Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's going to be trouble if there are any more peeps from the audience

It's as common as people ordering a Big Mac, super-size fries and a diet coke. What's that, you ask? People who use the word "there's." For me, it looms high on the "oh no you didn't" scale of grammar "badness."

I had an English professor in college who just couldn't grasp the concept that when you're referring to more than one person, place or thing (for example, hundreds of revelers or fifteen minutes) and preceding it with the word "there," "there" must be followed with "are." Not is or 's or, worse, be.

Incorrect: I'm not going to wait in line for the newest Star Trek movie - there's like ten thousands nerds in Mr. Spock costumes all over the place. And they're doing something really weird with their hands.

Correct: I'm glad you're taking time to trim your toenails, but next time, please do it outside of your cubicle and dispose of the clippings elsewhere. There are four coworkers complaining to me about this practice of yours.

If you're uncertain about whether it's OK to use the contraction there's, try filling in there is where you are considering using there's.

You wouldn't say (not if you wanted to be correct) there is fifty states, so you shouldn't use there's fifty states. But you would say there is a party tonight, so it's also fine to say there's a rockin' party tonight, and I am not missing it.

That about covers it.

I think it's time I sign off. There's something else I need to be doing. In fact, there are ten (ten thousand?) things I should be doing that don't involve telling you how to speak or write.

Until next time, and with all of my love, I wish you an excellent day.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Their, they're, there, it's going to be just fine (says GB)

Never fear, Grammar B. is here, tirelessly working to save the English language. This time I'm tackling the use of their, they're and there. (Funny note for those who like to pick on people: I just had to correct my own grammar in the first sentence, but in my defense, at least I realized it prior to publishing.)

Let's get to it.


Their is a pronoun that shows possession, meaning something belongs to them.

Example 1: Sam and Lafawnda took their newly shaved pink poodle into the polling place, and that's when all hell broke loose.

Here, the newly shaved pink poodle belongs to Sam and Lafawnda (and boy, don't they know it!), so we use the word their to show that ownership. Because who else would want to stake a claim on a newly shaved pink poodle?

Example 2: The self-proclaimed teabaggers could hardly contain their excitement when Republican Scott Brown won the late Edward Kennedy's senate seat in the Massachusetts election; so they took to the streets in celebration, teabagging as only they can, waving their flags, posters, and self-righteousness. Sadly, their love was not returned in kind, as Mr. Brown politely refused to be associated with their group.

In example 2, I have stepped wholeheartedly into a heaping pile of cow dung, and I pray that any people who associate themselves with the teabaggers will forgive me for using their group's misfortune to illustrate grammar usage. Let's move on, shall we?


They're is a contraction of two words - they and are. It's a short cut for writing something like "They are planning the party of the century." You can substitute they're for they are anywhere you like if you're not afraid of a bit of informality.

Example 1: Just as Ford is beginning to make a comeback, they're celebrating an unexpected gift: a massive Toyota recall. Although it has taken Toyota a while to admit fault, they're finally doing something about it by recalling a crap load (read: I have no idea how many) of Toyotas. (Does anyone else smell a rat here?)

And finally....


There can be used in many ways and as various parts of speech (sort of like f*ck for those of you who use that word), but not to show possession or to discuss what they are doing. It can be an adverb, pronoun, noun, adjective, or interjection. For more information on the parts of speech, see "there" at

Example 1: There were thousands of movie fans blindsided by Sandra Bullock's nomination for an Oscar for best actress in a leading role. What was even more stunning was the Oscar nod for Sandra's movie The Blind Side. In her living room with friend and fellow nominee, Helen Mirren, a humbled Meryl Streep needed some reassurance. "There, there, Meryl," said Helen, "take comfort in the beautiful bronze blokes taking up residence over there on your mantle. There is always next year. You're Meryl Streep for God's sake. No one can take that away from you."

So here's the takeaway: When they're annoying the heck out of you, tell your teachers that their pompous attitude isn't helping you as they stand there in the front of the classroom preaching rather than teaching. And then be prepared with some good white out and a typewriter to change your F to a B.

Tune in next time for one of my favorites....when to use there is (or there's) and there are.

Grammar B. out!