Category Archives: grammar

Some tautological sayings



Tautology is using words that mean the same thing in a sentence, that do not add anything further. An example is ‘widow woman’. I am going to talk about some tautological things that people say and write today.

So let’s begin.

 I heard someone on the radio talk about a ‘small, little…’ Can you have anything little that’s not small? I have heard this on several occasions. Never, though, a ‘large, big…’ that I can remember.
‘Reverse back’ is another one frequently heard. Have you ever seen anyone reverse forwards? I haven’t.
‘Repeat again.’ Now this one can be used, but only if the thing has been said (or done) at least twice. Repeat means to do it again. The ‘again’ is in the word itself.
 One that irritates me, and is very frequently used these days is ‘Various different…’ Have you ever come across things that varied but were the same?
‘Fall down’, although frequently used in everyday life, is none the less tautological. You can’t ‘fall up’, so the ‘down’ is unnecessary. This is one that writers should watch out for.
Close proximity. If it’s in proximity, it’s close!
 Necessary requirement. If it’s not necessary, it’s not a requirement.
PIN number. Since PIN stands for Personal Identification Number, saying PIN number is saying ‘personal identification number number.’
 We see, in advertising, ‘Your Free Gift’ Well, if it’s not free, it’s not a gift, and if it’s a gift, then obviously it’s free.
Thought to myself. Writers beware. Unless telepathic, you can only think to yourself. Telepaths are a very rare commodity, I think.
 Finally, one heard on a snooker programme. The graphic showed a circular spot where the player wanted the cue ball to end up, and the commentator mentioned a ’round circle.’ Anyone know any circles that are not round?

I would love to hear any others you can think of. I know there are so many. Please add comments in the comments box.

Words That Don’t Follow Normal Plural Rules


Today I’m going to discuss a few words that don’t form the plural by adding the letter ‘s’. These words come mainly from foreign ‘imports’, although a lot are very old. Some people are confused by these words and use the plural as a singular.
So here we go.

 Singular: Bacterium        Plural: Bacteria
 Singular: Phenomenon        Plural: Phenomena
 Singular: Medium            Plural: Media
 Singular: Datum            Plural: Data
 Singular: Criterion            Plural: Criteria
 Singular: Cactus            Plural: Cacti
 Singular: Fungus            Plural: Fungi
 Singular: Stadium            Plural: Stadia
 Singular: Nucleus            Plural: Nuclei
 Singular: Syllabus            Plural: Syllabi
 Singular: Focus            Plural: Foci
 Singular: Thesis            Plural: Theses
 Singular: Crisis            Plural: Crises
 Singular: Index            Plural: Indices
 Singular: Appendix        Plural: Appendices

It is becoming more acceptable to hear ‘stadiums’, ‘syllabuses’ and ‘indexes’, although they grate on me, personally, but my least favourites are when I hear ‘criteria’, ‘bacteria’, ‘fungi’ and ‘phenomena’ used as singular nouns. Grrrrr!

Now for some that don’t change for the plural.

 sheep
 deer
 fish (although the word ‘fishes’ can be used if referring to a number of different types of the creatures. e.g. There was a great variety of fishes swimming around on the reef.)
 aircraft
 moose
 offspring
 species
 salmon
 trout

Now what about those that are completely different in the plural? Here we have the following:

 Singular: Child            Plural: Children
 Singular: Man            Plural: Men
 Singular: Woman            Plural: Women
 Singular: Mouse            Plural: Mice
 Singular: Goose            Plural: Geese (N.B. The plural of ‘mongoose’ is not ‘mongeese’, but ‘mongooses’. Wierd, I know, but that’s the English language for you.)
 Singular: Die             Plural: Dice
 Singular: Foot             Plural: Feet
 Singular: Louse             Plural: Lice
 Singular: Ox             Plural: Oxen
 Singular: Person             Plural: People
 Singular: Tooth             Plural: Teeth

I hope this has helped some of you, at least. I would like to know if there are any I’ve forgotten, or about any that personally grate on you when you hear them misused.


Some common Grammar mistakes.

I apologise for being a few hours late with this week’s blog.


Today’s post is from Clancy Tucker’s blog

I found I couldn’t reblog it as it stands so I copied and pasted it instead. I hope Clancy doesn’t mind. I asked him about reblogging and he said it was fine, but his reblog only goes to Blogger.

