teaching grammar

Dictionary Day

Tweet Noah Webster’s birthday is October 16th, now known to a fraction of the population as “Dictionary Day.” It’s a good day to think about words. We have just witnessed the birth of a new word, twerk — a reminder that our vocabulary is ever evolving. IDennis Baron’s always interesting blog The Web of Language tells of a […]

The modern “you”

Tweet Most of the argument is about the singular “they,” but the singular “you” also has an interesting genesis, and this article in The Economist tells the story, or at least part of the story. The article concludes that social change has brought about this language change, though it does not draw any conclusions about why social […]

Online education

Tweet California is pushing many entry-level college courses online.  I have so much to say about this that I don’t know where to begin. I teach writing.  The parts of the class which always, always engage the students most vividly are group work, critiquing other students’ papers, individual conferences, and class discussions.  Taking those away would […]

A teacher’s dilemma

Tweet A consistent mistake made by my students is using “everyday” instead of “every day.” “everyday” is an adjective, as in “That is an everyday concern of mine.” The other is a noun with a modifier, as in “Every day I brush my teeth.” While on an unrelated Internet quest (looking for the website which […]

What’s a Teacher to Do?

Tweet A common mistake made by my students is using “everyday” instead of “every day.” One (everyday) is an adjective, as in “That is an everyday concern of mine.”  The other is a noun modified by an adjective, as in “Every day I brush my teeth.” I thought my analysis was undeniably correct until I […]

The jumbled-up conditional, er, modals

Tweet My French textbook, French Reference Grammar (1993), has an index entry for the “conditional,” and in the section devoted to it, calls it “the mood of verbs tied to a condition.” My Greek grammar, Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language (1997) also has a section on the conditional mood. My English grammar, […]

The not so mysterious disappearance of the past perfect

Tweet One of the cardinal virtues of good writing is clarity, and proper use of verb tenses is crucial to clarity. Since most students have never been informed of their purpose, or form, they trudge around in a swamp of verb tenses, using them arbitrarily without controlling them. The past perfect (the “had + past participle” […]

Find the Subject and Verb – “this” and “there” developments

Tweet In previous posts I wrote about Subject-Verb mismatches when a clause intervenes, and when a prepositional phrase intervenes. There is another, perhaps more pernicious, form of mismatching, the There is malformation.  This has become widespread not only in my students’ papers, but on television, in political speeches, and in print articles. Here are some examples […]

Find the Subject and Verb – Prepositional Phrase intervening

Tweet Several previous posts have discussed grammatical problems occurring in my classes this past semester. In the previous post, I discussed mismatched Subjects and Verbs when a clause intervened. This post addresses a similar error pattern, only this time the intervening language consists of prepositional phrases. Here are some examples from my students’ papers: The effects [of […]

Find the Subject and Verb – Clause intervening

Tweet As discussed in a previous post, students have not been prepared in high school to identify the Subject and Verb of a sentence. The argument against teaching grammar is that we need no tutoring to create comprehensible sentences, unless there is some mental dysfunction. Volumes could be written about that contention, and I will not […]