English Like It Is: Right, Wrong and Changing Usage

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About years ago, English began to undergo a major change in the way its vowels were pronounced.

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Overall, seven different vowel sounds were affected. The fact that language is always changing doesn't mean it's getting worse; it's just becoming different. In Old English, a small winged creature with feathers was known as a brid. The speech patterns of young people tend to grate on the ears of adults because they're unfamiliar. But that doesn't mean they're worse - just newer.

If that sounds odd to you now, keep listening; you may be hearing it in your neighborhood before long. By 'correct English', people usually mean Standard English.

What's important to realize is that there's no such thing as a 'sloppy' or 'lazy' dialect. Sentence l follows the rules of Standard English; sentence 2 follows a set of rules present in several other dialects.

Words that used to begin with "n"

Neither is sloppier than the other, they just differ in the rule for making a negative sentence. The rules are different, but neither is more logical or elegant than the other. In fact, Old English regularly used 'double negatives', parallel to what we see in 2. Many modern languages, including Italian and Spanish, either allow or require more than one negative word in a sentence.

Sentences like 2 only sound 'bad' if you didn't happen to grow up speaking a dialect that uses them. Why are split infinitives so bad?

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Here's why: seventeenth-century grammarians believed Latin was the ideal language, so they thought English should be as much like Latin as possible. So today, years later, we're still being taught that sentences like 3 are wrong, all because someone in the 's thought English should be more like Latin. Here's one last example. Over the past few decades, three new ways of reporting speech have appeared:.

If Karen had used different words for the same basic idea, 5 would be appropriate, but 4 would not. Is it a lazy way of talking? Language will never stop changing ; it will continue to respond to the needs of the people who use it.

'in spite of', 'despite', 'although', 'even though' and 'though'

So the next time you hear a new phrase that grates on your ears, remember that like everything else in nature, the English language is a work in progress. Aitcheson, lean. Language Change: Progress or Decay? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bryson, Bill. Mother Tongue: The English Language. New York: Penguin Books.

Search form Search. This is one that drives me up the wall and it's very, very, very common.

10 ways to use the verb 'KEEP' in English

Please, please stop putting in the apostrophe when using "its" in the possessive sense. So this is wrong: "Mary was the one that wanted us to meet today. The difference between these is "that" refers to a defining condition and "which" refers to a non-defining condition. So if someone is trying to gather items for the laundry, you would say, "The shirt that is dirty is on the floor. The word "alright" is much debated in grammatical circles.

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There are many who believe that it is always wrong and "all right" is the only proper usage. Others say "alright" is all right. Why take chances? Use "all right" unless it's an exclamation, say, in response to someone making a basket or landing a big sale. Using "effect" as a verb meaning "to change" is not only wrong, it will set some people's teeth on edge.

To change something is to affect it or have an effect on it. Anyone who's ever told a dog to "Go lay down! So you lay the table or lay out a plan, or even lay me down to sleep, but you don't lay down.

Unfortunately, "lay" is also the past tense of "lie," which makes this harder to get right than it should be. If someone has complete authority to do what they want in a given situation, that's "free rein. I can understand why people think you're giving someone "free reign"--making them monarch--but that's not right.

A representative of a city once told me that his town was "literally exploding" with new business. I--barely--swallowed the impulse to ask if anyone was killed or injured.

Please, please don't use "literally" unless you mean it, well, literally. This error probably has its roots in the contractions "should've" and "could've," which are replacements for "should have" and "could have. They're not. When you're writing, use "should have" and "could have. I'm always getting pitches where someone says they want to "peak" my interest about something. I get why that seems to make sense--they want to bring my interest to the highest possible point. But no, the phrase is "pique" one's interest, meaning to stimulate or provoke.

Similarly, I often read that someone "poured over" a text.