Are We All in Agreement?

One day, I was sitting on the bus next to an international student who was taking a subject/verb pretest in English grammar. I nonchalantly read four of the multiple-choice grammar questions and noticed that two of her answers were incorrect. Since she had circled her answers in pencil, I almost grabbed her eraser, erased the mistakes, circled the correct answers, and explained the subject/verb error of her ways. However, I shouldn’t have been reading her little test in the first place, so there I was: trying to quell my grammar lecture. (Please note that I almost never read someone else’s reading material, so you’re safe, but it was grammar calling my name.) Here’s why I, unbeknownst to her, gave her a grade of 50%, at least in that section of her pretest:

For the subject and verb to agree, check how many subjects you have and what lies between the subject and verb. For example, if there’s an interrupter phrase flanked by commas or a prepositional phrase that contains a plural noun, you generally don’t include or consider these phrases when you look at subject/verb agreement:

I, along with all of the boys and girls from my group, am planning to participate. (Note that the section contained in commas is NOT part of the subject, so you can ignore it.)

All of the boys and girls and I are planning to participate. (As there are two subjects — “All” and “I” — the verb must agree with the subjects.)

One of the boys  is lost. (“One” is the subject of the sentence; “of the boys” is a prepositional phrase, so “boys” is the object of the preposition and therefore not the subject.)

Everyone, even Martha and her friends, is going. (“Everyone” is the subject.)

Sixty-five dollars is a lot of money. Ham and eggs is a favorite breakfast around here. (Sometimes two subjects or an amount of money can be treated as a combination or unit, so you can use the singular form of the verb.)

In certain cases, you might have to look at the prepositional phrase to determine if you need the subject or plural form of the verb:

All of the flour is gone. (Note that “flour” is singular, an uncountable noun.)

All of the bags of flour are gone. (Note that “bags” is plural, a countable noun.)
All of the flowers  are mine. (Here, “flowers” is plural.)

I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping lately, maybe because I’m worried about that grammar student’s fake grade: a 50%. At any rate, at least we both were distracted, at least enough to forget we were riding on public transportation.

All aboard?

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

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“Transitioning” from Noun to Verb

Among all of the grammar guffaws I’ve enjoyed since I’ve been in the business, I have especially delighted in… Whom am I kidding? I’ve spent countless nights crying at all of the mistakes I’ve witnessed on a daily basis. 

Here is one that especially pains me: turning innocent, well-meaning nouns into verbs. Certainly, some nouns are also verbs, but turning nouns into verbs when, clearly, they were meant to be only one part of speech is worse than listening to out-of-tune singing; it’s not music to my ears:

Language your way to success.” What? When did language become a verb or even part of a command?
“I was gifted with a new set of grammar books.” Please use them.
“We transitioned him to a new job.” Don’t transition him anymore.

Now I invite you, my loyal readers, to think of more nouns that are used as verbs, and email me all of them so that I can publish this list and, by doing so, encourage the rest of the world never to use these words in this manner again.

You’ll be doing the world a great service.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Sneak, Drag, Lead, Use (not enough time)

Every night, when I was a child, my mother drug me (not literally) upstairs to do my grammar homework. One night, I snuck out of the house. She found me only a few blocks away and lead me home. How can I learn to like grammar since I use to hate it?

Study and memorize a few grammar points every day by using real-life situations to make the ideas more meaningful. Your letter is an exceptional place to start:

You used drug as the past tense for drag, whose past tense is dragged.
The past tense for sneak isn’t snuck: it’s sneaked.
The past tense of lead is led

And the past tense of use is used (I used to stay up all night, but now I go to bed early). In this particular use of used, the s sounds like an s, not a z, and the d is silent.

As a child, I used to dream that when I sneaked (I was never dragged) upstairs to complete my grammar homework, I would become a famous grammarian via an extremely popular blog, even though we didn’t have blogs or even computers back then — and I really didn’t dream that.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English Literature
312.285.8429

^&*%$#!!

Swear words, curse words — call them what you will — clearly indicate that one has abandoned the English language and its rich vocabulary. “Why would one want to abandon the English language?” you might or might not want to ask.

Here are a few reasons: intended humor, no knowledge of — or time to find — the vocabulary that more poignantly conveys the message, anger, and/or “leveling” (i.e., “dumbing it down” for the group members so as not to appear more intelligent than they).

