Grammar can be a knotty problem indeed and next to public speaking, the most disliked subject in the curriculum. I know because I taught both subjects at the high school level in California and Virginia and felt like the Wicked Witch of the West or East, depending on where one lived. Knowing a bit about English grammar can be a bit of a curse. Everywhere one looks are misspelled signs and almost every television talk show is replete with grammatical errors.
Poor grammar is everywhere and it is my intention to have you display a linguistic knowledge that bespeaks culture, education, refinement and all that jazz. One can cringe just so long over bad grammar until it is time to write what I think are some easy lessons that will help with speaking and writing English. I speak American English, incidentally, not the British version, so expect American slang and colloquialisms. I will try not to burden you with grammatical terms, because, let's be frank - who needs them? No more sentence diagrams, I promise.
Why should we learn rules of grammar? Because such knowledge makes for better communication. The usage of correct grammar marks one as educated. Let's face it: Using words such as "whom" or "badly" correctly gives us a certain refined air. The study of grammar need not be boring. Instead, we can be detectives unsnarling tricky grammatical puzzles and still maintain our sanity.
The point of these columns will be to teach, entertain, amaze and even amuse you. Grammar can be every bit as interesting as a game of wits and puzzles. I promise you that we won't diagram sentences or memorize parts of speech. These columns, I hope, will have a much lighter air. So, here goes.
When I read, "My cat, Algernon, licked it's butt," I cringe. Not from embarrassment regarding A's gross manners, but because of the grammatical error. Have you spotted the flaw? Good for you!
The apostrophe in "it's" stands for major surgery indicating that an "i" has been deleted and what were once two syllables have now become one. The sentence should read, "My cat, Algernon, licked its butt."
"Its" without an apostrophe indicates ownership; that is, someone or something owning something. "The flag displayed its colors beautifully." The colors belong to the flag.
Any time you read "it's," you can mentally translate it to "it is" and you will be correct every single time.
Supply "its" or "it's" correctly to the following sentences:
1. ___ the best season of the year.
2. The restaurant is famous for ___
3. ___ breakfast time.
4. ___ time to go, isn't it?
5. ___ engine is stalled.
The writer is an author, teacher and body language expert.