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English Grammar In A Nutshell
Who and whom are used in relation to persons, and which in relation to
things. But it was once common to say, the man which. This should now
be avoided. It is now usual to say, Our Father who art in heaven,
instead of which art in heaven.
Whose is, however, sometimes applied to things as well as to persons. We
may therefore say, The country whose inhabitants are free.
Thou is employed in solemn discourse, and you in common language. Ye
(plural) is also used in serious addresses, and you in familiar
The uses of the word it are various, and very perplexing to the
uneducated. It is not only used to imply persons, but things, and even
ideas, and therefore in speaking or writing, its assistance is
constantly required. The perplexity respecting this word arises from the
fact that in using it in the construction of a long sentence, sufficient
care is not taken to insure that when it is employed it really points
out or refers to the object intended. For instance, It was raining when
John set out in his cart to go to market, and he was delayed so long
that it was over before he arrived. Now what is to be understood by
this sentence: Was the rain over? or the market? Either or both might be
inferred from the construction of the sentence, which, therefore, should
be written thus: It was raining when John set out in his cart to go to
market, and he was delayed so long that the market was over before he
Rule--After writing a sentence always look through it, and see that
wherever the word it is employed, it refers to or carries the mind back
to the object which it is intended to point out.
The general distinction between this and that may be thus defined: this
denotes an object present or near, in time or place; that something
which is absent.
These refers, in the same manner, to present objects, while those refers
to things that are remote.
Who changes, under certain conditions, into whose and whom; but that and
which always remain the same, with the exception of the possessive case,
as noted above.
That may be applied to nouns or subjects of all sorts; as, the girl that
went to school, the dog that bit me, the opinion that he entertains.
The misuse of these pronouns gives rise to more errors in speaking and
writing than any other cause.
When you wish to distinguish between two or more persons, say: Which is
the happy man? not who--Which of those ladies to you admire?
Instead of Whom do you think him to be? say, Who do you think him to
Whom should I see.
To whom do you speak?
Who said so?
Who gave it to you?
Of whom did you procure them?
Who was he?
Who do men say that I am?
Self should never be added to his, their, mine or thine.
Each is used to denote every individual of a number.
Every denotes all the individuals of a number.
Either and or denote an alternative: I will take either road, at your
pleasure; I will take this or that.
Neither means not either, and nor means not the other. Either is
sometimes used for each--Two thieves were crucified, on either side
Let each esteem others as good as themselves, should be, Let each
esteem others as good as himself.
There are bodies each of which are so small, should be, each of which
is so small.
Do not use double superlatives, such as most straightest, most highest,
The term worser has gone out of use; but lesser is stilt retained.
The use of such words as chiefest, extreamest, etc., has become
obsolete, because they do not give any superior force to the meanings of
the primary words, chief, extreme, etc.
Such expressions as more impossible, more indispensable, more universal,
more uncontrollable, more unlimited, etc., are objectionable, as they
really enfeeble the meaning which it is the object of the speaker or
writer to strengthen. For instance, impossible gains no strength by
rendering it more impossible. This class of error is common with persons
who say, A great large house, A great big animal, A little small
foot, A tiny little hand.
Here, there and where, originally denoting place, may now, by common
consent, be used to denote other meanings, such as, There I agree with
you, Where we differ, We find pain where we expected pleasure,
Here you mistake me.
Hence, whence and thence, denoting departure, etc., may be used without
the word from. The idea of from is included in the word
whence--therefore it is unnecessary to say From whence.
Hither, thither and whither, denoting to a place, have generally been
superseded by here, there and where. But there is no good reason why
they should not be employed. If, however, they are used, it is
unnecessary to add the word to, because that is implied--Whither are
you going? Where are you going? Each of these sentences is complete.
To say, Where are you going to? is redundant.
Two negatives destroy each other, and produce an affirmative. Nor did
he not observe them, conveys the idea that he did observe them.
But negative assertions are allowable. His manners are not impolite,
which implies that his manners are in some degree marked by politeness.
Instead of Let you and I. say Let you and me.
Instead of I am not so tall as him, say I am not so tall as he.
When asked Who is there? do not answer Me, but I,
Instead of For you and I, say For you and me.
Instead of Says I, say I said.
Instead of You are taller than me, say You are taller than I.