Also, all too often our audience has a short attention span, so we, as speakers, feel compelled to convey our message quickly — and substituting swear words is like getting food from a drive-through: It’s much faster than preparing the food yourself, but it’s not necessarily better for you or your friends. My advice is that we, the audience, be more patient and the speaker be more imaginative and select the appropriate word for the occasion. 

I confess that I have occasionally engaged in the art of using 4-letter words, usually under my breath, among good friends, or anywhere else. 

Several years ago, I attended a Chicago comedy show, and while there was a lot of talent on stage, the cast nevertheless resorted to making the usual jokes about women, injecting sexual comments, and frequently resorting to cursing. The other part of the show, conveying different, humorous perspectives, was profoundly funnier, more interesting, and creative.

^&*%$#!! (don’t say it),

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English Literature
312.285.8429

Action-Packed Nonsense

As promised (at least in my grammar universe), I am providing you with a list of innocent, well-meaning, well-intentioned words and phrases that were somehow forced to change their identity and transform themselves into something they aren’t, all for someone else’s selfish business purposes:

Action: To undertake a given task; to put into practice. Don’t bother me while I action my deliverables. Well, you can do that but not with this verb.

Anonymize: To make anonymous. I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Ballpark: To make an estimate. Can you ballpark the cost per unit for me? I can’t if you speak like that.

Band-aid: To apply a trivial solution to a problem. We’ll band-aid the situation for now. My head hurts.

Breakfast: To have breakfast. We breakfasted at a nearby restaurant, but we didn’t lunch there. Did you work on your grammar while you were eating?

Brunch: To have brunch. We brunched at Houlihan’s on the same day that we breakfasted there. You party too much. See party several lines down.

Cab it: To ride in a cab. Let’s cab it back to the condo. In the interest of grammar and the environment, let’s never cab it anywhere.

Circle back: To revisit an issue after it has been addressed. I’m heading out now, but I’ll circle back later. You won’t if I can help it.

Dialogue: To have a conversation. Let’s dialogue about the account. Let’s not; let’s talk instead.

Impact: To affect one’s business. Savvy marketing can impact your bottom line. I suddenly have a fever.

Incent: To encourage an action by suggesting a reward. I hope we can incent investors to agree with this idea. I hope we never use this word again.

Interface: To communicate. Can we interface before dinner? Will I have to learn your nonsensical language beforehand?

Lateral: To be transferred to another position at your current level. Jane was lateraled to another department. Maybe they should lateral you, too.

Leverage: I’m almost out of ideas.

Like: What I want you to do at the bottom of the page.

Operationalize: Means “to do” — but don’t do it.

Optimize: To make optimal or the most of. I need to take to my bed.

Party: To have a party. We partied yesterday in the Game Room. No, you didn’t.

Proceduralize: To make a process official. We’re going to proceduralize this protocol into a coherent business model. Do we have to?

Repurpose: To redefine how an item is used, often as an alternative to discarding it. If we don’t repurpose this production line, we’re going to waste a lot of money. We should repurpose the word repurpose.

Surface: To raise an issue. Remember to surface your concerns to all of your coworkers. It’s time for the coworkers to hide.

Uptitle: To change a job title to a more impressive-sounding one in place of an actual promotion. Does this mean that the job-title recipient will actually do a little work while at work, or will he merely continue posting every moment of his life on social media while chatting all day long with his coworkers? 

Uplevel: To elevate something beyond current capabilities or perceptions. You’re starting to agree with me now, aren’t you?

Whiteboard: To convey information by writing it out on a presentation surface. Let’s whiteboard your thoughts in the meeting. @#$%*!!

Wordsmith: To edit. Let’s write down all of the ideas, and we can wordsmith them tomorrow. I’m speechless.

Please memorize this list, but use these words the way the Universe intended you to use them. However, forget everything you’ve learned here if your boss forces you to utter these nonsensical words at a business meeting. I don’t want to get into trouble.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Reflecting on the Reflexive

You, my reader, are very lucky to find out what one of my biggest pet peeves is: The misuse of the reflexive.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, reflexive means “directed or turned back on itself”; in the case of grammar, it relates to an action “directed back on the agent or the grammatical subject.”

He [subject] hurt himself [reflexive pronoun] when he fell down. 

Reflexive pronouns include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves. 

Here are three so-called words you should never utter in my presence:

1. ourself
2. theirself
3. theirselves

I thank you in advance.

