Tuesday, September 11, 2012

School is in session: The Grammar Queen pontificates on pronouns

Good morning, class!

Ah, September. Can you smell the notebook paper and pencil shavings, the hint of chalk dust in the air?

Do you hear the crackle of a brand new vinyl three-ring binder? Can you feel the heft of a textbook in your hands as you excitedly open to chapter one?

And, of course, the inevitable paper cuts as you attempt to fold that unwieldy manila textbook cover to just the right size!

Ah, the memories . . . so poignant, so richly satisfying, so--

Ruthy, are you nodding off again? I would hate to have to send you to the principal’s office--

Oh, I forgot. You are the principal.


Well, class, shall we begin? Today’s lecture is on the subject of pronouns.

Pronouns, simply put, are words that stand in for nouns. If we did not have pronouns, conversation would become quite redundant. For example:
On Mary’s way to Mary’s car, Mary discovered a mouse and asked Mary’s husband to kill the mouse.
Let’s see how substituting appropriate pronouns can make this sentence read more naturally:
On Mary’s way to her car, she discovered a mouse and asked her husband to kill it.
The word the pronoun refers back to is called the antecedent. “Mary,” in this case, is the antecedent of “her” and “she”; “mouse” is the antecedent of “it.”

Where writers often run into trouble is by using pronouns without clearly indicating their antecedents, or omitting an antecedent that is essential to the meaning of the sentence or paragraph.

Can you identify the problems with these sentences?
Cara set food down for the cat, but the dog ate it.

Tina told Glynna she would have to buy the book.

Pam thought it was fun.
Grammar requires that the antecedent and the word it refers to must agree in gender, in number, and in person.

Gender is (usually) a straightforward concept. Males take male pronouns (he, him, his); females take female pronouns (she, her, hers); gender-neutral nouns take it and its.

Number refers to whether a noun is singular or plural. If the antecedent is singular, a singular pronoun is required, etc., etc.

Person indicates to whom the pronoun refers. First person refers to the speaker (I, me, we, us, my, mine). Second person refers to the person spoken to (you, your, yours). Third person refers to someone or something being spoken about (he, she, it, him, her, they, them, their, theirs).

All perfectly clear? You in the back row, is your hand raised for a question? Oh, Myra, it’s you. You’ve been trying to ignore me for so long that I almost didn’t recognize you.
“Yes, GQ, it’s me. Sorry, I mean, it is I. Welcome back. I wonder if you’d address the issue of the generic their, they thing. You know, when the gender of the singular antecedent is ambiguous.”
Of course, and congratulations on your excellent vocabulary. In casual conversation, it’s more natural and generally acceptable (unfortunately) to use the plural they or their, even when the antecedent is singular. For example:
Each member of Sandra’s pickle ball team kept their own scorecard.
Member is singular, but we don’t know if these people are male, female, or a few of each. Now, I must state for the record that I have no idea what pickle ball is or how it is played, much less how the game is scored. However, I do know a thing or two about pronouns and therefore would urge you, when confronted with an occasion to misuse they or their with a singular antecedent, to consider the grammatically correct alternative:
Each member of Sandra’s pickle ball team kept his or her own scorecard.
Or you could simply rephrase the sentence so as to remove the temptation entirely:
All the members of Sandra’s pickle ball team kept their own scorecard.

And now I shall turn my attention to another touchy issue involving pronouns--in this case, the possessive form. But first, does everyone know what a gerund is? Simply stated, a gerund is the -ing form of a verb when the word is used as a noun.
Writing is hard work. (subject of the sentence)

A well-developed story requires brainstorming. (direct object of the sentence)
Now, when you must refer to the activity as it is performed by someone, the possessive noun or pronoun should correctly come into play.
Glynna’s brainstorming took longer than she anticipated, resulting in her writing the book much more quickly.

“I’m grateful for your finding me those research sources, Missy,” Cara said.
For a thorough explanation of gerunds and possessives, please see this excellent post by another grammar aficionado, the incomparable Grammar Girl.

Perhaps I should draw today’s lecture to a close before I completely overwhelm your poor, tired brains. However, I assure you, we will most certainly resume this discussion in a future class, for we have barely scratched the surface of proper pronoun use.

Let’s conclude with a short quiz. Please choose the correct pronoun in each of the following sentences:
Audra and (she, her) are collaborating on a new romantic series.

Don’t forget to bring the chocolates for Debby and (I, me).

(We, Us) girls plan to meet Tina for lunch.

Either Julie or Janet will read an excerpt from (her, their) latest release.

Each of Ruthy’s book covers has (their, its) own unique charm.

