Tag Archives: English

Than versus then – the rules

Monday blues, anyone? You know what always cheers me up? A little bit of grammar time.

The same mistakes are being repeated in email copy and social media posts, so I figured it’s time I spell it out.

Than and then are not the same.

then_vs_than
Courtesy of The Oatmeal

Than is mainly used when comparing two (or more) different things. I repeat: than is a conjunction most often used in comparisons.

Examples:
I am taller than my sister.
My banana bread is better than Lauren’s cornbread.
Give more than just the numbers when executing your strategy.
I write my emails differently than you do.

Then is kind of like a time placeholder. A more scholarly explanation: then is an adverb that you can use to situate certain actions in a set timeframe.

Examples:
First I take the subway and then I walk four blocks to get to work.
If you’re late to this meeting, then you might have to skip lunch.
I wanted to bring print-outs, but then the printer broke down.
We had Cyber Monday deals today. It was then that the delegates decided to register.

A trick, thanks to the smart people at grammarist, is that then can be replaced by many other synonyms, but than cannot.

I am taller than my sister (No other word would work here.)
Vs.
First I take the subway and next I walk four blocks to get to work. (Bye, bye then.)

Extra credit!!
Up-to-date has hyphens
Onsite is one word
Sneak peek = take a peek = you’re peeking into something. Peak is the top of a mountain
The U.S. always has periods since it is an abbreviation

Hyphenate descriptive words

You need to hyphenate descriptive words. What does that mean? Let me explain:

I wish I had noise-canceling headphones to drown out all the sales guys at work.

A hyphen is used here (but is not absolutely necessary) because “noise” and “canceling” are acting as a compound modifier, modifying “headphones.” These examples are detailed fully on Grammar Girl.

Hyphens are a “look-it-up” punctuation mark. Though hyphens have several uses, we’re going to focus on how to use hyphens with compound adjectives. Compound adjectives are two or more words that together make an adjective. When they come directly before a noun, they’re known as compound modifiers and usually have a hyphen, like “noise-canceling headphones.” Here are a few more examples:

They had a long-term relationship.

The fire-proof vest proved to be a great life saver.

If the adjectives come after the noun, then they don’t need a hyphen. For example

Their relationship was long term.

Santa’s new vest is fire proof.

These terms need hyphenation in your brochures, web copy and emails because they are always used to describe something:

In-depth

Best-in-class

Buy-in

End-to-End supply chain

Up-to-date

On-site

Top-of-the-line

Hands-on

Step-by-step

Real-time

These terms are one word and not hyphenated:

Firsthand

Unpredictable

Beforehand

Unforeseen

Uninterrupted

Inconsistency

Derail

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Had Better Grammar Tips

Does anyone even know the definition of an infinitive? It’s one of the most basic forms of a verb “to be, to have, to hold” are some examples. When a verb is accompanied by the “to” they are always supposed to be written together. Oftentimes, we separate the “to” from its verb friend “have” in a way that is incorrect. But, as the degradation of the English continues, this probably won’t be an issue in the future.

Examples:

I have to gently hold the baby. (the infinitive is being split by “gently” and is not correct)

I have to hold the baby gently. (this is correct)

Side note: This isn’t an issue in many foreign languages, such as French, Spanish, etc.,  because they use one word to express the infinitive.

French: Aller (to go)

Spanish: Hablar (to speak)

Here are two more common errors:

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Most people incorrectly pronounce these as “would of, could of, should of.” Blame Southerners.

Correct: Could have, should have, would have

If I could have seen my mom last night, I would have requested her famous pasta dish for dinner. I should have created a shopping list for her.

Who vs. That

This is simple, but is often written and spoken incorrectly. A way of remembering when to use “who” vs. “that” is to associate who with people and that with nonliving things

Our speakers, who are experts in the industry, will join us at the Summit.

The brochure details the sessions that you can attend at the event.

Cardinal numbers versus Ordinal numbers

Did you know that cardinal numbers under 10 should be spelled out?

Spell out whole numbers up to and including nine (e.g., zero, two). Ex., “At this three-day event, you will have the opportunity to …”

The style guide also suggests spelling out ordinal numbers up to, but not including, 10:

Ordinal numbers: first, second, third … 10th

Prepositions Are Not the Enemy

I know what you’re thinking: There’s nothing Hannah’s not good at.

But, that’s not true – I ended the previous sentence with a preposition, which is a big no-no. Let me tell you a few other grammar mistakes I’m prone to. << also a preposition

I always misspell “sentance.”

  • I don’t know when to use effect versus affect
  • I used the wrong word/spelling last night (I’m in blue)

Now that it’s clear I’m not perfect, let’s dive into prepositions. I could have a series on this, but if you remember one thing, please remember to never end a sentence with a preposition:

Prepositions of Time: at, on, and in

We use at to designate specific times.
The report is due at noon.

We use on to designate days and dates.
My sister is arriving on Monday.
She’s having a party on the Thanksgiving Day.

We use in for nonspecific times during a day, a month, a season, or a year.
She likes to drink black tea  in the morning.
It’s too cold in autumnto bike on the path outside.

Prepositions of Place: at, on, and in

We use at for specific addresses.
John Smith lives at 55 Boretz Road in Durham.

We use on to designate names of streets, avenues, etc.
Her farm is on Allder School Road.

And we use in for the names of towns, counties, states, countries and continents.
She lives in Sanford, North Carolina.

The store is based in Ireland.

20 Common English Grammar Mistakes

I’m currently in learning mode. I’ve been working hard to sharpen my language skills and writing skills in order to stay on top of my game. In order order to do so, I’ve been scouring the web for insight and came across this post via Joanna Goodard’s blog. It goes into the top 20 common English grammar mistakes.

My favorites are the use of “who” and “whom” and “fewer or less”

Fewer and Less

“Less” is reserved for hypothetical quantities. “Few” and “fewer” are for things you can quantify. e.g., The firm has fewer than ten employees. e.g., The firm is less successful now that we have only ten employees.

Who and Whom

This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with “him,” “her,” “it”, “us,” and “them.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.

But, don’t you feel that if you used “whom” in a conversation you would come off a bit snobby?