If you say a sentence like “Please give the letter to John or myself,” do yourself a favor and remember that someone else is giving you the letter to John or to you: You are not giving the letter to yourself, which is why the reflexive isn’t used here — besides the fact that it should read “Please give the letter to John or me” since to me is a prepositional phrase, and me is the object of the preposition. Leave John or out of the sentence, and read it: Please give the letter to me.

Object pronouns include me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them. Dr. Phil often commits serious grammar crimes: “You gotta get right with you!” he often says. Not only should yourself replace you, but the entire sentence defaces our beautiful English language. 

Please study these reflexive-pronoun sentences for next time:

I drove myself around Austin.
He asked himself why he was at the party.
She gave herself a manicure.

Reflexives can also be used as intensifiers (i.e., words used for emphasis):

I wrote this gripping grammar guide myself.

If I were with you and you used the reflexive correctly, I’d thank you myself.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English Literature
312.285.8429

Chicago’s Weather and Math, English, Gymnastics

There’s a phrase in grammar that relates to math, English, and gymnastics — even Chicago’s extra season: construction. The phrase I’m referring to is parallel construction.

For example, if the beginning of a sentence prefaces bulleted items, the words that follow — nouns, verbs, prepositional phrases, etc. — should be parallel. That is, if the first word after the first bullet is a verb, the other words should be not only verbs but also verbs in the same tense. And if they are infinitives (to do, to see, to pack, to move), then they should all be infinitives. Here are some examples of parallel construction:

At our job, we get to:

Read a wonderful, informative newsletter every week
Move again
Work with delightful people
Eat a lot of good food, since it’s always lying around

Please notice how all of the bulleted verbs use the same form of the verb and are, therefore, parallel in construction. They are actually part of an infinitive, e.g., to read, to move, to work, to eat.

When I went to Las Vegas last week, I didn’t gamble but had a lot of fun because I:

Went to three fantastic shows
Lay in the sun
Explored the hotels
Heard a terrific band three times for free

And notice that even the prepositional phrases in a sentence need to be parallel:

We saw him in the pool, at the casino, and near the restaurant.

So please keep parallelism in your mind when you write — and by the way, isn’t Chicago’s construction absolutely beautiful today?

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Sign Language

I’m in distress: Recently, I saw this sign at a supermarket: “15 items or less”; give me a sign that this didn’t happen.

Although this way of speaking and writing doesn’t actually bother me and I understand that this kind of mistake is… Whom am I kidding? I wanted to rip that stupid sign down!

Here’s the scoop: There are such things as countable and uncountable (mass)
nouns. For example, coffee is uncountable. We don’t say “1 coffee, 2 coffees, 3 coffees.” Now, my friend from Spain says, “Let’s have a coffee,” which I think is dear and European-sounding, but to be grammatically correct, he should say, “Let’s have a cup of coffee” or “Let’s have coffee”…or, even better, “Let’s have tapas, red wine, and chocolate!”

The same is true of spaghetti or flour, which, like coffee, is seen as a mass noun and is therefore uncountable. With an uncountable noun, use the word less. On the other hand, cups of coffee are countable: 1 cup of coffee, 2 cups of coffee. And strands of spaghetti or bags of flour or kinds of food are countable. With countable nouns, use the word fewer.

Please allow me to put these words into action:

I would like less flour in the bowl.
Give me fewer cups of coffee, but put less coffee in the coffeemaker next time.
If you eat fewer tapas and drink less red wine (or fewer glasses of wine), you might lose weight, but you won’t have as much fun.

So, when you stand in line at the grocery store and see a sign that says, “15 items or less,” don’t rip the sign down: Just smile and politely say to the cashier, “I’m not sure if I have 15 items or fewer than 15 items. Let me count them again.”

Be accountable…

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Comma Come-ons

“How does one remember all the comma rules? Can you give me a comma refresher course so I don’t have to pay for one?” Although I have never actually been asked these questions, I can’t help but think they are lurking in my readers’ minds.

Let’s start with independent and dependent clauses.

Independent ClauseA group of words containing a subject and verb and stating a complete thought. An independent clause, like an independent person, can stand alone (and have meaning) and is, in essence, a sentence.
The cat played (contains a subject and verb and forms a complete thought).

Dependent Clause: Generally a group of words containing a subject and verb—but dependent on the rest of the sentence to make sense. Like a dependent person, a dependent clause cannot stand alone. Usually a dependent clause starts with an adverb (after, before, until, while, etc.):

While the dog ate (contains a subject and verb but doesn’t form a complete thought)

When the independent clause precedes the dependent clause, you generally don’t need a comma:

The cat played while the dog ate.