Now, students, before you rush willy-nilly out to the playground for recess, don’t forget to turn in your papers. Those of you who wish to stay for discussion time will receive extra credit and have your names entered in a drawing for a $10 Target e-Gift Card, which you have my permission to use for replenishing your stock of school and/or office supplies.


  1. Myra and I are collaborating on a full pot of coffee for early morning. Don't forget to bring the creamer for Grammar Queen and me. Either Julie or Janet will forget her coffee mug. Each of Ruthy's mugs has its own unique charm.

  2. Can I just say my brain hurts?

    If I may ask a question? In the sentence  
    "Ken, Mim, Jenny and family wish to sincerely thank you for your thoughts, prayers and support, and for joining us as we celebrated mum’s life and bade her farewell."

    Should mum have a capital or not? (I know there are possibly other grammatical errors this is part of the hymn sheet for her service. My SIL says it has to be a capital the pastor who was a teacher said it doesn't)

  3. I apologize, Your Highness but this is NOT correct:
    On Mary’s way to her car, she discovered a mouse and asked her husband to kill it. The word the pronoun refers back to is called the antecedent. “Mary,” in this case, is the antecedent of “her” and “she”; “mouse” is the antecedent of “it.”

    The correct sentence is:
    On Mary’s way to her car, she discovered a mouse. Screaming and running for her life (because her car is parked in her mouse infested basement) she tripped running upstairs, tumbled back to the bottom, breaking her leg. Her husband, thinking she was being killed, came charging toward the basement with his multiple weapons and while fighting off the 'killer' he winged Mary in her remaining intact leg. While she lay broken and bleeding, awaiting the ambulance, her husband said, "I told you to stop acting like such an idiot about mice. It's your own fault I shot you."
    Saddly, the unsympathetic, mysogynistic, non-rodent-o-phobe judge agreed with him.

    This is women's fiction, not a romance novel.

  4. AusJenny, I think mum shold be capital, unless you say 'our mum'.

    but then again, we don't even say 'mum' so we shold wait for grammar queen.


    HAAHA! You're killing me!

  5. Anywaym grammar.

    Ohhhh. errrg. I'm so not ready for this.

    I just reviewed my brains out at Amazon and I didn't even get half-way down my shelf.

    My hands are tired. :( And now I should be writing. But I want my favorite authors to know I LOVE THEM!!!

    And I waned tor ead all the one star reviews and laugh at the weirdos. Honestly, some people are nuts.

  6. Mary when I saw the sentence about you and a mouse I thought no way would you act calm and ask your husband to kill it. Scream, yell etc yes but now ask.
    So reading your response I could fully understand it but feel the judge needs to have his own infestation of mice.

    Thanks for the laugh I needed that.

  7. I rose early to bake pecan coffee cake for the Grammar Queen. Also brought sliced fruit and scrambled eggs. Enjoy breakfast, everyone, as we discuss pronouns.

    Helen, the coffee is delightful! I'm sipping my first cup.

    Thank you, Your Highness, for pontificating on pronouns. An excellent post.


  8. how bout me and youse grab a donut in my car and eat it?

    okay, so you made some good points and now I'm depressed and going back to bed. Oh wait. Pecan coffee cake?

  9. Oh my gracious sakes to Betsy, this is why I profess to write in "lyrical conversational English"...


    GQ, you are amazing. First, why do you know this stuff and I'd have to say you'll get your just desserts at some time or other...

    Possibly in the desert of your choice.

    OY. I'm loving that I'm a principal, though (although somewhat unprincipled) and that made me smile!!! ;) Although I will bow to Teeeeena's Queen stature 24/7/365.

    You know despite the rightness and wrongness of writer-speak, I do like writing with a current conversational flair even if it's not always correct. And I did get a review I stumbled on earlier this year (hunting for a picture because my computer died) and the reviewer smacked me down for poor and improper sentence structure, grammar and a bad hair dye job. I may or may not be making up that last for effect.

    I've always felt that people will either get you or not get you as a writer... and if parts of speech are too prim in this day and age, I think it makes us look 'old' as writers so I deliberately go the other way and have my heroes and heroines talk and act like the 20 and 30 somethings I'm surrounded with/by every day. So to me they sound real, and I like that.

    But GQ, I'm constantly amazed by your brilliance. And I like Mary's take on the mouse thing.

    I can totally see it. Ivan, cool and calm, puffing the smoke away from his weapon while blaming Mary... Connealy, glue traps. Small ones for mice.... large ones for snakes, honey.

  10. Deb, me and the lot o' youse can meet for donuts....

    Or doughnuts, if you prefer.

    And I've got a Starbucks card with a lot of money on it. How fun is that?????

    Well, I mean not a LOT of money, but it's got enough to buy a bunch of coffee.


