The grammar tag features blog posts about English grammar. Grammar is the whole system and structure of a language or of languages in general.


Capitalise That, Capitalisation!

Capitalisation in English

Capitalise that, Capitalisation in English

Let’s face it, it can be a tad confusing when it comes to whether a word receives a capital first letter or not. However, there is a general rule of thumb to consider if the first letter of a word is to be capitalised: uniqueness! That is, for instance, if you have word such as Web (short for the World Wide Wide), then Web receives a capital W. There’s only one Web.

Just allowing uniqueness as a prerequisite to capitalisation doesn’t seem correct, though. You have probably seen many words with capital first letters without any of them being distinctive. Here are the top four rules to adhere to to know when to capitalise:

  • At the beginning of a sentence
    • As with all western languages, the first letter of the first word in a sentence typically starts with a capital letter
  • People, places and other related words
    • People’s names tend to be unique even though many people can share the same name
    • E.g. “Matthew had travelled the world in search of fine foods. He found Indian food most pleasurable
  • Titles of books, magazines, films, organisations, special days etc
    • Use a capital first letter when writing / typing the titles / names of organisations, plays, films, holidays, books, publications and so on. However, do not capitalise connecting words such as a, an, the, of, in et cetera — only the main words
    • E.g. Smithsonian Institution
    • E.g. The Cabin in the Woods
  • Every first letter of an abbreviated word should be a capital
    • EEA (European Economic Area)
    • IAU (International Astronomical Union)
    • MEP (a Member of the European Parliament)
Words that receive a capital first letter
Unique Word Related Word
Cambodia Cambodian
Dada Dadaism
Pantagruel Pantagruelian
Europe European

Remember to use capital first letters in formal writing. It’s easy to forget nowadays since email and text messaging encourages the use of informal writing.

The STAR Team

Jigger: one word, 28 meanings

Scrabble game, Jigger
Scrabble board game / Wikipedia

Jigger has 28 different meanings in English

When we translate we often ask customers for reference material or examples to better understand the context of the translation. But what exactly does this mean?

Let’s consider the following … “If the jigger seems to be broken, replace it immediately. We recommend type 2 jiggers marked in blue in our catalog.”

What does that mean? Jigger can be …

  1. a handcar, a hand-operated railway car
  2. a jigger flea or chigoe flea, a parasitic arthropod found in tropical climates that may cause an inflammatory skin disease
  3. a Liverpool term for an ‘alleyway’
  4. a pallet jack
  5. a surveyor’s total station (electronic theodolite)
  6. a tool for setting fish gill nets under ice, made of wood and metal and operated via rope from the surface
  7. in golf, an old metal golf club with a narrow face
  8. a rest for a billiard cue
  9. a miner who sorts or cleans ore by the process of jigging; one who jigs (verb)
  10. the actual sieve used in jigging ore
  11. an Irish dancer: dancer of jigs and reels
  12. in textiles, it’s a device used in the dyeing of cloth
  13. in pottery, the horizontal lathe used in producing flatware
  14. a pendulum rolling machine for slicking or graining leather
  15. a light all-purpose tackle
  16. a small sail set in the stern of a yawl or similar boat
  17. a boat having such a sail
  18. a jigger mast
  19. a small fishing vessel, rigged like a yawl
  20. any of a number of mechanical devices having a vibratory or jerking motion
  21. a type of hydraulic lift in which a hydraulic ram operates the lift through a block and tackle which increases the length of the stroke
  22. a device or thing the name of which is unknown or temporarily forgotten
  23. a small tackle consisting of a double and single block with a rope
  24. a small glass, esp for whisky, with a capacity of about one and a half ounces
  25. a cigarette
  26. a gadget

As a Verb

  1. To alter or adjust, particularly in ways not originally intended
  2. Rearrange or tamper with, e.g. conventional price indexes often jigger the market basket’s contents

That’s 28 different meanings before we even discuss slang versions of the word.

The learning is, that from a simple word you can have many different meanings. It’s impossible to translate the original sentence we quoted without knowing the context of what you are talking about. Next time you’re working with a translation agency, or an advertising company for your products, make sure you give them images, diagrams and background information for your project. This will allow them to give the correct translation or interpretation to you first time, every time.