Do visit his blog. It’s very interesting. He posts on a variety of things including some of his photography, which is wonderful, information about famous people, historical events, British slang and of course, grammar mistakes.


G’day folks,

None of us are perfect in the English language. I often see mistakes, especially spelling mistakes on advertisements, and on TV. Here are a few that might help, courtesy of Jon Gingerich.


Who and Whom

This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with “him,” “her,” “it”, “us,” and “them.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.

Which and That 

This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring.  e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential. e.g., I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. e.g., The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine.


 Lay and Lie

This is the crown jewel of all grammatical errors. “Lay” is a transitive verb. It requires a direct subject and one or more objects. Its present tense is “lay” (e.g., I lay the pencil on the table) and its past tense is “laid” (e.g., Yesterday I laid the pencil on the table). “Lie” is an intransitive verb. It needs no object. Its present tense is “lie” (e.g., The Andes mountains lie between Chile and Argentina) and its past tense is “lay” (e.g., The man lay waiting for an ambulance). The most common mistake occurs when the writer uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” (e.g., I laid on the bed) when he/she actually means the intransitive past tense of “lie” (e.g., I lay on the bed).


Clancy’s comment: Hope these help.

Strange English spellings




Today is a day when I address some things about our beautiful, interesting, but strange language.

There are many words in English that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. Also there are words pronounced the same, but spelled differently. Then there are words that are the same in spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings, depending on context.

The strangest, in my opinion, are words ending in -ough.

We have:

 Though, pronounced ‘tho’
 Bough, pronounced ‘bow’. (although that in itself has different pronunciations)
 Enough, pronounced ‘enuf’
 Thought, pronounced ‘thort’
 Through, pronounced ‘threw’

No wonder foreigners have some difficulty with it, although (another one, similar to ‘though’, here) it seems they are able to manage quite well if the number of foreigners who speak the language extremely well is anything to go by.

I was in an Italian restaurant in Germany and was greatly amused to see the German waiter speaking to a French customer in English. This also happened when I was in Croatia. The Croatian receptionist spoke to a visitor I think was Russian in English. These strange inconsistencies seem not to faze them, even if they confuse some native speakers!

20 commonly mis-spelled words

Here are some commonly misspelled words in English. 113biggestbookdubai

 Acceptable, not Acceptible
 Accessible, not Accessable
 Achieved, not Acheived
 Acquire, not aquire
 Analysis, not Analasis
 Business, not Busness
 Ceiling, not Cieling
 Consistent, not Consistant
 Definite, not Definate
 Discipline, not Disipline
 Exhilarate, not Exilarate
 Exceed, not Exeed
 Forfeit, not Forfit (or Forfiet)
 February, not Febuary
 Height, not hight (or hieght)
 Heirarchy, not Hierarchy (or Hirarchy)
 Independent, not Independant
 Inoculate, not Innoculate
 Leisure, not Liesure
 Liaise, not Liase

English is a very odd language as far as spelling is concerned. This is because it has words and roots from many other languages. There are still a few Celtic words, although not very many. Then the Romans came bringing Latin.


Latin was the language of scholars and it is only within living memory that it was a requirement to gain entry to Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England. The Roman Catholic Church used Latin in its services until comparatively recently, and many mottos are still in Latin.


After the Romans left these isles, we were invaded by Scandinavian. These brought their own languages with them. Today, in Scotland in particular, there are many words similar, if not the same, as those in the Scandinavian languages. Dialect words often very old and date back to those languages.

There were also the Saxons. they brought Germanic languages to this country and we have many words that are very similar to the German equivalent. An example is Mutter, meaning Mother, and Haus, meaning House.


After the Saxons came the Normans. They were, incidentally the last people to successfully invade these isles. This was in 1066. They brought French. The Normans became the ruling classes and spoke French. The workers spoke Anglo-Saxon. This explains why we have differences in the names of food we eat and the animals it comes from.

The French for a bull is Boeuf from which comes Beef. But in the field it is called a Bull, cow or in the plural, cattle.


The French for a sheep is Mouton, from which comes Mutton, but in the field it’s still the old word, sheep.

