Violations Of The Rules Of English Grammar That Are Not

We communicate with words. Not only does each word have a definite meaning, each term is expressed within the context of their use as a part of speech. And every part of speech is always used in connection with other words, which are also variant parts of speech. Together they create a sentence, a single thought expressed propositionally. The rules that govern the interplay of these different word and parts of speech within a sentence are known as Grammar.

This means there are right and wrong ways to use Grammar. We have all heard these rules since we were young. And yet, there are a few rules that really don’t convey any violation of Grammar. They have been culturally accepted as rules, when in the strictest sense they are not.

Split Infinitives

We have all been told to never split our infinitives. When you see it the sentence may look odd, but nothing wrong has been done. This “rule” comes from language snobs in the 1800s who thought English should be as close to Latin as possible (also, as far from German, too). Since the Latins do not split their infinitives, English speaking people shouldn’t either. Sounds good until you realize that the infinitive was a single word in Latin. There is nothing according to Grammar that makes it necessarily wrong to split an infinitive. If no one can split an infinitive, then Captain Kirk could not tell us the mission of the Enterprise is To boldly go where no man has gone before.

Ending Sentences With Prepositions

When Winston Churchill heard of someone ending a sentence with a preposition, he replied, That is a situation that with up I shall not put. Clever man, that Winnie! This is another example of old snobbery that preferred Latin and has no real basis in the structure of English Grammar as a literary construction. I knew of a college freshman (true story) who on the first day asked an upperclassman where a certain building was at. The upperclassman scolded him for his poor Grammar. The freshman asked again, this time ending the sentence with a strong expletive. Which would you rather be asked, Where is this building at? or Where is this building at, a*****e?

Beginning Sentences With Conjunctions

If this were truly a violation, then we could not have of the great hymn of England, the song “Jerusalem”. And did these feet in ancient times walk round England’s mountain green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pasture seen? And did the Countenance Divine shine forth upon our crowded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here among these dark satanic mills? This is again a preference that became convention that became a rule that isn’t a rule. If someone ever says you cannot begin a sentence with a conjunction, ask them And why not?

Think of it this way: if you can diagram the sentence, no rules of English Grammar were broken. All three of these are diagramable, which means they are fine. I’ll admit that I can sometimes be a Grammar Nazi as bad as can be, but don’t let anyone get on to you from breaking a rule that has never been a rule. I say these things, not only so we will know how we can speak and write, but also for my harsh linguistic colleagues out there who should know when to enforce the rules and when to back down.

I hope this has helped, and if it has, then share this article with others. I know these are just a few examples. If you know of other faux-rules, tell me about them in the Comment section below.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Violations Of The Rules Of English Grammar That Are Not

  1. Kimberly watkins

    It is tedious and distracting to me to read anything with the exhausting use of he/she simply because there is no neutral pronoun to include both genders as well as 1/2&1/2 gender. “They” is widely used, but that is pleural and ends up requiring the verb to follow suit. He/his/him, etc. used to work just fine, and women just did the conversion as they read. But “He, et al” was used to encompass both genders and was defined as such, separating it (in context) from a specific direction toward males. Much like the nouns such as, “mailman,” where “man” refers to mankind, hu”man” etc. and not the specific addressing of male humans. After all, the term “person” which is politically correct contains the word “son.” Shall the feminist soap boxers start rallying to say perdaughter when referring to person/perdaughters? How about huwoman?
    Okay, I say use the generally applied masculine and spit it out already.

    Next is the biggest pet peeve of mine and I believe this article conveniently contains an example. Paragraph 2, sentence 3: “There ‘are a’ few…” That a widely-used error and rarely gets pointed-out (the hyphen turns the preposition into a verb so it’s fine there). It’s the use of a pleural verb with a singular object, like “There ARE A lot of apples.” A lot is one lot. “Are implies more than one, but the verb is paired with the object “lot” which is singular, and reinforced as such by the use of “a.” Flip it and you get “There IS LOTS of apples. Neither work but the former is used all the time. You would not say, “There are a bag of apples.” There is a bag of the same number of apples as in the lot of them. There is a number. That number is 23. Twenty three what? It doesn’t matter. It is still A number. It is incorrect to say “There are a number” of anything. Numbers imply multiplicity but that number is nonetheless one number. We can solve that problem by simply saying “There are lots of apples,” if “There is a lot of apples” sounds funny to you. Also, one could say, “There are numbers of apples,” if “There is a number of apples” sounds funny. But don’t say “are a” it’s just wrong. Am I a snob? I don’t think so, because I’m sure this comment is loaded with grammatical errors, but those two are my pet peeves. Don’t get me started with adverbs.

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