22 July 2009

Grammar Lessons from the Future English Teacher: Installment 1

Okay. I know that most of you who read my blog don't need this little reminder. However, on the off-chance that someone is perusing the internet and happens to find themselves here, I need to get some things off my chest. I find it astounding how many people, especially people who have graduated from college, have no concept of a few basic grammar rules. If you are a native English speaker, you have no excuse for not speaking and writing correctly. Please pay attention.

My personal pet peeve: misused apostrophes

Apostrophes are used to signify possession (and missing letters in contractions). For example, "This is Vanessa's pet peeve." "Rock 'n' roll, dude!" (Both the 'a' and the 'd' are missing, so put a freakin' apostrophe where they should be).

Apostrophes are NOT used when a word is plural. For example, you would NOT USE AN APOSTROPHE in this sentence: "Jeez, Vanessa has a lot of pet peeve's." Wrong. That is so wrong that it makes my retinas burn. The correct sentence is "Jeez, Vanessa has a lot of pet peeves."

In a subcategory of this one, if you are signifying a plural possessive with a plural word that ends in an 's,' you place an apostrophe after the 's' but DO NOT FOLLOW IT WITH ANOTHER 'S.' For example:

"Whose eggplants are those?"
"Those are the girls' eggplants."

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SAY: "Those are the girls's eggplants."

The ONLY time you would have a word that ends in 's' followed by an apostrophe and another 's' is if the word is NOT plural. Example: "No, that is James's eggplant."

It's v. its: "It's" literally means "it is." If you don't mean to say "it is," DO NOT USE "it's." Examples: "It's really annoying that people don't understand this." When talking about an inanimate object owning something, use "its." Example: "That painting has lost its color."

When talking about a family and pluralizing their last name, DO NOT USE AN APOSTROPHE. For example: "The Coopers are coming to get you." WRONG VERSION: "The Cooper's are coming to get you."

On this note, if a last name ends with an 's' or a 'z', you pluralize it with 'es.' Example: "the Joneses" or "the Sanchezes."

So let's not get apostrophe happy, okay? Okay.

The most common: your v. you're

"Your" signifies that you OWN SOMETHING. For example: "Your grammar skills are terrible."

The contraction "you're" literally means "you are." So. If you mean to say "you are," you had better use this or I will come rip out your uvula. Got it? Example: "You're in need of a grammar lesson." This goes along with the whole apostrophes replace absent letters thing. The 'a' in 'you are' is missing, and therefore it is replaced with an apostrophe.

Are you still with me?

Moving on.

A lot

"A lot" is two words. Period. "Alot" is not a word, so don't ever write it. Ever.

To v. too

"To" is a preposition. Example: "We are going to the park."

"Too" is an adverb. Please use it as such. "That chinchilla is too expensive." "Too" is also used to say "in addition." Example: "We need to buy a sugar glider, too."

Well v. Good

If someone asks you how you are, the correct response is "I'm well, thanks." NOT "I'm good, thanks."

You do things well. Things go well.

That song is good; you sang it well. This meal is good; it is well-made.

I could get into a whole list of other things that people write incorrectly, but we'd be here all day. So. Please bookmark this entry. Come back to it. Reread it. And for the love of GOD, if you don't know how to spell something, please look it up. Google is at your disposal.

I'm sure I will have another installment of grammar lessons. I'm thinking comma usage needs to be next. Stay tuned.


  1. "On this note, if a last name ends with a consonant, you pluralize it with 'es.' Example: "the Joneses" or "the Sanchezes."

    Cooper ends in a consonant?

    Also sorely disappointed no there/their/they're!

  2. Mmm right you are, I meant to say if it ends in an S or a Z. Thx.

  3. P.S. How did you get reactions?!!!

  4. Sarah: http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=143413

  5. This post is awesome. I second the "there/their/they're" problem. :) Love from one future English teacher to another...aka roomie love. <3

  6. Thank you for this wonderful post!! I enjoy that we both share a love for the English language!!

  7. Question: can you use James' instead of James's to show possession? I think I've read somewhere you can...

  8. Yes, technically it's accepted as an "alternate," though this choice always listed in parentheses after the more common (in my opinion, more correct) "James's." I feel like it's become acceptable just because everyone uses it, so as far as I'm concerned it should just be "James's."

  9. I've just Googled "apostrophe rules," and it seems that "James's" is the more preferred form, though "James'" is also accepted (but if it's less-preferred, why would you use it?).