Instead of I ain't, or I arn't, say I am not.
Instead of Whether I be present or no, say Whether I be present or
For Not that I know on,' say Not that I know.
Instead of Was I to do so, say Were I to do so.
Instead of I would do the same if I was him, say I would do the same
if I were he.
Instead of I had as lief go myself, say I would as soon go myself,
or I would rather.
It is better to say Six weeks ago than Six weeks back.
It is better to say Since which time, than Since when,
It is better to say I repeated it, than I said so over again.
Instead of He was too young to have suffered much, say He was too
young to suffer much.
Instead of Less friends, say Fewer friends. Less refers to quantity.
Instead of A quantity of people, say A number of people.
Instead of He and they we know, say Him and them.
Instead of As far as I can see, say So far as I can see.
Instead of A new pair of gloves, say A pair of new gloves.
Instead of I hope you'll think nothing on it, say I hope you'll think
nothing of it.
Instead of Restore it back to me, say Restore it to me.
Instead of I suspect the veracity of his story, say I doubt the truth
of his story.
Instead of I seldom or ever see him, say I seldom see him.
Instead of I expected to have found him, say 1 expected to find him.
Instead of Who learns you music? say Who teaches you music?
Instead of I never sing whenever I can help it, say I never sing when
I can help it.
Instead of Before I do that I must first ask leave, say Before I do
that I must ask leave.
Instead of saying The observation of the rule, say The observance of
Instead of A man of eighty years of age, say A man eighty years old.
Instead of Here lays his honored head, say Here lies his honored
Instead of He died from negligence, say He died through neglect, or
in consequence of neglect.
Instead of Apples are plenty, say Apples are plentiful.
Instead of The latter end of the year, say The end, or the close, of
Instead of The then government, say The government of that age, or
century, or year, or time.
Instead of A couple of chairs, say Two chairs.
Instead of They are united together in the bonds of matrimony, say
They are united in matrimony, or They are married, '.
Instead of We travel slow, say We travel slowly.
Instead of He plunged down into the river, say He plunged into the
Instead of He jumped from off the scaffolding, say He jumped off the
Instead of He came the last of all, say He came the last.
Instead of universal, with reference to things that have any limit,
say general, generally approved, instead of universally approved,
generally beloved, instead of universally beloved.
Instead of They ruined one another, say They ruined each other,
Instead of If in case I succeed, say If I succeed.
Instead of A large enough room, say A room large enough.
Instead of I am slight in comparison to you, say I am slight in
comparison with you.
Instead of I went for to see him, say I went to see him.
Instead of The cake is all eat up, say The cake is all eaten.
Instead of Handsome is as handsome does, say Handsome is who handsome
Instead of The book fell on the floor, say The book fell to the
Instead of His opinions are approved of by all, say His opinions are
approved by all.
Instead of I will add one more argument, say I will add one argument
more, or another argument.
Instead of A sad curse is war, say War is a sad curse.
Instead of He stands six foot high, say He measures six feet, or
His height is six feet.
Instead of I go every now and then, say I go sometimes (or often).
Instead of Who finds him in clothes, say Who provides him with
Say The first two, and the last two instead of the two first the
Instead of His health was drank with enthusiasm, say His health was
Instead of Except I am prevented, say Unless I am prevented.
Instead of In its primary sense, say In its primitive sense.
Instead of It grieves me to see you, say I am grieved to see you.
Instead of Give me them papers, say Give me those papers.
Instead of Those papers I hold in my hand, say These papers I hold in
Instead of I could scarcely imagine but what, say I could scarcely
Instead of He was a man notorious for his benevolence, say He was
noted for his benevolence.
Instead of She was a woman celebrated for her crimes, say She was
notorious on account of her crimes.
Instead of What may your name be? say What is your name?
Instead of I lifted it up, say I lifted it.
Instead of It is equally of the same value, say It is of the same
value, or equal value.
Instead of I knew it previous to your telling me, say I knew it
previously to your telling me.
Instead of You was out when I called, say You were out when I
Instead of I thought I should have won this game, say I thought I
should win this game.
Instead of This much is certain, say Thus much is certain, or So
much is certain.
Instead of He went away as it may be yesterday week, say He went away
Instead of He came the Saturday as it may be before the Monday,
specify the Saturday on which he came.
