11 Grammar Rules That Make No Sense


When you first learn the rules for English grammar in elementary school, you find there are a lot of don’ts: Don’t end a sentence with a preposition; don’t begin a sentence with because. But as you become a more sophisticated writer (and reader), you realize that many of these so-called “rules” are really more like guidelines, and are better ignored.


The rule says nothing should come between the to and its verb in the infinitive, which makes “to boldly go where no one has gone before” incorrect. (According to the rule it should be “to go boldly” instead.) But the placement of the adverb is more a matter of style than grammar, and often the split sounds way better. Almost all style guides agree.


It’s a good idea to remove the final preposition from a sentence like “Where is he going to?” But modern style guides see nothing wrong with a sentence like “This picture is lovely to look at.” Even “Which student did he give it to?” is considered much less stuffy and awkward than “To which student did he give it?” And certainly no one would endorse “This is a grammar rule up with which I will not put.”


For someone just learning to write, this may be a good style tip, but it is not a rule of grammar. It is perfectly fine to begin sentences with and or but. And that’s what all the major usage guides say, too.


This is another rule that has more to do with style than grammar. Sometimes you don’t know the agent of an action. How else would you phrase “I was stranded on a desert island”? “The storm stranded me on a desert island”? The passive is the much better voice choice in many situations.


The argument against starting a sentence with hopefully objects that hopefully can only mean “in a hopeful manner” and that “Hopefully, the bus will get here soon” therefore implies the ridiculous assertion that the bus is making its way here in a hopeful manner. But in cases like this, hopefully is actually an adverb for the whole sentence. It’s like frankly, apparently, or certainly. “Certainly, the bus will get here soon” doesn’t mean the bus is certain, but that the attitude toward the situation of the bus coming is one of certainty. Likewise, hopefully refers to an attitude of hopefulness toward the whole situation.


This rule states that over is only to be used for spatial position and not for numbers. You do not spend over $5 on coffee, but more than $5. Stylebooks have recently been giving up on this rule. After all, we do talk about numbers in spatial terms. If it’s OK to say a price is higher or lower, why not over $5 or under $5?


According to this rule, you should say among instead of between when there are more than two entities involved. You have to choose between soup and salad, but you choose among all the menu items. There are, however, many cases where between works fine for multiple items, as when there are multiple individual interactions implied. “The talks between the U.S., Russia, and China went well.”


This rule states that because none comes from no one, it is singular and should therefore have singular verb agreement, as in “None of the plates was broken.” But most style guides acknowledge that that is a stylistically awkward construction and none should be allowed to have singular or plural agreement. “None of the plates were broken” is completely acceptable.


The rule for a vs. an doesn’t depend on what letter a word begins with, but what sound. Usual begins with a vowel, but the sound it begins with is a consonant. No one should write “an usual day” or “an one horse town.”


Fun was originally a noun. It was considered incorrect to say “that was a fun party” in the same way it would be incorrect to say “that was a noise party” when you mean “that was a noisy party.” But funny is already taken for a different meaning, and fun has slowly become acceptable to use as an adjective. Style guides have begun to admit that yes, parties can be fun.

11. SAY “IT IS I,” NOT “ME.”

This rule came about from people analyzing English as if it were Latin. But English is not Latin and “it is I” sounds so painfully formal as to be distracting. “It is me” has been the natural way to say it for hundreds of years, and is still perfectly good English.

15 Convenient Products That Are Perfect for Summer

First Colonial/Lunatec/Safe Touch
First Colonial/Lunatec/Safe Touch

The Fourth of July is the epitome of summer—and after several months spent indoors, you need some outdoor fun more than anything. Check out these 15 summer must-haves while they’re on sale and save an extra 15 percent when you spend $50 or more with the code JULYFOURTH15.

1. CARSULE Pop-Up Cabin for Your Car; $300 (20 percent off)

Carsule tent from Mogics.

This tent connects to your hatchback car like a tailgate mobile living room. The installation takes just a few minutes and the entire thing stands 6.5 feet tall so you can enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your car.

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2. Mosquito Killer Lamp; $30 (25 percent off)

Mosquito-killing lamp.

