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The Wizarding Guide to Conditional Sentences

Conditional Sentences

Conditional Sentences

  • If I don’t read every day, I get very grumpy.
  • If I read Harry Potter enough, I’ll surely receive my acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
  • If I hadn’t read the entire series multiple times, I wouldn’t be able to write this article about wizardry and the types of conditional sentences.
  • Unless you have something against magic, you should enjoy reading this post as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Not only do the above sentences show how nerdy (read: awesome) I am, but they are also all conditional sentences. In fact, they demonstrate all four types of conditional sentences: the real conditional, the unreal conditional, the mixed conditional, and the special conditional. Cool, right?

Okay, so I know that learning about conditional sentences isn’t exactly as exciting as, say, Quidditch. And believe me, if I could wave my wand (11.5-inch beechwood with a unicorn hair core, in case you were wondering) and magically put this knowledge in your head, I would. However, if Harry Potter has taught me anything, it’s that people cannot be taught unless they are willing to learn. And that, my friend, is why you shall have to take up your own study of the types of conditional sentences—with my help, of course. And yes, you do have to call me “Professor.”

What Is a Conditional Sentence?

A conditional sentence describes something that is a condition for something else. That is, for one thing to occur, the other must have occurred first. Conditionals often, though not always, begin with if, like these:

If I fail Potions, I won’t be able to become an Auror.

If Snape weren’t so scary, I wouldn’t do so poorly in Potions.

Not all conditional sentences begin with if. In some examples, the conditional portion of the sentence actually occurs in the second part of the sentence. In these cases, no comma is required.

You should try out for the Seeker position if you want to play Quidditch.

Meet Harry at the pitch when you’re done Herbology class.

That wasn’t so hard, right? Learning about conditional sentences is as easy as Wingardium Leviosa—just remember to use the swish and flick, and you’ll have it down in no time! Now on to slightly more complicated spells—er, I mean, grammar rules.

Real and Unreal Conditionals

Conditionals can be real or unreal. That is, they can describe an event that has happened or is likely to happen, or they can describe an event that has not happened and is not likely to happen. Here are some examples of real conditionals.

I feel happy when I read Harry Potter.

If someone borrows my copy of The Philosopher’s Stone, that person must promise to return it within a week.

Here are some unreal conditional sentences:

If I were an Animagus, I would definitely transform into an owl.

If Rowling hadn’t written the Harry Potter books, the world would have been a less magical place.

The first example is an unreal conditional because I am not, in fact, an Animagus, and sadly, I have no hope of becoming one. The second is an unreal conditional because Rowling did write the Harry Potter books (thank goodness!).

Mixed Conditionals

A mixed conditional sentence is one that occurs when the two clauses—the if clause and the main clause—occur in two different time periods. A mixed conditional may be saying that an event that is currently occurring will cause a future event, or it may be saying that an event that has already happened is affecting a current event. These examples should help make things a bit clearer.

If you’ve ever been in a tangle with Devil’s Snare, you know how unwise it is to struggle against the plant’s constriction.

If I had attended Hogwarts like I was supposed to, I would probably be a Transfiguration professor by now.

It should be noted that like other types of conditional sentences, mixed conditionals can be either real or unreal. The above examples could be classified as either real or unreal, depending on how seriously you take your favorite fictional universes.

Special Conditionals

Of all the types of conditional sentences, special conditionals are probably the trickiest to understand. Special conditionals describe events that can only occur if something else happens first. There are five common forms of special conditional sentences: unless, whether (or not), even if/even though, only if/if only, if so/if not.

Confused? Fair enough. Allow me to shed some Lumos on special conditionals with these brief explanations and examples:

Unless: The event will not occur except under a set of specified conditions. The condition is an exception to what is otherwise the rule.

Harry would not have been able to conjure a Patronus charm unless Professor Lupin had taught him how.

Whether / Or Not: Whether is used in the place of if when there is more than one option, and or not comes into play when one of the options is the opposite of the other. Whether means that, regardless of the options, the same course of action will be taken.

Whether he wins or dies, Harry will still be upset that someone entered him in the Triwizard Tournament.

Whether it’s right or not, Harry can’t help but have a crush on Ginny.

Even If / Even Though: Even if means that, regardless of the existence of the condition, the outcome of the event will not change. Even though means that the condition certainly does exist, but it still will not affect the outcome of the event.

I will remain loyal to Professor Dumbledore even if no one else is.

I will remain loyal to Professor Dumbledore even though he is dead.

Only If / If Only: The first phrase places an emphasis on the special condition that must be met for an event to occur. If only is used in an unreal conditional to express wishes or regrets.

Ron agrees that Harry can date Ginny only if they keep the snogging to a minimum.

If only I had been born after 1998, I would certainly have received my Hogwarts acceptance letter.

If So / If Not: This type of conditional sentence features a shortened if clause that is used because the condition has already been mentioned.

Gilderoy Lockhart is supposed to be signing autographs today. If so, Flourish and Blotts is going to be very busy.

I hope I have time to buy a new broomstick. If not, I’ll have to borrow someone else’s for now.

Conclusion

And that, dear student, concludes my lesson on the different types of conditional sentences. If you think that using Harry Potter to learn about grammar is as cool as taking down a mountain troll, you might want to check out these Harry Potter-themed articles on homophones, comma usage, interrogative sentences, subject–verb agreement, ellipses, exclamatory sentences, and pronouns.

If you’d like to learn about the other kinds of sentences, check out Inklyo’s newest ebook, The Complete Guide to Sentence Structure, on Amazon or at your local Flourish and Blotts.

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Sentence Structure Ebook

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Saying It All with the Compound-Complex Sentence

Compound-Complex Sentence

A red telephone.

Do you know what I love most about English grammar? How little there is to learn.

Everything is so simple, so straightforward. I never feel confused about any of it. That’s why everyone is so good at learning the ins and outs of English grammar: it’s so easy.

Ha, ha, ha. I know—I’m hilarious.

Of course, mastering the rules of any language is a challenge, but for some, English is a particularly difficult nut to crack. Take, for example, sentence structure. There are four basic sentence structures in English, and the first three—simple sentences, compound sentences, and complex sentences—are relatively easy to understand.

But what the heck is a compound-complex sentence? How many darn clauses can we possibly squeeze into one sentence, anyway?