Instead of Put your watch in your pocket, say Put your watch into
Instead of He has got riches, say He has riches.
Instead of Will you set down? say Will you sit down?
Instead of No thankee, say No, thank you.
Instead of I cannot do it without farther means, say I cannot do it
without further means.
Instead of No sooner but, or No other but, say than.
Instead of Nobody else but her, say Nobody but her.
Instead of He fell down from the balloon, say He fell from the
Instead of He rose up from the ground, say He rose from the ground.
Instead of These kind of oranges are not good, say This kind of
oranges is not good.
Instead of Somehow or another, say Somehow or other.
Instead of Will I give you some more tea? say Shall I give you some
Instead of Oh, dear, what will I do? say Oh, dear, what shall I do?
Instead of I think indifferent of it, say I think indifferently of
Instead of I will send it conformable to your orders, say I will send
it conformably to your orders.
Instead of To be given away gratis, say To be given away.
Instead of Will you enter in? say Will you enter?
Instead of This three days or more, say These three days or more.
Instead of He is a bad grammarian, say He is not a grammarian.
Instead of We accuse him for. say We accuse him of.
Instead of We acquit him from, say We acquit him of.
Instead of I am averse from that, say I am averse to that.
Instead of I confide on you, say I confide in you.
Instead of As soon as ever. say As soon as.
Instead of The very best, or The very worst, say The best or the
Avoid such phrases as No great shakes, Nothing to boast of, Down in
my boots, Suffering from the blues. All such sentences indicate
Instead of No one hasn't called, say No one has called.
Instead of You have a right to pay me, say It is right that you
should pay me.
Instead of I am going over the bridge, say I am going across the
Instead of I should just think I could, say I think I can.
Instead of There has been a good deal, say There has been much.
Instead of The effort you are making for meeting the bill, say The
effort you are making to meet the bill.
To say Do not give him no more of your money, is equivalent to saying
Give him some of your money. Say Do not give him any of your money.
Instead of saying They are not what nature designed them, say They
are not what nature designed them to be.
Instead of saying I had not the pleasure of hearing his sentiments when
I wrote that letter, say I had not the pleasure of having heard, etc.
Instead of The quality of the apples were good, say The quality of
the apples was good.
Instead of The want of learning, courage and energy are more visible,
say is more visible.
Instead of We die for want, say We die of want.
Instead of He died by fever, say He died of fever.
Instead of I enjoy bad health, say My health is not good.
Instead of Either of the three, say Any one of the three.
Instead of Better nor that, say Better than that.
Instead of We often think on you, say We often think of you.
Instead of Mine is so good as yours, say Mine is as good as yours.
Instead of This town is not as large as we thought, say This town is
not so large as we thought.
Instead of Because why? say Why?
Instead of That there boy, say That boy.
Instead of The subject-matter of debate, say The subject of debate.
Instead of saying When he was come back, say When he had come back.
Instead of saying His health has been shook, say His health has been
Instead of saying It was spoke in my presence, say It was spoken in
Instead of Very right, or Very wrong, say Right or Wrong.
Instead of The mortgagor paid him the money, say The mortgagee paid
him the money. The mortgagee lends; the mortgagor borrows.
Instead of I took you to be another person, say I mistook you for
Instead of On either side of the river, say On each side of the
Instead of There's fifty, say There are fifty.
Instead of The best of the two say The better of the two,
Instead of My clothes have become too small for me say I have grown
too stout for my clothes.
Instead of Two spoonsful of physic, say Two spoonfuls of physic.
Instead of She said, says she, say She said.
Avoid such phrases as I said, says I, Thinks I to myself, etc.
Instead of I don't think so, say I think not.
Instead of He was in eminent danger, say He was in imminent danger.
Instead of The weather is hot, say The weather is very warm.
Instead of I sweat, say I perspire.
Instead of I only want two dollars, say I want only two dollars.
Instead of Whatsomever, say Whatever, or Whatsoever.
Avoid such exclamations as God bless me! God deliver me! By God!
By Gosh! Holy Lord! Upon my soul! etc., which are vulgar on the one
hand, and savor of impiety all the other, for--Thou shalt not take the
name of the Lord thy God in vain.
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