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Frequently Questioned Answers about English Grammar

Grammar is often a question. The grammar of great writers has often been in question. The so-called definitive answers themselves are debated, argued, fussed, and haggled about, and have been for centuries. I have no doubt that this will continue into the New Millennium. Language is a messy business. In this FQA I plan to have a little fun with the quirkiness of the English language. So put your tongue in your cheek, and read on....

Q. What is a "squinting modifier"?

A. A squinting modifier is one placed between two words so that it could be construed to modify either word. Example:

She said today she found her pearls.
Today she said she found her pearls.

In the squinting sentence above, the word today might modify either verb. It isn't possible to tell whether she said today or found today.

Q. Why can't I talk about me, myself and I?

A. Myself is a reflexive pronoun which refers to the self as an object. Examples:

Dante, Shakespeare, and myself are writers.
He apologized to Dante and myself.
Dante, Shakespeare, and I are writers.
He apologized to Dante and me.

Q. What do you mean by itsitis?

A. "Itsitis" is that pervasive malady that causes one to confuse the terms its and it's. It is a common affliction which has spread all around the world. No one is immune. "Itsitis" infects the best of writers.

Here's a hint to remember whether or not to use the apostrophe. The apostrophe means that a letter or word is missing. The possessive pronoun its isn't missing anything, while it's is a contraction for the phrase "it is". The missing bit is the letter i in the word is.

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