How to mind your language

These are the grammar rules you are probable breaking without realising it.

 Proper grammar and usage are important for clear communication. There are a number of English language nuances that are often overlooked. For example, many words or phrases sound alike but have different meanings (like the infamous there, their, they’re). In these cases, it’s important to choose wisely. Otherwise, your message can get lost. Though reading the sentence aloud can help you determine whether you are using the appropriate phrases, be careful not to choose a word or phrase because it “sounds right.” Some rules just require memorisation. Follow these tips:

“Each” is singular

Each is a singular noun, and it therefore takes a singular verb. Consider the sentence, “Each of my brothers is very talented.” Although “brothers” is a plural noun, the verb “to be” modifies “each,” not “brothers,” which is a part of a prepositional phrase. “Each of my brothers are very talented” is incorrect.

“Less” versus “fewer”

You may have seen this common mistake while at the grocery store: the sign for the “10 items or less line” should actually read “10 items or fewer.” Fewer is used when the subject is quantifiable (that is, if you can count it). For example, “I have fewer book than you” is correct usage. “Less” refers to a more abstract idea that doesn’t have a true plural. “If I go home after work, I am less inclined to go to the gym.”

A lot is two words

Never use “alot.” A lot should always be written as two words. “Allot” means “to assign as a share or portion.”

Overuse of literal

The adverb “literally” us used a lot in speech, but more often than not, the words is exaggerated beyond its actual meaning. “I am literally dying of thirst” is not grammatically correct unless you are truly dying of thirst.

Historical versus historic

Historic and historical are also frequently confused. Historical events are events that happened in the past. Historic events are ones that are particularly significant or memorable. People also often confuse whether “a historic/historical” or “an historic/historical” is correct. As a rule of thumb, “an” is used preceding a vowel sound, thus “an hour” is correct. Because you pronounce the “h” in “historic/historical,” “a” is the correct indefinite article.

Everyday and every day

What’s the difference between everyday and every day? “Everyday” is an adjective. “Everyday tasks can be mundane.” “Every day” is an adverb that refers to each and every day. “I run every day.”

Saying “I could care less”

People often confuse “I could care less” with “I couldn’t care less.” Which phrase is correct? “I couldn’t care less” indicates extreme apathy. You are unable to care less about a certain situation. “I couldn’t care less” is correct. “I could care less” means that you have the mental capacity to be even more indifferent than you already are.

-The Times of India, July 1, 2018.