GRAMMAR: MZB's Pet Peeves

(grammar I learned in fifth grade)

Marion Zimmer Bradley

6 Apr 2009

Here is a collection of the mistakes in grammar I see most often. Reading slush today makes me aware of the advantages I had that children nowadays lack -- a good grade school education and no television. -- MZB


it's/its

This one gets first place because it's the mistake I see most often in my slush pile.
"It's" is a contraction of "It is." "Its" is the possessive form of "it" and does not have an apostrophe any more than mine, yours, his, hers, etc.

lay/lie

"Lay" needs an object, i.e. "I lay the book on the table." "Lie" does not, so it's "I lie down", or "I lay myself down."

less/fewer

If you can count it; it's "fewer." So you can have "less salt" or "fewer grains of salt." Despite what they say in advertising, you cannot have "less calories" -- it's fewer calories, as all of us who count them know.

like/as

This is another one we can thank the ad agencies for. There used to be a slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." (This, of course, in addition to being grammatically incorrect, is an oxymoron -- any cigarette tastes terrible.) After enough people protested that it should be "as a cigarette should" the ad agency came up with its next slogan: "What do you want -- good grammar or good taste?" For me, definitely good grammar.

to/too/two

To is used as part of a verb or as a preposition (to go to the fair).
Too is used interchangeably with also or in expressions such as "too many."
Two is a whole number greater than one and less than three.

PRONOUN CHART
a) The 2nd Person Singular Familiar (thou, etc.) is generally not used in modern English. You may encounter it in songs, prayers, and poetry.
b) Possessive pronouns are given in two forms, which are used as follows:
    1) It is my book.
    2) The book is mine.
c) Reflexive pronouns are used ONLY to refer back to the subject. "I cut my hair myself" is correct. "If you have any questions, ask Jim or myself" is NOT correct.

Person/Number Subjective Objective Possessive Reflexive
1st/Singular I me my, mine myself
2nd/Singular you
thou
you
thee
your, yours
thy, thine
yourself
thyself
3rd/Singular he
she
it
him
her
it
his
her, hers
its
himself
herself
itself
1st/Plural we us our, ours ourselves
2nd/Plural you you your, yours yourselves
3rd/Plural they them their, theirs themselves


Marion Zimmer Bradley's home page