Future Tense or Present Tense: Is the Future Now?

I heard a meteorologist talking about weather that was going to happen later in the day and the next day, that is, going to happen in the future, so it was confusing when she said It does get better at the end of the day and It’s a little bit better tomorrow morning.

Instead of using the present tense to describe things that were going to happen in the future, she should have said It WILL get better at the end of the day and It WILL BE a bit better tomorrow morning since those things hadn’t happened yet. That’s why it’s called a forecast—it’s a prediction, which means it’s for the future.

Using the present tense to describe what’s going to happen has become very popular, especially on television and especially by weather talent and sports broadcasters. Despite what anyone might think, the future is NOT now, and using the present tense to talk about something that will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or 10 minutes from now makes a bad impression.

I’ve heard it said that the present tense is the power tense; I suppose that means that words in the present tense have more of an impact than words in the future tense. If you have to depend on using the wrong tense in order for your words to be powerful and effective, however, then maybe your choice of tense isn’t your biggest problem—maybe it’s your choice of words.

Sherry 

Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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Fewer vs. Less: Fewer Things, Less Stuff

With countable things, use fewer, not less. With things that are not countable, such as emotions and things that are measured in bulk or total amount, use less; for example, you’ll notice fewer lines around your eyes if you use this lotion.

We have fewer stressful situations but less stress. (Stressful situations are countable, but stress is an emotion, so it is not countable.) We have fewer dollar bills, but we have less than five dollars. (Dollar bills are countable, but five dollars is a total amount, so it is not countable.) We have fewer minutes to wait for the train than for the bus, but we have less than 15 minutes to wait for each. (Minutes are countable things, but 15 minutes is a single total amount, so it is not countable.)

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever  

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Fun, Funner, Funnest: Are We Having Fun Yet?

A reader asked whether we could shed some light on the correct use of the word fun; this is one of my pet peeves, so I’m only too happy to oblige.

I hear of people who had fun birthdays, movies that were funner than other movies, and vacations that were the funnest in the world. I even saw a category titled Funnest Party Boy on an ESPN list many years ago. Many of us are not amused—including my spell checker, which rejects both funner and funnest. On this, the software writers and I obviously agree. But back to the point…..

Fun is a noun, but it has become used as an adjective over time. Language changes, but we should be aware of WHY certain changes take place. Is it because there is a need for a more articulate way to say something, or is it because people started using the word in the wrong way, and no one bothered correcting the incorrect use?

Adjectives have comparative and superlative forms; nouns do not. For example, I have a large desk. (The adjective large tells what kind of desk. That’s what adjectives do—they answer the question what kind of.) I have a larger desk than you (comparative form). I have the largest desk in the office (superlative form).

Fun as an adjective is more of a non-standard form. I would stick to using it as the original noun that it has always been; however, if you must use it as an adjective (I had a fun time), then use more fun and most fun as the comparative and superlative forms (the more fun of the two movies), not funner (the funner of the two movies) and funnest as the comparative and superlative forms.

Many people now use the noun fun as an adjective, but that doesn’t make it right. Perhaps some modern dictionaries have now acquiesced to the people who somehow have learned to use fun incorrectly as an adjective and list it as one. I don’t know, but that wouldn’t change my mind. You do what you feel you must. I’m going to stick with what I consider to be a more educated usage: fun as a noun, not an adjective.

Sherry

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It’s or Its: It’s a Problem

Which of the following is/are correct:

a.      Its time to correct one of the most common errors in the English language.

b.      The problem is that its easy to confuse the two spellings.

c.       The English language has it’s share of problems.

d.      It’s problems are sometimes self-evident, but we make the mistakes anyway.

e.      We have to start paying closer attention to grammar details!

If you said either a, b, c, or d, then today’s column is for you.

Most nouns use an apostrophe s (‘s) to make the possessive (for example, Bill Belichick’s questionable coaching style, the quarterback’s excuses, the team’s dedication); pronouns, however, do not. The most common of these types of errors is the spelling of its/it’s.

It’s means it is, as in It’s time to correct one of the most common errors in the English language and The problem is that it’s easy to confuse the two spellings.

Its is the possessive form of it, as in The English language has its share of problems or Its problems are sometimes self-evident, but we make the mistakes anyway.

I know that it seems as if it should be the opposite—it’s should be the possessive since that’s the way nouns make the possessive. Just use reverse logic on this one. Its (the possessive) is like other pronouns: ours, theirs, hers, his, yours. We don’t use ‘s for those, and we don’t use ‘s for its.

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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Conditional Tense: What Would Have Been

A reader sent me something from a newspaper and said that it sounded incorrect but that she couldn’t quite explain why. The sentence in the newspaper was If the house would have been newer, it would have been demolished. I tip my hat to the reader for immediately recognizing a grammar error when she saw one.

This is a case of an incorrectly constructed conditional sentence. In these types of hypothetical sentences, we need the conditional perfect in one part of the sentence and the past perfect in the other. The conditional perfect is used to indicate that something would have happened if something else had been true.

In If the house would have been newer, it would have been demolished, the speaker is using the conditional perfect (would have been and would have been) in both parts of the sentence, but, as I said, it should only be in one part of the sentence if you want to be grammatically correct.

When constructing a conditional perfect sentence, use the past perfect for the if clause and the conditional perfect for the main clause. In our example sentence, then, we would have to change it to If the house had been (past perfect) newer, it would have been (conditional perfect) demolished.