At STAR, we specialize in technical translation and we have our own dictionary management systems for every customer and industry; terminology management is the cornerstone for professional quality translation.

The STAR Team

The Comma

Basic Comma Rules

The comma
The comma, its use and function.

Basic comma rules in the English language

Place a comma before: and (conjunction), but (conjunction), for (preposition), or (conjunction), nor (adverb and conjunction), so (adverb), and yet (adverb) when they connect two independent clauses1.

Examples of comma usage

  • E.g. She hit the shot, and he cheered for her.

Separate three or more items in a series with a comma.

  • E.g. We want to protect cats, dogs, and horses.

Place a comma after an introductory phrase.

  • E.g. Because I was hungry, I bought a hamburger.

Set off interrupters with pairs of commas, pairs of em dashes, or pairs of parentheses.

  • The hamburger, hot and juicy, tasted great
  • The hamburger — flamed grilled on the BBQ — tasted great
  • The hamburger, which was hot and juicy tasted great
  • The hamburger (made from ground beef and tofu) tasted great

Place commas around the name of a person or group spoken to.

  • E.g. I hope, Julia, that you’re going with me.

Place commas around an expression that interrupts the sentence.

  • E.g. We took our fishing rods, therefore, and got into the boat.

*Clause: a grammatical unit next below a sentence in rank and said to consist of a subject and a predicate.

The STAR Team

Irish Language Grammar, An Caighdeán Oifigiúil

Damian Scattergood, Managing Director of STAR Translation, Irish Language Grammar
Damian Scattergood, MD / STAR Translation Services

Irish Language Grammar, New Update

Yesterday we commented on our blog in Irish about the new update to the official Irish grammar standard “An Caigdeán Oifigiúil”.

Our managing director, Damian Scattergood was interviewed on TG4, Ireland’s premier Irish language TV station about this review for the program 7 lá. The program is due to be aired next Tuesday 18th at 7:30 on TG4.

Here is his take on the latest review in English:
Also available in Irish.

What is An Caighdeán?

“An Caighdeán Oifigiúil” as it is called is the official standard for Irish grammar first published in 1958. All Irish translators must follow this if they translate for the government.

Why was the caighdeán updated?
The caighdeán was updated because of the demand for simplicity and consistency of the language.

To explain this historically there are 3 main dialects of Irish coming from Ulster, Munster and Connaught .
So for official government communication it made sense to have a single standard.

The first modern standard “An Caighdeán Oifigiúil” was published in 1958 . It hasn’t been updated since then.
However there have been many new grammar books and dictionaries published that clarified or added to the original Caighdeán standard.

In my opinion I think there were aspects of grammar that were left unclear or were unaddressed. Also some parts where not widely accepted.  So a review was needed.
Language is a living thing so it changes over time. With time it grows. Socially a language will change, new words are defined and how it is used on a daily basis by people also changes. So it’s important for any standard to match the social changes.

For example one issue that arose is that some grammar books over the period started to contradict each other. So the review was needed to clarify some areas.

Did it have to be updated?

Yes, overall I think it was necessary for reasons of clarity to allow the language to grow.

More people are actively using the language.  We translate into over 50 languages and last year Irish was the third most popular language for us. It accounted for 10% of our business. We see this growing. Since Irish became an officially recognised in Europe a few years ago we have seen more requests for translation coming from places like Germany etc.
So it is important to keep our level of Irish quality high to meet modern European standards. A review like this is probably something that should be done on an on-going basis.

Does it make any difference to STAR?

On a day to day business basis it does not have any major impact for us. We have very strict quality guidelines already in place for our translation.
The positive aspect of the update is that it actually clarifies and extends the original standard. This extension means that the majority of our previous translation work already is perfect.  Probably in some ways it will make it easier for us moving forward.

For our translation teams on the ground it is very much the same. The new Caighdeán should make their work a little easier as a result of the clarifications. Some internal debates we would have had around styles etc are now solved.

