Your community matters

The English language and how we use it

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.

Posted

My mother was an English teacher and, were she alive today, she would be among those appalled at some of the grammar currently in use and generally accepted by many people.

I think who and whom was a lost cause long ago, and his and hers has pretty much morphed into their, even when used with a singular subject like everyone (OK, that should probably be “such as” instead of like, but I don’t claim to be a perfect grammarian). He and I has about given way to me and him, along with me and you instead of you and I.

I find the use of ”myself” in place of “I” rather grating, but it has become so common, I am about to get used to it, and “Where’s he at?” is heard much more often than “Where is he?”

Then there is the difference between “between and among.” I learned that between is used for two items, and among for three or more. Apparently, not so. More accurately, between is used when naming distinct individual items (two, three, or more) and among is used when three or more items are part of a group.

But perhaps the thing that causes the most trouble is a whole bunch of little words that start with “l.” Lay and lie are probably the most baffling. Somehow the mnemonic, “People lie, chickens lay” has gotten lost and people seem to lay around all the time and seldom lie, meaning to recline, although often lie meaning to tell an untruth.

The proper use of lead and led is another stumper. You can lead a parade, but if you did it in the past, you led it. Besides being in front, the other definition of lead is a metal.

Then there is layed and laid. Although layed is a variant spelling of lay, laid is the traditional word. There is also lain, but let’s not even go there.

Other things you might want to ponder, are: Is there such a word as snuck, or should it really be sneaked? Are which and that interchangeable? How about raise and rise, or leaped and leapt? Hmm?

Jean McCamy is a Wake Forest artist.

Comments