English Grammar FAQ
As posted to alt,usage.english and to the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange.

    These are some of the postings I have made, mostly to the newsgroup alt.usage.english. As a linguistics professor, with a special interest in English and a background including some time as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages, I frequently have to explain how things work to people who don't really know much about English grammar. I don't find it particularly disturbing that people ask questions about English grammar; after all, this is why people ask questions, and this is what I do (in part) for a living. I do find it somewhat disturbing to see how many English speakers are clueless about the realities of English, and how many different varieties of confusion they display, and how often one encounters them.

    The questions I encounter and attempt to answer in this group are thus far more valuable to me than the answers, because any linguist generally knows the answers to these, and has generally gotten tired of answering them. What I value more is questions, which allow me to frame my understanding in a context that makes it more valuable to others. Thus this collection, to keep me from repeating myself so often.

    Each post represents some question (or at least is sparked by a posting by somebody else), which is usually quoted at the beginning in the typical Usenet style (using ">" as a context-citation marker and stacking these as needed for meta-context). I have edited them lightly and deleted some material in the course of tightening them up, and I've deleted a lot of the original context, including names of most of the original posters, so they aren't the same as they were when sent. The longer ones often contain several posts on the same subject, with discussion of issues raised; these are called "extended discussions" below.

    Series 1 and 2 files now have a concordance, thanks to the efforts of Markus Laker and Bob Cunningham, of the alt.usage.english Website. Click on the concordance link to search for any word or phrase in use here, or in the other sites the a.u.e site points at. One-stop usage shopping.

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