    We can discuss GQ's demise, mayhap?

  11. Oh My is she smart or not? it is too early for grammar lessons -this was subject that I did not like. Now I love Mary's take on the mouse story though, she knows how to tell a story, who cares about the proper grammar. I am ready for some of Debbi's coffee cake and a cup of that coffee Helen has over there. Have fun today with the English class.thanks Girls.
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

  12. Hi Myra,

    Three things -- I always say "Good morning class" -- I must come up with something different.

    Two -- when I call roll, I ask the students to tell me something they learned last class -- no repeats from anyone else. So, I get good input, and then the last few students say "uh, this room is cold" and "this class is too early".

    Three -- I am a grammar recognizer -- I know when it's not right but when I don't know how to fix it, I just rearrange. LAZY. Like this:

    (We, Us) girls plan to meet Tina for lunch.

    My version:
    The Fab Five plans to meet Tina for lunch today at that great new restaurant downtown.

    Please enter me in your drawing! Thanks, grammar queen!

  13. A quiz? I haven't had enough caffeine yet.

    Thanks for the post today,

    Jenny, so sorry for you loss.

    Jackie L.

  14. Grammar Queen-great post and reminders!

    Helen-Creative use of the lesson!

    Mary-I'm laughing out loud this morning at your comment!

    GQ-I don't think Ruthy's use of "youse" is correct!!!! HA!!!!

    Have a great day everyone!

  15. She

    I think. Trying to remember while dealing with screaming children.

    A friend and I wanted to scream while working on one of my one sheets because there's two hers who are main characters and multiple hims that need mentioning [mainly hero and heroine's father who remains unnamed]. Oy. But I think we got it right.

    Mary, I'm so sorry about your legs my friend. WF indeed.

  16. Good morning, all! Thaks for starting the coffee, Helen. GQ asked me to let you know she's polishing her crown and will arrive shortly. (You know how these royalty types like to make a grand entrance.)

    So chat amongst yourselves while you get that red carpet rolled out!

  17. GQ -
    SO glad to see you here. And glad to be over visiting the wonderful world of Seekerville.

    How much literary license is allowed in romantic comedy?

    What about if the author is using Appalachian dialect? Any flexibility there?

    Just askin', because I've heard that there are some authors who might want to color outside the lines in writing dialects...er...Noone you would know, of course.

    I'm asking for "a friend" :-)

  18. Good morning Grammar Queen! I love when you visit Seekerville!! I remember all the scents you describe. And more. Remember eraser particles? My verion cat hair.

    Please say more about using "it" without a clear antecedent. It drives me crazy. LOL

    Mary, where was the jury? Hung?

    Deb, thanks for the great breakfast!


  19. Ah, GRAMMAR QUEEN ... I LOVE Grammar despite the sudden tic in my eye!!! Excellent post, your Excellency!!

    HELEN SAID: "Either Julie or Janet will forget her coffee mug."

    Correct grammar, Helen, but what I want to know, how did YOU know that I have the bad habit of leaving my coffee mug EVERYWHERE I go???


  20. Helen--well done!! I love your creativity. :)

  21. Grammar Queen you are killing me. I so need these grammar lessons. I'm so with Susan. When I can't remember how the grammar goes, I rewrite the sentence.

    And I thank God for crit partners who are good with grammar. smile

    Debby breakfast is yummy.

  22. Btw, I love crisp stacks of unused notebook paper.

    "They" are aching for a wave of fresh pen-prints.

  23. this was my favourite class of the day...here's an apple for your, miss teacher :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  24. This is a fun lesson today, GQ. Thanks for imparting your vast knowledge among the commoners. I know to use antecedants, but I appreciate your reminders about them.:)

    Also their vs his and her. I catch that in others' writing, but it's good to check for in my own.

    Gerunds...I need to learn more about the standard do's and don't about their use in my writing.

    Oh, my answers to the quiz:
    1. her 2. me 3. We 4. her 5. its

  25. PS--GQ, I love the images you opened your post with. I am not sure how common chalk dust is anymore, but I remember the itchy scent well. :)

    Mary--you had me cackling out loud. My kids thought I might be going off the deep end when I read your take on Mary and the mouse.

  26. Virginia that is so cool that you wrote all of those reviews. :)

  27. Grammar Queen - I've always felt I have a strong background in grammar and punctuation until each time you guest in Seekerville! :)

    Are there any easy-to-understand grammar and punctuation books you recommend for the gram-punc challenged? So often by the time you find an example in most reference books that applies to what you're trying to express in writing, you could have had your entire WIP finished. Then when you THINK you've found the definitive answer at long last, there's an "exception" and you have NO IDEA if your situation fits or not! :)

  28. HELEN, oh, my, GQ is about to swoon with delight over your excellent pronoun usage! Thank you so very much for brewing the coffee, as well as for remembering I do like mine with cream. Bless you, dear soul, for always being so prompt to arrive in Seekerville.