A Quick Recap of Sentence Structure

If you’re having a hard time remembering what the different sentence structures are, take a look at the handy chart below. In the examples, independent clauses are marked by italics, while dependent clauses are in bold font.

A chart of the types of sentences.

Independent and Dependent Clauses Revisited

A quick reminder: an independent clause can stand on its own as a sentence, while a dependent clause cannot. It’s easy to distinguish the two types of clauses if you simply separate them from their sentence and see if they still make sense. For example:

I have never been a great student, but because I like grammar, I have spent a lot of time studying sentence structure.

There are two independent clauses in this sentence. These clauses can act as their own sentences:

I have never been a great student.

I have spent a lot of time studying sentence structure.

The dependent clause cannot stand on its own:

But because I like grammar.

As you can see, the dependent clause makes no sense on its own. It depends on the other clauses in the sentence to give it context and meaning. Because the full sentence contains two independent clauses and one dependent clause, it is a compound-complex sentence.

The Compound-Complex Sentence

Still confused? Fair enough. Let’s take a more extensive look at the compound-complex sentence. As mentioned, a compound-complex sentence is composed of two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. The compound-complex sentence is a combination of the compound sentence, which combines independent clauses, and the complex sentence, which combines an independent clause with a dependent clause. Let’s look at another example, preferably one that has nothing to do with grammar itself.

Here are all the things I want to say:

I am hungry.

I could eat an elephant.

I’ll eat a muffin instead.

Rather than using three simple sentences, I can combine all three thoughts into one compound-complex sentence:

I am so hungry that I could eat an elephant, but I’ll eat a muffin instead.

The two independent clauses have been joined by a conjunction (in this case, the subordinating conjunction that), and the dependent clause has been joined to the two independent clauses using another conjunction (but).

Here is another example:

I dislike mornings.

It’s very early to be at work.

I’m excited to go back to bed.

These simple sentences can be combined as follows:

I’m excited to go back to bed, as it’s very early to be at work, and I dislike mornings.

Still Stumped?

If you’re still struggling to grasp the compound-complex sentence, why not give this sentence structure quiz a try? Not only does it cover the most complicated of the sentence types, but it also tests you on the other three types. By the time you’re done, you’ll be identifying sentence structure types faster than I can express a desire for baked goods. And let me tell you, that’s pretty darn fast.

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Sentence Structure Ebook

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How to Identify Independent and Dependent Clauses

Clauses

Independent and Dependent Clauses

What Is a Clause?

A clause is a group of words containing both a subject (who or what the sentence is about) and a verb (which describes the main action of the subject). There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent clauses. Most simply, an independent clause can form a complete sentence on its own and a dependent clause cannot (at least, not by itself).

Think of it this way: an independent clause is like a cup of coffee, and a dependent clause is like a caffeine lover. Caffeine lovers are dependent on coffee, so the two can be joined (quite happily) to form a cohesive unit. Similarly, two cups of coffee, or two independent clauses, can be combined. However, you cannot put two caffeine-dependent people together to form a working unit without any coffee. It just doesn’t work. They need caffeine.

The same is true with sentences. You can join an independent clause and a dependent clause. You can even join two independent clauses (as long as you use proper punctuation and/or a coordinating conjunction). But you can’t stick two dependent clauses together and expect to form a sentence.

Simple enough, right? Let’s go into more detail and look at some examples of independent and dependent clauses.

Independent Clauses

Independent and Dependent Clauses Infographic
Click to enlarge.

An independent clause contains a subject (again, who or what the sentence is about) and a predicate (which tells us something about the subject, such as what the subject is doing). As mentioned, these clauses can function as their own complete sentences, but they can also be combined with other clauses (either independent or dependent) to create longer sentences. Consider this example:

The coffee was brewing because it was early morning.

We can break this sentence down into two parts. The first part is the coffee was brewing. This is an independent clause because it contains both a subject and a verb: the subject is the coffee and the verb phrase is was brewing. This clause can stand on its own as a complete sentence.

The coffee was brewing.

However, we still have additional information:

. . . because it was early morning.

This is not an independent clause because it lacks a subject. Instead, we have a dependent clause (also called a subordinate clause). Dependent clauses can’t stand alone; that is, they require the support of independent clauses to constitute a complete sentence, just as the coffee lover needs coffee to function.

Joining Independent Clauses

An independent and a dependent clause can be joined to form a single sentence, as you’ve seen in the above example. But can two independent clauses be joined in one sentence? Let’s go back to that delicious cup of coffee. Here is a sentence with one independent clause and one dependent clause.

The coffee was brewing because it was early morning.

Let’s delete because and form two sentences:

The coffee was brewing. It was early morning.

We now have two independent but related clauses, each forming its own sentence. Because the content of these clauses is related, we might want to connect them somehow. How can we do this in a single sentence? Using a semicolon, of course!

The coffee was brewing; it was early morning.

What initially began as a sentence made up of an independent and a dependent clause has become a sentence with two independent clauses. If semicolons aren’t really your style, you can also use a comma and a conjunction to join two independent clauses. Like two cups of coffee poured into one humongous cup, two independent clauses can be joined with little work.

Dependent Clauses

Sentence Structure EbookAs you’ve already learned, dependent clauses cannot stand alone in a sentence, just as tired people cannot function without coffee. A dependent (or subordinate) clause begins with a subordinating conjunction, such as if, after, before, because, although, or when, and it requires the support of an independent clause to constitute a complete sentence.

There are a few different types of dependent clauses: adjective clauses, adverbial clauses, and noun clauses.

Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that describes a noun in another part of a sentence. Usually, an adjective clause is very close to the noun it describes. Adjective clauses begin with the relative pronouns who, whom, whose, that, or which. They can also begin with the relative adverbs whenwhere, or why.

There’s the café that you’ve been looking for all day.

The subject is the café. Pay close attention to the word that and what follows it. The phrase that you’ve been looking for all day gives us information about or describes the noun café. That means it’s an adjective clause, and because an adjective clause is a type of dependent clause, it cannot stand on its own.

Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that tell us why, when, how, or under which conditions something occurs. Look at the following example.

Although you already had six cups of coffee, you decided to buy more coffee anyway.

We know the adverbial clause can’t be you decided to buy more coffee anyway because it can stand alone as a complete sentence. However, the adverbial clause, although you already had six cups of coffee, tells us under what circumstances you decided to buy more coffee. The adverbial clause, which is a dependent clause, needs the independent clause to form a complete sentence.

