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Rules of English Grammar: Commonly Confused Words

Before we get down to our regularly scheduled grammar business, can we please talk about how Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting another baby? I’m so ridiculously happy right now!

Me yesterday


If you’re new around these parts, you may not know that up until recently I was a high school English teacher. I studied to be an English teacher at Vanderbilt, which involved an entire class about grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and how to teach them. Because of that and actually teaching, I learned all sorts of rules of English grammar. One area of that is commonly confused words.

rules of English grammar

Back in November, I talked about the differences between stationary and stationery, raise and rise, and lay and lie. If you every wonder about those differences, be sure to check that out!

What are the differences between affect and effect?

Affect is the verb and effect is the noun. So, I was affected by the change of air pressure last week in Boston. The effect was higher pain (thanks arthritis). Here’s the way I remember it – affect is the action. That means that effect is the result of the action. (A for action, aka verb.)

Is it bear with me or bare with me?

Actually, unless you want someone to get naked with you, it’s bear. Also, you could say, “Hey, after our zoo heist, the bear is with me.” (Oh, how I crack myself up.) Now, bare does have multiple meanings, but they are rooted in the same thing. Bare could be a) that it doesn’t have anything added on to it (“I exposed my bare hands to the elements”) or b) that you are exposing something (“I’m baring the heavy winter storm”). So by saying, “Bare with me,” you’re saying, “Bare yourself with me.” As in, get bare with me. “Bear with me” may seem strange, but it is the correct version.

Accept versus except – go!

You’re going to follow me on all social media other than Pinterest? I may not like it, but I accept your exception. Accept is agreeing or receiving. Except is everything but. Although it is usually used as a preposition or conjunction, it can be as a verb. So don’t tell yourself that accept is a verb and except isn’t, because that isn’t always the case. Preposition version is the most common – “I will do everything except for …”

Is it more then or more than?

More than! “Then” is a progression – “First I write a post, then I proofread it.” “Than” is a comparison. “Are you faster or slower than Usain Bolt?” Depending on your accent, there might not be a difference between them when you speak, which can make this difficult to figure out. But they are two separate words.

Am I complimenting or complementing someone?

Well, it depends. Are you trying to tell them something nice about them? Then you are complimenting them. If you are trying to make a group complete, then you are complementing the group. If you tell your new coworker, “Mary, your skills really complement the law firm,” then you are complimenting her. Think about it this way: when you complement, you complete.

And now – meet Jenn!

 I’m a military kid who calls Virginia home, but moved to Montana last year with a boy and we bought a house that needs a lot of renovations. Some acres came with the house, so we got chickens and are planning on a mini farm, maybe some goats and an alpaca and who knows what else, so long as the dogs can handle it. I’m a journalist by day and also coach figure skating at the local rink and have gotten very involved with fundraising and marketing for the community ice rink. I’m a coffee-addict, peppermint-obsessed, wine loving traveler who is putting down roots in Big Sky country. You’ll read about all of these things and more on the blog and get lots of photos of my dog Grover and the boy’s dog Moxie.

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