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

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Better English: It's not its

What’s the difference between it’s and its?

Better English: It's not its, it's and its
Better English: difference between it’s and its.

How to use it’s and its correctly

The dreaded contraction! Fear not. The solution is a simple one to memorize the difference between it’s and its in your writing.

It’s

It’s is a contraction of it is or it has. Simple.

Example: It is always a pleasure to help you or it’s always a pleasure to help you.

Its

Its is a possessive determiner.

Examples: John is ready to help the company grow its business; a baby in its mother’s womb.

Perhaps the easiest way to ensure you are using the correct word is to separate them; if you can say it is, then it’s [as a contraction] is the one to use.

The STAR Team

Other references:Oxford English Dictionary: its or it’s

What’s the difference between among and amongst

Question Mark

Difference Between among and amongst

We are often asked what the difference is between two words and which is most appropriate for a given text.

When is it correct to use among or amongst?

For once, it’s an easy answer: You can actually use both of them.

Among seems to be more appropriate and popular in modern writing. Indeed, when reading news articles, among appears more commonly.

On the other hand, you can use amongst when writing fiction like fairy tales.  It’s a bit old-fashioned. And thus suits the context and style of fictional stories that tend to be set in the past.

The STAR Team

Happy Endings or Suffixes

Common English Suffixes

The following information provides a list of suffixes which are common to the English language.

Suffixes are morphemes added to the end of a word to change its meaning or form a derivative. Common suffixes (word endings) are shown in the table below.

Common Suffixes
-ant -ise or -ize -ful
-ent -ist -ness
-ible -fy -ism
-ing -ly -ment
-itis -able -ation

Adding a suffix may change the spelling of the preceding word. If a word ends with Y, that is preceded by a consonant (e.g. happy, beauty), the Y changes to I.

  • Happy > happiness
  • Beauty > beautiful

But if Y is preceded by a vowel, then it remains. For example, ‘I envy your enjoyment of the situation.’ ‘It obviously caused you much merriment.’ If the original word ends in E, this is usually dropped. For example, ‘you are the most lovable but not at all sensible.’

The STAR Team

Pluralizing Words

Pluralizing words, plural nouns

Pluralizing words isn’t always a simple matter of adding an S to the end. And switching a word from the masculine to feminine form isn’t always a matter of adding -ess.

The words alms, amends, cattle, clothes, doldrums, ides, pants, pliers, scissors, shorts, smithereens and trousers are all plural or plural nouns.

Many words are both singular and plural also. We’ve listed a few: scissors, species, you, pants, deer, moose and sheep are spelled and pronounced the same way in both their singular and plural forms.

Examples

‘There stands a sheep’ – singular form. And ‘look at that flock of sheep’ – plural form.

More interesting words with this property are congeries, kudos, premises, shambles, series and species. Fish can be both singular and plural, yet fishes is also a correct pluralization of the word.

The words bourgeois, chassis, corps, faux pas, gardebras, precis, pince-nez and rendezvous all have plurals spelled the same way, but pronounced differently.

The STAR Team

Misplaced modifiers, dangly bits

Misplaced Modifiers

Dangling modifiers aka misplaced modifiers are all expressions that grammarians toss into the conversation on purpose to confuse and embarrass the rest of us.

So what do they mean? Consider this sentence: walking down the high street, the new shoe shop caught her eye.

We all probably know what is meant, but grammatically what this sentence says is that the shoe shop was walking down the street. The participle is dangling or misplaced or misrelated because it seems to relate to the wrong part of the sentence.

‘As she was walking down the high street, the new shoe shop caught her eye’ is correct and unambiguous, as is the following sentence: walking down the high street, she was thrilled to notice the new shoe shop.

RULE 1

The unexpressed subject of the participle clause that is, the person or thing that is walking down the high street should have the same subject as the (expressed) subject of the main clause: she.

RULE 2

The modifying clause or phrase, ‘walking down the high street’ should always come as near as possible to the noun or pronoun it modifies.

Careless positioning of all sorts of modifiers can cause amusement, confusion or even cause actions for libel.

  • John still attends his local church where he was married regularly.
  • We will continue to sell goods to people in plastic wrapping.
  • She was taken to hospital after being bitten by a spider in a bathing suit.
  • The bride was given away by her father wearing her mother’s wedding dress.
  • Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people? A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

Another great example that we personally love reads as ‘I once shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I’ll never know.’

The STAR Team

Lay versus Lie

Lay versus lie, understanding the differences

The incorrect use of verb lay instead of lie is becoming increasingly common in modern English usage, but no less humorous. Unfortunately no one told Bob Dylan the correct verb for his 1969 hit Lay lady lay.

To lie means to recline; to lay is to put or place and it is always followed by an object.