When the dependent clause precedes the independent clause, you generally need a comma:

While the dog ate, the cat played.

Without a comma, the sentence would read like this and, therefore, be confusing to the reader:

While the dog ate the cat played.

If the writer uses the comma correctly, he or she helps the reader avoid rereading the sentence to try to figure out its meaning.

More comma corrections to comma… I mean come.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Music to My Ears

Please take time to study the right version of these words and phrases (don’t “asfixiate” your attention on the wrong ones). Wrong is on the left. Right is on the right (not necessarily politically):

WRONG RIGHT

All of the sudden All of a sudden
Asfixiated on Fixated on
Asterick Asterisk
Beckon call Beck and call
Between you and I Between you and me
Can’t hardly wait Can hardly wait
Card shark Cardsharp
Chomping at the bit Champing at the bit (either is used, actually)
Concerted effort Concentrated effort (if only one person)
Copywritten Copyrighted (past tense of Copyright)
Cut the mustard Cut the muster
Deep-seeded Deep-seated
Doggy dog world Dog-eat-dog world
Drudged up Dredged up
Drug (past tense verb) Dragged
First come, first serve First come, first served
Flush out our ideas Flesh out our ideas
For all intensive purposes For all intent and purposes
Have your cake and eat it, too Eat your cake and have it, too
Healthy Healthful (people—healthy; fruits—healthful)
Ideallic Ideal or idyllic
In the mist In the midst (in the middle, not in a fog)
Irregardless Regardless
Lacksadaisical Lackadaisical
Lamblasted, sandblasted, slamblasted Lambasted
Lay on the beach Lie on the beach (“I lay on the beach yesterday” is past tense.)
Momento Memento
Orientate Orient
Over-exaggerate Exaggerate

While I’m not saying that hearing the words and phrases used correctly is music to my ears, at least the sound is in tune.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Grammar Presents

The use of commas with restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses has always been a source of great concern for the general population, so let’s clear up any misunderstandings that might still exist so that all, especially me, can move on with their lives.

Oftentimes, restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses are relative clauses. Relative
clauses use a relative pronoun (who, which, that, whom) and verb: who knows me, that like this food, whom he saw, which I watched yesterday.

A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence and uses no
comma on either side of it. Were you to delete the restrictive clause, the meaning of the sentence would change:

My sister who lives in Nebraska was a musician in many bands. (If I had more than one sister, this helps the reader understand that I am discussing only the one who lives in Oregon, not any of the other sisters.)

On the other hand, a nonrestrictive clause is not essential to the sentence’s meaning, so you could lift out the clause enclosed by the commas—and the sentence’s meaning would be clear:

My sister, who lives in Nebraska, was a musician in many bands. I am discussing her profession, and the reader doesn’t know if I have one sister or several, but knowing that isn’t necessarily essential to the sentence’s meaning. What is contained in the commas is somewhat of an aside: “Oh yeah, and by the way, she lives in Nebraska.”

I hope you get lots of grammar presents over the holidays and during the year. And for this one, you’re welcome.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

You Can Quote Me

What do you think of people who, when they are talking, use double-finger quotes? Don’t those people ever get on your nerves? Why don’t they use single-finger quotes in conversation? How are single and double quotes used? Have I reached my question quote-uh?

Don’t quote me, but I don’t recall ever having corrected someone’s air-quote usage, and, unless asked and as I have stated before, I typically never correct anyone’s grammar in conversation.

Use double quotes for (among other things):
A direct quotation: “I’d like more milk,” Sarah said.
A song title: Do you like Shakira’s “Ojos Así”?
An individual TV program: “Walk on Water” is a Grey’s Anatomy episode.
An individual radio program: She listens to “All Things Considered.”
An article title in a magazine/newspaper: “Healing the Heart” is an article in the National Geographic.
A chapter title in a book: “Wipe Out Your Debt” is Chapter 3 in Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People.

Now that you have this information, I feel much better — and you can quote me.

From,

Your English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Either This or That…or Else

Recently, I overheard this one-liner (which caused me to giggle internally): “Either you or my sisters or my mother want to go.”

I’m sure they do want to go, but don’t let that deter you from being insanely interested in grammar.