    Unlike my erstwhile companion, Myra, who can't seem to get her morning started until well past 9:00 a.m. Unfortunately, I must rely on her to sound the royal alarm each day and rouse me from my beauty slumber.

    Ah, well . . . that is what one can expect when dealing with commoners.

    On to today's grammar lesson!

  29. AUSJENNY, first of all, my deepest sympathy upon the loss of your mother. Certainly not a time at which you wish to be overly concerned about grammar.

    However, to answer your question, I would agree with your SIL. "Mum," in this sentence is used in the same context as your mother's name; therefore, it would be capitalized. If the sentence had read, "our mum's life," then you would use lower case.

  30. MARY, MARY, MARY. Yes, GQ is abundantly aware of your mouse phobia. I sincerely hope I did not traumatize you too greatly by using your name in the same sentence as "mouse."

    By the way, has your leg wound healed yet?

  31. VIRGINIA, thank you so much for chiming in on the "Mum/mum" question. As a matter of fact, Myra is working on a novel right now in which the charming Irish-American heroine calls her mother "Mum."

    Thank you also, on behalf of authors everywhere, for taking time to post reviews at Amazon. I would offer you one of the jewels from my crown, but then it would be lopsided. Have some of Helen's coffee instead.

  32. DEBBY, such a delight! Pecan coffee cake--how scrumptious!

    DEBRA, GQ denounces your donut debacle. And no doubt your car is now full of hungry mice devouring your crumbs. For heaven's sake, do NOT invite Mary to join you!

  33. RUTHY, darling, GQ absolutely refuses to involve herself in yet another futile debate with you on the subject of "just deserts."

    I do admit, however--truthfully, I have always done so--that fiction writers have more freedom to neglect certain grammatical rules. Deep POV is certainly just cause to write narrative in such a way as to be true to your character's manner of expression.

    As always, though, GQ highly recommends you know the rules before you break them so that you won't be caught unawares when the occasion calls for correct grammar.

  34. Oh, and remind me not to accept coffee and donuts from anyone named Ruthy or Debra. I would fear for my life!

  35. Now, now, PAULA, you mustn't play truant whilst GQ is lecturing.

    SUSAN, welcome to another teacher! GQ fears, however, that if she were to ask each of her students to recall something they learned from the last class, she would receive only blank stares and empty comment boxes. Honestly, one would think "grammar" was a four-letter word!

  36. JACKIE, a lack of caffeine is no excuse for skipping the quiz. Helen has made sure we have plenty of coffee on hand.

    ROSE, thank you for coming to my defense about Ruthy's abominable use of "youse." Why, dear me, it is worse than the Southern equivalent of "y'all," which at least has a charming ring to it.

  37. CAROL, if you think screaming children are a problem, I invite you to try dealing with a roomful of grammar-averse writers and readers who do nothing but complain about your efforts to enlighten them!

  38. PEPPER, you are fooling no one, my dear. Naturally, when writing dialects, you cannot force unnaturally correct grammar into a character's speech or thought patterns.

    Of course, there are a few in this room who would argue that correct grammar is generally "unnatural." Ten demerits each!

  39. JANET, thank you for the "it" question. It is hard to avoid using "it" under certain circumstances.

    "It was raining." How else can we possibly say this? However, what, exactly, was raining? The sky? The tree? The sun?

    I suppose we could say, "Rain fell." But then we would hear from Ruthy about the unnaturalness of it all.

    Alas . . .

  40. JULIE, perhaps an icepack would help with your tic. I have no solution for lost coffee mugs, unless, perhaps, you tied the mug to your wrist. That could get messy, of course.

    SANDRA, rewriting a grammatically awkward or confusing sentence is always good strategy. A-plus for you!

  41. Pronouns are my favorite! Bring on the quiz!


    I always tell people, if you want to learn English grammar well, then study a foreign language. Latin is the best.

    I'm off to the store to pick up a gallon of milk before everyone in the house runs off to work and school, leaving me without a car for the day. Can I get anything for anyone while I'm there?

  42. PEPPER, I agree. There is nothing quite like the scent of notebook paper, which does seem to invite one to pick up a pen and write something wonderful!

    KARENK, someday soon, GQ would like to give you remedial lessons in the proper use of capital letters.

  43. JEANNE, thank you for turning in your quiz answers. However, you missed the very first one, which should be "she," not "her." Simply remove "Audra and" and "She" becomes the subject of the verb "are collaborating."