What does it do for us?

My understanding is that it broadens the grammatical usage that is permitted.

So I think the people that it affects the most are probably native speakers whose dialectic differences were not recognized up until now. As a translator it broadens the grammatical forms that we can use in our translations.

Other than that it does not affect the translators greatly. It just gives more options in how you can translate things in standard Irish.

This review delivers 2 key elements:

  1. It clarifies elements of the language
  2. It extends the language, all of which is a great foundation for growth in usage

What does STAR do?

STAR Translation provides translation services into over 50 languages such as Irish, French, Chinese, Arabic etc.
We work with government, public sector and private companies to help them communicate worldwide. We work with many government departments here in Ireland providing document and website translation services.

For us quality is very important. We are certified to both ISO 9001 and EN 15038 — standards are very important to us. We have been working with the Caighdeán since we started translation in 2001.

Why is this important to the language?

As I’ve said previously all language is a moving living thing. Social usage, how people speak changes over time. New words come in, old words go out. How we say and phrase things also change. If you review a textbook in Irish from 1912 it will be very different from one in 1950. Over the last few years we have seen a number of government initiatives around terminology such as to help the language keep up with new technology for example. So should you say Fón or Gúthan Phoca for example. Words are just the building blocks for sentences. All of which are important to the way we communicate. So where has updated the words and phrases we use, the Caighdeán clarifies how we take build and extend our language. You need both to continue to grow.

How do you see the Irish language developing?

I’d like to see more of this type of review on an on-going basis.

Today we are seeing a more modern Irish culture growing. The focus on Europe and the single economy I believe is making the younger generation evaluate what it means to be Irish. On one hand people believe we are losing our Irish, but on the other hand the re-evaluation is helping change and grow the language. Irish is more integrated in you younger culture. You can see this in TV, Radio and other media nowadays. There are “Cool” programs now being produced.

The use of a bit of Irish, is becoming natural and part of everyday life for the younger generation. The old strict focus on Irish that we had in our school days is long gone. The Irish language is now considered part of being Irish and who we are instead of just something we had to learn. There is a lot of new technology out there speaking Irish – Websites to learn the language, Apps to download etc.

The modern Irish Social IT culture is certainly proud or where they have come from and their language. I see this continuing to grow. I believe Irish is changing for the better.

This interview is also available in Irish.

The STAR Team

Athbhreithniú ar an gCaighdeán Oifigiúil

Damian Scattergood, Managing Director of STAR Translation, An gCaighdeán Oifigiúil
Damian Scattergood, Stiúrthóir Bainistíochta ar Sheirbhísí Aistriúcháin STAR

Ar An gCaighdeán Oifigiúil, STAR ag Caint

This interview is available in English.

Cén fáth a ndearnadh an ‘Caighdeán’ a athbhreithniú?

Athbhreithníodh an Caighdeán toisc go raibh éileamh ar shimplíocht agus comhsheasmhacht sa teanga scríofa oifigiúil.

Ní mór é seo a mhíniú go stairiúil; tá trí phríomhchanúint Ghaeilge ann agus labhraítear na canúintí sin i gCúige Uladh, Cúige Mumhan agus Cúige Chonnacht. Mar sin, bhí ciall le caighdeán scríofa amháin a chur ar fáil le haghaidh cumarsáid scríofa oifigiúil an rialtais.

Foilsíodh an chéad chaighdeán nua-aimseartha, An Caighdeán Oifigiúil, sa bhliain 1958 agus ní raibh nuashonrú déanta air ó shin go dtí seo. Ach foilsíodh cuid mhaith graiméar agus foclóirí ó shin a rinneadh soiléiriú ar, nó a chur leis an gcaighdeán bunaidh.

Is é mo thuairim go raibh réimsí den ghramadach nach raibh soiléir nó nach raibh mínithe i gceart. Anuas air sin, bhí codanna áirithe de nár ghlac cuid mhaith cainteoirí Gaeilge leo, mar sin bhí gá leis an athbhreithniú seo.

