Grammar Rules Students Can Break

Grammar Rules Students Can Break

Stacy Zeiger
by Stacy Zeiger 9,230 views

Once students have mastered the basics of English grammar, it becomes time for you to flip the script. Not all of the rules that you taught them to meticulously follow must be adhered to 100% of the time. The skill comes in knowing when it's okay to throw the rules out the window and when to stick to the script.

Rule #1: You can't end a sentence with a preposition

Typically, writers and speakers should carefully organize their words to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. However, sometimes not ending a sentence with a preposition is more awkward than breaking the rule. This is particularly true when speaking casually.

For example, "Which box did you put the batteries in?" is okay if you're just asking a friend or relative where the batteries are located.

It is also okay to end a sentence with a preposition when it's part of a longer phrase.

For example, "You're so hard to put up with."

When is it not okay to end a sentence with a preposition? When you're writing an extremely formal piece or when the preposition lacks an object.

For example, "The bird flew up to."  The bird flew up to what?

Rule #2: You can't start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction

Conjunctions are used to connect words and ideas in a sentence. Because they are connectors, they need to be connecte to something else. Starting a sentence with a conjunction such as "and" or "but" does not allow for a proper connection to be made. However, sometimes words such as "and" or "but" can make effective sentence starters, particularly when trying to provide evidence.

For example, you may use but as part of an explanation, "But I want to stay here!"

Rule #3: You can't use they as a singular pronoun

They is designed to be plural, but in today's world, the use of they as a singular pronoun has become more accepted. This is especially true in informal speech. If you're not sure whether to use he or she and you don't want a sentence to become cumbersome by repeating "he or she" and "him or her" over and over again, then stick with "they" and "them" as singular pronouns. However, if you're writing a formal piece, figure out the gender or choose the most appropriate singular pronoun and stick with it.

Rule #4: You can't split an infinitive

Star Trek started a trend with its exclamation "to boldly go where no man has gone before." Splitting the infinitive involves putting another word between the two parts of a verb. Typically, the adverb or other word you want to include should come after the verb. Sometimes, however, you need to split an infinitive to emphasize a key point.

For example, "I am going to happily write" and "I am going to write happily" have slightly different meanings.

Although using proper grammar is important, it's okay to push aside the rules on occasion.

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking one of those sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow our Facebook page where we share more about creative, non-boring ways to teach English.

Like us!
Entire BusyTeacher Library
Get the Entire BusyTeacher Library:
Dramatically Improve the Way You Teach
Save hours of lesson preparation time with the Entire BusyTeacher Library. Includes the best of BusyTeacher: all 80 of our PDF e-books. That's 4,036 pages filled with thousands of practical activities and tips that you can start using today. 30-day money back guarantee.
Learn more

Popular articles like this

6 Types Of Pronouns And How To Teach Them To Your Students

0 106,174 0

Why Canít We All Just Get Along? A Review of Subject-Verb Agreement with Exercises Part 1

0 13,146 0

Coordinate or Subordinate? Making Sense of English Conjunctions

0 25,812 0

And, Or, But, So
What You and Your Students Need to Know About Conjunctions

0 70,582 0

Not All Clauses Are Created Equal
A Review of English Clauses

0 16,712 0

All the Exercises Your Students Need To Learn and Practice English Nouns

0 15,094 0