    True, we seldom fine chalkboards in modern classrooms. Now we must endure the chemical smells of dry-erase markers. Not nearly so endearing.

  44. Dear Grammar Queen. I have read your article more carefully.
    You are so smart it's scary.

    Your Loyal Subject
    Mary Connealy

  45. GLYNNA, darling, there are innumerable helpful grammar reference books available these days. GQ's favorite is the Chicago Manual of Style. Grammatically Correct, by Anne Stilman, is another handy and easy-to-understand guidebook.

  46. I think the whole English (as a subject taught in school) is ripe for overhaul.
    They keep coming up with New Math, why not New English.

    So many of the words are so rarely used in any other place, gerund being an excellent example.

    I think someone using really innovative language could make teaching English so much more accessible.

    Onomatpoeia, proposition, gerund, adjective.....this are long and un-user-friendly words.

    A very simple example.
    Why not adnoun?

    Instead of adjective.

    My way makes sense. The 'official' way is like a train careening off the tracks into a 'what were they thinking' wreck.

  47. JAN, A-plus on the quiz! GQ is so proud of you! Indeed, studying a foreign language does impress upon a student the need to master basic grammar while clarifying concepts such as tense, gender, case, etc.

    And no, Mary, those lat three words are NOT a foreign language.

  48. ps I have been wallowing in prepositions because I needed one for a title.
    My next series called Trouble in Texas
    Book #1 Swept Away
    Book #2 Fired Up
    Book #3 ??? I've been playing with prepositions and finally I think we're tentatively settled on
    Book #3 Stuck Together

  49. Darling MARY, I do not believe prepositions have anything to do with these titles. Adverbs? Possibly.

  50. Oh, dear. GQ is dying of embarrassment. In a previous comment she wrote "lat three words" when she meant to type "last three words."

    Ah, me . . . I can only blame Mary, because, like Julie, I now have a tic in my eye.

  51. Good morning again. I asked GQ to step aside for a few moments because, after all, it's hard to ignore today's date and what happened 11 years ago. Even though life goes on and we're all about fun here in Seekerville, no doubt the significance of today is in the back of everyone's mind. So pause and remember, and give thanks for a country where freedom still reigns.

  52. I knew the instant I read that sentence about Mary and the mice that something was off. Thanks, Mary, for filling in the details to make it more realistic! LOL!

  53. ERICA, yes, we do appreciate Mary's flair for the dramatic. Kind of you to notice.


  54. Prepositions: Away, Up, Together
    Those are prepositions aren't they?

    words used as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives, and that typically express a spatial relationship, as in, on, by, to, since, before

    I'm sure I'm wrong. I should never use words longer than two SYL-BLES. I know that

  55. Hey? Brooklyn ain't charmin'???? I say phooey on youse and here's the thing about Brooklyn and the Big Apple...

    We like what we like. And talk like we talk. That Jeter???? He's got an edge, baby!

    In any borough... And glad you like the just deserts/desserts.... Stinkin' northerners are always messing things up.

    Jenny, back me up. Rules are made to be broken, right????

  56. Aw, Mary, here's the New English:

    2G2BT (too good to be true)

    .02? (Your two cents, your opinion, what do you think?)

    ? (I have a question)

    2M2H (Too much to handle)

    Whatever. (self-explanatory, said with 'tude)

    OMG (Oh my gosh)

    9 (parent watching)

    :) (Ruthy laughing at you because Ruthy at least knows what an adnoun/adjective is)

    Ruthy is having lunch with her beautiful friend Mary.

    Now there's an adjective for you, Connealy.

  57. Egads! And no warning about cruelty to animals before your post. Poor cat what got et by the dog. :-(

    And antecedents? Is that like grammar genealogy?

    I always thought a gerund was a plush teddy bear -- of which I do get possessive over.

    Is it any wonder I flunked grammar time and time again?!

    Sigh. I think I'm going to skip class and read a book instead. :-)

  58. O, I forgot to mention something.

    I took English Grammar 490 and 491, senior level in college.

    I'm not proud of this moment but it's sort of funny now.

    The exam for 491 came the same day as a Russian exam I needed to pass to be accepted into my grad program in Poland.

    I got half way through and started crying.

    Yup. Grammar made me cry in public.

    The nice prof. (Tom Givon) told me to go get a drink and take a few deep breaths. I did pass the exam but I'll forget that moment where I looked at the page and NONE OF IT MADE SENSE.


  59. Doing my homework like a good little girl :)

    Audra and she are collaborating on a new romantic series.

    Don’t forget to bring the chocolates for Debby and me.

    We girls plan to meet Tina for lunch. (though I'm unsure on this one)

    Either Julie or Janet will read an excerpt from her latest release.

