The many of you who loathe the grammar police may be encouraged by this remark from Thomas Jefferson during his first term as President (1801-1804): “I detest rigid grammar.”
It seems encouragement for those of you who don’t know — and don’t care — how to use an apostrophe or who can’t tell the difference between “you’re” vs. “your” or “losing” vs. “loosing.”
Alas — you would be mistaken. Jefferson didn’t “detest rigid grammar” with reference to apostrophes, pronouns and spelling. Rather, he was talking about the picky editing by politicians from New England when they perused the state papers written by Jefferson for Congress. As a Southerner, Jefferson thought the public figures from New England were too snooty about their education.
Indeed, Jefferson took diligent care in the writing of his messages to Congress and his two Inaugural Addresses and the many other papers and policies he penned. Therefore, we may assume that the third President WAS indeed concerned about grammar.
Therefore, a free lesson is being offered in honor of this month being the 239th anniversary of Jefferson’s authorship of the Declaration of Independence.
Your vs. You’re
Your means “belonging to you”. “Your trumpet playing is superb.”
“You’re” means “you are.” “You’re not going to play that trumpet after 11 this evening, are you?”
Losing vs. Loosing
“Loosing” does not mean “losing.”
An apostrophe followed by an “s” means: something belonging to one person or thing.
“A Pittsburgh Steeler’s Super Bowl ring was lost.”
An “s” followed by an apostrophe means: something belonging to plural persons or things.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers’ [plural] concern for their teammate’s [singular] lost ring is genuine.”
It is NOT correct to write: “The Pittsburgh Steeler’s will have a great season.”
Were vs. we’re
“Were” is the plural of “was.” “I was awake. They were not.”
“We’re” means “we are.” “We’re going to the beach.”
Their vs. they’re vs. there
Their means “belonging to them.” “Their worst fear was confirmed.”
“They’re” means “they are.” “They’re hoping for the best.”
“There” means something at a distance from the speaker. “There it is.”
Its vs. it’s
“Its” means “belonging to it.” “Nothing compares to Yellowstone. Its beauty is unique.”
“It’s” means “it is.” “Nothing compares to Yellowstone. Its beauty is unique. It’s also the first national park in the world.”
Duel vs. Dual
A “duel” is a competition between two challengers. “The duel was between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.”
“Dual” means “two-fold.” “Their is a dual purpose in my being here.”
Good vs. well
“Good” is an adjective, describing a noun or a pronoun. “The trumpet-playing is superb. He’s good.”
“Well” is an adverb, describing a verb. “The trumpet playing is superb. He plays well.”
It is NOT correct for a baseball broadcaster to saying, “He is pitching good.” (“He is pitching well.”)
Number vs. amount
A number is something that can be counted on your fingers. “A number of buckets of water came from the fire house.”
An amount is something that can not be counted individually; “amount” refers to “volume”: “The amount of water in the buckets was enormous.”
“Amount” can also refer to totality: “The amount of money he made was enormous.”
It is NOT correct for a baseball broadcast to say, “He has thrown a large amount of pitches.”
Pitches can be counted individually. “He has thrown a large number of pitches.”
The same difference exists between “few” and “less.” “Few” refers to individual things. “He has few friends.”
“Less” refers to volume or a total amount. “He has less sense than he thinks.”