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Grammar Disputes

Twenty examples of unfounded grammar rules


A grammarian vs. a linguist


Grammar Disputes—discussions on usage


Below you will find just grammar rules left over from opininated grammarians of the 1700s and 1800s.  Language is constantly changing.  Some changes are accepted within a generation and other changes may take several generations to be accepted.  Merriam Webster, Burchfield and Garner include comments on change and acceptability in their publications.

1. Beginning a sentence with and or but!    

There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with "and". But this prohibition has largely been ignored.

Initial "and" or "but"

2. Ending a sentence with a preposition. 

This is a crime you can get away with!

End w/ preposition

3. Splitting an infinitive or a verb.

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President…

Split verbs or infinitives

5. Using can for permission.

Can I go to the bathroom?  I don't know, can you?

Permission "can"

6. Using you or they for general statements.

You have to get used to the idea.  They will keep raising taxes.

Impersonal Pronouns

7. Beginning a sentence with Hopefully.

Hopefully, this word will not be singled out unfairly.

Stance Adverb "Hopefully"

8. Using singular agreement with they and their.

Everyone has their problems.

Everyone's Problem

9. Using his when referencing a male or a female.

An expectant parent wants his baby to be born healthy.

Gender & Pronouns

10. Using a subject pronoun after be when identifying oneself.

Are you the young man I was interviewing this morning?   I am he. / He is me.

It is I / It is me

11. Using a subject pronoun as the subject of a sentence.

Me and my friends don't care much for this rule. (Me don't care much for this rule.)

Double Subj Pronouns

12. Using an object pronoun after a preposition.

This is a tough problem for you and I

Double Obj Pronouns

13. Avoidig passive voice. "The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive…"

That is what we were taught.

Passive Dispute

14. Using fewer with plural nouns and less with singular (non-countable) nouns.

Less people are following this convention each year.

Fewer vs. Less

15. Describing gerunds as "noun-like" and participles as "adjective-like".

"Think before the saying of this."

Gerund or Participle?

Participle or Adjective?

16. Using whose with inanimate nouns

The self-driving Tesla is a car whose time has come.

Whose / Of Which

17. Using each other for two people and one another for more than two.

All the candidates disagree with each other on immigration.


Each other/One another

18. Using "like" in place of other words, for example, for quotating, comparing, intensifying, hesitating, apologizing.

Her daughter walks like she does. She was like, "I do not."  "In fact, like, you do.  You like really do."

Like and As

Like (I regret to say)

Like (as)

19. Using a genitive pronoun after "of".  ("double possessive")

She is a big fan of him/his.

Possessive "of" Phrases

Possessive after "of"


20. Using "feels badly" and "feels strongly".

He feels badly about what happened to you. We feel strongly that you should have won.


Feel  (stative verb)

"feel badly"

"feel strongly"



Works Cited

  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Edited by Thomas Kent, et al., 51st ed., AP, 2016.
  • The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. By Rodney D. Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed., U of Chicago P, 2010.
  • Fowler's Modern English Usage. Edited by R. W. Burchfield and H. W. Fowler, revised 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Garner's Modern American Usage. By Bryan A. Garner, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2009.
  • The Gregg Reference Manual. Edited by William A. Sabin, 11th ed., McGraw-Hill Education, 2011.
  • Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Reprint ed., Merriam-Webster, 1994.
  • The New St. Martin's Handbook. By Andrea A. Lunsford and Robert J. Connors. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.
  • "The Original Sins of Grammarians Still Plague Grammar Books." By Johnson, Economist, 13 Feb. 2020.


McSweeney, Timothy. "Seven Bar Jokes Involving Grammar and Punctuation." Apr 2016, Accessed on 1 May 2016.