Is rud beo í teanga agus bíonn sí ag athrú i gcónaí agus fásann sí de réir a chéile. Athróidh teanga ar bith go sóisialta, déantar focail nua a shainmhíniú agus tagann athrú ar an gcaoi a labhraítear í ó lá go lá chomh maith. Mar sin tá sé tábhachtach  go léireodh caighdeán scríofa ar bith na hathruithe sóisialta sin.

Mar shampla, tharla sé i rith na mblianta go raibh cuid de na graiméir Ghaeilge ag teacht salach ar a chéile ó thaobh rialacha gramadaí de.  Mar sin bhí gá le hathbhreithniú chun gnéithe áirithe a shoiléiriú.

Ar ghá athbhreithniú a dhéanamh air?

Ba ghá; measaim go raibh gá leis ar chúiseanna soiléire ar an iomlán, le ligean don teanga a bheith ag fás. Tá níos mó daoine ag labhairt na teanga go hoscailte anois.

Aistrímid go breis is 50 teanga agus bhí an Ghaeilge ar an tríú teanga ba mhó éileamh inár gcás féin anuraidh. Bhí 10% dár ngnó bliana i gceist léi. Creidimid go leanfaidh sé seo de bheith ag fás. Ó rinneadh teanga oifigiúil den Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach roinnt blianta ó shin, tá níos mó iarratas á bhfáil againn ar aistriúcháin agus iad ag teacht ó áiteanna amhail an Ghearmáin agus tíortha eile ar an Mór-Roinn. Mar sin ní mór dúinn a chinntiú go bhfuil caighdeán ár gcuid Gaeilge go hard ar mhaithe le freastal ar chaighdeáin nua-aimseartha na hEorpa.  Is maith an seans gur chóir athbhreithniú mar seo a dhéanamh ar bhonn leanúnach.

An ndéanann sé seo difear ar bith do STAR?

Ní bheidh tionchar mór aige seo orainn ó thaobh ár ngnó ó lá go lá. Tá treoirlínte cáilíochta thar a bheith dian curtha i bhfeidhm againn cheana maidir le haistriúcháin.
Is é an gné dhearfach den athbhreithniú seo ná go soiléiríonn agus go leathnaíonn sé an caighdeán bunaidh. Ciallaíonn an leathnú seo go bhfuil an chuid is mó den obair aistriúcháin a bhí déanta againn roimhe seo gan locht. Ach is dócha go gciallóidh sé go mbeidh sé níos éasca dúinn amach anseo. Maidir lenár bhfoirne aistriúcháin a dhéanann an obair seo, is beag difear atá i gceist. Ach ba chóir go n-éireoidh a gcuid oibre beagán níos éasca mar thoradh ar an soiléiriú. Tá cuid den phlé a bhí ar siúl againn maidir le cúrsaí stíle réitithe anois mar gheall air.

Céard a dhéanann an t-athbhreithniú seo dúinne?

Is é an tuiscint atá agamsa air ná go leathnaíonn sé an úsáid ghramadaí atá ceadaithe. Mar sin is dócha gurb iad an dream is mó a n-imreoidh sé tionchar orthu ná cainteoirí dúchais nach raibh a ndifríochtaí canúna aitheanta sa Chaighdeán go dtí seo.

I gcás an aistritheora, leathnaíonn sé líon na bhfoirmeacha gramadaí is féidir linn a úsáid inár n-aistriúcháin.
Amach uaidh sin, ní bheidh mórán tionchair aige ar aistritheoirí. Ach tugann sé níos mó roghanna dóibh maidir le cén chaoi ar féidir rudaí a aistriú go Gaeilge chaighdeánach.

Mar sin bhí dhá phríomhghné i gceist leis an athbhreithniú seo:

  1. Soiléiríonn sé gnéithe de ghramadach na teanga
  2. Leathnaíonn sé gnéithe gramadaí na teanga, agus is boinn mhaithe iad seo go léir le haghaidh fáis ar a húsáid amach anseo

Céard a dhéanann STAR?

