“None of them is” or “None of them are?”

Which of the following is correct:

It’s ok! None of the coffee is on my shirt!

I called the guys, and none of them is coming.

I called the guys, and none of them are coming.

(Oh man, usually when he asks Which one is correct? they’re all correct and he expects us to amazed. Watch)

Well, you might actually be amazed to find out that they’re all correct!

(*sigh* See?)

But why are they all correct?

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Who’da Thunk it!?

The English language has a complicated relationship with rules. Almost every major grammar rule you can think has at least a few exceptions. But then there are a few unwritten rules that English speakers adhere strictly to, even when we’re not aware of it. Still, English isn’t generally a stickler for the rules, which makes sense considering it’s quite a mongrel language. This is why I prefer to think of English as having patterns and trends, as opposed to rules. Today, I want to look at one of those trends. To do so, I’ll begin by asking you to consider what the following words have in common:

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“How Does he Smell?” “Terrible!” or: Is it “Feel Bad” or “Feel Badly?”

Or should that be terribly? This is something that can be confusing for native speakers, and I’ve noticed recently more and more people getting into tangles with this area of language. Which ironically, I think, is due to people having more knowledge about language than before. First of all though, what aspect of language are we talking about here?

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Look, but Don’t Watch

I’d like to continue on the theme of difficulties students can have in learning English. Only the difficulty I want to look at today is one that’s shared by teachers, in a way, though in a different way. Something we’re not usually conscious of is how many verbs in our native language are very similar. We don’t have to think about the subtleties of difference between them, because we grow up absorbing how to use them correctly. But for learners, it can be extremely difficult to figure out exactly how and when to use them.

For example, think about the verbs, to talk, to speak, to say, and to tell. Take a moment to think about how you’d explain them to someone who’s unfamiliar with how to use them. Not easy, I’ll bet. Now I’ll try to make the differences clear. Continue reading

Daily Prompt: Protest

via Daily Prompt: Protest

What’s the difference between the following words in bold:

I’d like to protest about my treatment!

I’m going to a protest about the treatment of refugees tomorrow.

If you’re linguistically minded, or simply very smart, you may have answered that even though they look identical, the first one is a verb, and the second a noun. You can tell from the context of the sentences. But if you were listening to someone recite those sentences, there’d be another clue to help you know the difference. Think about how you’d say both, or say them both out loud, if it’s not too embarrassing, and see if you can figure out the clue.

If you’re still not sure of the difference, here’s a visual aid: Continue reading

S: the Story of a Letter

If you’re a native English speaker, you probably don’t think about individual letters too often. Why would you? You use them pretty much automatically. So if I asked you to talk about the letter s, you might not have much to say. But for people who have to learn English, it’s quite important, and can prove to be a tricky little customer.

The first area of confusion is with plurals. Most languages don’t add s to make a plural, like English does, so it can be very hard for speakers of those languages to remember to add the s. Even when some languages do add an s, it’s in a slightly different way. Portuguese and Spanish, for example, often add an s to a noun to make it plural. But, they also add an s to adjectives describing those nouns, leading a lot of Portuguese and Spanish speakers to do the same thing in English. French is similar, but the s is generally silent, meaning that a lot of French speakers don’t pronounce it even if they write it.

But the most common area of error is with third-person singular verbs. That might sound like gibberish, but let me demonstrate: Continue reading