, and so on. But Information Society (NERDS!) got it right with “Lay All Your Love on Me”.

The best way to remember it is to think for a second about all the ways lay is used in regular speech — “lay a bet”, “lay it on me”, “lay down the law”, “lay it on thick” — there’s always an object for the verb.

The phrases to try to eliminate from your speech and writing: “I’m gonna go lay down for a while” or “I’m gonna go lay out in the sun” (use “lie” instead, plus some sunscreen in the latter case).

The difference between lay and lie 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 the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. If you are planning to take any of these tests, contact Bobby Hood Test Prep for more information!

Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood can be confusing to understand, but it’s actually very fun if used correctly.

The subjunctive mood is used to express things that aren’t (yet) true: desires, needs, purposes, suggestions, commands, or “counter-factual conditions” (lies).

In the subjunctive mood, you change the form of the verbs to indicate that the thing being discussed has not yet happened, or is a wish, desire, hypothetical, or command:

“After reading his Facebook updates, I suggested that he see a counselor to resolve some personal issues.”

  • Note that the verb form changes from sees to see — the simplest form of the verb.

“If I were Batman, I would use my powers for evil.”

  • Note that the verb form changes from was to were (and will to would) to indicate that this is only a hypothetical situation. Sadly.

“I demand that you be more respectful of my authori-tay.” (Loosely paraphrased from Eric Cartman.)

  • Note that the verb form changes from are to be (again, to express a desire). 

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!

“If” vs. “Whether”

The distinction between if and whether is interesting and important, but not many people know or observe the distinction. However, using if and whether correctly is essential for clarity in writing and speaking.

The word if should be used only to introduce a conditional statement.

The word whether should be used when you are discussing a choice to be made.

Consider the difference between the following two sentences:

“I know that if I eat this large pizza with peppers and anchovies right before bed, I’ll probably have some strange dreams and feel bad tomorrow.”

“I can’t decide whether to eat this large pizza with peppers and anchovies, or just go straight to bed.”

In contrast, the incorrect usage would be to say “I can’t decide if I’m going to eat this large pizza…”

If you have trouble telling the difference, look to see if there’s a then to go with the if — is there a result that will happen if the if is fulfilled? If so, use if, and if you’re discussing a choice to be made, use whether.

Knowing the proper grammatical use of words 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!

“Affect” vs. “Effect”

In almost all cases, “affect” should be used as a verb, and “effect” should be used as a noun:

“A high SAT score can *affect* your chances of getting into the college you want, because it has the *effect* of making colleges rank your application highly.”

Part of the confusion with these two words comes from the fact that “effect” can be used as a verb in special cases, generally as part of the phrase “effect a change”:

“The student’s SAT tutoring is likely to *effect* a change in her chances of receiving a scholarship.”

And conversely, the word “affect” can be used as a noun in special cases to mean “the display of an emotional response”:

“One of the symptoms of severe depression is a flat *affect* — the failure to display emotion on one’s face in response to negative or positive events.”

Knowing the proper grammatical use of words 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 me for more information!