Noun Clauses

Noun clauses can act as either the subject or the object of a clause, and they usually begin with words like what, whywho, and that.

I don’t care what the doctors say about caffeine intake.

In the first part of the sentence, the subject is I, and don’t care is the verb phrase. The noun clause is what the doctors say about caffeine intake. This clause describes what it is that the subject doesn’t care about and is therefore dependent (like some caffeine-obsessed people I know).

Conclusion

Here’s a brief summary: independent clauses are made up of a subject and predicate, and can stand alone as a sentence. Like cups of coffee, they’re perfect on their own. Dependent clauses are made up of a subject and predicate but cannot stand alone due to the presence of a subordinating word, such as althoughif, or because. Dependent clauses are like coffee lovers; they cannot stand on their own. They need coffee!

Dependent clauses can be any of the following: adjective clauses, which describe nouns; adverbial clauses, which tell us whywhen, how, or under which conditions something occurs in a sentence; or noun clauses, which act as the subject or the object of a clause and usually begin with words like whatwhywho, and that. Dependent clauses need independent clauses like coffee lovers need coffee. Together, they can’t be stopped!

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How to Use Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Subject–verb agreement in the English language is complicated. When you have to deal with tense, gender, number, irregular verb forms (Need I go on?), it can be quite the task to ensure that the subjects and verbs in your sentences agree. Assembling the pieces of this grammar puzzle correctly is not easy.

To add another layer of difficulty, collective nouns are crafty little pieces of the grammar puzzle that introduce even more challenges to achieving subject–verb agreement.

Collective nouns are used to refer to a group and, as with other nouns, may include people, places, ideas, or things. Some examples of collective nouns include the words group, congregation, committee, pack, public, minority, audience, jury, and band.

The tricky thing is that, when trying to figure out how to use collective nouns, the question of whether to use a singular or plural verb form depends on whether you are writing in American or British English.

Collective Nouns in American English

In American English, collective nouns generally take the singular verb form.

The jury has (singular) reached a verdict.

The public is (singular) alarmed at the rising cost of housing.

In these examples, the collective nouns are treated as a whole. The jury, as a group, has collectively reached the verdict. All of the public is alarmed by rising housing costs. If you want to know how to use collective nouns in American English, you are all set: collective nouns will almost always take singular verbs.

As is the case with most pieces of the grammar puzzle, however, there are a few exceptions to this rule. A few words, such as police and people, are most often used with plural verbs, even in American English.

Collective Nouns in British English

If you are working in British English, you must consider the context of the phrase to determine whether a singular or plural verb form is correct. When you are working with a collective noun and are writing in British English, you must consider whether the members or elements of the group are working in unison (i.e., as a cohesive whole) or whether the individual members or elements of the group are acting separately.

The audience claps (singular) in excitement.

The committee disagree (plural) on the timeline for the project.

The band are (plural) practicing their individual instruments.

Parts of SpeechTo American English speakers who are familiar with collective nouns and singular verbs, the last two examples above might sound odd. But try to think of it this way: the members of the committee disagree with one another regarding the timeline for the project. The opinions differ within the committee itself. The distinct members of the band are practicing their specific instruments. To ensure that the use of the plural verb form is correct in these sentences, test it by adding the word members after the collective nouns.

For example:

The committee members disagree on the timeline for the project.

The band members are practicing their individual instruments.

Conclusion

When working with collective nouns, remember that singular verbs are generally used in American English. In British English, it is important to analyze the context in which the collective noun is used. Employ a singular verb form when the members are performing the action in unison; employ a plural verb form when the individual members of the group are acting independently.

With these simple tricks, you should have no trouble assembling the tricky puzzle of English grammar, even when you’re dealing with collective nouns.

So you now understand how to use collective nouns. If you would like to brush up on the other parts of speech, check out this trusty ebook written by the grammar experts at Scribendi.com.

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A Guide to Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

Reflexive and Intensive PronounsSometimes, it’s all about me. Or you. Or maybe her or him. Heck, it might even be all about it. Regardless of what the subject of a given sentence might be, it’s very likely that you’ll need to refer back to it or that you’ll want to give it a bit of extra attention. After all, it is the subject of its very own sentence. Like any good celebrity, the subject of a sentence is perfectly okay with being talked about. A lot. I don’t exactly know how to put this, but like myself, the subject of a sentence is kind of a big deal.

Think of the subject of a sentence as the star of a show. Sure, there are lots of other important players, but without that lead role, there really isn’t a story to tell or a show to put on. Before we get more into our topic of reflexive and intensive pronouns, here’s a quick reminder about what exactly it means to be the subject of a sentence.

Sentence Subjects: A Quick Refresher

There are two components that make up every complete sentence: the subject and the predicate. The subject is what or whom the sentence is about; that is, the subject is the entity performing the verb. For example:

Stella was the star of the show.

The verb in the above sentence is was. Who was? Stella was! That means Stella is the subject of the sentence (and a star in more than one respect). The rest of the sentence, was the star of the show, is the predicate. That’s right—anything that isn’t the subject is the predicate. Now that we know how to find the subject, let’s go back to our discussion about reflexive and intensive pronouns.

Reflexive Pronouns

You now know how to find the subject of a sentence. But do you know how to refer back to that subject? That’s where reflexive pronouns come in. The purpose of a reflexive pronoun is to refer to the subject of the sentence. Here’s an example of a reflexive pronoun in action:

Stella went to the matinee by herself.

The reflexive pronoun is preceded by the subject. The subject may be the noun (e.g., Stella) or the pronoun representing the noun (e.g., she, meaning Stella). Both the subject and the reflexive pronoun must be included the same clause. Who went to the matinee? Stella, the subject. Whom did she go with? Herself, also the subject. (I told you, this Stella is a star.)

There are only eight reflexive pronouns in the English language: myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. Each of these reflexive pronouns has its own personal pronoun with which it is paired:

I

Myself

You

Yourself

She

Herself

He

Himself

It

Itself

Us

Ourselves

You

Yourselves

They

Themselves

Intensive Pronouns

So far, this has all been fairly straightforward, right? Well, this new bit of information might make things a bit fuzzier: just as there are eight reflexive pronouns, there are only eight intensive pronouns. Now here comes the real plot twist: they are the same eight pronouns. What is the difference between reflexive and intensive pronouns if they are literally the same words?