If you just so happen to be one of those unlucky souls who attracts a suspicious amount of mosquitos the second you step outside, you need this repellent lamp to help keep your arms and legs bite-free. It uses a non-toxic combination of LED lights, air turbulence, and other methods to keep the pests at bay.

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3. Super Shield Mosquito Repellent Electronic Watch Band; $17 (57 percent off)

Mosquito repeller watch.
Safe Touch

While a lamp is a great non-toxic solution for keeping bugs at bay, active individuals need a bug repellent that can keep up with their lifestyle. This wrist wearable keeps you safe from mosquitoes anywhere by using ultrasonic sounds to drive them away.

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4. ZeroDark 3-Piece Tactical Set: Flashlight, Lantern, and Headlamp; $20 (66 percent off)

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If you want your summer to be lit, this set will do the trick. All puns aside, this trio of LED brightness is perfect for camping fun and backyard parties, or it can be stored in the car for emergencies.

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5. Outdoor Collapsible Cooler and Camp Table Set; $64 (27 percent off)

First Colonial cooler.
First Colonial

Cookouts are easy with this cooler and table set that chills your drink until you're ready to pop it into one of the four convenient cupholders. Bring this set camping or out by the pool for convenience anywhere.

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Trident underwater scooter.

If you’ve ever dreamed of better mobility while exploring the water, you’re not alone. The Trident underwater scooter, which raised over $82,000 on Indiegogo, can propel you through the water at up to nearly 6 feet per second, which isn't that far off from how fast Michael Phelps swam in his prime. The battery on it will last 45 minutes, allowing you to traverse with ease.

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7. Go Portable Solar Oven; $119 (14 percent off)

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8. 3-in-1 Waterproof Bug Zapper Lantern; $25 (50 percent off)

3P Experts bug zapper.
3P Experts

Mosquitoes tend to be a big problem at night, partly because it's hard to swat in the dark. This lantern will light the area and zap mosquitos from nipping at you in the process.

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9. Urban E-Skateboard: Basic Version (Orange); $120 (73 percent off)

Urban Rover E-Skateboard
Urban Rover

This e-skateboard is perfect for getting around during the summer. You'll catch a breeze while you’re cruising on the battery-powered platform and won’t break a sweat when you pop the compact board in your bag.

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10. H2 Headlamp: Waterproof, Rechargeable LED Wide 180° Angle Headlight; $37 (26 percent off)

Headlamp from One80Light

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12. Bladeless Personal Fan; $22 (63 percent off)

Bladeless fan
3P Tech

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13. MOGICS Coconut: Portable Waterproof Light; $37 (24 percent off)

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Hydration backpack.
It's All Goods

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Systemic vs. Systematic: How to Use Each Word Correctly

This woman systematically drinks orange juice while her creative juices are flowing.
This woman systematically drinks orange juice while her creative juices are flowing.
m-imagephotography/iStock via Getty Images

The English language is bursting with pairs of words so similar you might think they mean the same thing, even if one has an extra syllable in the middle. Some actually do mean the same thing—disorientated, for example, is a version of disoriented more commonly used in the UK, but they both describe someone who’s lost their bearings.

Others, like systemic and systematic, have different definitions. According to Dr. Paul Brians, a former Washington State University English professor and leading authority on grammar, systematic relates to an action that is done “according to some system or organized method.” If you sort your M&Ms by color and eat the blue ones last, you’re doing it systematically. Sometimes, Brians explains on his website, systematic is used when a behavior—however unintentional it may be—is so habitual that it seems to be the result of a system. If you forget to lock your front door every time you leave the house, someone might say that you have a systematic pattern of forgetfulness.

Systemic, meanwhile, describes something that happens inside a system or affects all parts of a system. It’s often used in scientific contexts, especially those that involve diseases or pesticides. If a cancer is systemic, that means it’s present throughout the body. If you’re describing how the cancer progressed, however, you could say it spread systematically from organ to organ. As Grammarist points out, systemic can also denote something that is “deeply ingrained in the system,” which helps explain why you sometimes hear it in discussions about social or political issues. When Theodore Roosevelt served as the New York City Police Commissioner, for example, his main goal was to stamp out the systemic corruption in the police department.

In short, systematic is used to describe the way a process is done, while systemic is used to describe something inside a system.

[h/t Grammarist]