A working knowledge of English Grammar is essential for all who use the English language – and not just foreign students!

But, as we all know, grammar is both an aid to comprehension…and a nightmare!

Sometimes there are disagreements about what is correct or not. And sometimes there are no correct answers at all!

And, of course, everybody makes mistakes with grammar – nobody is perfect.

We should never become grammar police!

So ask your questions and we’ll see if we can answer your questions the best we can.

You too can have your say!

Let’s begin…

 Posted by at 5:52 am

  20 Responses to “English Grammar”

  1. I’m developing a receipt template to be used by mental health therapists. I have it formatted so that these words look like a title (i.e., centered, bold, extra space above and below):

    Receipt of Payment From

    The payer’s name and address is centered several lines below that. I know that normally you’d never capitalize “from” – even in a title. However, visually, because of the way I have it formatted, the “from” looks like the last word in a title. It would look odd – to me, at least – to not capitalize it, especially since I have “Payment” capitalized. I could put both words in all lower case – but since it looks like a title, that looks odd, too. I’d love to hear your thoughts/opinions. Thanks.

    • Dear Susan,

      I am sorry about the delay in replying. I have been overseas and it was reported to me that a great deal of spam mail had obscured recent questions to the forum.

      I think that there are style issues involved here, and that you are doing the right thing by examining how you feel about the look of the phrase on the page. In other words, there are no solid rules to be followed in this case. It isn’t necessary, for example, that small words in titles are always begun in lowercase.

      However, it certainly looks wrong to initially capitalize the word “from”. In fact, to me, it looks odd to have the word “from” there at all.

      If this were the header of a row in a table, I would probably omit “from” and consider it understood that the row information contained receipts from the persons listed. And I would probably write “Receipts of payment”. But I suspect this is not a table.

      So perhaps you could write the title thus (possibly making “receipt” plural):

      Receipt of Payment


      I hope this helps, although you have no doubt reached a conclusion already. If so, please let us know what you eventually settled upon.


  2. I want to ask you a question about English. (1a-c) or (2a-c) have the same core meaning, but I want to inspect slight differences in meanings between them, which are very difficult for English learners to capture. In other words, how do native speakers use them in each different situation/discourse?

    (1) a. I believe [John honest].

    b. I believe [John to be honest].

    c. I believe [that John is honest].

    (2) a. I find [the chair comfortable].

    b. I find [the chair to be comfortable].

    c. I find [that the chair is comfortable].

    I will be very happy if you kindly give me any comment.

    Some grammarians point out that the type of (1a) or (2a) is uttered on the basis of the speaker’s direct experience (e.g. John was honest to the speaker / the speaker has sat in the chair before)

    (i.e. direct evidence that John is honest / the chair is comfortable). By contrast, the type of (1c) or (2c) is uttered on the basis of the speaker’s indirect experience (e.g. The speaker has heard from his

    friend(s) that John is honest / The speaker has known from a certain ad or from his friend’s experience that the chair is comfortable) (i.e. indirect evidence that John is honest / the chair is comfortable).

    The type of (1b) or (2b) mediates between the first type and the second type and is uttered on the basis of the speaker’s direct or indirect experience.

    I am wondering whether or not you agree to these interpretations.

    • I think you are on the right track Fuminori. Let us examine a similar use of such language. Imagine a courtroom. The jury is asked for its verdict.

      a) The foreman responds to the court with the words, “We find the defendant guilty, Your Honor.”

      b) The judge then tells the defendant that upon examination, and as a result of the jury’s verdict, she finds him to be guilty – and sentences him for his crime.

      c) Later, the judge is asked why she sentenced the defendant to five years in jail. She replies, “Because the jury found him guilty, the court thus found him to be a crook, and I found that he was a menace to society.”

      Notice that it is not time that is the factor here, but the relationship to the finding of the defendant’s guilt – increasing ever so slightly in distance.

      Do remember, however, that if you are sitting in a chair and asked what you think, you are not likely to respond “I find the chair comfortable.” (Very stilted.) You are far more likely to say, “Great! It’s really comfortable!” Correct language requires words to be appropriate to the situation.

  3. the sentence is Pom is AS FAST AS or perhaps faster than tom
    we have to improve this sentence, and we have to tell which option would come in place of capital letters ie(AS FAST AS).. options are..

    1. equally fast
    2.almost as fast
    3.as fast
    4. no improvement

    I selected 4th option because I think the sentence is correct. but many people say that 3rd option is right.Please give me grammatical reason for this question.
    Thanking you in advance.

    • I agree with you. There are really two statements combined into one sentence:

      a) Pom is as fast as Tom.
      b) Pom is faster than Tom.

      Since you cannot say “Pom is as fast Tom” (grammatically incorrect), your selection is correct.

      I think the problem with choosing option 3 is that when combined it sounds as though you are saying “Pom is AS FAST [xxx] THAN Tom, which some students might hear as correct. It isn’t.

  4. do verbs become subject and object complement

  5. What’s the difference between due to and because?

    • The answer is actually quite complex due to the types of clauses that can follow “due to”.

      Could you substitute “because” for “due to” above? No.

      Can you substitute “because of” for “due to” above? Yes.

      But “due to” and “because of” cannot always be interchanged – and even the grammar books disagree with each other.

      In informal writing “due to” is usually OK, but in formal writing ‘because of” is generally safer to use. A lot if this has to do with when the phrases begin sentences.

      With “due to” remember that it cannot be used in front of a main clause when “due to” begins a sentence. In that case, use “Due to the fact that…”:

      “Due to the rain fell very heavily, we stayed at home.” INCORRECT
      “Due to the fact that the rain fell very heavily, we stayed at home.” CORRECT

      Notice we don’t say “Because of the fact that..” when writing formally (and hardly ever at all).