Unlike reflexive pronouns, which are necessary to the sentence, intensive pronouns merely work to give emphasis to the subject or object. An intensive pronoun can be removed without the meaning of the sentence changing. Take a look:

Stella herself had never performed in a matinee.

The emphasis added by an intensive pronoun may serve many different purposes. In the above example, the use of herself could indicate that Stella is being contrasted to another player in the matinee. Perhaps she is going to see a friend perform. Or it could be suggesting that Stella disapproves of matinees. Without any other context for this sentence, it’s difficult to tell what role the emphasis may be playing.

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns Compared

What happens when we remove the intensive pronoun from the example above?

Stella had never performed in a matinee.

That’s right—it’s still a sentence, and Stella is still the star of the show (though not, unfortunately, of the matinee). But what about removing a reflexive pronoun? Let’s revisit this sentence:

Stella went to the matinee by herself.

Now how about this sentence without the reflexive pronoun?

Stella went to the matinee by.

No matter how much you may or may not like cliff-hangers, you can’t deny that the above example is one incomplete sentence.

Conclusion

Now that you’re an expert on reflexive and intensive pronouns, it’s time to get out there and start talking about yourself. Go on! Tell Stella to get out of here, and become the star of your own sentences!

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Parts of Speech

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Using Correlative Conjunctions, or Why I’m Secretly a Bad Canadian

Using Correlative Conjunctions

Using Correlative ConjunctionsI’m secretly a very bad Canadian. It’s true that I love poutine and bacon (together or separately) and that I say sorry when someone else bumps into me. The occasional eh has been known to slip from my lips, and I once got an X-ray for free. But there’s one thing that makes me a very, very bad Canadian:

I hate winter.

I’m already planning my future as a retired snowbird. But with the prospect of retirement so far away, I have to find something else to look forward to. I need something to help me get through the frigid, skin-freezing torment that is Canadian winter to the wet, cool spring on the other side. That’s where spring television comes in.

Throughout the winter, knowing that my favorite shows will be returning in a matter of months is one of the only things that gets me through. It’s all I’ve been thinking about all day, which has made it rather challenging for me to write this post on correlative conjunctions. Luckily, I finally realized that I don’t need to choose between thinking about spring television and teaching you about correlative conjunctions—I can do both!

With that being said, let’s dive right in to the worlds of absurd comedy, fantasy, detective work, low-security female prison life, and, of course, grammar.

What Are Correlative Conjunctions?

As you know, a conjunction is a connector between different parts of a sentence, whether between two clauses, phrases, or words. Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that work in pairs to show a relationship between two elements of equal importance. In other words, correlative conjunctions combine two relative parts of speech.

I think I’ll watch either House of Cards or Game of Thrones.

Just as there aren’t very many people as attractive as Kit Harrington, there aren’t very many correlative conjunction pairs to work with. The main correlative conjunctions in English are:

Either/Or

Rather/Than

Neither/Nor

Whether/Or

Scarcely/When

Such/That

No Sooner/Than

Both/And

As Many/As

Not/But

As/As

Not Only/But Also

Correlative Conjunctions at Work

Most correlative conjunctions, when shown in context, are fairly straightforward. They make comparisons between two things, whether to say that they are equal, that they are different, or that one is superior to the other. Here are some examples to help you better understand how some of the different correlative conjunctions can be put to use.

Not only do I think Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is funny, but I also think Ellie Kemper is a lovable leading lady.

Neither Stannis nor Daenerys will ever take the Iron Throne.

Both Sherlock and Elementary feature a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, though one is clearly superior to the other.

I can never decide whether I prefer Orange Is the New Black or Girls.

I do not usually enjoy politics, but House of Cards is a fantastic show.

Correlative Conjunctions and Commas

My Ideal Winter As you can see, correlative conjunctions aren’t too difficult to understand. Even if you didn’t know what they were called before now, you’ve certainly been using them in your writing for a long time. That brings me to my next point—many people incorrectly use commas with correlative conjunctions, like this:

You either love Kimmy Schmidt’s Titus Andromedon, or you hate him.

I would rather be best friends with Arya, than with Sansa.

I would no sooner choose Elementary over Sherlock, than I would eat my own hair.

All of the commas in the above examples are incorrect. As a general rule, there should not be a comma between a pair of correlative conjunctions. There are, of course, some exceptions. The most notable exception would be when a parenthetical clause interrupts the conjunction pair, as in this example:

It seems that neither Piper, one of the lead characters of Orange Is the New Black, nor Alex, her sometimes girlfriend, can stay out of trouble for long.

In the above example, the information provided about the characters makes up two separate nonrestrictive clauses. These clauses require the use of commas, and as such, it’s okay to interrupt the correlative conjunction pair (neither/nor) with these commas. Here’s one more example:

Both Kevin Spacey, who plays Frank Underwood, and Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood, have won Golden Globe awards for their performances in House of Cards.

Conclusion

The bad news: if you live near one of the poles, you’ll probably just have to deal with numb fingers and nose icicles.

The good news: in most places, winter doesn’t last forever. Plus, you’ve now learned all there is to know about correlative conjunctions, so you can explain to people why you would rather have the ending of Game of Thrones ruined for you than have to shovel your driveway again.

The best news: there’s still lots to learn about the parts of speech, and you’ll be able to learn it all with Inklyo’s newest ebook, The Complete Guide to the Parts of Speech, available now on Amazon. In between chapters, snuggle up and binge-watch Netflix. You can do it all!

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Parts of Speech

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The Order of Adjectives

Order of Adjectives Poster
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You might be thinking, “Order of adjectives? Can’t I just lump them all together in front of the noun and call it a day?” It might surprise you to discover that when adjectives are presented in a series, there’s actually a particular order they must follow. Often, native English speakers follow this order out of habit, knowing that “the big red car” sounds better than “the red big car.”

However, for those just learning the language, understanding the correct order of adjectives can be tricky. Here is the order a list of adjectives should follow:

  1. Determiner
  2. Opinion
  3. Size
  4. Age
  5. Shape
  6. Color
  7. Material
  8. Origin
  9. Purpose

We’ll explain what each of these means and provide some examples so you can figure out exactly where you should be placing different types of adjectives in relation to your noun. (The noun here is puppies. Because everybody loves puppies.)

