The Top 4 Grammatical Mistakes that Aren't Actually Wrong (But Might as Well Be)

| No Comments

16290375_s.jpgThere is one in every class: those people who make it their mission in life to point
out grammatical errors whether in a paper or in conversation. The bizarre reality,
though, is that most of the common "mistakes" that get called by these pseudogrammarians
are not actually wrong. They're just English.

4. Beginning a Sentence with a Conjunction
This one is so common that almost no one considers it incorrect anymore, but
you still get people going on about it. Using 'but,' 'and' or 'or' to begin a sentence is
considered wrong because these words are meant to connect similar parts of a
sentence: 'this and that', 'not these but those.'

Why this is actually correct ...
Well .... 'correct' is a bit of a stretch. See, conjunctions could often be used as a
way to connect several ideas together in an argument. In Latin (the language that all the
best sorts of English attempt to emulate) conjunctions could be used as argumentative
place-holders. As such they would provide structure in the same way that punctuation
provides structure now.

3. Using 'Than' as a Preposition
We've all heard this one, but hardly anyone thinks that it is incorrect: 'he's older
than me,' 'I'm prettier than her,' and 'we're better than them!' The error is that the word
'than' is actually a conjunction and so does not -- or rather should not -- take an object
(me, her, and them in this case). These little sentences are actually saying 'he's older
than I am,' 'I'm prettier than she is,' and 'we're better than they are,' but why say all that
when you could just drop the repetitive part and keep the interesting bit? It's a fair point.
Why this is actually correct ...

... ok, so it really is incorrect, but Shakespeare did it all the time. It's not like we
can try and correct the first speaker of Modern English. After all, he set the standard!

2. The Dangling Preposition
This is the classic error that drives people crazy. Winston Churchill famously
responded to an editor who rearranged one of the great statesman's sentences so that
it would not end in a preposition. Churchill supposedly wrote back "this is the sort of
bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."
The dangling preposition is considered incorrect because Latin never allows it,
always giving its prepositions objects. Learned English has always wanted to be more
like Latin, so ...

Why this is actually correct ...
English is a Germanic language, and as such its prepositions can be used as
adverbs, modifying the verb so that a new meaning can be expressed. You can see the
difference in sentences like "he threw the cake" and "he threw the cake up." This
different, though, from constructions like "I saw the girl whom he likes to talk to." This
really should be avoided.

1. The Split Infinitive ... to boldly go!
This one is a favorite of grammatical aficionados. The rule states that you should
never put an adverb between the 'to' and the proper word of an infinitive. The Enterprise
should be able 'to go boldly' so that the grammar might be preserved.

Why this is actually correct ...
Again, this is only incorrect because Latin can't do it at all. In Latin, infinitives (i.e.
verbs that don't show any tense) are single words: currere is 'to run,' legere is 'to read,'
and corrigere is 'to correct.' You actually can't physically fit an adverb into it, but you
actually can in English. In some cases you simply have to for clarity's sake. After all, an
adverb should be placed as close to the verb as possible, and you can't get any closer
than inside the verb. Still, you'll probably lose points if you do it in an essay.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Legible Larry published on June 18, 2013 8:23 PM.

Decorating Tips to Spruce Up Your Dorm Room was the previous entry in this blog.

6 Tips to Capture the Right "Voice" For Your College Application Essay is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



  • about
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.3