Soláthraíonn STAR seirbhísí aistriúcháin go breis is caoga teanga, amhail Gaeilge, Fraincis, Sínis, Arabais agus mar sin de.
Bímid ag obair le comhlachtaí rialtais, earnála poiblí agus príobháideacha le cabhrú leo cumarsáid a dhéanamh ar fud an domhain. Oibrímid le go leor ranna rialtais anseo in Éirinn agus muid ag soláthar seirbhísí aistrithe doiciméad agus suíomhanna gréasáin.  Tá an-tábhacht le cáilíocht, dar linn. Tá deimhniú ISO 9001 agus EN 15038 bainte amach againn, mar siad is mór againn caighdeáin. Táimid ag obair leis an gCaighdeán Oifigiúil ó thosaíomar ag aistriú sa bhliain 2001.

Cén fáth a bhfuil sé seo tábhachtach don teanga?

Mar a dúirt mé cheana, is rud beo athraitheach í teanga ar bith. Bíonn an úsáid shóisialta agus an chaoi a mbíonn daoine ag labhairt ag athrú i gcónaí. Ceaptar focail nua agus éiríonn daoine as focail eile a úsáid. D’fhéadfadh an bealach a chuirimid nithe áirithe in iúl athrú chomh maith. Má dhéanann tú scrúdú ar leabhar Gaeilge ó 1912, feicfidh tú go bhfuil sé an-difriúil le leabhar Gaeilge ó 1950. Le blianta beaga anuas, cuireadh tús le roinnt tionscnaimh rialtais maidir le téarmaíocht, amhail, le cabhrú leis an teanga téarmaíocht nua-aimseartha a chuimsiú. Mar shampla, ar chóir duit an téarma ‘fón’ nó ‘guthán póca’ a thabhairt ar ‘phone’. Níl sna focail ach brící tógála chun abairtí a dhéanamh, agus tá siad go léir tábhachtach le haghaidh cumarsáide. Mar sin sa chás go bhfuil tar éis focail agus frásaí a úsáidimid a nuashonrú, soiléiríonn an Caighdeán cén chaoi a dtógfaimid agus a leathnóimid ár dteanga. Tá gá leis an dá rud sin chun leanúint den fhás seo.

Cén chaoi a mbeidh an Ghaeilge ag forbairt amach anseo, dar leat?

Ba mhaith go ndéanfaí athbhreithniú den chineál seo go leanúnach.

Tá sé le feiceáil go bhfuil cultúr Gaeilge níos nua-aimseartha ag teacht chun cinn sa lá atá inniu ann. Creidim go gciallaíonn an aird atá ar an Eoraip agus an geilleagar aonair go bhfuil an t-aos óg ag machnamh ar an rud atá i gceist le féiniúlacht Éireannach. Ar láimh amháin, creideann cuid mhaith daoine go bhfuil an Ghaeilge ag fáil bháis, ach ar an láimh eile, tá an t-athmheasúnú seo ag cabhrú leis an teanga a athrú agus a fhás agus is cuid níos tábhachtaí de chultúr na n-óg í an Ghaeilge anois. Tá sé seo le feiceáil ar an teilifís, le cloisteáil ar an raidió agus sna meáin eile ar an saolta seo. Tá cláir as Gaeilge atá “faiseanta” á gcruthú anois, mar shampla.

Tá sé ag éirí níos nádúrtha go mbíonn daoine ag úsáid beagán Gaeilge ina saol laethúil, go háirithe i measc daoine óga. Tá deireadh leis an traidisiún de dhíriú ar fhoghlaim na Gaeilge ar scoil amháin. Féachtar ar an nGaeilge mar dhlúthchuid bheo den fhéiniúlacht Éireannach anois, seachas mar ábhar amháin is gá a fhoghlaim ar scoil. Tá cuid mhaith teicneolaíochta ar fáil chomh maith as Gaeilge, amhail suíomhanna gréasáin a chabhraíonn le foghlaim na teanga, feidhmchláir is féidir a íoslódáil, agus mar sin de.

Mar is cinnte gur ábhar bróid é cultúr sóisialta teicneolaíochta faisnéise na Nua-Ghaeilge ag cuid mhaith daoine ar mór leo an teanga. Creidim go leanfaidh sé seo de bheith ag fás, mar sin measaim go bhfuil athrú chun feabhais ag teacht ar an nGaeilge dá bharr.