For those who want more information, here it is—–but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

To form the past perfect in the if clause, you need had and the past participle of the main verb. For example, If he had known… Here, you have had and the past participle of the verb to know, which is known.

To form the conditional perfect in the main clause, you need would and the perfect infinitive of the main verb. (The perfect infinitive is just have and the past participle of the verb.) For example, He would have stayed. Here, you have would and the perfect infinitive, which is have stayed.

If we put them together, we get He would have stayed if he had known or If he had known, he would have stayed.

It’s the same for our newspaper example: If the house had been (past participle in the if clause) newer, it would have been demolished (conditional perfect, which is composed of would and the perfect infinitive have been).

Sherry

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The Past of -Cast: Is it Casted or Cast?

Some verbs are regular verbs, which means that they follow a set pattern when forming their tenses (for example, they add –ed when forming the past tense). Other verbs are irregular verbs, which means that they don’t follow those rules; rather, each irregular verb makes its own rules, and we just have to memorize each tense.

 

Such is the case with broadcast and forecast. They are irregular verbs, and the past tense of broadcast is broadcast, not broadcasted, as in The show was broadcast from Hollywood last week or They broadcast the show from Hollywood last week. The same is true for cast and forecast. My husband forecast the weather for many years. Andy cast his line in the water, and the fish took the bait.

 

We would never think to say casted, as in Andy casted his line, and the fish took the bait, yet we do say broadcasted and forecasted. SOME dictionaries and references list these –ed forms as what are referred to as alternative forms, which means that so many people mistakenly have used them that even though they’re wrong and we should instead be teaching people the correct forms, we’re giving in and saying, ummmm, sure, you can use either the correct forms (broadcast and forecast) or these incorrect—-ummm, we mean alternative—-forms (broadcasted and forecasted).

 

The alternative –ed forms should be avoided. Instead, use the primary, or preferred, forms that ALL dictionaries and references agree on: broadcast, forecast, and just plain cast. That goes for telecast and simulcast, too.

 

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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Can’t Hardly or Can Hardly: I Can Hardly Stand It

In Shakespeare’s time, double negatives such as can’t hardly were common, but in current standard usage (and by current, I don’t mean that I just made it up this week!), double negatives are substandard grammar.

Hardly means scarcely or barely, as in almost never or almost not capable of, so to say I can hardly understand grammar rules means that for the most part, I don’t understand grammar rules. To say I can’t hardly understand grammar rules means, then, the opposite, which would be for the most part, I don’t not understand grammar rules or  I cannot almost never understand grammar rules, which is not what you mean to say—and it even sounds wrong, doesn’t it?

When you use hardly, the negative is already included in that word, so you don’t need to add another negative—in this case, the can’t—in order to make it a negative. Doing so cancels the negative.

The bottom line is that when using hardly, use can hardly, not can’t hardly.

Sherry

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Anyways or Anyway Grammar: Don’t Say It Any Ways You Want

I’ve heard intelligent people—even some with advanced degrees—use the word anyways, which, again, shows that we all make mistakes from time to time. No one is immune. That’s good to know, isn’t it?

Anyway, anyways is not standard grammar usage; it is more of a colloquialism. The correct word is anyway. I rarely see this English grammar error written (although it has happened on occasion—and even by people who fancy themselves knowledgeable about grammar!); it’s mostly a spoken error, which does make it a bit more strange. Why use it incorrectly in speech when you know how to use it correctly in writing?

Boughten is another grammar error that I’ve encountered mostly in speech. Some dictionaries explain that boughten is dialectal rather than standard English. Allow me to translate: Don’t use it as the past participle of buy! Stick to standard English.

Buy is an established irregular verb with established, standard conjugations, so we don’t need to make up new conjugations. (We don’t even need to make up new conjugations and call them dialectal or colloquial.) They are buy, bought, and have/has bought, as in the following:

  • I buy stocks and annuities every year.
  • I bought some stock last year.
  • I have bought—not I have boughten—stock in that company every year for the past seven years.
 
 

 

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List

Paul’s Language Posts

 

 

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Bad or Badly: Instead of Feeling Badly, Just Feel Bad

Bad is an adjective that is used with linking verbs (verbs of being, such as be, become, seem, feel, taste, look, smell).

  • Don’t feel bad about slamming my hand in the car door; it happens all the time.
  • I feel bad about dropping you off in the middle of the highway, but I’m running really late.
  • He looks bad; it must be the flu.
  • This soup tastes bad; it reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking.

Badly is an adverb, and it describes how you do something (or, as some would say, it modifies a verb–as long as it isn’t a linking verb). She sings badly means that you cover your ears whenever she breaks into her operatic rendition of I Will Survive. He swings the bat badly could mean that he swings it so erratically that he has to yell heads up! every time he steps up to the plate.

To feel badly means that your sense of touch is, as the phrase goes, out of whack. This tastes badly means that the food you’re talking about is actually what’s doing the tasting, and it’s somehow doing it in a bad way. Talk about bad taste!

Sherry

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Bring, Brang, Brung, Brought

Bring is an irregluar verb, that is, a verb that has its own particular conjugations rather than following the same pattern followed by other verbs. That irregular pattern might not seem logical to us, or we might not like the pattern; nevertheless, it’s the correct pattern.

Despite how many times I’ve heard brang and brung uttered, there is no brang or brung in the conjugation of bring. The correct pattern is bring, brought, has/have brought.

  • I bring my portfolio to every job interview.
  • She brought the baby home in a white blanket (not She brang the baby home).
  • He has brought enough donuts for the entire department (not He has brung enough donuts).

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List

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