Do You Bathe or Bath?

A friend of mine once said, “I’m going to bath the dog.” I didn’t have the heart to correct her grammar, but it’s been several years, and it’s still with me. (I know what you’re thinking, but I DO actually have more important matters to think about—-I just have a difficult time letting things go.)

While some might say that using bath as a verb is becoming more common, bathe is the correct verb; bath is a noun.

  • I’m going to bathe the dog.
  • I’m going to give the dog a bath.

From what I’ve seen, using bath as a verb is more of a regional colloquialism, and it should be avoided in favor of the always-correct bathe.

Ok, now I wash my hands of it.

Sherry

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And Yet, But Yet: Pick a Coordinating Conjunction, Any Coordinating Conjunction

When using but and yet as coordinating conjunctions, you can only use one at a time (otherwise, you’re creating a redundancy for the category of the redundancy category :)).

Use either but or yet when conveying two ideas that are in contrast to each other in order to separate them. His family lives in Tampa, but he lives in Iowa or His family lives in Tampa, yet he lives in Iowa. Do NOT say His family lives in Tampa, but yet he lives in Iowa. That is a redundancy.

Use and when conveying two ideas that are connected to each other. The example above is not an appropriate place to use and because the clause before the comma (His family lives in Tampa) and the clause after the comma (he lives in Iowa) are a contrast, not a similarity. A better example would be His family lives in Tampa, and he lives in Tampa.

Don’t use and and yet together when both are being used as coordinating conjunctions because they convey opposite ideas. As a coordinating conjunction, yet means nevertheless or however, and and conveys a meaning of in addition. Therefore, His family lives in Tampa, and yet he lives in Iowa makes no sense. It says His family lives in Tampa, nevertheless, in addition, he lives in Iowa.

I know, I know, someone out there is saying, But wait (or But yet wait); what about Shakespeare? He used but yet. Well, no offense to the bard, but Shakespeare was a famed poet and playwright—not a famed grammarian.

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

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Is it Beside or Besides the Point?

Beside/besides seems to fall into the same grammar error category as toward/towards, forward/forwards, and backward/backwards. Many people aren’t sure when to use the one with the -s.

Beside means by the side of or next to. He sat in the empty seat beside her. She moved the chair beside the window. That’s beside the point. (Here, it’s beside, not besides. In the idiomatic expression, beside means by the side of, that is, not directly on or not directly relevant to, as in not directly relevant to the point. It does NOT mean That’s in addition to the point.)

Besides means in addition to as a preposition and moreover as an adverb. Besides Weather Whys, Paul has written Literally, the Best Language Book Ever. Besides, I can’t go out on a school night.

Sherry

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Are You Well, or Are You Good?

If you’re healthy, are you well or good? If you’re happy, are you well or good? If you score a lot of touchdowns in football without getting a black eye or a broken leg, are you playing good or well?

 

Good is an adjective. Adjectives describe—tell something about—nouns or pronouns; that is, they tell what kind of, as in a green football jersey, an over-rated quarterback, or a selfish decision.

I’m in good spirits means I’m happy (what kinds of spirits am I in today?). I’m good at football tells what kind of player I am. I have a good grasp of the concept tells what kind of grasp I have.

Well is an adverb when it describes how something is being done. He doesn’t play football as well as his reputation suggests tells how he plays the game (and means that the media distorts his ability). I play football well tells how I play the game.

Well is an adjective, however, when it refers to the state of health. I don’t feel well today; last night’s escapades have left me with a headache. To say I feel well today means I feel healthy today; don’t confuse it with I feel good today, which means (see above) I’m in good spirits today.

Sherry

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever;

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Lose versus Loose: Let’s Lose This Spelling Error

I’ve actually had a couple of readers send me e-mail to ask that I write about the difference between loose and lose. It seems that I’m not the only person to have seen these two spelling errors.

When talking about something that is missing or misplaced or something that is relinquished, use the verb to lose. I lose my keys at least once per week. She loses her temper easily. They lose every bet that they place.

When talking about something that is not secure or contained, use loose. The doorknob is loose. He has loose morals. The goose is loose.

Sherry

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever;

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Subjunctive Uses I Wish I Were, Not I Wish I Was

Colin Cowherd, January 22, 2008, talking about Tony Dungy coaching in Indianapolis while his family is living in Tampa: If I was a columnist in Indianapolis, I would write about that story. Well, even though I like his show and sense of humor, since Cowherd was obviously passing judgment on Dungy’s lifestyle, I feel comfortable passing judgment on Cowherd’s grammar.

When describing something that is contrary to what is true, you cannot use the regular ol’ past tense of the verb to be, which is what the radio host does here (was). You must, instead, use the subjunctive. The subjunctive is necessary in many situations, but I’ll discuss two of them here: with the verb to wish (which always expresses what is contrary to fact) and with the word if when it is expressing something that is contrary to fact.