    Each of Ruthy’s book covers has its own unique charm.

    How'd I do??? And I didn't read any comments to see if anyone else answered.

    Would love to win :) Thanks for the post!

  60. KAV

    "what got et"? Me gusta! (That was Spanish, right?)


  61. No, Mary, dear, "away," "up," etc., are adverbs, meaning they modify a verb. From Merriam-Webster Online, an adverb is "a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial . . . "

    If you enter any of your words in the M-W search box, their parts of speech will be shown as "adverb."

  62. Unfortunately, Ruthy is right about one thing (though admitting this pains me to no end). The "new English" of the texting generation looks more like gibberish.


  63. KAV, GQ is ROFLOL! (See, Ruthy, I am not an old fogy, contrary to popular opinion.) Those little gerund teddy bears are precious, aren't they?

    VIRGINIA, seeing a poor soul crying over grammar is nothing new to me. Ask anyone in Seekerville how GQ has made them literally weep in shame over their grammar faux pas.

  64. JOANNE, another A-plus student! Congratulations! At least someone among us has studied for the quiz. Go to the head of the class, dear.

  65. Is it too late to post,HRH?


    Please put me in the drawing!

    Your loyal subject,


  66. VIRGINIA -- it was Cara's fault. See:

    "Cara set food down for the cat, but the dog ate it."

    Guess the dog thought the cat was dessert. :-0

  67. PIPER, excellent work, dear! Ah, but it does my heart good to see there are a few faithful grammar students in our midst!

    And just for the record, GQ has absolutely nothing against cats. Were it not for Myra's grandson with allergies, there would certainly be a very spoiled kitty roaming the palace along with the pampered dogs already in residence.

  68. We must have arrived at the afternoon slump. Well, I have to agree--grammar isn't the most scintillating topic, is it?

    Okay, here's a question for you. If you could change anything at all about the English language, what would it be?

    Personally, I'd do away with ridiculous spellings that don't make any sense. Like the "gh" in "cough." How do you get an "f" sound out of that? And if you do, then why isn't "though" pronounced "thoff"?

  69. Dearest Grammar Queen,

    I am still having trouble with the plural they or their even when the antecedent is singular.
    His or her sounds so stilted.

    Can you give one more example to convince me.

  70. Thanks for the clarification. I'll be gone a while, they're recinding my high school diploma.

    GQ turned me in.

  71. What? The GRADE SCHOOL diploma, too?


  72. I completely understand, MARY CLINE. Substituting "his or her" for "their" with a singular antecedent can sound stilted, which is exactly why I recommended recasting the sentence to avoid the problem entirely.

    "Everyone received his or her just deserts" can be reworded to read, "They all received their just deserts. Including Ruthy."

    Now, my dearest Mary, what exactly do you need to be convinced of? The incorrectness of using a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent? Or the fact that GQ is always right?

  73. MARY, I'm so sorry about the diploma debacle. If you think it would help, I shall be happy to put in a good word for you with the authorities. Perhaps if you pleaded temporary insanity . . .

  74. I LOVE Grammar. Have no time for it today, I'm drive by commenting just because I love grammar. Even my grammar professor found my love of grammar a little disturbing! :)

  75. Disturbing??? A love of grammar??? Fie on that fool of a professor!

    MELISSA, dearest, grammar aficionado that you are, please feel free to drive-by comment during one of my visits any time you wish.

    Although, GQ ventures to suggest that one always has time for grammar, whether one cares to acknowledge its necessity or not.

  76. I'm late arriving, but I'm not cheating by reading ahead!

    Audra and she are collaborating on a new romantic series.

    Don’t forget to bring the chocolates for Debby and me.

    We girls plan to meet Tina for lunch.

    Either Julie or Janet will read an excerpt from her latest release.

    Each of Ruthy’s book covers has its own unique charm.

  77. Okay, I feel better after reading other answers. I see Jan and I got the same answers. Jan, I'm counting on you to be right!

    So much fun, GQ! I love your visits!

  78. Hey Ruthy Im happy to back you up. not sure what Im backing up but will do it.

    You see here in Aussieland we speak the Queens english (when we are not taking the mickey) so we do say things differently but they are correct for us.

    like how are you going? Everyone one who lives in Australia knows we are not talking about transport we are asking how are you.
    we also know if someone says see you later that we may never ever see them again and they are saying goodbye so we don't ask when will we see you.
    Oh and my business studies teacher hates the word aint so guess who tends to need to say it!
    and dont get me started on centre.
    I get into so much trouble as american spelling is center (as in html coding) but here its centre.

    My brain still hurts!!!!!!!!!

