Could Care Less vs. Couldn’t Care Less: A Grammar Lesson

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This cliché sees to throw people for a loop. The right phrase is, “I couldn’t care less.” Because if you “could care less,” you are caring some.

Still want more proof?

From the The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, “This expression originated about 1940 in Britain and for a time invariably used couldn’t. About 1960 could was occasionally substituted, and today both versions are used with approximately equal frequency, despite their being antonyms.”

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Faze vs. Phase: A Grammar Lesson

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Today’s grammar lesson comes from Steve Woodruff, President of Impactiviti.

He had a tweet a few weeks ago that made me laugh at first and then cringe a little as I started noticing it in various places and different contexts.

Woodruff’s tweet was, “btw, nothing will ‘phase’ you unless you are on a Star Trek set. However, something might or might not ‘faze’ you.”

Faze according to merriam-webster.com is an “alteration of feeze to drive away, frighten, from Middle English fesen, from Old English fēsian to drive away” as of 1830 it means “to disturb the composure of.”

Phase “is a noun or verb having to do with an aspect of something.” You can phase something in or go through a phase.

So unless you’re writing science fiction avoid using phase to mean upset.

Affect vs. Effect: A Grammar Lesson

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Just when I think I’ve got this one down, something trips me up.

Affect is something that happens. My favorite grammarian, Grammar Girl lists affect as a verb and is means to influence.

Effect is a result and a noun.

One is a noun, the other is a verb. With that, I shouldn’t be able to mix this up anymore.

Some Time Vs. Sometime: Another Grammar Lesson

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I find this fairly straight forward, yet I still trip up on it occasionally. 

Sometime means eventually, an eventual future. Example: I will get to New York sometime next year. If you can substitute eventually and the sentence still makes sense, use sometime. 

Some time means an unspecified amount of time. Example: I spent some time on the phone with her. In this instance, some is an adjective modifying time. If you can use another adjective and the sentence still makes sense use some time. 

This is the same for other some words. Someday and some day.

Who vs. That: Another Grammar Lesson

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For some reason I’ve been having trouble with when to use who and when to use that lately. I used to have it down, but just like the one time in high school I wrote an entire paper without using than (I had convinced myself it wasn’t a word…), I’ve gotten myself mixed up.

Luckily for me a quick Google search helped me remember what I already knew and cleared away the confusion.

The simple answer is Who is for people. That is for objects.

The more complicated answer is addressed by my favorite Grammarian, Grammar Girl (post can be found here). She found that according to the Heritage Dictionary, “It is entirely acceptable to write either the man that wanted to talk to you, or the man who wanted to talk to you.”

Grammar Girl determined it is a bit of a grey area. “My guess is that most people who use who and that interchangeably do it because they don’t know the difference,” she wrote. “To me, using that when you are talking about a person makes them seem less than human.”

Something else I learned in her post, “whose, which is the possessive form of who, to refer to both people and things because English doesn’t have a possessive form of that. it’s fine to say, ‘The desk whose top is cluttered with grammar books,’ even though it is obviously ridiculous to say, ‘The desk who is made of cherry wood.’” I didn’t know that!

Bottom line: who is for people. That is for objects.