Remember, you lie in bed and a hen lays eggs. However, the past tense and past participle can cause problems.

To lie

The present tense of lie (to recline) is lie or lying.

Examples

I am lying on the beach; I lie on the beach.

The past tense of lie (to recline) is lay

Example

Yesterday, I lay on the beach.

The past participle tense (have, has, had) of lie (to recline) is lain.

Examples

I have lain on the beach for hours; he has lain on the beach for hours; he had lain on the beach for a whole day.

To lay

The present tense of lay (to put or place) is lay or laying.

Examples

I am laying the clothes on the chair; I lay the clothes on the chair.

The past tense of lay (to put or place) is laid: Yesterday, I laid the clothes on the chair.

Examples

The past participle tense (i.e. have, has, had) of lay (to put or place) is also laid. I have laid the clothes on the bed; he has laid the clothes on the bed; he had laid the clothes on the bed.

What about those song titles?

Lay lady lay‘ is grammatically incorrect; although it has to be said, ‘lie lady lie’ wouldn’t sound right. ‘Lay all your love on me‘ is fine as the verb is followed by an object. ‘As we lay‘ is also incorrect as the verb should be followed by an object. Furthermore, it’s also the incorrect verb unless, of course the song is really about laying eggs.

The STAR Team

Everyday vs Every Day

Everyday and every day are frequently confused in English. Here is a short explanation of the difference between the two:

Everyday vs Every day

Everyday (adjective) means ordinary or normal.

-She chose to wear her everyday clothes to the funeral.

Every day (determiner + noun)  means “each day.”

-He is late for work every day.

Any Authoring Errors in the English Language

Any, Errors in the English Language

As document authors, the particle any can often give us a hard time. Whether it is for writing reports, original documents or translating into another language. Let’s have a look at the most common any errors in English.

Anytime Vs Any time
The word anytime is often compressed into a single word by analogy with ‘anything’ and similar words.
Writing tip: Think of anytime as a contraction of at any time. It will become easier to know when to use one or the other.
Anyway Vs. Any way
Anyway is an adverb meaning regardless. Any way is just the word way modified by the word any, meaning any manner.
Writing tip: try to replace it with ‘in any case’. If it fits, use anyway. If not, use the two words.
Anymore Vs. any more
Anymore should be used when you mean ‘…does no longer’. Eg: I don’t live here anymore.
Any more should be used when the words ‘any’ and ‘more’ can be used separately in a sentence. Eg. I can’t eat any more cheesecake.

The STAR Team

Be Careful with Contractions in English

Tricky Contractions in English

The English language contains so many contractions that it is easy to get confused. Let’s go over some basics…

  • Some time Vs. sometime

When should you use some time and when should you use sometime?

Tip: Some time refers to an amount of time, whereas sometime typically means eventually.

  • Into Vs. in to

Into is a preposition, and means to the inside of  (ex., When she walked into the room, she realised the meeting had already begun.”) Whereas the words in and to are, respectively, an adverb and a preposition.

Tip: Try speaking the sentence aloud, marking a pause between in and to. If it sounds unnatural, you should probably write into instead.

  • Who’s Vs. whose

Who’s is a contraction of who is, whereas whose is a possessive pronoun.

Tip: Replace who’s with who is in your sentence to see if it fits.

As part of our language services, we provide English proofreading services to customers.

The STAR Team

Less vs Fewer, Amount vs Number

Less versus fewer
Less or fewer / STAR Translation Imaging

Less vs Fewer, Which One’s Correct?

Answer is at the bottom of post.

Less of few

While you’re thinking about this little puzzle, you might like to consider the correct usage of the words less and fewer, amount and number.

These words cause problems for many native English speakers.

The incorrect usage can be seen everywhere, from car advertisements to supermarket signs. A classic example would be the 10 items or less signs in supermarkets, which should read 10 items or fewer or better still, “fewer than 10 items”.

Less vs fewer, how do you know which to use?

Less
The word less is used for items that cannot easily be counted: We have less milk than we thought; the balloon contains less air than yesterday; the cleaning took less time than I expected. These things can be measured, but not counted as such.
Fewer
Fewer is for things that can be counted: The milkman delivered fewer bottles of milk than we requested; there are fewer balloons now than yesterday as some have burst; I have to clean fewer rooms now that I live in a smaller house.

The words amount and number have a similar rule that applies.

Amount
Amount is used for items that can’t be counted e.g. He tries to eat only a small amount of cheese; he bought a huge amount of food for the party; she only spends a small amount of money on cleaning products.
Number
Number is for things that can be counted: She works with a large number of cheesemakers; he invited a small number of people to his birthday; she prefers not to use a large number of cleaning products.

Answer

Princes, the plural of prince; when you add an S to princes it becomes princess, a singular word!

Updated: 20th of February 2015

The STAR Team