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Top Ten Grammar Myths

March 4 is National Grammar Day. Let's dispel some grammar myths!

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #610
top 10 grammar myths

Almost everyone believes at least one of these myths.

5. “I.e.” and “e.g.” mean the same thing. Wrong! “E.g.” means "for example," and “i.e.” means roughly "in other words." You use “e.g.” to provide a list of incomplete examples, and you use “i.e.” to provide a complete clarifying list or statement. (See episode 539 for more details.)

4. You use “a” before words that start with consonants and “an” before words that start with vowels. Wrong! You use “a” before words that start with consonant sounds and “an” before words that start with vowel sounds. So, you'd write that someone has "an MBA" instead of "a MBA," because even though “MBA” starts with M, which is a consonant, it starts with the sound of the vowel E--MBA. (See episode 261 for more details.)

3. It's incorrect to answer the question "How are you?" with the statement "I'm good." Wrong! You probably learned that verbs need to be modified by adverbs (such as “well”), but “good” isn’t modifying “am” in the sentence “I am good.” Instead, “good” is acting as the subject complement and modifying the pronoun “I.” It's also fine to answer "I'm well," but some grammarians believe "I'm well" should be used to talk about your health and not your general disposition. (See episode 586 for more details that use "bad" and "badly" as examples.)

2. You shouldn't split infinitives. Wrong! Nearly all grammarians want to boldly tell you it's OK to split infinitives. An infinitive is a verb form that is usually made up of the word “to” followed by a verb. An example is "to tell." In a split infinitive, another word separates the two parts of the verb. "To boldly tell" is a split infinitive because “boldly” separates “to” from “tell.” (See episode 454 for more details.)

1. You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. Wrong! You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition when the sentence would mean the same thing if you left off the preposition. That means "Where are you at?" is wrong (or at least annoying) because "Where are you?" means the same thing. But there are many sentences where the final preposition is part of a phrasal verb or is necessary to keep from making stuffy, stilted sentences: “I'm going to throw up,” “Let's kiss and make up,” and “What are you waiting for” are just a few examples.  (See episode 269 for more details.)

You can find more information about each of these myths in the Grammar Girl archives.

Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times best-seller, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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