Grammar Rules: How to Sound Smarter

Think you know how to talk real good? Test yourself: These grammar rules will surprise even the experts.

By Paul Silverman and Sarah Wharton from Reader's Digest Magazine

Grammar Rules: How to Sound SmarterIllustration by Timothy Goodman
CONFUSED & MISUSED

You never mean: fall between the cracks
You always mean: fall through the cracks
Why: Logically speaking, you can’t fall between an opening; you fall into or through it. As such, don’t let logic fall through the cracks when you use this idiom.

You might say: mute
You might mean: moot
Why: Moot‘s most common meaning is “deprived of practical significance.” Mute means silent. So while they might want to be mute about a moot point, careful speakers will be vocal about the difference.

You almost never mean: just desserts
You almost always mean: just deserts
Why: When you want someone to get what he deserves, you hope he reaps his just deserts. But on her birthday, a particularly well-behaved three-year-old might be allowed in just desserts.

You never mean: modern-day
You always mean: modern
Why: Quite simply, modern covers it. Modern-day is a redundant term. Modern speakers will sound smarter by using the superior word.

You might write: so-called “good grammar”
You mean to write: so-called good grammar
Why: So-called introduces a term as falsely, improperly, or commonly referred to as something. So by default, it covers the need for quotation marks (or a speaker’s air quotes).

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  • Your Comments

    • http://twitter.com/LaylaChloesNana LaylaChloe’sNana

      “talk real good”???

      • http://twitter.com/LaylaChloesNana LaylaChloe’sNana

        Why: Come refers to movement toward the speaker (Henri says, “Come to Paris!”); go denotes the opposite (After you’ve stayed two months, Henri says, “You should go”). But idiomatic use sometimes clouds this rule, as “I’ll come over” is more comprehensible than “I’ll go over.”

        Actually, since it is “movement toward the speaker”, ‘I’ll come over’ seems to be the correct choice, if you are going over to where the speaker is. If you are talking about a different location, ‘I’ll go over’ seems the appropriate choice.

    • BalakrishnanGurumurti

      try to teach your children the positive strokes in language you speak generally,then their life well made out by you as a parent, as you carve their well measured fiture

    • BalakrishnanGurumurti

      sound smarter is a lovely piece. speaking positively unscathed talking!

    • hummingbird

      I like to remind my grandchildren, when they improperly use “me and my friend” or “me and him”… went
      or did some activity, they are, not only using that phrase incorrectly, they are also, seemingly, putting themselves as “more important” than the other person.  They should always put their friend first!!  Then they would remember the correct phrase, “my friend and I” ……went or will go or want to …….whatever!  Remember, you would Never Say “me want  to go or do” something!

    • Anonymous

      all the ghetto people on the court shows need to learn their grammar-they are so appalling and when they say “I axed someone”–it’s just deplorable

    • Priyanka

      Interesting . I have been breaking these rules every single day of my life . Good to know . 

      • Anonymous

         well stop being so lazy and uneducated-

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/VV47LXLBMJIF4C4PCGDTREGYQQ Annie Ireland

      I must be getting extremely  long in the tooth.  I had a very basic education and grew up poor  but always knew the difference between subject and object pronouns.  It seems everyone, including supposedly very well-educated people,  consistently say things like John and me – and her- and him - went to the store – when they would never say me/her/him went to the store.   Something that has seemed to turn up in the last 20 years or so is a change in  when we would use the words “with” or  ”about”  for ”of” and “for”  - I’m bored of it , I’m excited for the concert.  And funner?  Missed the birth of that word completely. 

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/VV47LXLBMJIF4C4PCGDTREGYQQ Annie Ireland

      I must be getting extremely  long in the tooth.  I had a very basic education and grew up poor  but always knew the difference between subject and object pronouns.  It seems everyone, including supposedly very well-educated people,  consistently say things like John and me – and her- and him - went to the store – when they would never say me/her/him went to the store.   Something that has seemed to turn up in the last 20 years or so is a change in  when we would use the words “with” or  ”about”  for ”of” and “for”  - I’m bored of it , I’m excited for the concert.  And funner?  Missed the birth of that word completely. 

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/VV47LXLBMJIF4C4PCGDTREGYQQ Annie Ireland

      I must be getting extremely  long in the tooth.  I had a very basic education and grew up poor  but always knew the difference between subject and object pronouns.  It seems everyone, including supposedly very well-educated people,  consistently say things like John and me – and her- and him - went to the store – when they would never say me/her/him went to the store.   Something that has seemed to turn up in the last 20 years or so is a change in  when we would use the words “with” or  ”about”  for ”of” and “for”  - I’m bored of it , I’m excited for the concert.  And funner?  Missed the birth of that word completely. 

      • hockeyhouse

         Then you must not have had children.  ;o)  Funner is a word that most kids use until they learn proper grammar.  Apparently, many kids were never corrected.

      • Anonymous

         and they are lazier also

    • Anonymous

      This is more about correct definitions than proper grammar.