  79. Myra I remember 9/11 well I was at home I had only had internet a couple of months and it was about 9.30pm and was on a forum and watching The West Wing on tv. when someone said about a plane going into the trade centre. I thought it was a small plane and an accident then the news came on the tv. I was in shock and couldn't stop watching til around 1 and then I kept listening on the radio.

  80. I know you are always right. I wanted proof that re doing the sentence would always work?

    Did you mean of what exactly do I need to be convinced? Or is that going a bit too far? My son actually talks that way.

  81. Wow, my brain is fried just from this short post :) Grammar is not my best subject. I may have missed it in an earlier post, but if you're offering your expertise, I get really confused with the word "it." Because if the mouse in one of your examples is "it" and it owns something then it would be "it's", right? But "it's" translates to "it is." Can someone please clear the fog out of my brain with this word? It's so confusing to me.

    As always, I love Seekerville.

  82. MISSY, your answers were spot on! So proud of you!

    AUSJENNY, cultural word differences are quite fascinating. How are you going, dear?

    MARY CLINE, yes, it is almost always possible to recast a sentence so as to avoid the singular/plural problems. And, yes, you caught GQ in the act of ending a sentence with a preposition.

  83. AUSJENNY, I remember thinking the same thing--just a small plane. A bad accident but no big deal. Utter shock to learn what was really going on. Also hard to believe it's been 11 years already.

  84. I think 'temporary' insanity opens me to a charge of perjury.

    Not only do I lose my diploma, I now go to jail.

    Grammar Queen is the toughest blogger we've got!!!!!!!!!!!!

  85. ANNIE, I sympathize with your confusion over its/it's. You are correct, though. "It's"="it is" and therefore "its" is the possessive of "it." No apostrophe necessary here.

  86. Thank you, Mary, for acknowledging my power. I am validated. Would you like me to post bail? I'm certain one of my crown jewels would cover the amount.

  87. Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. The whole it's its thing gets me all the time. It's = it is, I get. But why doesn't the possissive it get to play with this guy ' too? It's Kav's question, not Kavs question. What if it has a question? We'd say its question? That doesn't make sense. Or is it me that doesn't make sense?

  88. I'm doing ok. hanging in there. Sleep works wonders and am finally getting sleep so feel I can now cope with things better. I found Friday was tough as people had just found out about mum due to only one paper a week and people I hardly know want to hug me. I have even told them please don't hug me but they think I am joking or something! I really don't like being hugged that much and especially people I don't really know. Its amazing how some sleep makes things so much easier. A cousin on dad's side got in touch but it came about in a strange way. She wrote to my old address and the people there opened the card and threw both in the recycling bin. We had freak winds last week and the bin went over and stuff blew everywhere. Well people I clean for who live over the road from him found the card in their carport and gave it to me. I am so angry with him for one opening the mail and then throwing it out. He could have returned it unread to the writer or even ask his sil to give it to me. It makes me wonder how many more may have arrived. But what is so hard is I haven't seen this cousin since I was three and I do not know where they live in Adelaide. Its also a common name so not easy to track down.

  89. KAV, step away from the apostrophe key before someone gets hurt. I'm afraid you will just have to accept the fact that "its" as a possessive takes no apostrophe and does not follow the same rules as other nouns.

  90. How frustrating for you, Jenny! I hope you are able to locate your cousin. It's nice to know she tried to get in touch, though.

    And on the whole hugging thing? I understand completely. It isn't just anyone I'm comfortable receiving hugs from. Seekers are certainly the exception.

  91. Mary, you have clearly created a monster.

    Teeeena will cut her down to size.

    Where is the Radcliffe, anyway? Still in the hospital?????

    Any updates?????

    So, GQ, it's gotta bug you to drive past Chick-Fil-A, right? And THOSE COW SIGNS.... Eat Mor Chikin!!!

    That's got to kill you dead.

    Not that I want you dead, I just want you to come visit me and we'll have our Just Desserts together.

    You know, with all the vagaries of dialect and accent, it's a wonde3r we grow up able to spell and parse and write at all.

    I love writing.

    Have I mentioned that lately?

    Hey, chicken gravy and rice for supper! Huge pot, dig in... Yes it's late, but I just finished working so this is Ruthy supper...

    And do not ask me about the Bruegger's Bagel trip I made today.

    They're for morning!

  92. RUTHY, we are delighted by your love for writing be pause you do it so well. Colloquialisms notwithstanding.

    As for eating mor chikin, we will leave that to the Chick-Fil-A cows. They are pardoned for their lack of education. After all, one cannot imagine a cow fitting behind a classroom desk.

  93. Be pause???? Forgive GQ! Typing on a teeny electronic screen is not easy.

  94. GQ... Really?

    We host you to illuminate our tired minds and you can't deign to stay home and use the real McCoy, your beloved computer????

