Grammar Wednesday!

Today, we’re addressing more of your pet peeves!

Kizz asked for the various forms of the verb “to hang” (in honor, she says, of the late Iraqi dictator), the forms of the verb “to drink” and, finally, the proper use of pronouns.

The verb “to hang,” an irregular verb, means, of course, to suspend something from above. The forms of the verb change, though, depending on what, exactly, one is hanging:

*We hung our food from a tree branch at the campsite to keep it out of the hands of bears and raccoons.

*The Nazis at Nuremberg were hanged for crimes against humanity.

My dictionary tells me that if there is some sort of legal execution, the older form of past tense of the verb – hanged – is used. If there’s no legality involved, the more common form of the verb – hung – is used; as in “the prisoner hung himself in his cell.”

Drink (and sink and ring and spring and swing and….) are also irregular verbs. The present tense is, of course, pretty easy: I drink, you drink, he/she/it drinks. It’s when you get into the past participal – when you add the helping verb “to have” – that most people run into trouble:

*Christa drank too much water before the race, and had to pee at mile six.

*I had never drunk whiskey before last Christmas.

*The house sank into its poorly constructed foundation.

*The ship had sunk before the crew had a chance to save the gold boullion on board.

My dictionary tells me that “drank” used with “had” or “have” is sneaking into regular usage because of the connotations of “drunk” with intoxication; as in “The group had drank their fill of the museum in just a few hours.” I am resisting that trend for all I’m worth.

Finally, we come to pronouns. This is a HUGE problem for a lot of people and something that stumped my grammar students last semester. What *I* do to figure out which pronoun to use in which situation is take out everyone but the pronoun from the sentence to see which sounds right:

*Steve, Larry and I/me went to the movies on Tuesday. *I* – not *me* went to the movies, so the correct pronoun is “I.”

*Her/She and Jess managed to keep the store open during the blizzards. *She* would have managed to keep the store open, even if Jess weren’t there.

This lesson was actually a “light bulb” moment for one of my grammar students last term: his eyes got big and he said “OH! I GET it now!” He nailed that section of the final, and I imagine that he’s reducing multiple subjects down to just the pronouns – and getting them right – every time.

Questions? Clarifications? More pet peeves? Bring ’em!



Filed under Grammar

5 responses to “Grammar Wednesday!

  1. I have more of a request actually, could you please distribute this en masse to everyone on the internet who writes fanfiction.

    Thank you so much.


  2. Yay for Mrs. Chili–

    Saving the world, one improper verb tense at a time.

  3. Most of the time, the personal pronoun question is easily answered by the logic you offer; it’s the same logic many English teachers use. However, there are occasions where it doesn’t work. I came across one in my writing just yesterday that I actually had to research an aswer for. Here it is:

    Should you say No one but I read the book or No one but me read the book?

    The rules dictate that you should use “I” if “but” is a conjunction in these sentences. If “but” is a preposition, however, you should use “me”. Which is it in this case—conjunction or preposition?

    I found an answer, but I’ll hold the answer for a bit to see what people say.

  4. I have the answer, but I’m not giving it away unless / until someone asks me….

  5. madbandril

    From Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage:

    “Many commentators recognize that hung for hanged is now common in standard English, but more than few persist in describing it as an error, pure and simple.

    Our evidence shows that hung for hanged is certainy not an error. Educated speakers and writers use it commonly and have for many years:

    …soldiers convicted of appalling crimes are being hung and shot – Times Literary Supplement, 29 Nov. 1941

    …insists that IRA terrorists can be hung by the law now – Noyes Thomas, News of the World (London), 24 Nov. 1974


    And E. Bagby Atwood’s A Survey of Verb Forms in the Eastern United States (1953) found that in speech ‘hung… predominates in all areas and among all types [of informants considered with respect to age and level of education].’

    The distinction between hanged and hung is not an especially useful one. It is, however, a simple one and certainly easy to remember. Therein lies its popularity. If you make a point of observing the distinction in your writing, you will not thereby become a better writer, but you will spare yourself the annoyance of being corrected for having done something that is not wrong.”

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