Yes, I used to gripe about grammar quite often on this blog, but had sort of overlooked my love of words of late.
But, guys, I’m back!
Let’s go for a little journey in the world of words and actually saying what you mean.
First stop, Confusion. Specifically confusion of words. Most specifically confusion about the words bear and bare. Not long ago I was reading something somewhere and the person had written: I have too much to bare. OK. I think he or she meant too much to bear, meaning too much to carry, shoulder, or otherwise deal with. What he or she wrote said something entirely different. Too much to bare? Bare refers to something being uncovered, naked, devoid of, stark, basic, or desolate. As a verb it means to uncover something or undress something. So if you have too much to bare, it might be more of a health issue than a grammar problem.
Just remember this: You bear arms and can’t bear things that you actually have to carry in some form or fashion, literally or figuratively. You use bare when you’re referring to clearing, uncovering, or undressing. Simple really, right?
Second stop, Subjunctive-land. OK, unless you’ve studied a foreign language you might not even know that there is such a thing as the subjunctive in the English language. I was never taught about it in school and only learned it when I was minoring in Spanish in college. The subjunctive case is a mood of verbs used to express things that are hoped for, imagined, or some sort of possibility. The subjunctive is generally used in “If. . .then” types of phrases. There’s a song on the final Nickel Creek studio album by Bob Dylan called “Tomorrow is a long time.” I love that song, but it’s full of “if. . .then” statements and the subjunctive isn’t employed. So when I sing along, I fix the grammar. If today was not an endless highway becomes if today were not an endless highway. I correct “Yes, and only if my own true love was waiting” from was to were.
Just remember this: If you’re using an “if. . .then” statement to express doubt, or something that’s imagined, dreamed for, or wished for, use the subjunctive. Generally that means you use were rather than was. Examples: If I were rich, I’d be happier. If I were younger, I’d be peppier.
Final stop for today. . . .Apostrophes! You all know you love apostrophes. They’re kind of cute. But guys, they have a purpose. They should only be used when you’re writing a contraction or denoting possession/ownership. That’s it. Yet I see these little guys sneaking in all over the place when they’re not necessary, correct, or invited. Ever seen a sign that read: Tomato’s for sale? What about something to the effect of “mozzarella cheese stick’s” on a menu? See, an apostrophe is not the same as making something plural. If the tomato’s owned something that was for sale, that’s one thing. But I think the writer meant that the tomatoes themselves were for sale. So just add an s. No apostrophe necessary.
Just remember this: Apostrophes are awesome when you’re using them in a contraction or to say someone or so-and-so owns something. If you just want to make a word plural, a plain ol’ s will do the trick just fine. And if you want to see a bunch of apostrophe atrocities, please go here.