If you missed the first post in this series, click here.
If you missed the second post in this series, click here.
Oh, those pesky grammar rules.
How do you remember them all? Where do you go for help?
You try to recall what you learned in junior high, you google Google when no one’s watching, you email your friend who’s the head of the English department at the local high school.
But sometimes you just need a simple list.
I’ve got you covered.
Let’s go over the last three grammar challenges in my series. And at the end, everyone gets a prize!
Farther vs. Further
In American English, the only time you use “farther” is for physical distance.
- I can throw a bowl of Corn Flakes at my little brother farther than you can.
- She lives in Barrow, Alaska, because she wanted to be farther away from her mother-in-law.
For everything else, use “further.”
- I hav not pursooed any further eddication sinss forth grayde.
- Are there any further comments you need to make about my new hairdo?
- “Nothing could be further from the truth,” lied Pinocchio.
Easy hack: Distance is FAR; therefore, use farther.
*In British English, it is acceptable to use the word “further” for distance.*
- I can throw a crumpet at my butler further than you can.
Imply, Infer, Indicate
To imply is to derive a working conclusion from appearances. It’s indirect, suggestive. It hints at things:
My broken nose implied that she was a bit upset with me.
Imply is more fluid, more subjective. It’s used when making associations:
Purple hair implies nonconformism.
Imply can also be used in the sense of hinting:
By not giving Beauregard a Christmas bonus, Mrs. Clinton was implying that he was a lousy secretary.
To infer is to derive a conclusion from facts. It’s direct.
- Cole inferred from his name that his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Black, had a sense of humor.
- I inferred from my broken nose that our marriage was over.
- Mrs. McGillicuddy inferred from her daughter’s purple hair that she wasn’t interested in going out with Pastor Mulcahy.
- Beauregard inferred from his empty Christmas bonus envelope that typing 17 words a minute wasn’t quite up to snuff.
My boyfriend Fowler has a nice hack:
imply is on the giving end, while infer is on the receiving end.
In other words, imply gives an opinion or conclusion from what one sees or experiences, while infer receives a conclusion based on what happens.
To indicate is to express directly or to show need.
- Refusing to dye her hair back to auburn indicates a disinterest in being invited to Queen Elizabeth’s 91st birthday party this April.
- My broken nose indicates that I’d better start looking in the New York Times‘s real estate section this Sunday.
- Mrs. Clinton has indicated to me that I should clear out my desk.
Notice that there is a slight similarity between imply/infer and connote/denote. For more on connote and denote, see my last comedy grammar post.
Shall vs. Will
This one is nation-dependent, and the two nations, the United States and England, are at complete opposite sides of the rules.
In American English, will is used in first person (singular and plural), and shall is used for second and third persons (people? Joke.). In British English, shall is used in first person (singular and plural), while will is used for second and third persons.
When you want to make a stronger statement, you reverse the rules in both countries, i.e., in American English you’d use shall in first person and will for second and third persons, and in British English you’d use will in first person and shall for second and third persons.
Nowadays we tend to blur the lines, but I feel it’s important you get the rules straight before you choose to break them.
When you are asking a question, you’d do the following:
- Shall I jump out the window?
- Will you please buy me a back hoe?
1. Regular, everyday situations (not)
- “I will floss my teeth every night after dancing on the Champs Elysees,” indicated the American in Paris.
- “Egads!” replied Prince Charles, “I shall have my butler floss my teeth after he cleans up the crumpet I threw at him.”
- In the United States, you shall be nauseated if you order a hamburger, along with a Coke in a dirty glass.
- In London, you will be nauseated if Harrod’s serves you strawberries with sour cream.
- Betty Crocker shall throw her apple pie crust against the wall in order to prove that it shall bounce right back at her.
- Elton John will throw his piano at Adele if she wins another Grammy.
2. Being emphatic
- I shall clean you out of your life savings if you don’t sell me Grandma Bush’s cattle ranch in Texas.
- I will indubitably be forced to relieve you of your life savings if you continue to occupy Kensington Palace.
- You will pick up your dirty Levis off the floor or you will absolutely not be allowed to go to the banjo concert at Madison Square Garden.
- You shall pick up your dirty tiara off the carpeting or you shall absolutely not be allowed to go to the tennis match at Wimbledon.
- My brother-in-law will move to Albania if The Donald becomes president.
- Prime Minister Cameron shall resign if Brexit is voted in.
As this is the last in my “Grammar Questions You’ve Been Too Embarrassed to Ask” series, I would like to give away a helpful and free ebook outlining all the issues I covered in this three-part series. Click here to receive your prize.