This interview is also available in English.

The STAR Team

Mrs, Ms or Miss

Mrs, Ms or Miss
When to use Mrs, Ms and Miss / STAR Translation Imaging

Mrs, Ms or Miss — Addressing the Modern Woman

If you are struggling to choose which female honorific is the most appropriate to address the modern woman, be sure that you are not the only one. It is not an easy question.

Below we have detailed an explanation of Mrs, Ms, and Miss that should help you to address ladies correctly.

The three nouns, or titles, Mrs, Ms, and Miss appeared in the 17th century and come from the female English title Mistress which was used to refer to all women. The full stop of the abbreviations is generally used in the USA and Canada, whereas in the UK and Ireland the abbreviations are commonly written without any full stop.

Ms. is slightly old fashioned compared to the two other titles but has been revived in the 20th century.  This English honorific is mostly used in business and public life to address a lady. This is generally used when her marital status is unknown. It is neutral regarding marital status. The plural for Ms can be Mss or either Mses. You may also use the French plural “Mesdames” abbreviated Mmes.

Miss is used to refer to an unmarried woman, or girls under eighteen in some countries. Miss alone is frequently used by schoolchildren to address a female teacher no matter what her marital status is. The plural for Miss is Misses or you may use the traditional French “Mesdemoiselles”.

Finally, Mrs. is strictly used to refer to a married woman. For the plural you can use the French plural “Mesdames” abbreviated Mmes like for Ms.

Some women may have a preference for Ms., Miss, or Mrs. and if a woman has a professional title, it is more appropriate to use that title such as Doctor, Professor, or Captain instead of Ms, Miss, or Mrs.

The STAR Team

7 Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

Seven of the Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. But how well are we using it? Most of the time we are all really good at speaking English, but there are a few words that we constantly mix up.

As we proofread documents we come across a lot of common misunderstandings in the use of certain English words.

Here is an infographic we designed to help eliminate some of the common errors we come across every day.

Seven Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

Infographic, Seven Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

Did we miss anything? Let us know…

The STAR Team

Difference between who's and whose

What’s the difference between who’s and whose?

Difference between who's and whose
Better English: difference between who’s and whose.

Better English Grammar: difference between who’s and whose

A quick English grammar lesson to help you learn the difference between who’s and whose.


Who’s is the contracted form of who is or less commonly, who has.

Example: Who’s working today? This can also be written as ‘who is working today?’


Whose is the possessive form of who. It means ‘of whom’ or ‘belonging to whom’.

Example: Whose translation is this? We find the easiest way to deal with contractions is that when you see the apostrophe, just expand it in your head. It’s the same with its and it’s. When you expand and read it in your head it’s much easier to decide which word is correct in its given context.

The STAR Team

What’s the difference between among and between?

Question Mark difference between among and between

Difference between among and between?

An easy guideline to follow is

  • Between two […]
  • Among many […]

Use between for two elements and among for three or more elements. We use among when something is in a group or a crowd of people and we use between when it’s two things. However, there is the exception of saying, Let’s keep it between us. The subjective pronoun us may refer to two or more people.

Examples of the use of among: They discussed the issue among the group; let them talk among themselves.

Examples of the use of between: They bought the house between them; I will be able to choose between French and Italian for my first language to study.

Note: Some people use among and between about two people and they could use it for three or more depending on how they write or say it.

The STAR Team

Is there a space before a question mark?

Is there a space before a question mark?
Space before a question mark? /STAR Translation Imaging

Is there a space before a question mark?

In English, there is no space between the last word of a sentence and its question mark. For example, you would write: How are you?

The rules differ from one language to another, that’s why translators are constantly careful when translating. In French, or in Portuguese for instance, it is required to add a space between the last word of a question and the question mark itself. Therefore in French you would write: Comment allez-vous ? And in Portuguese, one would write: Foi brilhante !

This rule is applied to the exclamation mark as well.

The STAR Team