Determiner

Determiners include articles (a, an, or the) and other limiters (e.g., your, eight, or his).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The determiner in the example is ten (because you can never have too many puppies).

Opinion

An adjective of opinion describes an observation or what someone thinks about something (e.g., beautiful, tasty, or horrific).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The opinion in the example is lovable (even though some would argue that’s not so much an opinion as a fact).

Size

Size describes how big or small something is (e.g., bigsmall, minuscule, or enormous).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The size in the example is small.

Age

As you would expect, age describes how young or old something is (e.g., youngoldancient, or new).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The age in the example is young. (We’re talking puppies, not dogs. Not everyone is a dog person, but everyone is a puppy person.)

Shape

The next descriptor is the shape of the item being described (e.g., roundsquare, or flat).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The shape in the example is pudgy. Awww!

Parts of Speech

Color

Over halfway there, folks! Next in the list is color (e.g., redpinkish, or yellow).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The color is usually pretty easy to spot. In the example, it’s beige.

Material

The material describes what something is made out of (e.g., woodencotton, silver, or metal).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

Although we all know puppies are made out of love and happiness, technically speaking it’s probably more accurate to describe them as fuzzy.

Origin

Origin describes where something is from (e.g., Frenchwestern, or solar).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The origin in the example is French. (These are French bulldog puppies, a breed that originates, as you would expect, in France.)

Purpose

Purpose describes what something is used for or what it does (e.g., racing [as in racing car] or sleeping [as in sleeping bag]).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The purpose of these puppies is to be companions, so the adjective in the example is pet.

Noun

Now that you’ve listed all the adjectives, it’s time to identify the word you have been describing (i.e., the noun). Finally! We have reached the puppies.

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

In the example, the noun is puppies, in case you didn’t get the memo . . .

Conclusion

While there are no rules limiting the number of adjectives that can be used, two or three are generally sufficient. (Otherwise, you begin to sound like Al Harrington of Family Guy marketing his Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen!) Most readers would prefer to read “pudgy, fuzzy puppies” than “ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.” Though I’d take either, if we’re being perfectly honest.

Now that you’ve got the order of adjectives down, find out how to use the other parts of speech with this handy ebook!

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The Language Sandwich: An Overview of the Nine Parts of Speech

The Language Sandwich

A sandwich.

Sandwiches are the best kind of food.

Not only do sandwiches contain different kinds of foods, but they are held together by even more food. You can eat them with your hands or with a knife and fork; you can eat them for breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner; you can make them sweet or savory, hot or cold; and you can make them with various parts of the English language (the nine parts of speech, to be exact).

Wait, what now?

Did I lose you at the end there? (Or maybe in the middle, where you got up to make yourself a delicious sandwich?) Yes, we can make a sandwich using grammar! And it will be an amazing sandwich, I assure you. After all, the English language has different components, or ingredients if you will, just as sandwiches do. It’s made up of the nine parts of speech, and they’re put together in such a way that everything just works. (Just like that confusingly delicious peanut butter and lettuce sandwich of grade school days. Don’t look at me like that. Just try it.)

We can think of the different parts of speech like different parts of the English language. This will be helpful for understanding how sentences are put together, and it’s also a great way to remember how everything fits together. I hope you’re hungry because it’s time to chow down!

The Nine Parts of Speech

The Language Sandwich Infographic
Click to enlarge, or share this image on your site with the following code:

If our recipe is “The English Language,” then our ingredients list consists of the nine parts of speech.

  1. Nouns (the bread)
  2. Verbs (the meat)
  3. Pronouns (the type of bread)
  4. Adverbs (the type of meat)
  5. Adjectives (the butter)
  6. Conjunctions (the cheese)
  7. Articles (the mayo)
  8. Prepositions (the lettuce)
  9. Interjections (the mustard)

Click to enlarge the adjacent infographic for a quick go-to guide detailing the parts of speech (and their edible equivalents). But stick with me, and I will define the parts of speech in more detail. By the end of this article, everything will make sense. Let’s start assembling that sandwich!

Nouns (The Bread)

We use nouns to name things, such as a person (e.g., Dagwood), an animal (e.g., a bear), an object (e.g., a grill), a place (e.g., Montreal), actions (e.g., creation), abstract ideas (e.g., love), or qualities (e.g., greed). The capitalized nouns here are all proper nouns, which means they refer to specific people or places, and the lowercase ones are common nouns.

Nouns are the bread of the sandwich. Without the bread, we’d just have a sloppy mess. The sentence kneads nouns. (See what I did there?) And just as there are many different kinds of bread, there are many different kinds of nouns. Nouns are the best thing since sliced bread. (Yeah, we went there.)

Verbs (The Meat)

A verb is used to describe an action (make, as in you make too many sandwiches), an event (toast, as in the bread is toasted), or a state (eat, as in I need to eat). Verbs have different types, tenses, and moods, and they must agree with their subjects to form a correct sentence.

Verbs are the meat of a sentence. A sentence does not exist without a verb, just as a sandwich does not exist without meat. (I can hear the vegetarians and peanut-butter-and-jelly lovers crying out at this point, but go with us here.) Just as you need both a noun and a verb to form a sentence, most people agree you need at least bread and meat to make a sandwich.

Pronouns (The Type of Bread)

Pronouns are used in place of nouns. The purpose of pronouns is to avoid repetition and make sentences easier to understand. A noun that is replaced by a pronoun is referred to as the antecedent. Some of the most common pronouns to remember are he, she, it, they, and this.

Choosing a pronoun is like choosing which type of bread to use for your sandwich. Will it be white bread (he), whole-wheat bread (she), rye (it), sourdough (they), or pita bread (this)? Though there are many types of bread out there—white, whole wheat, rye, baguettes, naan—at the end of the day, it’s all still bread, and we can call it such. The same goes for pronouns, which we use in the place of nouns.

Further, there is a proper type of bread for every sandwich. You can’t just use banana bread to make a pulled-pork sandwich! In the same way, you can’t use he to describe the Queen of England. (Well, you could, but you’d be wrong, and I don’t think Her Majesty would appreciate it.)

Adverbs (The Type of Meat)

An adverb is a part of speech that describes how someone or something performs an action. It is different from an adjective, which describes someone or something. Adverbs give more information about how an action is carried out.