When using the word pairs either/or OR neither/nor, ensure that the subject closer to the verb agrees with the verb. Since either or neither implies a pair of individuals or an individual and a group, don’t use three people (or three groups of people) with these words. In the following correctly written sentences, please notice not only that the noun closer to the verb agrees in number with this verb but that [n]either in the last bulleted item implies only two boys but means not either one:

Either you or my sisters or my mother wants to go.
Neither John nor his parents are going to the party.
Neither of the boys wants to go. (“of the boys” is a prepositional phrase, so boys is not one of the subjects of the sentence)

You’re welcome.

From,

My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Dashing: Good-Looking or Leaving Quickly?

M dashes, N dashes, and hyphens have caused a wave of confusion in many people’s worlds, so I’m here to help them and you find meaning in this chaos.

M dashes are typically used to set off words or phrases: to show a break in thought, to contain an explanatory phrase, or to add something to the end — as I’ve done in this sentence. Keep in mind that if you delete the phrase inside the M dash, the rest of the sentence should flow as a sentence and be grammatically pleasing to my ears:

I have lived in Chicago — it’s hard to believe — for almost 20 years.
All of my favorite foods — salmon, fruit, vegetables, salad — were on the table.

N dashes, smaller than M dashes, are used to show a range between numbers and to indicate that the words connected by the N dash should be seen as a unit:

She was probably 35–40 years old.
My birthday lasts from November 1–30.
This is a New York City–based problem. (Use an N dash here, not a hyphen; if you use a hyphen, it’s a “city-based problem.” The N dash shows that “New York City” is all part of the hyphenated phrase.)

Hyphens are often used to split words by syllables, to join elements, to join
adjectives, etc.:

According to East of Eden’s intro, John Steinbeck grew up in an agricultural valley.
He is a 25-year-old man.
This is a long-term assignment.

Time to dash.

From,

My English Quarters

http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Here, There, Everywhere

Most people I know use these phrases incorrectly, so be different: Be grammatically correct.

The phrases in question are there is, there are, here is, and here are. To decide whether to use the singular or plural form of the verb, please look at the noun that follows is or are — or rearrange the sentence to check yourself:

There’s tons of people at Bob’s house” should be “There are tons of people at Bob’s house.” To check yourself, rearrange the sentence: “Tons of people are at Bob’s house.”

Here’s some movies” should be “Here are some movies.” To check yourself, rearrange the sentence: “Some movies are here.

People everywhere (Hallie, in particular) will benefit from your correct use of (t)here is and (t)here are. A couple of lines up I learned that there are some movies here, so let’s start watching them.

From,
My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Who Whom What When Where Why HOW?

You can use who and whom anywhere and anytime you like; just use them correctly, especially around me, but I won’t say anything if you don’t because I don’t correct other people’s grammar in public, except here.

Who is generally used for the subject case; whom is typically used for the object case. To check your usage, invert the sentence/question:

SUBJECT CASE: I, you, he, she, it, we, you (plural), they
Who (subject case): Who had a wonderful time at the holiday party?
Who is the subject of the sentence. Invert the question: Mary (She) had a wonderful time at the party. Mary is the subject of the sentence and substitutes for who (subject case).

I didn’t know who was going with us.
Although who is the subject of a phrase that serves as the direct object for I don’t knowwho is the subject of was going, so you would say “I didn’t know she was going with us.”

OBJECT CASE: me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them
Whom (object case): He gave the book to Jen (to her).
Invert the sentence: To whom (object case, which substitutes for her) did he give the book?

She is talking to John (him).
To whom (object case) is she talking? Also, to John is a prepositional phrase, and John is the object of the preposition to.

Who’s ready for whose?

From,
My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Wishing You Were Here

To make myself even more fascinating at a swanky cocktail party (the likes to which I am constantly invited), I started chatting about the present unreal conditional. Waxing philosophical(ly), I soon realized that my audience were in over their heads, so I promised them each that their secret wish to learn more about this spectacularly fascinating topic was my command, and I’m a woman of my word(s)…

In grammar, imaginative conditional sentences express hypothetical conditions or conditions the speaker views as not factual or untrue. They may be dreams or wishes, or they could express advice. Here we use the subjunctive verb form — the simple past tense — in the “if” clause — but we use were, not was, for the verb be (and that includes using were with I, he, she, it”). For the present unreal conditional, as its title suggests, the situation is in the present and not real.

wish John were more interested in his studies. (Present unreal conditional.) If John were more interested in his studies, he would get good grades, but John isn’t interested in his studies, so he doesn’t get good grades.

