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opaltiger 09-24-2008 09:26 PM

Simple Grammar
This is an aptly titled guide to simple grammar. If you have any questions or suggestions or corrections, please post them in this thread. We are happy to answer questions of any difficulty. Thanks to surskitty, NWT and Mudkip for their help with this project.



Grammar is spelt with an a, not an e. Grammer is wrong: Grammar is right.



The apostrophe (’) is a mark that has two completely different uses. Do not confuse the two.

First use: The apostrophe shows when letters have been taken out of a word. For example, the apostrophe in the word can’t shows that the letters n and o have been taken out of the word cannot. Can’t is short for cannot. The apostrophe in the word don’t shows that o has been taken out. Don’t is short for do not.

Second use: The ’s shows that one person owns something. For example, Jack’s house means the house that is owned by Jack. Always add ’s (not an s on its own) to show ownership by one person. Fowler’s dictionary is right: Fowlers dictionary is wrong. My friend’s house is right: My friends house is wrong. On the other hand, if you want to show that more than one person owns something, put the apostrophe afterward: s’. All my friends’ houses is right. My parents’ room is right.

But the apostrophe never means ‘there is more than one’. He has two house’s is wrong. Three dog’s is wrong. Tomato’s is wrong. I read a few book’s is wrong. If you mean there is more than one of something, do not use an apostrophe at all: just use an s. Houses is right. Dogs is right. Tomatoes is right. Books is right.

(Pokémon, by the way, can be spelt Pokemon or Pokémon but never Poke'mon.)


A dash is a long line. Put one space before and one space after it.

(1) He went to his friend’s house- there was no one there. Wrong.
(2) He went to his friend’s house - there was no one there. Better.
(3) He went to his friend’s house – there was no one there. Best.

The difference between (2) and (3) is that the dash is longer in (3). To make the long dash, turn on num lock on your keyboard, hold the alt key down and type 0150 on the num-lock pad.


Homophones are words which sound the same but mean different things. Getting them confused is one of the worst betrayals of illiteracy.


There means a place of some kind. So go over there means go over to that place. (There also starts sentences which have no other way of starting, such as There was a problem.)

Their means owned by them, just as his means owned by him. Their house means The house that is owned by them.

They're is created by the first-use apostrophe. In the word they’re, letters have been taken out. They’re is short for they are, because the apostrophe has taken out the letter a. So they’re stupid means they are stupid.

They’re going there to see their house is correct. It means [They are][going to that place]to see[the house that is owned by them].


Where and were are completely different. Where rhymes with fair. Were rhymes with fur.

Where means a place. So Where are you going? means What place are you going to?

Were means was, but were is used when there is more than one of something. He was sad is right. They were sad is right.

Wear is to do with clothes. As in, wear something nice.

They were going to wear nice clothes is right. Where are you going to get nice clothes? is right. But Were are you going to get nice clothes? is wrong.


Its is like my and his. Its means owned by it or to do with it. So the keyboard is missing some of its buttons is right. The dog was brought to its checkup is right. My pet broke its leg is right.

It’s is created by the first use of the apostrophe. The apostrophe cuts out the letter i. It’s is short for it is. It’s very important is right: meaning It is very important.

It’s sleeping because of its broken leg is right.


Your is like my, his, her, its. Your means owned by you. Is that your house? is right because it means Is that the house that is owned by you? But your sad is wrong.

You’re is created by the first-use apostrophe. In the word you’re, the apostrophe takes out the letter a. You’re is short for you are. You’re sad is right because it means You are sad.

You’re smaller than your house is right. It means You are smaller than the house that is owned by you.


Weather is rain, sunshine, clouds, snow and thunder.

Whether is to do with two possibilities.

Find out whether the weather is good.


Firstly, too is used when you mean not the right amount. The porridge was too cold is right. There were too many people is right. It was too expensive is right. Secondly, too can mean also. I want to go, too! is right.

Two is a number. One, two, three, four, five. There were two doors.

To is used for everything else. He went to the shops is right. I like to write is right.

He wanted to buy two books, but they were too expensive.



Dialogue is characters’ speaking. It seems most useful to write the rules of dialogue straight off.

(1) Every quotation begins with a capital letter.

He said, “stand up.” (Wrong)
He said, “Stand up.” (Right)

(2) When one quotation is cut into parts by he said, she replied, etc., only the first part begins with a capital. The other parts begin with a lower-case letter.

“Stand up,” he said, “And get your things.” (Wrong)
“Stand up,” he said, “and get your things.” (Right)

(3) The punctuation at the end of each quotation is inside the quotation marks.

“Stand up”, he said, “and get your things”. (Wrong in two places)

(4) A period (a full stop) is never put straight before he said, she replied, etc. You may use exclamation marks, question marks, and commas, but not periods.

“Be quiet.” She said. (Wrong)
“Be quiet.” she said. (Wrong)
“Be quiet,” she said. (Right)

(5) He said, she said, etc., do not begin with a capital letter when they come after an exclamation mark, question mark, or comma.

“Be quiet!” She said. (Wrong)
“Be quiet!” she said. (Right)

(6) If he said (etc.) is not at the end of a sentence, add a comma to the end of he said.

“Jo,” he said “what’s wrong?” (Wrong)
“Jo,” he said, “what’s wrong?” (Right)
“Nothing,” she replied “really.” (Wrong)
“Nothing,” she replied, “really.” (Right)

(7) A new paragraph is created whenever a different person begins speaking.