For example, you can put meat in your sandwich (as you should). But what kind of meat? Will it be honey ham, prosciutto, or bologna? Choosing the type of meat greatly influences how the sandwich will taste. It’s the same with adverbs! “She ate the sandwich vigorously” is a different flavor of sentence than “She ate the sandwich slowly.”

Adjectives (The Butter)

Adjectives are simply words used to describe or modify nouns (people, places, things) and pronouns (e.g., I, she, he, it, they, etc.) by depicting, quantifying, or identifying them. When a series of adjectives is used to describe one noun, the adjectives must follow a particular order (like in the case of ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies I know).

Just as butter is closely related to bread, adjectives are closely related to nouns. And just as butter gives flavor to the bread, adjectives give flavor to nouns. (I was going to try to come up with a clever butter pun, but the margarine for error was too high. Ba dum tss!)

Parts of Speech

Conjunctions (The Cheese)

A conjunction is a part of speech that functions as a connector between two sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. In writing, conjunctions can be effectively used in lieu of starting a new sentence. The proper use of conjunctions allows for a more natural flow and rhythm in writing. Popular conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

Because conjunctions draw relationships between parts of the sentence, they’re kind of like cheese. Gooey, delicious, melting cheese. Mmmmm. . . Sorry, what was I talking about again? Oh, right! Cheese is like a conjunction because conjunctions connect the parts of a sentence.

Articles (The Mayo)

Articles help determine whether you are referring to something of a specific type (with definite articles) or something of a general type (with indefinite articles). There are only three articles (the, an, or a) in the English language, so they are very easy to find in a sentence once you know them!

Just like sandwiches are somewhat incomplete without mayo, sentences are incomplete without articles. Also, it’s pretty easy to tell when a sandwich doesn’t have mayo because it’ll be very, very dry. And nobody likes a dry sandwich! It’s just sad.

Prepositions (The Lettuce)

Prepositions link nouns, pronouns, and phrases to the other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that is introduced is called the object of the preposition. Simple prepositions include about, above, after, around, before, below, beneath, during, following, inside, into, near, onto, outside, over, through, to, toward, under, and upon. 

Let us consider how lettuce is like prepositions. Lettuce acts as a bridge between the bread and the meat. Plus, no sandwich is complete without that wonderful crunch. In the same way, prepositions are that missing link. They govern nouns (or pronouns) to express a relationship between nouns (or pronouns) and other words in a sentence.

Interjections (The Mustard)

An interjection is not necessarily grammatically connected to the sentence (e.g., “Hmmm . . . that’s right”), but it is designed to convey the emotion of the speaker or narrator. Interjections are often followed by an exclamation mark; for example, “yum!” and “wow!” are both interjections.

Like interjections, mustard can be surprising (oh!) in taste and smell, adding a little something extra to the sandwich. And like mustard, interjections change the flavor of the whole sentence. You’re done building your sandwich, so slap some mustard on it and tie a napkin around your neck.

Conclusion

I hope you’re ready to eat. We’ve been through the nine parts of speech and now have a magnificent English-language sandwich to consume. It might even bring a tear to your eye.

There’s nothing more satisfying than the first bite of a beautifully layered sandwich you’ve worked so hard to put together. So now that you’re finished, it’s time to enjoy. Why not kick back, eat your sandwich, and crack open a book?

Image source: kur0shiro/Pixabay.com, lee_2/Pixabay.com

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33 Great Online Resources for ESL Speakers

33 Great Online Resources for ESL SpeakersAs an English as a second language (ESL) speaker, it can be overwhelming to search for online resources to help you with your grammar and English usage. The Internet is great because it provides a wealth of information, but this information is often hard to navigate. How do you know which online resources for ESL speakers will best suit your English learning needs? GrammarCamp is here to help!

Our grammar experts have compiled a list of the best tools to help those learning to speak English. To help pinpoint specific needs, we’ve broken it up into five sections: Grammar and English Usage; Spelling and Punctuation; Vocabulary and Writing; and Speaking and Listening. To help assess what you’ve learned, we’ve also included the sections Quizzes and Worksheets, Lesson Plans, and YouTube Channels.

We hope these online resources for ESL speakers will help you become confident in your English usage and that you will continue to consult them whenever you need to brush up on your skills or improve your knowledge.

Grammar and English Usage

1. Daves ESL Cafe: Dave Sperling is an ESL teacher. His comprehensive website provides lessons on grammar, idioms, pronunciation, and much more for ESL/EFL students and teachers.

2. ESL Partyland: The mission of ESL Partyland, according to the website, is threefold: “provide students with the content and tools necessary to learn online; provide teachers with class materials; and allow for students and teachers to easily communicate together.”

3. Scribendi.com: Scribendi.com is one of the world’s oldest and most trusted online editing and proofreading companies. Its primary goal is to provide clients with fast, reliable, and affordable revision services. The service is especially popular among students and ESL speakers, as it can help them overcome any language barriers that may be hindering them from communicating their ideas clearly.

4. Breaking News English: On Breaking News English, you can read current news stories at varying levels of difficulty. The following resources are also available, according to the website: “seven levels of free lessons, from elementary to advanced, with printable activities and handouts; lessons based on current news stories with 30+ online quizzes for each lesson; and listening files in British and North American English that can be downloaded in mp3 format or subscribed to via a podcast.”

5. ESL-Lounge: ESL-Lounge offers hundreds of exercises focused on parts of speech and vocabulary classified by difficulty, including ESL lesson plans and materials, books, talking points, pronunciation, and terminology.

6. GrammarCamp: GrammarCamp was developed by the award-winning editing experts at Scribendi.com. This online course allows you to learn English grammar at your own pace and become a better writer. With comprehensive lessons and quizzes, this course has helped people around the world improve both their written and spoken English.

7. Activities for ESL Students: Grammar and vocabulary quizzes at multiple levels of difficulty are available from Activities for ESL Students. The website also offers bilingual quizzes in dozens of languages.

8. 5-Minute English: 5-Minute English provides short and easy exercises for ESL speakers, including lessons on grammar, reading, vocabulary, listening, pronunciation, slang, and idioms. It also provides answers to students’ questions about confusing features of English.

Spelling and Pronunciation

9. TalkEnglish: English is currently the most commonly used language in worldwide business. TalkEnglish’s Business English lessons help people with office jobs communicate in such an environment. According to the website, “Each lesson contains multiple sentences that you can click on to learn how to say that sentence. You should be able to easily find what you need by the different subcategories. Repeat after the audio files and you will improve your business English.”