  6. How would one punctuate this sentence:

    Run away little rabbit

    Thank you.

  7. Punctuation is not a layer of information intended to add meaning. It is there to bring out the meaning of the words that are already there and to limit confusion. It is there to help the reader, not trick the reader.

    So the answer to your question depends on the intended meaning of the words.

    It appears to be either one single command to a rabbit or two similar commands, spoken by someone unidentified:

    “Run away, little rabbit!” or “Run! Away, little rabbit!”

    Why the exclamation mark? There appears to be some urgency involved in the command.

  8. Hi, John. Hi, guys.
    About finite and nonfinite.

    (1) Experience is among the most precious in your life. There are lots to learn in the world.

    (2) Experience is among the most precious in your life. There are lots you should (can) learn.

    Could “to learn” and “you should learn” make any differences? Some says the former is more formal .
    If it is formal, why? I’m interested in some pragmatic difference. I’d appreciate it if you could comment on my question.

  9. Experience is among the most precious facets of your life.

    (You need “experience” to be part of a group word: “facets” or “aspects” etc.)

    Yes, formality can mean distancing a person or persons from a statement i.e. “to learn” is more formal than “you should learn”. It applies more generally to all, since the latter could be interpreted as the writer speaking to an individual reader. The narrower the focus, the more informal the statement.

    Also, certain words are more useful in formal writing than others. “Lots” is less formal than “a lot”, and “a great deal” is more formal than either:

    “There are lots of things to learn in the world.” (you need to define what there are lots of)
    “There is a lot to learn in the world.” (better than “lots” and no need to define what there is a lot of)
    “There is a great deal to learn in the world.” (more formal than “a lot”)

    But the main difference between the two phrases “a lot to learn” and “and a lot you should learn” is semantic: to do with meaning.

    The use of the word “should” adds extra meaning. Yes, there is a lot to learn, and in the opinion of the writer you also have a duty to learn it.

  10. Hi, john
    I’m too happy to have such a prompt answer to my question. “Distance” is a key word for formality and possibly for politeness. Ambiguity of the subject and modality implies that distance. Explicit “should” directly expresses the utterer’s intention and then less formal and less polite. Am I right? And thank you for the information about “lots”, “a lot” and “a great deal”. Numbers could indicate generality and specialty. We don’t care about numbers so much. This is a very interesting point for me.
    Back to the finite and nonfinite. Imagine; you are a part-timer. You arrived at the offece late. You left a lot of assignments undone the day before. Your boss could say ” There are a lot to do” or ” there are a lot you should do today.” Can a nonfinite here indicate sarcasm or consideration ? How would you interpret the utterer’s intention?

    • Formality when writing a thesis or an essay (assuming you are asked to write a formal essay) requires some element of distance because otherwise the arguments/claims/statements you make become less convincing. “The Simpsons was the most watched television show in America during the 1990s.” If you wished to back up such a claim, using, say, your own household as proof, it would be less convincing than quoting nation-wide statistics.

      Note that the use of modality is not always informal, and you might certainly argue that something should be done in an essay in which you present a particular case for action. But arguing that there is a lot one should learn is likely judgemental; saying there is a lot to learn is more likely factual (I’m assuming evidence is given for both opinions). I am not sure that politeness is the justification for this. Is it always impolite to withhold judgement?

      As for the use of various phrases to describe the numbers of things: examine if these phrases are more appropriate for speech or for writing.

      Correction: your boss might say “There is a lot to do” or “There is a lot you should do today.” She might also say “There are a lot of things to do.” etc.

      “A lot” is singular; “a lot of things” is plural. (Actually, in practice, it is becoming increasingly common to hear “There’s a lot of things…” even though it is grammatically incorrect. But we never hear or write “There are a lot to + verb.”)

      [Can a nonfinite here indicate sarcasm or consideration ?]

      One small point first: don’t place a space before the question mark. Very few punctuation marks have a space before them. You can find out for yourself which ones by careful reading. If it’s a typo, fair enough, but it is very easy to introduce this error when typing unless you are careful.

      When you say “non-finite” you are referring to the phrase “There is a lot to do today.” because “do” does not inflect, right? Verbs with tense are finite, and verbs without tense are non-finite, right? But where is the inflection in “should do”? Should and do are non-finite, too.

      So I would say the difference in the phrases we are examining is not the finite aspect, but the addition of meaning in the second phrase by use of the modal. We use verbs such as “must” or “should” to say when something is necessary or unnecessary, or to give advice.

      [How would you interpret the utterer’s intention?]

      I would interpret it is as an expression of either necessity (according to the boss) or advice or both. Layers of additional meaning (sarcasm, mockery, anger, caution etc.) are best left to actors to provide for they do not exist in the phrase itself.

      (I should add that I am not the last word on complex issues of grammatical meaning and language use – but this is how it appears to me. Others will have their own thoughts on aspects of formality.)

      • Hi, John
        Many thanks for your comment. Yes, I’m interested in writing a very small paper on the post-modifying infinitive. Since I’m a non-native English speaker, I’d like to learn how native English speakers see this infinitive. On the course of studying this infinitive, I read about modality and pragmatics a little( I dare say ‘only a little’ ). My understanding on many aspects of English is still vague. Your comment is quite accommodating. Your information of ‘ a lot’ and ‘a lot of things’ is what I couldn’t have got myself. And thank you for your correction about my punctuation and the concept of ‘finite’ and ‘nonfinite’. About pragmatics sense of ‘with’ or ‘without’ ‘should’, I’d like to hear from many native English speakers and to be able to construct my opinion. Many thanks again.

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