English Grammar

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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It's fair enough to say that bad English grammar gets noticed. It's been known, after all, to lose people their jobs, inspire letters to the editor, and generally embarrass the writer. Sneaking quietly away is difficult. I've tried. More often than not, you need to explain yourself, however feebly. This, by the way, is a good reason to never sign anything you write and take a pass on bylines if you publish.

Mark Twain made pretty much the same observation some years back a bit more colorfully (of course). "Ignorant people think it's the noise fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so. It's the sickening grammar they use." A quick review of English grammar certainly pays off in the long run. It includes, however, a quick tally on punctuation--especially the comma and the semicolon--that serve it so well. It also opens a Pandora's Box of spelling.

English is a rich and vibrant little language, but dicey when it comes to spelling. In German, for example, if you can pronounce a word, you can spell it. If you can spell it, you can pronounce it. In English, however, spelling and pronunciation are related only by marriage, on a former step-parent's side. But I digress from grammar, which also has a bizarre relationship with spelling.

English Grammar Trivia

Decidedly something of an oddball, English is in fact related to most European and western Asian languages. Three qualities make it unique. One is its open vocabulary. Another is flexible function, that is, using nouns as verbs and so forth. Third is its relative lack of inflection, quite unlike French, Russian, Greek, and German. This, interestingly, pairs it with Chinese and Vietnamese. That said, the closest cousin English grammar has among the living languages is Frisian, which is spoken in a single Dutch province.

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