“i” before “e” except after “c”, is a weird rule. – Grammar Rules Students Can Break!


Credit: Google Images

Are you a “grammar nazi”? Do grammatical mistakes drive you crazy?

I admit, sometimes I get quite annoyed with frequent grammatical mistakes when I’m reading a discussion on a certain topic. The occasional misspelling or incorrect word or tense usage can be understandable if the writer is a non-native English speaker. If the writer is a native English speaker, though, I have little sympathy (barring extreme circumstances such as a learning disability or other disorder).

Before we talk about grammar, let’s first define what “grammar” is:

1a the study of the classes of words, their inflections (see inflection 3), and their functions and relations in the sentence
1b a study of what is to be preferred and what avoided in inflection (see inflection 3) and syntax (see syntax 1)
2a the characteristic system of inflections (see inflection 3) and syntax of a language
2b a system of rules that defines the grammatical structure of a language
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grammar?src=search-dict-hed


As grammar is the “backbone” of language – giving it structure and form – there are a ton of rules we have to learn! English grammar is not easy to teach as it has many exceptions to its rules. For example, we can say “big”, “bigger”, and “biggest”, but we can’t say “fun”, “funner”, or “funnest”. Even though they’re both single-syllable adjectives, “funner” and “funnest” don’t fit the rule for comparative and superlative forms because it doesn’t sound natural (as far as I know).

We all break the rules from time to time, mostly in casual speech, but in writing some can be broken as well. I was browsing around the Internet and BusyTeacher had a short, but informative, article about four rules kids can break!

  • Rule number 1: You can’t end a sentence with a preposition

Generally, in formal writing, that’s true. It would be strange to write or say a sentence like this:

“The dog ran to.” 

Where did the dog run to? If there is no object, the sentence sounds awkward. On the other hand, if it’s part of a longer phrase, or an expression, then it may be okay, like this:

“You’re so hard to put up with!”

Typically, we break this rule when speaking casually to friends or family.

  • Rule number 2: You can’t start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

If you remember back to that classic Schoolhouse Rock video, conjunctions are used to connect two sentences or ideas.

The conjunctions “and”, “but”, and “or”, are the most frequently used. They are connectors, so they need to have a clause on both sides (i.e. this and that, this but not that, this or that) for the sentence to make sense. But, sometimes it’s okay to begin with a coordination conjunction if you want to emphasize a point, or if it’s part of a phrase.

  • You can’t use “they” as a singular pronoun.

Actually, yes you can. English does not have a gender-neutral pronoun when it comes to people. So “they” can be used in that case. You’ve probably said it before without realizing it. If you don’t know the gender of someone you’re talking about, you can use “they” and its other forms to refer to them. Using “him or her” each time becomes too difficult and bothersome when speaking.

For example,

“To each their own.”

“It’s everyone for themselves.”

Why does this happen? Well check out here and here for a more detailed explanation.

  • You can’t split an infinitive

Have you ever seen Star Trek? The introduction is quite famous.

If you listened closely, the narrator said, “To boldly go where no man has gone before!“. He split an infinitive!

Writers split infinitives when wanting to emphasize a key point, or create a subtle nuance in meaning. Read these two sentences and think about how there’s a slight difference in meaning.

“He wanted to happily sing.”

“He wanted to sing happily.”


Credit: Explosm.net

It’s okay to break the rules occasionally when writing. It helps make the ideas and paragraphs come to life and stand out. So, when teaching your students to write, let them know it’s fun to be a writing rebel!

Link to original article: https://busyteacher.org/25573-grammar-rules-students-can-break.html


Filed under EFL, English, ESL, Grammar, Korea, Teaching, Writing

2 responses to ““i” before “e” except after “c”, is a weird rule. – Grammar Rules Students Can Break!

  1. I love this post, the comic story made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

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