10. Antimoon: Antimoon’s website explains that it “provides advice and inspiration to people who are serious about improving their English. The Antimoon Method is a set of principles and techniques for learning English effectively. If you want to learn English well, you cannot rely on English classes; you have to take control of your learning. Antimoon will show you how to do it in a fun and effective way.”

11. English Zone: English Zone provides a variety of information for ESL speakers, including grammar, reading, verbs, pronunciation, idioms, spelling, writing, and conversation.

12. Learn That Word: Learn That Word “creates every session just for you. Nothing is out-of-the-box! Advance on your word journey in fast, easy steps. Focus on learning what’s important to you; we’ll manage your progress behind the scenes. LearnThatWord is a complete solution. We’re your virtual mom, catering to your every need and helping you be the best you can be.”

13. BBC Learning English: Since 1943, BBC Learning English has been involved in teaching English around the world. It is a branch of the BBC World Service, and it offers free learning materials to learners worldwide. According to the website, BBC Learning English “deliver [their] materials as full-length courses, but each component of the course is stand-alone and can be studied on its own. This means the learner can choose the best way to study for them: by following a full course or by following the individual materials most appropriate to them.”

Speaking and Listening

Speaking and listening resources.14. Using English: According to the website, UsingEnglish.com is “a general English language site specializing in ESL, with a wide range of resources for learners and teachers of English. The site uses different varieties of English, and there are contributors from the United States, Canada, Pakistan, and non-native speakers, but much of the site uses British English.”

15. TEFL Tunes: The TEFL Tunes website uses the principle that language can be learned through music. Website visitors can select the level of difficulty, the song’s theme, the skill they want to learn, and even the artist they want to learn from. Subscriptions to the website are £10 for an individual or £36 for a school. However, there is also a selection of free song lessons available.

Vocabulary and Writing

16. Answers.coms Idiom Dictionary: Learning idioms can be one of the biggest challenges when studying English. To help you keep them straight, The Dictionary of Idioms “contains idiomatic words and phrases, slang terms, figures of speech, common proverbs, and metaphors, each clearly defined and illustrated with at least one sample sentence or quotation.”

17. The Ultimate Vocabulary Resource Guide: Looking for even more great online tools for improving your vocabulary? This guide, compiled by the writers at SuperSummary, includes links to vocabulary tools, resources for educators and parents, vocabulary test preparation tips, and more.

18. Cram: Cram offers “a wide selection of flashcards for you to study, memorize, test yourself on, and more. Flashcards are effective because they are founded on the principles of rote and memorization. You can use its web-based flashcard maker to create your own set. Once you create your online flashcards, you will be able to study, export, or even share it with your fellow classmates. You can collaborate perfectly with anyone, anytime.”

Spelling resources.19. ESL Lab: Finding the time to keep your language skills fresh can be difficult. ESL Lab’s vocabulary lists will teach you how to use vocabulary in everyday situations. According to the website, “Each of the pages on this website is designed to build communication skills and includes a listening and discussion activity. As you learn the vocabulary, try to use it in other situations.”

20. About.com English Vocabulary: About.com English Vocabulary offers resources for learners of English who are at a more advanced level, including articles, quizzes, and worksheets.

21. Vocabulary.co.il: This is a “fun educational website dedicated to helping you build reading, phonics, or English language skills. It offers free online word games, which are specifically designed to build vocabulary skills and to motivate people to learn through fun practice in spelling, phonics, and vocabulary.”

22. Pizzaz: For learning to write fiction and poetry in English, Pizzaz offers some simple creative writing activities. It also offers printable resources both for learning and teaching English writing.

Quizzes and Worksheets

23. Self-Study Quizzes for ESL Students: One of the main benefits of Self-Study Quizzes for ESL Students is that none of the quizzes require JavaScript, Java, or Flash; they are all HTML only and should, therefore, be accessible on any computer with Internet access.

24. English Club: English Club’s vocabulary quizzes offers a compilation of over 1,000 activities for ESL students pertaining to grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and more.

25. ESL Resource Center: The ESL Resource Center was created for ESL teachers and provides plenty of worksheets, tips, and lessons on grammar, spelling, reading and writing, pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms, and listening.

26. ESL HQ: ESL HQ offers free ESL flashcards, worksheets, games, activities, lesson plans, advice from teachers, job listings, and more.

Lesson Plans

27. The Internet TESL Journal – The Internet TESL Journal offers a large collection of lesson plans, articles, research papers, handouts, and teaching ideas categorized according to the skill they aim to teach.

28. Waygook.org – Waygook.org is a forum providing message boards about language and teaching. In addition to conversations between users, message boards contain lesson plans, PowerPoints, and other resources that are helpful to ESL speakers.

YouTube Channels

YouTube resources.29. VOA Learning English: VOA Learning English allows viewers to see captioned news reports in American English at a speed that is 33% slower than normal.

30. Listen and Read Along: Listen and Read Along offers Reading Movies (Rovies) that encourage reading and attempt to make it an enjoyable experience for those learning the language.

31. TOEFL TV: According to the channel’s description, TOEFL TV is “a place to learn, share, and grow. TOEFL TV has tips from real teachers and real students to help improve your English skills. You can hear what leading colleges and universities think about the value of students who can communicate well in English in an academic setting.”

32. OMGmeiyu’s Channel: OMGmeiyu’s YouTube channel is an excellent resource for native Chinese speakers learning English and seeking to learn American English slang.

33. English with Jennifer: Run by an experienced ESL teacher, English with Jennifer “will introduce new content to some and serve as a review for others.” Both students and teachers can also leave comments and questions that Jennifer will address.

Image sources: Ryan McGuire/Stocksnap.io, Sonja Langford/Stocksnap.io, Glen Noble/Stocksnap.io, geralt/Pixabay.com

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Grammar Errors in Your Favorite Songs

Grammar Errors in Your Favorite

What You Can Learn from These 4 Lyric Mistakes

Grammar Errors in Your Favorite“Music is the universal language of mankind,” according to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But does the same logic apply to lyrics? What about lyrics riddled with grammatical errors?

