Top Ten Grammar Evils
That Must Be Eradicated From This World

 

1. Apostrophe
2. Subject/Verb Agreement
3. Run-on Sentences and Fragments
4. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
5. Vague Wording
6. Shifting Verb Tense
7. Quotation Mark Rules
8. Other Comma Rules
9. Good/Well; Its/It's; Of/Have; And/Or; Who/Whom/Whose; There/Their/They're
10. Double Negatives

1. The Apostrophe

EVIL -- apostrophes are NOT used to show plurals! (with one minor exception)

Apostrophe Rules:

1. Use to show something left out

don't = do not
she'd = she would
it's = it is

2. Use to show possessive forms of nouns

A. Singular nouns are made possessive by adding 's

cat = cat's

B. Pronominal possessives have no apostrophe

his - hers - its - theirs - yours - oneself

C. Possessive form of Jesus and ancient proper names ending in -es and -is only have an apostrophe

Jesus = Jesus' cross
Isis = Isis' monument
Moses = Moses' staff


*NOTE* Good style, however, dictates that you avoid making these names possessive. Use of instead:

the cross of Jesus
the staff of Moses

D. Plural nouns ending in s only take an apostrophe

cats = cats'

E. Plural nouns ending in a letter other than s gets an 's

octopi = octopi's

F. To show one object belongs to two or more people, only make the last person possessive:

Anakin and Luke's lightsaber (both people share one lightsaber)

*NOTE* Making all nouns possessive indicates that each person owns a different item:

Mace's and Yoda's lightsaber (both people have their own lightsaber)

G. For compound nouns, make the last word possessive

mother-in-law's

Plural Rules

1. For most words, add s

lightsaber = lightsabers

2. For words ending in:

A. -sh, -ch, -x, -s, -z just add -es

dish = dishes
lunch = lunches
fox = foxes
mess = messes

B. -y (preceded by a consonant) - change the y to i and add -es

fly = flies

C. -y (preceded by a vowel) - just add -s

donkey = donkeys

D. -o (preceded by a consonant) - add -es

tomato = tomatoes

*EXCEPTION* Musical terms are always made plural by just adding -s

alto = altos
banjo = banjos

E. -o (preceded by a vowel) add -s

radio = radios

F. -f or -fe (and sounds like "f" when made plural) - add -s

roof = roofs
chief = chiefs

G -f or -fe (and soundsd like "v" when made plural) - change the -f or -fe to -v and add -es

wife = wives

*Some words can go either way*

hoof = hoofs or hooves
dwarf = dwarfs or dwarves

H. -us change the -us to -i

octopus = octopi

3. For compound nouns, make the important word plural.

mother-in-law = mothers-in-law

4. Some words follow their own rules:

child = children
criteria = criterion
crisis = crises
goose = geese
die = dice
deer = deer

5. When making words (as words), letters, or numbers plural, add -s.

1930s
study the three Rs
How many ands are allowed in a sentence?

UNLESS it would be confusing - then add 's
THIS IS THE ONLY EXCEPTION TO THE RULE!

How many s's are in "Mississippi"?

2. Subject/ Verb Agreement

Evil - Subjects must agree with the verb in number and person!

Subject/Verb agreement is problem mostly in complex sentences and sentences that have prepostional phrases in them.

1. The basics:

A. Subject must agree in number.

They is my favorite team.
They (plural) is (singular)
Should be: They are my favorite team.

B. Must agree in person: first, second, third

He dunk the ball like Michael Jordan.
He (third person) dunk (first and second person)
Should be: He dunks the ball like Michael Jordan.

2. The problems:

A. Subject and verb are separated

1. Subject comes after the verb (A.K.A. Yoda Syndrome)

Down the hole goes the snakes.
Subject = snakes (plural) NOT hole (singular). Must make verb plural to agree.
Down the hole go the snakes.

2. Prepositional phrases come between the subject and verb

Preposition: a word that connects (by time, space, or other logical relationship) nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence
Object of preposition: the very next noun after the preposition
Prepositonal phrase: the preposition, the object of prepostion, and all words in between (these words will only be articles, adjectives, adverbs, or conjunctions)

Lord Alford is the best teacher in the world.
Of all the teachers, the one in this clasroom with the handsome face is the best.

"in the world," "of all the teachers," "in this classroom," and "with the handsome face" are all prepositional phrases.

Common prepositions:
about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beside, between, beyond, but, by, despite, down, during, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, out, outside, over, past, since, through, throughout, to, toward, under, until, up, with, within, without

This is an incomplete list. As a rule of thumb, a preposition can fill in this blank:
A cat can go ________ a tree.

The group of students are walking down the hall.
Subject is group (singular) not students (plural). Make verb singular to fix.
The group of students is walking down the hall.

*NOTE* Fix both of the above by finding the verb and asking, "Who or what _______?" (fill in the verb of the sentence). Make your verb agree with the answer.

B. The subject is compound

1. If two subjects are joined by "and", the verb will almost always be plural.

Jack and Jill (go, goes) up the hill.
The answer should be "go" since the subject is plural.

*NOTE* This does not count for words always found with "and" such as:
Macaroni and cheese is my favorite food.

*NOTE* When "every," "no," or "nothing" precedes the subject, treat as singular:
Nothing Jack and Jill says is important.

2. If two subjects are joined by "or" or "nor", make the verb agree with the closest subject.

Jack or Jill (go, goes) up the hill.
The answer should be "goes" since "Jill" is singular.

The dog or raccoons (tear, tears) up the trash daily.
The
answer should be "tear" since "raccoons" is plural.

C. Indefinite pronouns

1. "anyone," "anybody," "each," "either," "none" are singular

None of the students (has passed, have passed) the research paper.
The correct answer is "has passed" since the subject (none) is singular.

2. "both," "few," "many," "several" are plural

Several of the students (has passed, have passed) the test.
The correct answer is "have passed" because the subject (several) is plural.

3. "all," "any," "most," "some" can be either singular or plural

All of the cats are up the tree.
All of your efforts is all we can ask.

D. Collective Nouns (Singular nouns that are plural in meaning (band, class, dozen, team))

Since the people/things that make up this word act as one, use singular verb.

The band (has, have) played that song too many times.
In this case, use has since the band is acting as one unit.


E. Plural nouns that are singular in meaning (athletics, politics, news)

Go by the meaning and use a singular verb.

Athletics is offering two new courses for next semester.

F. Titles

Since it is the title of one book/series, treat as singular.

Star Wars is the best movie ever produced.

3. Sentence Fragments and Run-on Sentences