The 10 grammar ‘mistakes’ you probably didn’t know were right 7



View Profile

Are you a grammar police? Correcting other people’s grammar can be a good thing, like upholding the quality of the language. But be careful, some ‘rules’ of English grammar which you’ve probably held on to for years, may be down right wrong. According to Lifehacker, here are popular grammar ‘mistakes’ people love correcting that are actually correct.

1. Saying “I am good” when someone asks “How are you?”

“I am good” is actually preferable to saying “I am well” unless you’re speaking specifically about your health,” says Mignon Fogarty who wrote ‘Good Versus Well’But it’s hard to get this wrong as it’s a widely used response here in Australia when we’re asked by family, friends and everyone at the supermarket.

2. Splitting infinitives

While some English grammarians, notably Henry Alford in his 1864 book ‘The Queen’s English’, have argued against splitting infinitives, it is not a rule. In fact, sometimes avoiding a split infinitive is downright awkward.

3. Using “over” instead of “more than” to indicate greater numerical value

Even though you’ve been using “more than” to describe a greater amount, like “The stables housed more than a thousand horses,” and “over” to discuss greater spacial dimensions i.e. “The mountain was over 6,096.00m tall,” the Associated Press has announced that “more than” and “over” are now both acceptable ways to indicate greater numerical value.

4. Using “preventative” to mean “preventive”

“Preventative” is considered a perfectly acceptable variant of preventive, one that has been in use for centuries. Grammarist notes that preventive/preventative is just one of many -tive/-tative word pairs that remain inconsistently used, no matter how often the head linguistic honchos try to saddle them with rules.

5. Using “that” instead of “who” as a pronoun to refer to a person

Which one do you think is correct? “That crazy lady who is writing about grammar,” or “That crazy lady that is writing about grammar,”? According to Patricia T. O’Conner’s grammar primer Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, either form is correct. Apparently, this is more a question of style than of rules.

6. Using words like “slow” and “quick” as adverbs

Mignon Fogarty points out in “Slow” is what’s known as a flat adverb, meaning that it functions as an adverb despite lacking an -ly ending. So when you see road signs say, “Drive Slow”, it’s not wrong.

7. Ending a sentence with a preposition

Catherine Soanes who wrote on the Oxford Dictionary blog says that not ending a sentence with a preposition is a “fetish” rather than a rule. Here, she offers four examples of when it is perfectly alright (and perhaps even preferable) to end one’s sentence with a preposition:

a) Passive structures (she enjoys being fussed over)
b) Relative clauses (they must be convinced of the commitment that they are taking on)
c) Infinitive structures (Tom had no-one to play with)
d) Questions beginning with who, where, what, etc. (what music are you interested in?)

8. Treating “data” as singular instead of plural

In daily speech, we frequently use data as what’s called a “mass noun,” meaning it has no natural boundary, no individual units that we can count. Charles Carson, managing editor of the journal American Speech, uses “butter” as an example of a mass noun. Sure, you can talk about pats of butter or cups of butter, but when you talk about just butter, you say, “How much butter is in the pie crust?”

9. Using “they” as a singular pronoun

Some modern English usage guides do list “they” as an acceptable singular pronoun and, in the name of evolving language and Fogarty actually recommends that people writing style guides make “they” an acceptable singular.

10. Starting a sentence with “hopefully”

There are people who insist that “hopefully” has one meaning and one meaning only: “in a hopeful manner.” They argue that, in the sentence, “Hopefully, Lauren will stop this inane grammar lesson soon,” that “Lauren” would be stopping “in a hopeful manner.” In 2012, the Associate Press changed its style guidelines to allow writers to start a sentence with “hopefully” to mean “I am hopeful that something will happen.”

Have you been making these mistakes too? How do you feel when someone corrects your grammar?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. While LifeHacker was busy checking out the grammar perhaps they could have also checked out their spelling. Spatial is the correct form of the adjective about space.

  2. I’m sorry, but after over 40 years in Oz (from UK), I still cringe when I hear people say they are good in reply to “How are you?”. I may be good or I may be bad, but if I’m responding to a question as to how I am, I still say, “Very well, thank you”. Unfortunately I notice from UK and US tv programs that the “good” usage now seems to be accepted everywhere. Did they learn it from Australia? Or has it just evolved?

    3 REPLY
    • I don’t say either of the options. “Great” works for me. It is positive, and actually makes me feel better.

    • We are colonials remember. We have our ways of speech also. Sorry cringe all you like.

    • Personally, I don’t like ‘good’ that seems to refer to character, nor ‘well’ that seems to refer to health.

      I usually say ‘Fine, thank you!’ to reply to an acquaintance or previously unknown person (e.g. business person or checkout operator), or ‘Wonderful, thanks!’ to friends or family.

  3. I agree with Judith Lowe. Makes me cringe as well. Actually, I disagree with most of the list. Just because incorrect grammar is increasingly misused, doesn’t make it right. Verbs used as adverbs is just plain incorrect.

    1 REPLY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *