Grammar rules form the backbone of any language, providing structure and coherence to our communication. While we are familiar with common grammar rules, there are some lesser-known rules that add uniqueness and intrigue to the English language. In this blog post, we will explore 8 fascinating grammar rules that you might not have heard of before. From unusual punctuation to peculiar verb conjugations, these rules will expand your understanding of the English language and make you appreciate its intricacies even more.
1. The Oxford Comma Rule:
The first unique grammar rule we will discuss is the Oxford comma rule. Also known as the serial comma, it involves using a comma before the conjunction in a list of three or more items. While its usage may vary, adopting the Oxford comma can help prevent ambiguity and enhance clarity in your writing.
“I ate apples, bananas, and oranges.” (Using the Oxford comma)
“I ate apples, bananas and oranges.” (Without the Oxford comma)
Example: In “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we find the following sentence: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…” The Oxford comma after “money” helps to clarify the separation between the two items in the list.
2. The Semicolon Rule:
Semicolons can be intimidating, but they serve a distinct purpose in grammar. This rule explores the proper use of semicolons to connect independent clauses, indicating a closer relationship between the two ideas. Mastering the semicolon rule can add sophistication and variety to your writing.
“I have a busy day ahead; I need to finish my work, attend a meeting, and prepare for a presentation.”
“She traveled extensively last year; she visited countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa.”
Example: In “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, we find the following use of a semicolon: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” This iconic opening line uses a semicolon to create a parallel structure and contrast between the two contrasting conditions, emphasizing the stark duality of the era portrayed in the novel.
3. The Em Dash Rule:
The em dash is a versatile punctuation mark that can be used in place of parentheses, commas, or colons. This rule delves into the effective usage of em dashes to indicate emphasis, interruption, or a sudden change in thought. Incorporating em dashes appropriately can add flair and impact to your writing style.
“The party was fantastic—I enjoyed every moment.”
“I bought the groceries—milk, eggs, and bread—at the supermarket.”
Example: In “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, we find the following use of an em dash: “He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” The em dash is used to create a sudden interruption or pause in the sentence.
4. The Split Infinitive Rule:
The split infinitive rule challenges the traditional notion of keeping infinitives intact. It allows for the insertion of an adverb between “to” and the base form of a verb. While some grammarians frown upon split infinitives, this rule highlights its acceptance and occasional usefulness in expressing meaning precisely.
“She decided to boldly pursue her dreams.”
“He promised to carefully consider all the options.”
Example: In “Star Trek” by Gene Roddenberry, the famous phrase “to boldly go where no one has gone before” demonstrates the use of a split infinitive. The adverb “boldly” splits the infinitive “to go,” emphasizing the sense of adventure.
5. The Double Negative Rule:
The double negative rule may seem counterintuitive, but it has a place in grammar. While standard grammar dictates that double negatives cancel each other out, certain dialects and contexts employ double negatives for emphasis or rhetorical effect. Understanding the appropriate usage of double negatives can help you appreciate the richness and diversity of the English language.
“I can’t get no satisfaction.” (Informal usage for emphasis)
“I don’t want none of that.” (Colloquial usage for emphasis)
Example: In William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” we encounter the line “I can not no, nor I will not, come.” Here, the double negative intensifies the refusal, emphasizing Hamlet’s strong determination not to comply.
6. The Irregular Plural Rule:
Most English nouns form their plurals by adding “-s” or “-es” to the singular form. However, certain words have irregular plural forms that deviate from this pattern. These irregular plurals add complexity and diversity to the English language.
“Child” becomes “Children.”
“Ox” becomes “Oxen.”
“Phenomenon” becomes “Phenomena.”
Example: In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” the word “dwarf” becomes “dwarves” in its plural form. The author specifically chose the irregular plural to maintain linguistic consistency with old English and Norse mythology.
7. The Conditional Mood Rule:
The conditional mood rule pertains to the verb form used to express hypothetical or unreal situations. It involves the use of “would” or “could” in conjunction with the base form of a verb. By understanding and employing the conditional mood correctly, you can articulate imaginative scenarios and ideas more effectively.
“If I won the lottery, I would travel the world.”
“If I could fly, I would soar through the clouds.”
Example: In George Orwell’s “1984,” the famous line “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever” exemplifies the conditional mood. The use of “If you want” introduces a hypothetical scenario.
8. The Verb Agreement Rule with Collective Nouns:
Collective nouns, such as “team,” “family,” or “government,” refer to a group of individuals but are treated as singular nouns in terms of verb agreement. This rule clarifies how verbs should be conjugated when used with collective nouns, ensuring grammatical accuracy in your writing and speaking.
“The team is practicing for the tournament.”
“The family enjoys spending time together.”
Example: In Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” we encounter the sentence “The whole party were in hopes of a letter from Mr. Bennet the next morning.” Here, “the whole party” is treated as a singular collective noun, and the verb “were” is used accordingly.
Discovering unique grammar rules adds depth and fascination to our understanding of the English language. By exploring lesser-known rules like the Oxford comma, the em dash, and the split infinitive, we gain insight into the versatility and intricacy of grammar. Understanding these rules allows us to express ourselves more precisely and creatively, elevating our writing and communication skills.
Incorporating the proper usage of grammar rules enriches our language and helps us connect with others effectively. So, embrace these unique grammar rules and explore the myriad possibilities they offer in enhancing your command of the English language.