Misused Forms in English Page 3



“Says I” is a vulgarism; don’t use it. “I said” is correct form.


Be careful to distinguish the meaning of these two little prepositions and don’t interchange them. Don’t say “He went in the room” nor “My brother is into the navy.” In denotes the place where a person or thing, whether at rest or in motion, is present; and into denotes entrance. “He went into the room;” “My brother is in the navy” are correct.


Don’t confound the two. Eat is present, ate is past. “I eat the bread” means that I am continuing the eating; “I ate the bread” means that the act of eating is past. Eaten is the perfect participle, but often eat is used instead, and as it has the same pronunciation (et) of ate, care should be taken to distinguish the past tense, I ate from the perfect I have eaten (eat).


Remember that the first person takes precedence of the second and the second takes precedence of the third. When Cardinal Wolsey said Ego et Rex (I and the King), he showed he was a good grammarian, but a bad courtier.


“I am come” points to my being here, while “I have come” intimates that I have just arrived. When the subject is not a person, the verb to be should be used in preference to the verb to have; as, “The box is come” instead of “The box has come.”


The interchange of these two parts of the irregular or so-called strong verbs is, perhaps, the breach oftenest committed by careless speakers and writers. To avoid mistakes it is requisite to know the principal parts of these verbs, and this knowledge is very easy of acquirement, as there are not more than a couple of hundred of such verbs, and of this number but a small part is in daily use. Here are some of the most common blunders: “I seen” for “I saw;” “I done it” for “I did it;” “I drunk” for “I drank;” “I begun” for “I began;” “I rung” for “I rang;” “I run” for “I ran;” “I sung” for “I sang;” “I have chose” for “I have chosen;” “I have drove” for “I have driven;” “I have wore” for “I have worn;” “I have trod” for “I have trodden;” “I have shook” for “I have shaken;” “I have fell” for “I have fallen;” “I have drank” for “I have drunk;” “I have began” for “I have begun;” “I have rang” for “I have rung;” “I have rose” for “I have risen;” “I have spoke” for “I have spoken;” “I have broke” for “I have broken.” “It has froze” for “It has frozen.” “It has blowed” for “It has blown.” “It has flowed” (of a bird) for “It has flown.”

N. B.—The past tense and past participle of To Hang is hanged or hung. When you are talking about a man meeting death on the gallows, say “He was hanged”; when you are talking about the carcass of an animal say, “It was hung,” as “The beef was hung dry.” Also say your coat “was hung on a hook.”


Don’t forget that prepositions always take the objective case. Don’t say “Between you and I”; say “Between you and me”

Two prepositions should not govern one objective unless there is an immediate connection between them. “He was refused admission to and forcibly ejected from the school” should be “He was refused admission to the school and forcibly ejected from it.”


Don’t say “I shall summons him,” but “I shall summon him.” Summon is a verb, summons, a noun.

It is correct to say “I shall get a summons for him,” not a summon.


“My brother has an undeniable character” is wrong if I wish to convey the idea that he has a good character. The expression should be in that case “My brother has an unexceptionable character.” An undeniable character is a character that cannot be denied, whether bad or good. An unexceptionable character is one to which no one can take exception.


Very many mistakes occur in the use of the pronouns. “Let you and I go” should be “Let you and me go.” “Let them and we go” should be “Let them and us go.” The verb let is transitive and therefore takes the objective case.

“Give me them flowers” should be “Give me those flowers”; “I mean them three” should be “I mean those three.” Them is the objective case of the personal pronoun and cannot be used adjectively like the demonstrative adjective pronoun. “I am as strong as him” should be “I am as strong as he”; “I am younger than her” should be “I am younger than she;” “He can write better than me” should be “He can write better than I,” for in these examples the objective cases him, her and me are used wrongfully for the nominatives. After each of the misapplied pronouns a verb is understood of which each pronoun is the subject. Thus, “I am as strong as he (is).” “I am younger than she (is).” “He can write better than I (can).”

Don’t say “It is me;” say “It is I” The verb To Be of which is is a part takes the same case after it that it has before it. This holds good in all situations as well as with pronouns.

The verb To Be also requires the pronouns joined to it to be in the same case as a pronoun asking a question; The nominative I requires the nominative who and the objectives me, him, her, its, you, them, require the objective whom.

“Whom do you think I am?” should be “Who do you think I am?” and “Who do they suppose me to be?” should be “Whom do they suppose me to be?” The objective form of the Relative should be always used, in connection with a preposition. “Who do you take me for?” should be “Whom do, etc.” “Who did you give the apple to?” should be “Whom did you give the apple to,” but as pointed out elsewhere the preposition should never end a sentence, therefore, it is better to say, “To whom did you give the apple?”

After transitive verbs always use the objective cases of the pronouns. For “He and they we have seen,” say “Him and them we have seen.”


“The hurt it was that painful it made him cry,” say “so painful.”


Don’t say, These kind; those sort. Kind and sort are each singular and require the singular pronouns this and that. In connection with these demonstrative adjective pronouns remember that this and these refer to what is near at hand, that and those to what is more distant; as, this book (near me), that book (over there), these boys (near), those boys (at a distance).


“This much is certain” should be “Thus much or so much is certain.”


These are two separate verbs and must not be interchanged. The principal parts of flee are flee, fled, fled; those of fly are fly, flew, flown. To flee is generally used in the meaning of getting out of danger. To fly means to soar as a bird. To say of a man “He has flown from the place” is wrong; it should be “He has fled from the place.” We can say with propriety that “A bird has flown from the place.”


Don’t say “He is well known through the land,” but “He is well known throughout the land.”


Don’t mistake these two words so nearly alike. Vocation is the employment, business or profession one follows for a living; avocation is some pursuit or occupation which diverts the person from such employment, business or profession. Thus

“His vocation was the law, his avocation, farming.”


In the subjunctive mood the plural form were should be used with a singular subject; as, “If I were,” not was. Remember the plural form of the personal pronoun you always takes were, though it may denote but one. Thus, “You were,” never “you was.” “If I was him” is a very common expression. Note the two mistakes in it,—that of the verb implying a condition, and that of the objective case of the pronoun. It should read If I were he. This is another illustration of the rule regarding the verb To Be, taking the same case after it as before it; were is part of the verb To Be, therefore as the nominative (I) goes before it, the nominative (he) should come after it.


A becomes an before a vowel or before h mute for the sake of euphony or agreeable sound to the ear. An apple, an orange, an heir, an honor, etc.

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