By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated, November 11, 2013)
1. Should I use inside or inside of?
Inside is fine on its own because of is part of the meaning (Inside means the interior of something):
He hid inside the house because he was afraid of the neighbours’ aggressive cat.
2. Is it prohibit from or prohibit to?
Prohibit from is correct:
She was prohibited from visiting the zoo after she got into a fight with one of the monkeys.
3. Should I use forbid from or forbid to?
Although forbid works with either to or from in some cases, to is always correct, so it’s best to stick with to:
He forbid the children to say YOLO.
4. Is it toward or towards?
In North America, don’t add the final s (in Britain, it’s added). This rule also applies to backward, forward, upward, downward, onward, and other words of this nature
5. Is lighted or lit correct?
Both are fine as the past tense of the verb light.
6. Is all or all of correct?
Either can be used unless followed by a pronoun (her, them, etc.); use of with pronouns:
He drank all the beer that his roommates had bought, which made all of them very angry.
7. What about both or both of?
The same rule applies as above; don’t use of unless both is followed by a pronoun.
8. Is got or gotten correct?
In North America, use got to indicate possession and gotten to indicate that something has been acquired or obtained (as the past tense of get):
He’s got four pumpkins. (He has, in his possession, four pumpkins.)
He has gotten four pumpkins. (He has obtained four pumpkins from somewhere.)
In British English, gotten is not typically used (got is used to indicate both possession and acquisition).
9. Is the past tense of dive dived or dove?
Either is acceptable. However, some consider dove informal, so when in doubt, use dived.
10. Should I use less or fewer?
This depends on whether or not the item can be counted. You have less money but fewer dollar bills, less food but fewer bars of chocolate, less stress but fewer stressful days.
11. Should I use like or such as?
Like means that something is similar; you’re listing comparable things. Such as means that something is included within a group of things:
Boston’s Museum of Bad Art contains works such as “Lucy in the Sky with Flowers” and “Circus of Despair.” (These are among the works at the museum.)
John prefers ridiculous old shows like “Gilligan’s Island” to ridiculous new shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” (John likes old shows that are similar to or as ridiculous as “Gilligan’s Island”; however, “Gilligan’s Island” isn’t necessarily included in his list of preferred shows. It just represents the type of show that John prefers.)
14. Which is correct, though or although?
These are typically interchangeable, except when using phrases than include as or even (as though, even though) and when used to mean however or nevertheless:
Although/though Lurlene loved sousaphone players, she hated sousaphone music. (Either although or though works in this sentence.)
Lurlene loved sousaphone players, though she hated sousaphone music. (Because it is standing in for however, only though works here.)
Lurlene hated sousaphone music even though she loved sousaphone players. (Though must be used here because it is preceded by even.)
Lurlene acted as though she loved sousaphone music just to spend time with sousaphone players. (Because as is used here, only though is acceptable.)
15. Which form is correct: comprises, is comprised of, is composed of, or consists of?
All of these mean the same thing. However, even though it’s not technically wrong, most grammar experts say that of shouldn’t be used with comprised, so it’s safer to avoid this lest you draw the wrath of the grammar police.
16. Should I use while or whereas?
While is most often used to indicate that things happen or are done simultaneously:
He juggles bananas while riding a unicycle.
However, it is also used to balance contrasting ideas within a single sentence in the same way as whereas:
He likes to juggle bananas, while/whereas she prefers to work with kumquats. (Both forms are correct in this sentence.)
17. A lot of verbs have two past-tense forms, one ending in ed and the other in t – which forms are correct?
With verbs such as burned or burnt, spilled or spilt, dreamed or dreamt, and spoiled or spoilt, both forms are correct, but those ending in ed are typically preferred. However, in some cases the t ending is more popular, as in leapt versus leaped and knelt versus kneeled.
18. What is the difference between each other and one another?
Some grammar experts say that there is no difference. Others say that each other should be used for two entities and one another for more than two:
Wanda and Megatron hated each other.
All of the members of the marching band hated one another.
If you use each other and one another interchangeably, you may incur the wrath of certain grammar experts, whereas following the rule of two versus many will keep you safe from raging grammarians, so sticking to this rule is the best strategy.
19. Should I use so or so that?
Use so on its own when it indicates a continuation of action or a response to something:
Will said that he was bringing the water balloons, so Mel decided to bring the squirt guns.
Use so that when explaining or indicating the purpose of something:
Will brought water balloons to the party so that he could throw them at girls he liked.
It’s fine to shorten so that to so, but keep in mind that the punctuation should be different from that used with so as a continuation or response. There is typically a comma before so when it is used on its own as a continuation or response, but not when it’s used as a shortened form of so that.
20. Should I use more than or over?
Most sources say that it’s fine to use these interchangeably, though a few insist that over is not acceptable. Personally, I opt for more than in most cases, except for those where over sounds better:
He was over 100 years old when he tried Marmite for the first time
I also alternate between more than and over to avoid repetition in sentences.
Jake had more than six years’ experience as a bog snorkeler and over six hundred snorkels in his collection.
- BBCLearning English. (n.d.). BBC.co.uk.
- Fogarty, M. (2010). Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips.
- Lawler, J. (n.d.). “Gotten.”
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2013). Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Merrriam-Webster.com.
- O’Conner, P. T. (1996). Woe Is I, the Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
- Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. (2013). Oxford University Press. OALD8.OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com.
- Regent University Writing Center. (n.d.). “So vs. So That.” Regent.edu.