Top 8 Weirdest Grammar Rules in the English Language

The Unpredictability of English Language

The English language, full of nuance and subtlety, can be a playground for wordsmiths and a labyrinth for learners. For every rule, there are exceptions, and sometimes the exceptions outnumber the rules. As we delve into the world of English grammar, we find rules that are as baffling as they are fascinating. Let’s dive into eight of the weirdest grammar rules in the English language.

The Odd One Out: "I" before "E" Except After "C"

We learn this rule in school: "I" before "E" except after "C". Yet, there are so many exceptions. Consider 'weird', 'seize', 'neighbour' and 'height'. It's a rule that seems to be broken more often than it's followed!

The "S" Dilemma

The English language loves the letter 'S'. However, it becomes a challenge when we have to deal with possessives. It's a rule that an apostrophe followed by 's' shows possession. But what about words ending with 's'? Do we add another 's' or just an apostrophe? For example, is it James's car or James' car? Both are acceptable, but it's best to stick to one style.

"A" vs "An" Preceding H

The indefinite articles "a" and "an" are used before words beginning with consonants and vowels respectively. But what about words starting with 'H'? It depends on the pronunciation. If 'H' is silent as in 'hour' or 'honor', we use 'an'. But if it's pronounced, we use 'a', as in 'a house' or 'a hat'.

The Complexity of “Less” and “Fewer”

"Less" and "Fewer" are often used interchangeably, but there's a rule distinguishing them. "Fewer" is used for countable items, while "less" is used for uncountable items. So, it's "fewer apples" but "less water". However, supermarkets often get it wrong with "10 items or less" signs, it should be "10 items or fewer".

The Puzzle of Plural Compound Nouns

English has a strange way of dealing with compound nouns. For instance, when 'brother-in-law' becomes plural, it's 'brothers-in-law', not 'brother-in-laws'. The same goes for 'attorneys general', 'mothers-in-law', and 'chiefs of staff'. The main noun takes the plural form, not the modifier.

The Uncountable that Counts

The word 'none' is often treated as a plural because it seems to suggest more than one thing. However, 'none' is singular and takes a singular verb. For example, it's correct to say, "None of the cake is eaten", not "None of the cake are eaten". But, in informal English, 'none' can be used with either a singular or plural verb.

The Conundrum of Collective Nouns

Collective nouns refer to a group or collection of people, animals, or things. They can be singular or plural, depending on the context. For example, you can say "The team is winning" or "The team are arguing among themselves".

The Adverb Order Rule

Did you know there's a specific order to place adverbs when they appear together in a sentence? The order is: Manner, Place, Frequency, Time, and Purpose. So, it's "She gently put the book on the shelf yesterday to surprise him", not "She put gently the book yesterday on the shelf to surprise him".

English grammar, with its plethora of rules and exceptions, is a testament to the language's rich history and evolution. Love it or hate it, these weird grammar rules make English a unique and intriguing language to learn and use.