Proper English?

In our last blog we were discussing what proper English really is, and if there is such a thing. You were given some rules and we promised to provide  you with some answers to your doubts. We hope you’ve had enough time to think about the rules and their relevance.

Answers to last time’s blog challenge:

Sentences 3, 9 and 11 are clearly wrong and so the rules that forbid them can be considered “good rules”.

Most native speakers would agree that 8 is strictly speaking incorrect, although it is very often heard.

The other rules are more dubious:

1,2 Ending a sentence with a preposition ( e.g. What are you listening to?) and splitting infinitives

(e.g.He wanted to quickly go through everything.) are common in English. Splitting infinitives         often avoids ambiguity.

4  Contractions are preferred in informal English, although they should not be used in formal written English.

5 And, but and So are commonly used  to begin sentences in English.

6 A useful rule , but with many exceptions.

7,15 Using foreign words and clichés is perfectly acceptable, though of course excessive use would amount to poor style.

11The passive voice is the norm in many contexts ,especially in more formal and scientific English.

10 Rhetorical questions are often used to create an effect.

12 It has only recently become common, even in educated circles, to use less with countable nouns. To many it is still considered incorrect, and language learners should learn to differentiate between less and fewer.

13 English sentences often end with an auxiliary in order to avoid repetition.

Let’s  round off with another opinion or, shall we say, go back to the beginning: Is there such a thing as proper English?




Tips for proper English

While at school we learn  many rules that teach us how to write and express ourselves properly.  Some of them are an indispensable norm, others just a whim of our English teacher.Luckily,while teaching English we  usually forget the pedantic rules we had been taught. Somewhere along the way we’ve realised that they  are, more often then not, quite ridiculous.

For all you advanced students who want to challenge yourselves ,here are 15 such  tips for proper English usage. Read them and think about how each rule has been broken. Correct the mistakes accordingly to the rule, where possible. Please don’t post any answers to us but just write the corrections down and wait for the answers, which will be published in our next blog post, together with explainations about which of these rules are “good” and which are  more dubious.

Have fun!

1.  A preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with. Never do it.

2.  Remember to never split an infinitive.

3.  Don’t use no double infinitives.

4.  Don’t ever use contractions.

5.  And never start a sentence with a conjuction.

6. Write i before e except after c. I’m relieved to receive this anciently weird rule.

7. Foreign words and phrases are not “chic”.

8. Me and John are careful to use subject pronouns correctly.

9. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

10. Who needs rhetorical questions?

11. The passive voice is to be avoided wherever possible.

12. Use fewer with number and less with quantity. Less and less people do.

13. If any word is incorrect at the end of a sentence,an auxiliary verb is.

14. Proof read carefully to see if you any words out.

15. At the end of the day avoid clichés like the plague.

Those of you who are interested in finding out more about “proper” English, may want to read this article from The Guardian:

Finally, links to two of the songs mentioned in the article.  We recommend exploring the grammar of the rest of them as well.


Remembering Summer

Yes, we know it’s already October and that this is our very first ( and very late) post in this new school year. Our lame excuse is that we’ve been suffering from  a severe attack of post vacacional depression. Hopefully it’s all over now thanks to the steps  we had followed from this blog:

You must have noticed  that the best way to overcome the blues, according to the author of the blog post and our personal opinion, is to be planning a new trip. This can also be a good motivational tip to start practicing your English again.

Get online and check out the places you’d like to visit, but only visit sites in English, no matter where you are planning to go. Take part in forums or chats, dream your way to your next holiday destination and do it all in English. It doesn’t matter when you’ll be off or if you will travel at all. What matters is that you’ll be doing an enjoyable and  relaxing activity without even noticing that you’re  expanding your vocabulary.While daydreaming about your favourite destination, you will probably learn a number of synonyms for the word: GREAT,

as well as many more slang expressions meaning the very opposite:

And here’s a lesson  for you to get an idea how slang is used.

While away in a foreign land you were exposed to some GREAT and not so great English. One of the main reasons for non native speakers making mistakes is that they are constantly trying to translate certain words or concepts into English. Sometimes this impedes understanding , sometimes it just makes us chuckle but very often there are words or concepts that just can’t be translated.

Here is a video with 10 such words.Needlesss to say, there are many more and you are free to investigate.However, the best characteristic of this video is that you have a chance of hearing people speak English in 10 different foreign accents. Have fun!

Finally, we can’t help but make a little suggestion. Have a fantastic daydreaming trip!