In the above example, Cowherd says If I was a columnist in Indianapolis…, but he is not a columnist in Indianapolis, so that’s an example of using if to express something that is contrary to fact. Therefore, using the past tense—was—is incorrect. He should’ve used the subjunctive: If I were a columnist, I would write about that story.

When using the subjunctive, the form of the verb to be is were, regardless of the subject. Here are some other examples.

  • I wish I were a columnist in Indianapolis. (not I wish I was a columnist)
  • If she were a columnist in Indianapolis, then she wouldn’t live in Tampa. (not If she was a columnist)
  • He wishes that he were a columnist in Indianapolis. (not He wishes that he was a columnist)
  • If it weren’t 1000 miles from Tampa to Indianapolis, then there would be no story. (not If it wasn’t 1000 miles)

But:

  • If he was too critical of Dungy’s living arrangements, then he’s probably sorry. (Here, was is correct because this statement is not necessarily contrary to fact; he may very well have been too critical, so we use the regular ol’ past tense.)
  • If I was listening to Cowherd’s show, then it must’ve been Monday morning. (I may very well have been listening to Cowherd’s show, so was is correct.)

Again, just remember that you use the subjunctive when you’re talking about something that is definitely contrary to fact.

Sherry

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

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Bring versus Take

Bring and take are easily confused because their meanings are so similar, but the difference is in the perspective.

Bring is done toward you, the speaker, as in the song Bring Me Some Water. Anything transported to you is brought to you. I wish someone would bring me that water already!

Take is done away from you, the speaker. I’ll take a glass of water to him; by now, he must need it more than I do.

Other examples:

I took an apple to him.

She took her car to the garage.

She took him to his father’s house.

Sherry

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Rid Yourself of Hisself, Theirself, Ourself, Theirselves, and Oneselves

I’ve already written about the correct use of reflexive pronouns in This Redundancy Is Self-Evident, but several people still wanted confirmation on the use of words such as hisself.

The indefinite pronouns are myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, herself, himself, themselves, oneself, and itself.

Hisself, theirselves, theirself, ourself, and oneselves are not legitimate words; they are, rather, what you would call grammar errors. You can also call them substandard grammar. Actually, you can call them anything you want; just don’t use them in either speech or writing, casual or formal, with friends or at work, in your thesis or in your office memo, when you’re at dinner or at the roller derby, at a hockey game or at the opera….

Sherry

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Is It Dragged or Drug? Look What the Cat Dragged In

I was horrified to see that an online dictionary is now even mentioning the word drug as a non-standard past tense conjugation of the word drag instead of what it is, which is substandard. I haven’t checked to see whether the latest print dictionaries have followed suit, but if they haven’t yet, I’m sure that they will. This is an excellent illustration of the dictionary being a wonderful reflection of current word usage but not necessarily a wonderful reflection of correct word usage.

Drag is what is called a regular verb. A regular verb follows a specific pattern of conjugation when making the past tense: you simply add ed to the root word. In some cases, of course, you have to double the consonant before adding the ed; in other cases, you only have to add d because the verb already furnishes you with the final e; and in still other cases, you have to change the y to i before adding the ed, but these are all part of the “regular verbs add ed to make the past tense” rule.

Again, drag is a regular verb; therefore, the past tense is dragged, and no amount of incorrectly using drug as the past tense is going to change that. When I was growing up, drug was considered to be substandard grammar–and no matter how many dictionary review boards want to encourage its use by upgrading it to non-standard in modern dictionaries because some people don’t practice good grammar, that’s what it will always be, which means that you should NEVER use it—not under any circumstances and not even in casual conversation—ever.

Sherry

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

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Dived or Dove: Let’s Dive Right In

Ok, here’s the deal. Dive is a regular verb, and a regular verb makes its past tense form by adding –ed to the end (or just –d if there’s already an –e at the end of the word). The past tense of dive, then, is dived.

Dove has become widely used as the past tense of dive, and it is frequently listed in dictionaries as an alternative to dived; however, many experts, grammarians—-and English teachers handing out the latest grammar quiz—-still call it colloquial, non-standard, or even substandard. (I, myself, prefer to cut to the chase and call it wrong.)

I can’t say that I understand the logic of taking a verb that has been classified as regular and re-classifying it as regular and irregular. (As we all know, all regular verbs follow the same pattern of conjugation, but each irregular verb has its own pattern that must be memorized.) The evolution of dove as an alternative past tense of dive is obviously the result of an oft-repeated grammar error that went for too long without being corrected.

If you want to be certain of using the correct conjugation, stick with the traditional dived for the past tense of dive.

  • I dived in and did the necessary work.
  • We dived from the 25-meter board.

Think of the past tense of words such as skydive; we say skydived, not skydove.

The past participle of dive is dived as well, as in I have never dived from that height before or She’s dived off that cliff many times.

Sherry

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