The #1 …… (person answering grammar questions)

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

Richard Firsten – Grammatically Speaking

Richard has been answering grammar questions from teachers for years. They are all collected on one nice page and you’ll find the answers to most anything that has puzzled you about the use of the English language.

I’ve been reading his stuff religiously for a number of years and I particulary love his simple, clear explanations. Usually you get a lot of “fluff” from language mavens (the term Pinker uses for those who pontificate over etymology and usage). Not with Richard. He also answers readers/teachers direct questions so there is a very practical vein to what he writes.  Here’s an example where he describes why we often say, “computer mouses”.

Dear Richard,

Here’s a quickie. When talking about that indispensable part of a computer in the plural, do you say mice or mouses? None of us at my school can decide which it is!

Aidan O’Roarke

Grand Rapids, MI USA

Dear Aidan,

There is a tendency in English to change an irregular plural noun back to a regular plural form when that noun takes on a secondary meaning that it never used to have. For example, the Canadian hockey team is known as the Maple Leafs, not the Maple Leaves. When talking about people of ill repute, we refer to them as low-lifes, not low-lives. This seems to be the way the word mouse is heading when it refers to the computer tool instead of the animal. Even though this has not been set in stone yet, the more accepted plural of computer mouse seems to be computer mouses.

(I bet a lot of readers are saying, “Aha!” right about now.)


Read Grammatically Speaking from time to time and your knowledge of the peculiarities or just regularities of English grammar will grow and that will show in the classroom – without a doubt!

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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