“Hello,” said Smith. “Who are you?” Jones replied. (Wrong. A new paragraph should be created just before Jones says “Who are you?”)

The best way to remember the rules of dialogue is to read characters’ conversations in books.


Should of is wrong. Would of is wrong. Could of is wrong. They are all wrong. Always write should have, would have and could have. For example, I should of helped is wrong: I should have helped is right.


Use fewer when you are talking about something that you can count. Use less when you are talking about something that you can not count.

Fewer houses is right. You can count houses. Less water is right. You can not count water. Less people is wrong because you can count people. Fewer people is right.


Do not write Noone was in. Do not write I have noone to talk to. They are two words: no one. Write no one was in and I have no one to talk to.


Alot is not a word. Always write it with a space in the middle: a lot.


Than is used when you are comparing two things. I am taller than you is right. I’d rather walk than run is right.

Then is used when you are talking about time: it usually means after that. Buy the present, then go to the party. Then can also be used in if sentences: If you try, then you’ll succeed.

So, Faster then lightning is wrong. There is no writer better then Paolini is wrong, especially. Since than, things have changed is wrong.


Write numbers out in words, except numbers that are greater than one hundred. I saw 2 people is wrong: I saw two people is right. But it is not wrong to write 274 days passed.

Retsu 09-24-2008 09:38 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Lovely thread. =) Thanks for taking the time to write this out, both of you.

OrangeAipom 09-25-2008 05:52 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
It'll be so much easier to quote this than make it up on the spot. :)

Kratos Aurion 09-26-2008 01:49 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
Good to see this back. Although if I can make a little nitpicky suggestion, the section on dashes is wrong. You're using an en dash there in the "best" example, when technically it should be an em dash with no spaces between it and the words. It's a little thing, but hey, if you're going to tell them to do it right you might as well go all the way. ;)

And since you're covering "no one" and "noone", why not add "a lot" and "alot"?

Negrek 09-26-2008 01:59 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
Nice and simple. I like it.

I don't know if it's too advanced for this guide, but the difference between "lay" and "lie" is something that people screw up all the time and that bugs me to no end. (Primary reason I can't listen to "Chasing Cars" too often.)

Icalasari 09-26-2008 02:27 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
Thank you!

I often forget some of those rules ^^;

And a lot never looked natural to me if it ends a sentence...

Ruby 09-26-2008 01:00 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Near the end of writing this I got restless and skipped a few things which I shouldn't have, but I do certainly mean to come back and write more. When I do, I'll probably use your ideas. Except, Kratos, whether to use the en dash or the em dash is a moot point: there is definitely not the consensus you think there is. As far as I'm concerned, the em dash is no more nor less proper than the en dash, even though the em dash is more common in American English. I imagine you've had this idea of em dash supremacy drummed into you by devout teachers of American English.

Kratos Aurion 09-26-2008 03:24 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Not teachers, no. It's something I actually looked up on my own because I was curious. I suppose it doesn't really matter, but it is what I saw everywhere I looked.

Ruby 09-26-2008 03:58 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Haha, well, I suppose it's too much to expect of teachers that they should actually teach. So where did you look it up?

Kratos Aurion 09-26-2008 04:25 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Oh, I don't really remember now. Whatever reputable-looking websites came up after googling something like "en dash em dash hyphen" and some style books around the house, I guess.

But no, we never covered proper use of dashes in school, aside from one teacher who gave me an off-hand "Oh, these dashes are wrong, but other than that..." when he was reading over an essay for some contest.

Ruby 09-26-2008 06:06 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
It seems to be a slightly blurred American English–British English distinction.

Retsu 09-26-2008 08:35 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
opaltiger, you should write something like this for German, as my grade is starting to reflect my knowledge of German grammar pretty accurately. :(

opaltiger 09-27-2008 12:17 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
There is absolutely nothing simple about German grammar.

If you like, I can write up the fairly standard tables, but it requires a certain amount of memorisation.

Retsu 09-27-2008 02:10 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
I would like it, but it's nothing I can't research myself if you're not specifically in the mood to do such a thing. XD

Icalasari 09-27-2008 08:31 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Then and Than. Those almost ALWAYS screw me up for a while before I figure it out, and even then, I sometimes mix them up...

Ruby 09-27-2008 09:40 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Doesn't the pronunciation in your mind of "then" and "than" tell you which one to use?

Kratos Aurion 09-27-2008 10:15 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
His pronunciation might not be as distinct, though. I know I have a hard time hearing it in my own voice unless I make an effort to differentiate them.

Ruby 09-30-2008 06:26 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
I've added two short parts called 'A lot and Alot' and 'Then and Than'.

Dannichu 09-30-2008 11:13 PM

Re: Simple Grammar
Ooh, I like. Well done on these :3

If I may, I find these guides on pronoun/antecedent agreement, who vs whom and personal pronouns (when to use "me" and "I") extremely useful.

Here's Negrek's lie/lay, too~

This site is also pretty interesting.

Lucas₇₅₅ 10-01-2008 12:20 AM

Re: Simple Grammar
Yes, definitely add who vs. whom.
And you missed a use of apostrophes: Putting a quote in dialogue, or vice versa.

"Joe told me to 'Go tudduh store' and get milk," said the girl.

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