The oft-neglected subjunctive – it’s important that we be aware of it
Unlike many European languages, the subjunctive mood is relatively rare in English. Nonetheless, if you’re wanting your written English to be flawless, it’s definitely worth understanding the appropriate use of the subjunctive. Consider the following: If I were you, I wouldn’t lend him money. If your brother were here, he would back me up. In the case of the first and third person singular, together with the past tense of the verb to be, the subjunctive mood is used – so the sentences above are correct. The reason is that in both cases the conditional is unlikely or impossible – I am not you and never could be; your brother is clearly not here. In these situations were is used in place of was. As is often the case with popular culture, Californ ...
Change – the only constant (Part 2)
As we wrote last month, change is constant. Not only vocabulary, but grammar and punctuation also change, albeit quite slowly. Part 2: Grammar Changes in grammar “rules” evolve fairly slowly over time. How much grammar use has changed since you learned the basics at school will largely depend on how old you are. In fact, it likely depends how old you are as to whether you were even taught the basic grammar rules at school at all! A whole generation seems to have fallen through the cracks during a widespread trend in the 70s and 80s to omit any formal teaching of grammar, due to the belief that focusing on correct grammar would destroy children’s creativity and willingness to write. Despite this, most reasonably educated people of that generation still speak and wri ...
Change – the only constant
Change. It happens constantly, whether we like it or not. As we reach the middle of February, we are already, in some places, seeing signs of winter finally turning towards spring. The seasons change year after year – nothing can stop this change. At the same time, the way we work has changed for many of us, and will continue to do so in a way few of us would have visualized this time last year. Many of us are working from home, others are in workplaces that have physically changed beyond recognition. Those of us who work with language, as writers and editors, are also faced with constantly changing vocabulary and grammar and punctuation rules. It can be difficult to keep up and to know what is acceptable in formal writing and what is not. Style guides change their reco ...