Comparatives and superlatives

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on June 9, 2011. Two recent related questions prompted this post: one on whether “funner” is a word, and one on “stupider” vs. “more stupid.” (Thanks, @kellidubya and @joshwood) These forms are called comparatives: adjectives that, as the name implies, indicate a comparison between two entities, times, states of being,…

Nutty non-rules of grammar

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on April 18, 2011. Recently I got a voice mail message from a reader saying that the verb “rise” could be used only with animate subjects, and thus our headline “Speed limit may rise to 75 mph” was incorrect, and it should have said “Speed limit may be raised to…

Why we need grammar

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on March 4, 2011. On this day each year, March 4, we celebrate National Grammar Day, a chance to honor grammar in all its glory. But why should grammar get a holiday? Why is it even important at all? A couple of recent discussions inspired me to think about why…

Why we need hyphens

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Feb. 25, 2011. One of the regular features we do on Twitter is “Why we need hyphens”: phrases that have different meanings depending on whether there’s a hyphen. These usually occur when a noun has a compound modifier, that is, a modifier that is made up of more than…

None of the above

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Feb. 3, 2011. People have asked whether “none” is a singular or plural, and occasionally we’ve had readers write in to complain that we’ve used it wrong. The good news is that “none” can be both singular and plural. The bad news is that the distinction can get a…

Portmanteaus: Word mashups

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Jan. 19, 2011. This cake is choctacular! “A Lick and a Promise” is a mockumentary about stamp collecting. We’re doing a webinar on knot-tying. These three sentences contain what linguists call “portmanteau words” or “portmanteaus,” which are basically word mashups: Take two existing words that you want to combine…

Putting up with phrasal verbs

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Jan. 10, 2011. Some languages add prefixes, infixes or suffixes to verbs to change the meaning. For example, in Russian the word for “go” can change through prefixes into “go in,” “go out,” “go around,” “go across,” “go over,” “go under” and so on. Each one is still a…

What is an appositive, anyway?

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Dec. 13, 2010. So we’ve done participles and gerunds, and because @glamAtude asked whether we could talk about appositives, here we go: An appositive is a word or phrase that follows a noun and gives more information about it. It can be a single noun: Her new puppy, Paperboy,…

Which one? What kind?

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Dec. 6, 2010. Which” and “what” each have more than one function in English, but what we’re talking about in this post is when they’re used as interrogative adjectives, that is, in front of nouns in a question: Which theater did you say that movie was at? What show…

One of those people

Originally published on Grammar Monkeys on Nov. 22, 2010. Are you one of those people who cringe — or is it “cringes”? — at misused apostrophes? Or is your favorite desk dinner one of those microwave meals that stinks — or is it “stink”? — up the whole office? Sentences with “one of those” can…