Recently in Grammar Topics Category

Noam Chomsky Talks About Universal Grammar [Video]

By Red5 on Jul 25, 2008 | | 26 Comments

In this video, Noam Chomsky talks about language at Google as part of the Authors@Google series.

In this question and answer session he discusses a number of topics, but the first is about universal grammar in which he provides an in-depth description of how his ideas on universal grammar have evolved over time.

Another interesting question he answers at the end of the session relates to the effect of email, instant messaging and the like on syntax and grammar (TXT Speak). Hear Chomsky's views on whether this is just a natural part of the evolution of language and how it's affecting our minds.

Continue reading Noam Chomsky Talks About Universal Grammar [Video].

Killer Punctuation

By Tdol on Mar 17, 2004 | | 3 Comments

There are many candidates for the worst punctuation ever, but rarely is it actually dangerous. After the Second World War, Lord Haw-Haw, who had made propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis, was hanged because of a comma, or so the story goes.

However, the Metroplitan Police have managed to plumb new depths with bad punctuation and produce advice that tells us to do the opposite of what they want us to do and, if we were to follow what they actually wrote, we could end up getting killed. They have put up posters in London Underground stations informing us of what to do if we see an unattended package (a bag or something that has been left):

Don't touch, check with other passengers, inform station staff or dial 999.

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Was & Were in English dialects

By Tdol on Dec 4, 2003 | | 22 Comments

Many newspapers have been carrying transcripts from a trial here in the UK recently and there are a number of examples of a dialectal usage of the verb 'be' quoted that would be marked wrong if a student used them in an exam, yet they are common enough in many areas of England, particularly in the Midlands and the North, as well as among Cockneys.

It would seem that something that conjugates quite simply on paper does not conform so simply in practice.

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Apples and Orange's

By Tdol on Nov 25, 2003 | | 30 Comments

The so-called grocer's apostrophe, where it is used incorrectly in plurals, is one of the most common mistakes made by native speakers in English. Why is it that something so simple causes so many problem? The apostrophe only has two functions, yet it seems that many people leave school with little or no idea of either of them.

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Is it time to call a truce on 'less' + plural?

By Tdol on Nov 9, 2003 | | 35 Comments

The use of 'less people', etc, is now so common in British English that there seems little point in claiming it is an error. Should it still be taught as wrong?

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Avenge

By Tdol on Oct 17, 2003 | | 9 Comments

I read this in my newspaper today; is it wrong?

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Phrasal Verbs

By Red5 on Oct 6, 2003 | | 8 Comments

We have just added a mini-dictionary of phrasal verbs containing a few hundred of the most common phrasal verbs with definitions and examples.

http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/phrasal-verbs.html

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Is English an easy language to learn?

By Tdol on Aug 31, 2003 | | 112 Comments

I have often heard people saying that English is an easy language to learn. I have also heard that Chinese is the most difficult, and many speakers of languages are proud to say that their language is one of the hardest of all. But is this true? Are some languages harder than others?

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Unstressed Forms

By Tdol on Aug 18, 2003 | | 8 Comments

There is a lot of hostility towards unstressed forms in some circles, where they are regarded as non-standard or 'sloppy' English. However, the learner in an English-speaking country will hear native speakers using all sorts of contractions in their speech. Does this conservative view of English pronunciation help or hinder students?

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Descriptivist Grammar

By Tdol on Aug 8, 2003 | | 8 Comments

The idea behind descriptivist grammar is that forms that are used by a substantial part of the speech community are accepted and recognised, but the truth is often far from this.

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