Calling all Grammar Guardians!
Have any of you noticed the number of grammatical errors on local and national news channels recently? I knew I had to address this after watching Fox and Friends a week ago last Saturday. One of the “friends” repeatedly said, “He’s going to weight in on this issue.” It was all I could do to keep from yelling at the TV, but I was in a local gym at the time and felt certain I’d look rather crazy.
One thing I hear often on one of the local stations is “return back.” I’ve written about this before. If you return, you go back. Saying “return back” is like saying “return return.”
This month I also want to discuss some errors in print media (including an error of my own). One sentence I recently read is: He did not learn of the meeting until after it had already took place. Am I the only one who cringed while reading this? Because I must admit I have forgotten the more obscure tense names, I turned to Literary Education Online (http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/grammar/tenses.html). “Had taken” is the perfect form of “took,” indicating completed action. (For the record, the grammar check on Word 2007 underlined “took” in this sentence. This left me wondering if the programs print media sources around the country have grammar checks? I’m not sure.)
A similar and equally prevalent grammatical error is I should have went to the store instead of to the game. To be blunt, “should have went” is never correct. Replace it with “should have gone.”
Both are freshman for the Bulldogs. This is another grammatically incorrect sentence I recently read. “Freshman” indicates one. “Freshmen” indicates more than one. I often remind my students to look at “man.” “See the “a” in man?” I ask. “A” means one. The same rule applies for man versus men and woman versus women.
The last print media sentence I have to share this month involves an increasingly popular misuse of subject/verb. There’s a lot of students who just gave up because they couldn’t afford it. (Again, Word 2007 clearly indicates a grammatical error with its squiggly green line under “There’s.”) See “a lot”? That indicates more than one, so I cannot use “There’s.” Remember what it means: There is. Read this sentence: There is a lot of students who just gave up because they couldn’t afford it. The correct way to have written this would have been There are a lot of students who just gave up because they couldn’t afford it.
I still laugh whenever I think of an email I received recently from my editor, Brad. He heard a woman being interviewed say, “My dad was a man of little words.” As soon as I read it, I imagined this woman’s father speaking only with two- and three-letter words. I wanted to type this sentence in that fashion, but I couldn’t do it. Most of the words I use are at least five letters. Obviously what the lady meant to say her dad was “a man of few words,” meaning that he was quiet. He might have had an extensive vocabulary; however, he preferred to limit the frequency of sharing it with others.
I must end with a note I received from “Jessica,” a faithful Grammar Guardian. In last month’s column, I wrote: My friend Cathy Lopez, who I met while working on my master’s in creative non-fiction…” On www.valleytowncrier.com, Jessica commented that I should have used “whom” rather than “who.” After studying the sentence carefully, I saw what Jessica meant. If “I” is the subject of the sentence and “friend” is the object, I should have used “whom.” When I substitute “whom” for “who,” I cannot accept the way it sounds.
This is why I’m calling all Grammar Guardians. Please weigh (not weight) in on this.
See you next month. Until then, please continue to Guard Our Grammar.
Chris Ardis is a teacher in McAllen ISD and a freelance writer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.