Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

Archive for December 2006

Perfecting the Perfect Tenses

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I was preparing my lesson plan on Perfect Tenses and, being the forgetful dork that I am, forgot my previous year’s LP in school (for reference). Since I have no intention of hauling my lovely ass back to school before Christmas break is over, I decided to browse around the internet for some ideas and clarifications (hell, after all my students’ questions last year, it’s best to be prepared).

Lo and behold the best site explaining the Perfect Tenses (to adults, at least):

Gareth Jones’s Perfect Tenses

This one’s helpful also: Present Perfect

Now I have to work on motivation and drills. (not to mention translating the explanations into kid-friendly language. ^_^)

Written by reeyah

2006 Dec 26 at 08:43

Posted in English, grammar, language

Marks and Spencer’s Apostrophe Catastrophe

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(I love my heading! Read it out loud.)

In the news today: British retailer Marks and Spencer got a slogan wrong on its children’s Christmas pyjama range:

“The slogan “Mum’s dreaming of a quiet Christmas just like the one’s she used to know” has a rogue second apostrophe.”

Apparently, it’s not the first time either:


“In October, the store withdrew a set of children’s pyjamas which had a picture of two giraffes and an extra apostrophe on the words “Baby Giraffe’s”.”

Full story here.


Written by lenina

2006 Dec 25 at 13:13


with 7 comments

One thing on my list of New Year’s resolutions: saying numbers correctly. Well, not really, but it might be if I were an even bigger nerd than I already am.

The fact is that many people either don’t know how to say numbers correctly or at least don’t say them properly. The numbers I’m referring to here are those pesky ones with decimals and commas – you know, the really big ones, and the really small ones, too.

So where do you say “and,” and where don’t you?

The rule of thumb is that you only need an “and” where there appears a decimal. All other positions should be devoid of “and.” For instance, if you were to speak aloud the number 1,234, it would go something like this: “one thousand three hundred thirty-four.” To say “one thousand three hundred and thirty-four would technically be incorrect, although I doubt you’ll be shot over it (otherwise you already would have been). On the other hand, if you were to speak aloud the number 123.4, it would go something like this: “one hundred twenty-three and four-tenths.” I don’t suspect that most of the three of you who are reading this would say “one hundred twenty-three-four-tenths,” but if you do happen to say it like that, stop.

(I should mention here that this applies at least to American English, while in other places the grammar may be different. How does it work over there, Lenina? Bronwyn?)

As far as writing numbers is concerned, well, I’ve already covered some of it. But, as it happens, there is more. There is always more. When writing out numbers using words (as opposed to…numbers), those that require two words but are less than one hundred should be hyphenated. For example, forty-five should always be hyphenated; four hundred never should be. This goes for decimals too, as they all will use two words.

Written by benferguson

2006 Dec 21 at 16:02

Wiktionary – ‘Misspellings’ Category

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There’s a ‘misspellings’ category on Wiktionary, here, which I wanted to share with fellow language enthusiasts. It just lists common misspellings. Our old friend ‘should of’ is listed there as incorrect. There are also some other favourites of mine including ‘definately’, ‘occurence’, and even another one of those pesky ‘apostrophe – s’ cases: ‘April Fool’s Day’.

On the contentious issue of Wikipedia’s accuracy, I would say that I’m pretty confident that its content is to a large extent authoritative and correct – others agree. I used it a lot in my PhD research (though I read somewhere this is not allowed in a US academic context).

On a slightly different note, has anyone ever used the WordPress built-in spellchecker? I think it’s a fairly recent addition but I’ve only used it once or twice (should use it more regularly.. maybe they can add a grammar check too).

Written by lenina

2006 Dec 21 at 14:17

Language Watch: Guardian Unlimited Podcast Blog

with 8 comments

I’ve just come across another missing apostrophe. Either these are on the increase or I notice them more, now that I have to write about them :P

From Guardian Unlimited Podcast Blog (here):

The Guardian’s Social Affairs Editor, John Carvel, has used the paper’s IT team to help him disentangle the accounts of over a hundred hospital trusts in England and finds that at least 12 of them are technically bankrupt. He explains that the government has designed a financial control system that makes it impossible for them solve the problem – its like a black hole in space, says John.

Thankfully I’m registered with them so I was able to leave a comment which I hope they’ll look kindly upon :)

Written by lenina

2006 Dec 11 at 18:22

Posted in apostrophes, English

Language Problems: ‘4 Years(‘) Experience’

with 57 comments

As a non-native speaker, I am sometimes unsure in matters of the English language. While I’m pretty knowledgeable regarding grammar and sentence structure – a knowledge acquired through studying linguistics and also Latin for a number of years – there are some grey spots in my mind.

One such grey spot concerns the construction ‘years experience’. For instance, I have over 4 years / years’ experience as remote worker. Which one is correct? With or without apostrophe? Typing the construction into Google doesn’t help. The rest of the world too seems to have a problem with this. Here are some examples copied from search results when inputting ‘years’ experience’:

  • CERTIFIED SERVICE TECHNICIAN Minimum 3 years experience
  • Backed by 40 years experience

  • Forty Years’ Experience

  • Nanny with 7 years experience

  • We are looking to recruit a Solicitor with 4 years’ corporate experience

I suppose my confusion partly stems from my native language (German). For instance, you can say:

“Wir suchen einen Anwalt mit 4 Jahren Erfahrung (We are looking for a solicitor with 4 years experience)”

Here, ‘Jahren’ (years) seems to be used as plural form (4 years). On the other hand, less elegantly, you could also say:

“Wir suchen einen Anwalt mit Erfahrung von 4 Jahren (We are looking for a solicitor with 4 years of experience)”

Here, ‘von 4 Jahren’ is I think Genitive – or is it Dative? See, I’m not even sure here :) – if it were Genitive, I would be inclined to argue that the apostrophe in English (in the first sentence, i.e. the one without the ‘of’) is necessary. But I’m not sure and the more I think about it, the less sure I am :P

I’m hoping that someone can clear up the issue once and for all. So, today’s question:

  1. Which one is correct: “I have 4 years experience” OR “I have 4 years’ experience“?
  2. More importantly, why?

Written by lenina

2006 Dec 10 at 12:52

Language Watch: ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ (Film)

with 49 comments

When watching the new Bond film (Casino Royale) last night, I had to sit through a number of trailers, as you do. One of them caught my eye:

The Pursuit of Happyness

Disregarding the fact that the film looks like an incredibly boring, ‘American dream’ kind of film with Will Smith pursuing happiness for himself and his young son (by working hard, thus leaving his poor Black neighbourhood behind and eventually ‘making it’ through hard work and enabled by the US of A and the freedom and choice it provides, blah blah blah, propaganda blah blah blah), I could not believe my eyes when at the end of this very dull trailer, the film title was revealed:

The Pursuit of Happyness

Is it me or is this spelling of ‘happyness’ totally bloody wrong? Did I just use a question mark where there shouldn’t be one? I just couldn’t believe it. So, here are two questions for today:

  1. Is the spelling of ‘happyness’ right or wrong? It isn’t recognised by
  2. Why would they spell it incorrectly, if it is indeed incorrect? Are they so thick that no one in the chain of producing a Hollywood film actually fucking notices? Or is it an intentional spelling error? If yes, WHY WHY WHY?

Please enlighten me.

Boycott this film.

PS: We should at some point create some template letters/emails to send to governments, media companies, and anyone else in a position of public responsibility that uses language incorrectly. As I’ve argued before, I do strongly believe they have a responsibility to use it correctly.

Written by lenina

2006 Dec 7 at 05:46

Posted in spelling