Some people have a hard time listening to grammar errors in songs. These people believe that rules are rules, and that artists should somehow figure out a way to make tricky lines work without using double negatives or bending the rules of verb moods. Well, I say “Phooey” to those people. That’s right, I just used a slang word! You know why? Because I’m speaking in a casual (rather than formal) tone—the main concern is that I adequately convey my meaning.

When it comes to language, there is a time and a place for everything. When you’re writing a casual blog post, you don’t need to be as strict with your language usage as you do when you’re writing a formal paper. When you’re speaking, you don’t need to follow the rules the same way that you do when you’re writing, and when you’re singing a song, you can toss caution to the wind and make your own rules, as long as the result sounds good. It’s true that song lyrics often have very obvious grammatical errors, but what would you rather passionately belt along to “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone” or the much more laborious “There is no sunshine when she’s gone”? You could even make the sentence longer: “There is not any sunshine while she is away.” Is that what you want? To make classic songs unsingable? I didn’t think so.

Still, this is a grammar blog, and as such, I have to assume that you’ve come here to learn about grammar rules. So let’s take a look at some examples of grammatical errors in song lyrics and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1. Objective versus Subjective Pronouns

The culprit: Lady Gaga

The songs: “Bad Romance,” “You and I”

In her megahit “Bad Romance,” Gaga sings: “I want your love and/I want your revenge/You and me could write a bad romance.” As I’m sure your grandmother has pointed out to you hundreds of times, this should be “you and I.” Ironically, Gaga makes the opposite error in her other single, which is actually titled “You and I“: “Somethin’, somethin’ about my cool Nebraska guy/Yeah something about, baby, you and I.”

Gaga has misused her pronouns in both of these songs. The pronoun I is used when the I in question is the subject of the sentence, while the pronoun me is used when the me that is referred to is the object of the sentence.

The easiest way to remember when to use I versus when to use me is to remove the other noun or pronoun from the sentence. So, in the case of “Bad Romance,” we would test this by saying “I want your revenge/Me could write a bad romance.” When the lyric is written like this, it becomes clear that the correct pronoun here is I, because I is the subject of the sentence in question. Conversely, for “You and I,” we can test the lyric by saying “Somethin’ about, baby, I.” You would never say “something about I.” This should be “something about me,” because me is the object of the sentence. The lyric should thus be “something about, baby, you and me.”

Why we forgive Gaga: First, we can forgive Gaga because Mother Monster is not the first songwriter to make this mistake. Other artists with songs incorrectly named “You and I” include Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, John Legend, and many more. For most of these songs, I has been chosen over me for the sake of rhyming.

This is also a common error that people make in everyday speech, probably because somewhere down the grammar line someone started the rumor that it’s never correct to say “you and me.” As for the “Bad Romance” error, we’re going to give Gaga some credit and say she purposefully used bad grammar in her lyric about a bad romance. Plus, you know, this line had to fit in with the rest of the song’s lyrics: “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah/Roma-ro-ma-ma/Ga-ga-oo-la-lah.” Much words. Very lyric.

2. Moody Verbs

Elvis Presley.The culprit: Elvis Presley

The song: “Hound Dog”

“When they said you was high class, well that was just a lie…” And when they said Elvis was a grammar nerd, well, that was clearly just a lie as well. The problem with this lyric is the use of the word was. The word were should be used here instead, but why? Because this sentence calls for the subjunctive mood of the verb to be. The subjunctive mood is used when referring to something that hasn’t happened/isn’t going to happen (like a wish, a desire, or a possible future event), or to something that is not true. In this case, the claims that the “hound dog” was high class were untrue, hence the need for the subjunctive were.

Why we forgive Elvis: Have you ever watched a late-1950s video of Elvis Presley performing “Hound Dog”? Have you seen this man dance? Have you seen the way his legs move as if independent from his body? I’m sure you haven’t, because if you had, you wouldn’t be concerned with such trifles as incorrect verb moods in his lyrics. Come on now, people—priorities!

3. Double Negatives

The culprit: The Rolling Stones

The song: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
What’s wrong with saying “I can’t get no satisfaction“? Nothing, as long as your name is Mick Jagger and you’re singing this classic rock song. The grammatical problem with this lyric is the use of the double negative. If the Stones are not getting “no satisfaction,” does this mean they are indeed getting some satisfaction? This unclear meaning is the reason why double negatives are generally not acceptable in written language, though the intended meaning of these statements is usually clear enough in a colloquial spoken context.

Why we forgive The Rolling Stones: Because saying “I can’t get any satisfaction” just doesn’t have the same punch to it, and because this is widely considered to be one of the greatest songs of all time. Besides that, what fun would rock stars be if they followed all the rules?

4. Lay versus Lie

The culprit: Bob Dylan

The song: “Lay Lady Lay”

In this oft-covered classic, Dylan entreats his lady not to leave. “Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed,” he croons over and over again. The problem here? Dylan is repeatedly using the wrong word. Technically speaking, the lyrics here should be “Lie, lady, lie, lie across my big brass bed.” Why is this?

The word lay should only be used when a direct object is involved. An easier way to think of this is to remember that you have to be talking about the act of laying something, usually as in laying something down. If Dylan were laying his lady down, or if he was asking her to lay herself down, his lyrics would be correct. On a side note, Bon Jovi clearly knew what’s up here, as evidenced by the lyrics of their song “Bed of Roses”: “I wanna lay you down on a bed of roses.” So, Jon Bon Jovi can lay his lady down on a bed of roses, someone can lay down their arms, or you can lay something on me. But when I’m sleepy, I have to go lie down.

Why we forgive Bob: For one thing, this is a very common error in spoken language. It’s one of those mistakes that do not really change the intended meaning of what a person is trying to say, so it’s generally an acceptable error to make when speaking. The problem that we’re sure Dylan was facing here was the fact that the proper word choice, lie, has more than one meaning. To lie means to recline or rest, yes, but it also means saying something that’s not true. Dylan probably didn’t want people to think that he was inviting a big fat liar to hang out in his big brass bed with him, so he opted to use the wrong word because it actually gave the song a clearer meaning.

Final Thoughts

I’ve used some specific examples for the sake of this article, but in reality, these same errors occur in songs all the time. You can choose to harp incessantly on the artists who make these errors in their music, or you can pull an Adele Dazeem and let it go. If you can’t listen to the magical ballad that is “Let It Go” without criticizing the lyrics, I don’t think I can help you.

Image sources: SplitShire.com, skeeze/Pixabay.com