Myths about the English language

Myth #1: You cannot start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but.’ This is complete nonsense. And I repeat, total nonsense.

Myth #2: You cannot end a sentence with a preposition. Rubbish. This bogus ‘rule’ was invented by someone writing a grammar book in the 20th century. Sadly, it stuck.

Any more?

That’s bullocks. You can start sentences, with ‘and’ ‘but’ and any other word you like. You just can’t do it in formal writing.


Actually, I don’t see any problem starting a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’ in formal writing either.

Anyway, let’s blast apart more of those nonsense myths. Bring on the heavy artillery!

There’s a nice book called “Woe is I” that discusses all of this. The rule forbidding people to end a sentence with prepositions came from medieval grammarians who wrote a grammar for English from a Latin perspective.

Prepositions are “pre”-“positions” - not “post”-“positions”. Yes, it is bogus, because English is not Latin. These early grammarians were trying to bend English so that it could conform to Latin which was the “perfect” language. English and German were barbarian languages that needed to be tamed, right?

Well, these “grammarians” made a grammatical stain that’s proving hard to remove even in the 21st century.

People who don’t end sentences with prepositions speak what I call “hypercorrect English”.

i dont know what those grammar idiots are on. sometimes i think theyre not at the same level that im at. all they want to do is speak in circles and run around. it must be terrible to be in the position theyre in. they think theyre damned cool but id say theyre lagging far behind.

the biggest hoax of all, of course, is the notion that english can be learned at a cram school.

You cannot end a sentence with a preposition.
Many confuse phrasal verbs (which can end a sentence) with prepositions (which can’t).
(X)I don’t know where he’s at.
(X)Did you hear where he went to?

(These two are clearly incorrect. They should be as follows

(O)I don’t know where he is.
(O)Did you hear where he went?

Phrasal verbs
(O)He was pretty drunk when he wandered in.
The phrasal verb is “to wander in”; “to wander” has a different meaning. “In” is not a preposition here.

(O)His pitching was so wild I had nothing to swing at.
The phrasal verb is “to swing at”; it is not a preposition.

“I don’t know where he’s at” sounds cool to me. It’s clearly got a different meaning form “I don’t know where he is”. I’m a strong believer in the theory that English is a growing language and if a certain phrase becomes commonly used, it becomes ‘correct English’, no matter what some mythical ‘laws of grammar’ say.


Exhibit A (natural English): That’s the room I’m sleeping in.

Exhibit B (stilted English): That’s the room in which I’m sleeping.

In these cases, ‘sleep in’ is not being used as a phrasal verb. Of course, ‘sleep in’ can in other instances be used as a phrasal verb, as in, “I like to sleep in on weekends.”

So, that debunks the preposition vs. phrasal verb argument.

Bu Lai En - I absolutely agree with you. Language is a fluid, ever changing organism, and grammar should reflect the way we speak, not the way a 50-year old text book tells us we should speak.

Natural and stilted English? Are those technical terms? Is one supposed to be correct and the other not?

And what about: I’m sleeping in that room.
or: That’s the room where I’m sleeping.

Language does evolve, but rules must be followed. Rules are built around a growing language.

Is there anything that you feel is “wrong” in English? You can’t say that one “50-year-old rule” is bunk and at the same time say that some of the other rules are acceptable. Are you saying that the rules that you choose to follow are valid, but the ones that you personally feel are outdated are not valid?
Just because you have become used to using poor grammar does not mean that it has become acceptable to the public.

The word “seen” has been popularized in the following manner: I seen him yesterday.
Some old grammar book says that this is wrong, but so many people use it these days that we should accept it, right?

You ain’t one of them English teachers, is you?

If you feel using a sentence such as, “That’s the room I’m sleeping in.” is poor grammar, than I really have nothing further to say to you. It’s simply absurb to suggest that the above sentence is somehow ‘wrong.’

You may, if you wish, choose to abide by antiquated ‘rules’ of the language which were often set down arbitrarily by writers of widely used texts some 50 or 100 years ago. That is your prerogative.

Oh yes, may I add Rule #3: You cannot split an infinitive. Bah, total nonsense. Ex: I’m going to closely monitor the situation. Sounds fine to me.

BTW, I do not currently teach, but what I do is my own affair, and none of your business.

“That’s the room I’m sleeping in” sounds more natural to me too. I think (bringing this back to teaching English) that when we’re teaching, the best thing is to teach usage that will sound natural to most people. One way to tell that someone’s English isn’t really so good is that she’ll use some ‘textbook’ grammar that may be more ‘correct’ but sounds like something my English grandmother might say. Like using ‘whom’ or something.

