5 Grammar Myths You Need to Bust Today
Grammar is the most complicated linguistic domain that is studied since school years. There plenty of complex regulations to follow, and rules that can roll your head up. Some of the rules we learn in school do not correspond with the linguistic norms of the recent years. Lexicographer Henry W. Fowler has stated, "there are rules that serve as helpful guidelines and rules that are called inventions and superstitions."
Here are some typical grammar myths:
Ending a sentence with a preposition is wrong
In school, we were aware of the fact, that ending a sentence with a preposition was an error. This ‘rule,’ however, is a delusion, established in the 17th century, when the English language was systematized in order to match the Latin grammar.
Some instances say that when trying to avoid ending sentences with a preposition leads to simply poor or over-formal results. For example, over-formal sentences: ‘She screamed that there is nothing of which to be scared.’ And a poor example of English: ‘Paid for the car had not been.’
Catherine Soanes has shared her opinion on that issue. She distinguishes four typical examples when it is more appropriate to end sentences with a preposition:
- passive constructures (he enjoys being fussed over)
- relative clauses (they should be responsible for the crime that they are taking on)
- infinitive constructures (Petty has a little curly friend to play with)
- Questions starting with what, where, who, etc. (what sports are you interested in?)
Avoid opening the sentence with a conjunction
Another popular grammar fiction lies on whether it’s correct to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. This type includes words such as “but, and, if, and so”, which are generally used to unite sentences, words or clauses. There is a widespread conviction based on historical changes that these words are used to link separate sentences, so cannot begin with the conjunction. But it is not so true; it is rather a stylistic preference than a strict grammatical rule. This rule was strolling over the grammar space for centuries, and even the most conservative philologists have followed this practice.
Twin negatives are always not well formed
When using two negatives, there is one case that seems to be ungrammatical, but it happens when you are playing with words and wish to make a positively structured sentence, for example in the nonstandard informal fiction, in a creative form."Don't hesitate, only today we don't have nothing special for you", but it means that "we have something special for you." It occurs when two negatives meet each other, they automatically cancel each other's actions and make an affirmative statement. For example, compare this one:"I couldn’t not beat him" which means "I firmly believed I could win him."
The passive voice should not be used
Even if you were always warned about the usage of the passive voice, we could assure you that it is perfectly acceptable. The passive voice is used to be presented in formal documents when you need to emphasize or highlight one event from another, regarded as less critical.
- Active: The Soviet Union won Nazi Germany in the final death match.
- Passive: Nazi Germany was defeated by The Soviet Union in the final death match.
However, you need to pay attention to the inner essence of each sentence you have transformed in order to avoid misunderstandings, though the usage of the passive voice is completely permissible.
Irrelevant usage of the pronoun "whose", when referring to things.
Yes, you may use the word "whose" when you are talking not only about people, but also about things. Sometimes, some adherents will insist in transforming the sentence using "of which." Here we offer an sample from the OxfordDictionaries.com:
Hiding from the enemies, they reached the row of dwellings whose windows led onto the lake.
It is the same sentence rewritten to accommodate of which:
Hiding from the enemies, they reached the row of dwellings of which windows led onto the lake.
Those examples demonstrate that the better option is simply to use "whose" instead of "of which", that sounds inappropriate in this sentence.