Where oh where did our Grammar Guardian go?
I've heard from several faithful Grammar Guardians in recent months, wondering what happened to my monthly grammar column. Honestly, I'm not sure what happened, but I'm happy to report that it's up and running again.
Although I stopped writing the column, I never stopped gathering proof of how much we need more people in the world protecting English grammar.
Arguably one of the most common grammatical errors today is depicted in this quotation from a local newspaper story: "Now there's a lot of kids, and adults, too, who wear their pants down by their behind and are involved in bad things..." Grammar Guardians surely cringed when you read "there's a lot." "There's" is a contraction for "there is." "A lot" is obviously not talking about one, so you cannot use "is." The correct way to say this would be: "Now there are a lot of kids...." Another example, also taken from the newspaper: "There's now going to be four more moving into those positions." Four. More than one. "There's=There is." It should read: "There are now going to be four more moving into those positions."
Probably one of the most annoying grammatical errors heard on local television stations is "return back." I should start counting the number of times I hear television reporters talking about our soldiers "returning back" to the Valley or the police "returning back" to the scene of the crime. If someone returns, he comes back. There's no need to include "back." Soldiers return to the Valley and police return to the scene of the crime.
The confusion between "who" and "that" can also drive a Grammar Guardian to scream for help. In a recent story about the Dallas Mavericks, owner Mark Cuban was quoted as saying, "You have to have players that believe in each other..." Players are people. He should have used "who" instead of "that." In the same paragraph, Cuban says, "There's no quick solutions." Can you see the error? Once again, "there's" used with a plural. Come on, Mr. Cuban. There ARE no quick solutions.
Going back to "who" versus "that," I was rather surprised to see an ad in the paper about events held at Macy's during National Hispanic Heritage Month. The headline read, "Macy's honors the achievements of Hispanic Americans that have inspired us all." Those Hispanic Americans are people; therefore, the headline should have read, "Macy's honors the achievements of Hispanic Americans who have inspired us all."
In past columns, I have covered "less" versus "fewer." Nowhere is this confusion more evident than in the express lanes at grocery and box stores. Only a handful of these stores have signs that read, "Ten or fewer items." Most read, "Ten or less items." So which is it? It's so easy that I can't figure out why so many people and businesses get it wrong. The bottom line is that if it's something you can count (like the number of items in your cart), you use "fewer." If it's something in a mass amount, like water in the river, you use "less." In a recent AP story about the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the reporter wrote, "The jury deliberated less than nine hours." Since the reporter could count those hours, she should have written "fewer."
So much to guard, yet so little time. Thank you to all of the faithful Grammar Guardians who have continued to defend English grammar.
See you next month.
Chris Ardis is a high school teacher and freelance writer. You can send her grammatical errors you've spotted by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.