I think the point is you know the rules and you know that you can break them. If you choose to say “I’ll learn you some real grammar” it has a different effect than if you say it because you don’t know better. I can choose to use grammar that I know to be ‘incorrect’ because I’m making a statement about the sort of person I am. Like, I’m fairly young, I don’t care to much about the rules and I want my conversation to have some kind of flavour.

So what’s my conclusion? I guess that there’s no ‘correct’ English. It’s about communicating something, and the use of different grammar communicates a different message, so it’s only ‘incorrect’ if the message it conveys is significantly different from what was intended.


Oh god, its Musasa again. “if you feel … then I really have nothing further to say to you.”
Followed by a further two-and-a-half paragraphs!

BTW, “That’s the room I’m sleeping in” is poor grammar. Plain and simple. Just because there are many people around who are unable to grasp basic grammar concepts doesn’t excuse improper use.

And before you start, I’m anything but a pedant. It just ticks me off when I see “language evolution” being used as a description for “dumbing down.”

And to think I thought it was possible to conduct an intelligent discussion here without it degrading into a rant fest. What a mistake that was!

I have no problem with disagreeing with people. But you simply lack the ability to discuss any issue without turning it into a pissing fest. You have a complete inability to post respectfully and thoughtfully. Notice how polite my first response to Wolf was. Then notice how bitter his follow up was. There can be no dialogue in conditions of these sorts.

Now one of the few threads I’ve started (with good intentions) has been dragged down…

I would suggest that my account be deleted, except I wouldn’t want someone else coming on and impersonating me.

Not to worry Musasa. Ain’t nobody, gonna impersonate you – no way, no how. You be one of a kind.

Btw, if anyone wants further education on usage, or “myths,” just buy a usage handbook. There are several fine ones available and they touch on all the current issues on this topic and much more.

“BTW, I do not currently teach, but what I do is my own affair, and none of your business.” – Musasa

My, aren’t we touchy…

wow wolf, you took the words right out of my mouth.

for those who aren’t schooled in english usage, common usage should not be equated with correct usage. Otherwise, “who dat?” and “yo, homeboy, wassup?” should all be correct.

“to closely monitor”? try “to monitor closely”

“And I repeat, total nonsense.” is not a sentence.

“I’m sleeping in that room.” is simple enough. why juggle six pins when you can juggle five?

If there were not so many scholars, maybe we would have one chinese romanisation that could be understood by chinese (when spoken) and foreigners alike.

gramirroolzstoopidnooneneedzum cozevrybuudynozewhatumeenanyway spelntoodonneedittheezdaez.and;also spaisesbiteenthewurdzdonneedumeether englishwoodbemoreeasilyif onlyevrywuncoodfergit stoopidroolzthatswhutaysae.


cancon reference: madness ala bill bissett.
think this: know yr rulz b4 ya break.

mad bommaz in effect yall.

So, O prickly one, if we are to do away with certain grammar rules, which ones should we do away with?

Who should be the arbiter of which rules are stupid and which ones serve a useful purpose? Or should we just abandon all rules pertaining to language across the board? That would sure put an end to the Romanization issue pretty fast, I suppose. I guess it’d also put a lot of English teachers out of a job, but that’s the price you pay for progress.

Me, I also think there are a lot of stupid rules around. Like the one that says you can’t marry your sister, for example. Something to do with genetic mutations, or so I’ve heard, but hell, there’ve been cyclops in my family for as long as I can remember. I for one have never missed binocular vision. Just a waste of an eye, far as I can tell.

A few points:

“gramirroolzstoopidnooneneedzum cozevrybuudynozewhatumeenanyway spelntoodonneedittheezdaez.and;also spaisesbiteenthewurdzdonneedumeether englishwoodbemoreeasilyif onlyevrywuncoodfergit stoopidroolzthatswhutaysae”

  • that’s punctuation and spelling mostly, not grammar.

Split infinitives: That rule is one of many that actually comes from latin and is pretty absurd to apply to English, but some people thought that seeing as Latin is more academic than English it’s rules were better or something.

“I’m sleeping in that room” has a slightly different meaning from “that’s the room I’m sleeping in”. The emphasis is different at least. Eg “There’s a fire in Room 35!!!” “My God, that’s the room I’m sleeping in” sounds a lot more natural than “my God, that’s the room in which I am sleeping”.

Of course English needs ‘rules’. The point is that changing them and ‘breaking’ them is allowed. It’s correct usage - not bad English.