    No, you're advising via a hand-held device.

    I'm somewhat saddened by this. I thought your love had no bounds.

    BUT... even queens deserve time off and I'm alwasy amazed not only by your brilliance but that you care so deeply.

    I must go text someone now. Reaffirm my new millennium personage.

  95. I assure you I am not out gadding about. However, I am not averse to relaxing in Myra's recliner and borrowing her iPad. Between comments, I allow her to play Solitaire and check email. We are also watching "The Voice" and celebrating as amateur singers make their dreams come true on national television.

    Perhaps they should create a reality show called "The Novelist."

  96. KAV for it's its, I just always remember that the apostrophe is for the missing letter.

    I know that rule doesn't apply in oother possessive cases but in it's its it works and I cling to it.

    Just sayin' if a trick works for me, often it works for others because my mental skills ARE the lowest common denominator.

    (and yes, now I'm talking about math!)

  97. GQ I heard that they tried a reality show about writing a novel.

    It never got off the ground.

    Turns out watching people type isn't riveting. (shocker)

  98. Yes, but, Carol, Castle is not a reality show.

    Ah, if only . . .

    GQ could watch Castle type for hours on end.

    And thank you for the math lesson, Mrs. Connealy. May we expect algebraic equations as related to calculating manuscript word count for your next blog post?

  99. Wonderful blog, GQ!!! Great info we all need. I had a teacher just like you half a century ago.

  100. CARA, I do hope that wasn't a commentary on my age.

    At any rate, good grammar is timeless.

  101. I'm late to class, I hope that doesn't mean I get extra questions? :)

    Great post GQ! :) Come back soon!

  102. Thank you for answering Myra's question. I've always wondered about that.

    My answers are

    she,me, we, her its

    Don't know if you've answered that yet as I'm just getting to today's post.

  103. I think "All the members od Sandra's pickleball team kept their own scorecardS." Is correct. Yes? Unless the shared a card, which would render the sentence ridicous.

    I'm a day late to class, and I correct the teacher. I'm getting an F for sure.

    Reading the comments on the couch at 12:30 am, I cracked up so much DH woke up, got out of the recliner, and went to bed.

    She, me, we, her, its (I really wanted to put the ' in there.)

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  104. Okay. I'm sure Sandra's pickle ball team comprised of lovely people who are not in the least od.

    I'm a victim of the teeny keyboard.

    I did want to mention, Doing Grammar by Max Morenburg is an amazing book. The second edition was my college textbook. I still have it and recently pulled it out to read it again. I even plan to do some of the exercises too. I'm pretty excited about it.

  105. Andrea, my sweet and beautiful young friend....

    They have pulled you to the dark side.

    (Ruthy buries head in sand at mention of grammar book... possibly suffocating, even now.)

  106. Here are my quiz answers (answers in all caps):

    Audra and SHE are collaborating on a new romantic series.

    Don’t forget to bring the chocolates for Debby and ME.

    WE girls plan to meet Tina for lunch.


    Each of Ruthy’s book covers has ITS own unique charm.

    This was fun -- thanks. I'd love to be entered in the drawing. lauramctx at gmail.

  107. the dog ate my test, and it would seem he ate my cat as well, cause I don't have either of them.

    Thanks for another mind stimulating lesson, GQ.

    Tina P.

  108. Thanks for the grammar lesson. Can always use an update or reminder. I have a question, if none of these comments have clarified it yet. In the statement, “Yes, GQ, it’s me. Sorry, I mean, it is I..." Shouldn't the correct phrase be "It is me."? Or has my brain gone soft?

  109. As the saying goes, EVA MARIA, better late than never. However, your tardiness does require a 500-page essay on "Why I will never be late to Grammar Queen's class again."

    Excellent work, WALT. Thank you for participating in the quiz, even if you did arrive even later than Eva Maria. That will cost you 600 pages on the same topic I assigned her.

  110. ANDREA, GQ forgives you for laughing at the class discussion notes, especially since you sound so excited about pulling out your old college grammar textbook for review!

    Ignore the strange blond woman ridiculing grammar books.

  111. No, LAURA, that was not intended to be a trick question. However, thank you for pointing out the possibility that, yes, Julie and Janet might have co-authored a novel. I'm sure it would be a delightful read.

    TINA P, I suggest you take your dog to the vet immediately.

    RITA, I know how stiff and stodgy it sounds to say, "It is I," but the nominative case (I, we, he, she, they) always follows a "to be" verb. Perhaps you should indeed consider adding a little starch to your brain, dear. Or try some gingko biloba.

  112. Oh, you certainly are the Grammar Queen.
    This is fantastic study material.