Teachers know that a critical part of instilling knowledge is reviewing and re-teaching along the way. So, this month we’ll start with a quick review:
• Last week I received an email forwarded from a friend. One of his friends had typed, “Your the best” on the email. Surely on the Top 5 List of Grammatical Errors, “your vs. you’re” trips people up all the time, despite the fact that it is something easy to conquer. Bottom line—if you mean “you are,” use “you’re,” as in “You’re the best,” “You’re welcome,” and “You’re sweet.”
• I’ve suggested screaming the next one off a mountain top. I think I’ll try to get to Montana this summer so I can do just that because it never seems to end. “A lot.” Two words. Always. Never, ever, ever, ever one.
• Who versus that. On my students’ recent daily grammar review, the sentence read, “Mike Fossum is an astronaut who/that graduated from McHi.” Each period, my students correctly chose “who” because the sentence is referring to Mike Fossum. Not only is “that” often used when it should be “who,” but “that” is also often overused. If you look at a sentence where you’ve used “that,” see if the sentence still makes sense if you take it out. If it does, take it out.
Now our review is over, and we’re ready to move into a new grammar lesson.
Recently I’ve been working with my students on “a” versus “an.” Confusion of which to use seems to be on the rise. Now my students are able to say, “I used ‘an’ because the next word begins with a vowel.” First, let’s go over vowels. Our vowels are “a, e, i, o” and “u.” (“Y” sometimes functions as a vowel, though I can’t think of any word that begins with a “y” where it is considered a vowel.)
Here are some examples of the proper use of “a” and “an”:
an umbrella (“u” is a vowel)
a boy (“b” is a consonant)
a window (“w” is a consonant)
an egg (“e” is a vowel)
a blanket (“b” is a consonant)
an ice cream cone (“i” is a vowel).
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, it is “a ukulele” rather than “an ukulele” because the “u” in this case sounds like the consonant “y.”
The other lesson for the month involves something I touched on last month, what Valley Grammar Guardian Sylvia Clark calls “the death of the adverb.” She contacted me about this because she read “take it serious” somewhere, and it made her cringe. In this instance, the writer should have used the adverb, which answers the question, “How?” How should we take it? We should take it “seriously.”
I knew exactly what she meant because I often see advertisements in the newspaper and in stores that read “fresh baked bread.” The correct way to describe such bread is “freshly baked bread.”
I’ve heard teachers and parents complain about young children who have “behaved bad.” How did they behave? We must answer with an adverb. The children “behaved badly.”
One last review to complete this month’s grammar review: An adverb answers questions like “How? When? Where? Why? How much?”and “How often?”
Until next month, keep guarding our grammar!
Chris Ardis teaches American Sign Language as a foreign language at McAllen High School. You can visit her web site at chrisardis.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.