Hallie wishes George Clooney were living nearby. (Present unreal conditional.) If George Clooney were living nearby, Hallie could see him often, but George Clooney doesn’t live nearby, so Hallie never sees him in person.

Hallie wishes that the present unreal conditional didn’t [simple past tense here!] cause all of these difficulties. (Present unreal conditional.) If it didn’t cause these difficulties, more people would understand it, but it does cause difficulties, so more people don’t understand it.

I wish the present unreal conditional were easy, but I hope this explanation helps you speak properly and engage in more meaningful dialogue at yet another soiree. Grammar can improve your social life — and even save you from what might otherwise have been a headache-igniting, eardrum-busting conversation.

From,
My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Reality Check

To quote one of my readers, “If I was you, I’d write slang all the time. That’d be awesome!”

While a compliment, this quote causes me to shriek. However, at the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, I indeed thanked that person for writing so little while also providing me with yet another blog post: imaginative conditional sentences — a rich, absorbing, and complicated area in English grammar. (His use of the word awesome deserves its own blog. I will tackle that problem later.)

In grammar, imaginative conditional sentences express hypothetical conditions or conditions the speaker views as not factual. They may be dreams or wishes, or they could express advice. Here, we use the subjunctive verb form — the simple past tense — in the “if” clause, but we use were, not was, for the verb be.

For the present unreal conditional, as its title suggests, the situation is in the present and the situation is not real:

If I had enough vacation days, I would spend time in Hawaii. (Unfortunately, the situation is in the present tense and is not real: I don’t have enough vacation days, so I won’t be spending time in Hawaii.)

If Alex were motivated, he’d pursue his dreams. (Poor thing. Alex isn’t motivated, so he doesn’t pursue his dreams.) Note: As I previously stated, were is used instead of was for the conditional.

If Hal knew how to drive to Bob’s house, they wouldn’t be arguing now. (Nevertheless, Hal knows not how to drive to Bob’s house, so they’re arguing now.)

At your next brunch, if you grow weary of the bland conversation and are desperate to revive yourself and the others with whom you are brunching, inject your perspective on the present unreal conditional into your repartee. I’m sure your hobnobbers (aka chums, posse, what have you) will have no choice but to conclude you are a fascinating person — and what seemed like mere chitchat before will now border on the philosophical.

If I were you, I’d do it.

From,
My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt
312.285.8429

A Good Night’s Sleep

Here’s my highly awaited wisdom on the single-/double-quote dilemma, which has probably plagued you daily and interrupted your every-night’s sleep. I can assure you my wisdom is worth the wait.

Single Quotations are used for:

A quote within a quote: “Erica said, ‘I’ll never marry again,’ but I don’t believe her,” I said at the time, and she went on to marry and divorce for the fifth time.

A title of a song, radio program, TV episode, etc., within a quote: “I like the song ‘Yesterday’ better than the song ‘Anticipation’!” squealed Bob.

Double Quotations are used for:

A direct quote: “Mom, please come get me!” Roberta screamed.

Titles of songs, TV episodes, book chapters: “Yesterday” is one of the most famous songs in the world. The I Love Lucy episode “Ricky Loses His Voice” was on Channel 312 this morning. Alex can’t wait to read “Is Your Voice Out of Tune?” (Chapter 2) of his book Music Forever.

Now you can rest in peace.

From,
My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429

Be Bold!

Peak of health Pink of health
Predominately Predominantly
Prolong the inevitable Delay the inevitable
Ramsack Ransack
Reason is because/reason why Reason is (that)
Rebel rouser Rabble rouser
Same difference (This is just illogical slang)
Snuck Sneaked
Spitting image Spit and image
Stain glass Stained glass
Theirselves Themselves
Unchartered territory Uncharted territory
Undoubtably Undoubtedly
Unloosen Loosen
Unthaw Thaw
Very unique Unique (meaning: one of a kind)
Visa versa Vice versa
Wait on Wait for (a waiter “waits on” you)
Wet your appetite Whet your appetite
Wimbleton Wimbledon
Wish he would have Wish he had
If I would have known If I had known / Had I known
Without further adieu Without further ado
Worse comes to worse Worse comes to worst
Worse-case scenario Worst-case scenario

Now, you know what you have to do: Use these bold dillies at cocktail parties — stressing the vowels, consonants, and words in question — if you desire that others eschew you.

From,
My English Quarters
http://www.beltstyles.com
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English
312.285.8429