This week, I'm diving deep into my email files to answer questions from readers. This might take a while.
Many readers asked me to talk about their pet peeves. One of the first was the matter of "I saw" versus "I seen."
Saying "I seen Angela at the movies Saturday" is wrong.
One correct phrase would be "I saw Angela at the movies Saturday."
I'm not sure I can think of a time when "I seen" would be correct.
"Seen" is a past participle of the verb "to see." I try hard not to use phrases such as "past participle," but sometimes I must. The name means that "seen" must be used with a helping verb.
"I have seen Angela at the movies most Saturdays."
Where are you at?
This phrase is used in some parts of the country. I first heard it in New Jersey, but many Arkansas readers have asked me about it. It's true that the "at" isn't necessary. You likely would get the same response if you asked, "Where are you?" Some people object to using a preposition at the end of a sentence. I'm more flexible on this than many people.
The phrase is colloquial, so you're safe using it in casual conversation. As I say often, I would not recommend using such phrases on a resume, a work memo or even a thesis.
Orientate means the same thing as orient, to introduce or familiarize.
I nearly always believe that a shorter word is better than a longer one. "Orient" has been in the language since the 18th century, and "orientate" joined about a century later. "Orientate" is used more in Britain. So, you decide which you like better, mate.
Myself versus me, etc.
Myself is often used incorrectly in place of "me." I see it when someone is trying to sound official: "If you want to join the office coffee club, submit your name and $5 per week to Patrick, Juanita or myself."
No. In that case, it should be "me." Take out those other people. Would it sound correct to say, "Give your $5 per week to myself"? No, it should be "me."
At times, you can use myself as emphasis. "I baked this pie myself." Or when you're wondering something that only you can answer. "I asked myself whether it was worth making the pie crust from scratch."
Carrying on this theme, a person might say, "Patrick and myself are collecting for the coffee fund." Wrong again. You and Patrick are the subjects of the sentence. You wouldn't say "Myself am collecting ..." So, the correct sentence would be:
Patrick and I are collecting for the money fund.
A related error is when people say things such as:
Me and Jane went to the jungle to hang around.
The person with Jane is also the subject in this sentence, so that should say "I" rather than me. I don't know whether it's wrong to start the sentence "I and Jane ..." but that simply sounds too jarring to me. I can only imagine starting that sentence, "Jane and I."
And it's wrong to say, "Her and Tarzan make a great pair." The "her" is one subject, and so it should be "She and Tarzan ..."
Infer versus imply
The speaker is always the one who does the implying. The speaker is making a subtle suggestion or comment without saying so directly. (Wouldn't it be better to be direct?) The listener always does the inferring, taking something the speaker has said and figuring out how to act as a result.
Different from, different than, different to
I was taught to always use "different from" when comparing things, though I can't pinpoint where I learned it.
Semisweet chocolate is different from milk chocolate.
To me, this is an ear rule. It just sounds odd to my ear to hear:
Semisweet chocolate is different than milk chocolate.
Apparently, the British say "different to" in this type of sentence. That sounds odd to me, also.
Canvas versus canvass
One little "s" makes a big change in the meaning here. Canvas is primarily a noun. It's the thick cloth material that people use to paint on, to swing in a hammock on, or to sail a boat with.
As a verb, to canvas is to cover something with canvas. I have yet to do so. But "to canvass" is to examine something thoroughly. Police may canvass an area seeking clues after a crime. Also, a political person might canvass a neighborhood for support or for information.
Readers mentioned a couple of redundancies.
"Continue on" can simply be "continue." That's what continuing does. It goes on.
"Cash money" is the repetitive way of saying other "cash" or "money."
Different is another redundant word I delete a lot. "The ice cream shop offers 36 different flavors." If the shop offered 36 of the same flavors, would you be impressed? Of course not. You don't need the word in there. Just say, "The ice cream shop offers 36 flavors."
Well, I have only peeled off the top layer of reader questions. I think I will be answering emails for a few weeks to come. That's what I get for procrastinating.
Sources include Writing Explained, Merriam-Webster, Quick and Dirty Tips. Reach Bernadette at
Style on 11/04/2019
Print Headline: Grammar emails answered