The French for a calf is Veau from whence we get Veal.

You get the picture.

Then Dutch engineers were brought in to drain what is now the Fens in East Anglia and they brought words with them. The British Empire was a source of words too, especially India.

So our language is something of a hotch-potch, hence the different spellings and pronunciation.

I will add to these words in a future blog. I hope you find this useful.

4 More Pairs of Commonly Confused Words

Even More Commonly Confused Words

I was reading the BT news the other day. Their journalists ought to read this blog I think because they keep making errors. The first one here I noticed a couple of days ago.

The article headline said something like ‘A sneak peak at…’
Peak, of course is the top of a mountain, while Peek is a quick glimpse of something. Perhaps there was a mountain hiding behind another, or a very sly one that was hiding, but I doubt it.

To, Too and Two.
This frequently appears in comments by people, and also in, I’m afraid to say, posts by writers.
To indicates movement towards as in ‘He gave the parcel to me.’
Too is an excess of something. ‘I had eaten too much and so I felt ill.’
I don’t often see Two misused. It is, of course the number. ‘Two buses passed me before the one I wanted arrived.’

This can be a tricky one.
Breath is a noun and is what you take.
‘The doctor told me to take a deep breath.’
Breathe is a verb and is what you do.
‘The room seemed airless and I was finding it hard to breathe.’

Baring (bare)/Bearing(bear)
Another one from BT news.
Baring is the act of making bare, or naked. It is also used when revealing truths.
‘Baring all, the spy held nothing back in his interrogation.’
‘She removed her clothes, baring all.’
Bearing is carrying. (or of course, a large mammal living in the northern regions of the planet.)
‘The messenger arrived bearing the news of the king’s death.’

Then there is the problem of the past tense of these verbs. The past tense of Bear is Bore.
‘She bore the news that she had not got the job with equinamity.’
BUT, the past tense of Bare is Bared.
‘During the investigation, the criminal bared all.’

How to use collective nouns correctly

I have recently been a little irritated by people’s use of collective nouns, or rather the use of the verb with them. Many people seem to think that it should always be a plural verb.

Now, collective nouns do refer to a number of things, but these things are ‘collected’ into one, hence the name ‘collective nouns.’

When I was a little girl at school, we learned a lot of collective nouns:

a FLOCK of sheep
a HERD of cows
a MURDER of crows (I particularly liked this one.)
a CHARM of larks

There are also a great many more. They all refer to a GROUP of people or things. Here are some more examples.


You get the idea? Each of those things are made up of a number of people, animals or things. The problem arises as to whether the verb that is with it should be singular or plural.

What has been annoying me recently is that many people, and educated ones too, are using the plural all the time with these nouns when they should be using the singular.

The rule is that if they are acting as a group, all doing the same thing, then the noun takes the singular verb, but if they are acting as individuals, then the verb should be plural.

I’ll give you some examples.

One is in a song for Manchester United Football Club. The fans sing ‘United ARE the team for me.’ now, they are all playing a game of football, and all the players are acting together (one would hope) in order to wim that game. The team is acting as a unit. Therefore the song should be ‘United IS the team for me.’

When the match is over, the players are no longer acting together. They are going home to their separate families and so now we say ‘The team are all going home.’

Here is another. When a flock of sheep sees the sheepdogs coming, they bunch together and run in the same direction to try to get away from them. They are all acting together to try to escape this perceived threat. This time it is correct to say ‘The flock WAS driven towards the gate by the sheepdogs so that it could eat the new grass.’ Note the use of the singular pronoun too.

When they are through the gate and in the pasture, the sheep will spread around, each one grazing, but not acting as a unit. Therefore we use the plural and say ‘The flock are now eating the new grass and they seem to be enjoying it.’ Here the verb and pronoun are plural because the sheep are acting as individuals.

I hope this has helped you to sort out these problems. Grammar can be a bit tricky at times, but I think it is important. People generally do not complain about correct grammar, but incorrect grammar can make a reader stop reading a book, and not buy any others by that author. They also tell other people not to bother. I know, I have done it myself.

Another downside of poor grammar is when applying for jobs. If your grammar is poor, your letter will go straight in the bin.

Please leave a comment by clicking on the comment button. I love reading what you have to say, and answering you.