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Department of English Grammar

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15 Words That Are Way More Interesting Than They Seem

CHECKBOOK, provided it is written in upper case letters, is the longest word in the English language with a line of horizontal symmetry. CODEBOOK, COOKBOOK, EXCEEDED and ICEBOX are among the others, while HOITY-TOITY, provided it is written in a column, would be the longest word with a line of vertical symmetry.

via mentalflossr

What’s up with “nevertheless” and “nonetheless”?


Here’s the short answer (with evidence from


Here are some example sentences:

  • Nonetheless, your ideas have some merit.
  • Nevertheless, a ski resort in the middle of a rain forest is not a good idea.
  • We will nonetheless report your suspicious activities to the authorities.
  • Jo generally doesn’t like animals, but she has nevertheless adopted a cat.


What’s up with “you and I” and “you and me”?

Every other day, we get a question about “you and I” and “you and me.”

This probably has a lot to do with the fact that both Lady Gaga and One Direction have songs called “You and I.”

Let’s look at One Direction’s “You and I”:


Let’s look at Lady Gaga’s “You and I”:

Both songs got it wrong. Here’s why:

This topic deals with subject pronouns and object pronouns.

Therefore, if “you and I” are performing the action, it should be “you and I”:

  • You and I are best friends.”
  • You and I are supposed to work together.”
  • You and I crossed the finish line at the same time.”

(TIP: Never use “you and I” at the end of a sentence.)

If “you and I” are receiving the action, it should be “you and me”:

  • "The teacher picked you and me as study partners.”
  • "My parents will give you and me a ride to school today.”
  • "John promised to take you and me to Disneyland.”

(TIP: Never use “you and me" at the beginning of a sentence.)


Whenever you hear questionable lyrics (in terms of grammar), check with us or anyone else you trust.

After all,


Sorry, Niall.


Example Personal Statement: “Grandma’s Kimchi”

The following is a real college application essay. We are using it with the writer’s permission.

Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.

My grandma’s specialty always dominated the dinner table as kimchi filled every plate. And like my grandma who had always been living with us, it seemed as though the luscious smell of garlic would never leave our home. But even the prided recipe was defenseless against the ravages of Alzheimer’s that inflicted my grandma’s mind.

Dementia slowly fed on her memories until she became as blank as a brand-new notebook. The ritualistic rigor of Saturday mornings came to a pause, and during dinner, the artificial taste of vacuum-packaged factory kimchi only emphasized the absence of the family tradition. I would look at her and ask, “Grandma, what’s my name?” But she would stare back at me with a clueless expression. Within a year of diagnosis, she lived with us like a total stranger.

One day, my mom brought home fresh cabbages and red pepper sauce. She brought out the old silver bowl and poured out the cabbages, smothering them with garlic and salt and pepper. The familiar tangy smell tingled my nose. Gingerly, my grandma stood up from the couch in the living room, and as if lured by the smell, sat by the silver bowl and dug her hands into the spiced cabbages. As her bony hands shredded the green lips, a look of determination grew on her face. Though her withered hands no longer displayed the swiftness and precision they once did, her face showed the aged rigor of a professional. For the first time in years, the smell of garlic filled the air and the rattling of the silver bowl resonated throughout the house.

That night, we ate kimchi. It wasn’t perfect; the cabbages were clumsily cut and the garlic was a little too strong. But kimchi had never tasted better. I still remember my grandma putting a piece in my mouth and saying, “Here, Dong Jin. Try it, my boy.”

Seeing grandma again this summer, that moment of clarity seemed ephemeral. Her disheveled hair and expressionless face told of the aggressive development of her illness.

But holding her hands, looking into her eyes, I could still smell that garlic. The moments of Saturday mornings remain ingrained in my mind. Grandma was an artist who painted the cabbages with strokes of red pepper. Like the sweet taste of kimchi, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words.

A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away.

My grandma used to say: “Tigers leave furs when they die, humans leave their names.” Her legacy was the smell of garlic that lingered around my house. Mine will be these words.

- via collegeessayguy

What’s up with “who’s” and “whose”?


As confusing homophones go, who’s vs. whose ranks right up there with its/it’s and there/they’re/their.


On whose face is the Tenth Doctor drawing?


In other words, whose is the possessive pronoun of who and which.

Who’s glad this post is over? Whose knowledge of this topic has improved in the last five minutes?

Example Personal Statement: “Travel and Language”

The following is a real college application essay. We are using it with the writer’s permission.


When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience.

At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.

It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language.

It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. But when I pronounced it PYR–a–mides instead of pyr–A–mides, with more accent on the A, she looked at me bewildered.

In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. Baseball in Spanish, for example, is béisbol, which looks different but sounds nearly the same. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.

Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I loved how long words were formed by combining simpler characters, so Huǒ (火) meaning fire and Shān (山) meaning mountain can be joined to create Huǒshān (火山), which means volcano. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them.

Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon (learning big words), I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world.

But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I’ve connected with people in the most unlikely places, finding a Bulgarian painter to use my few Bulgarian words with in the streets of Paris, striking up a conversation in Spanish with an Indian woman who used to work at the Argentinian embassy in Mumbai, and surprising a library worker by asking her a question in her native Mandarin.

I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life. I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.

I think of my journey as best expressed through a Chinese proverb that my teacher taught me, “I am like a chicken eating at a mountain of rice.” Each grain is another word for me to learn as I strive to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Today, I still have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.

– via collegeessayguy

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