Grammar Rule – How to Steal An Apple Using Commas

Disclaimer: I do not own Merry or Pippin. They simply dropped by on their way home from Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday party (which was on September 22nd) and asked if they could help me out. Of course, I said yes. They’d like to take this moment to wish Frodo and Bilbo a happy belated birthday. 🙂

Pippin was walking to Merry’s house when he saw the biggest, juiciest, reddest apple he’d ever seen just sitting on a barrel. Pippin’s stomach growled. He could almost taste the crisp fruit from where he was standing. Pippin looked both ways and then darted over, snatched the apple up, and polished it on his shirt. He was about to take a big bite when a shout came from behind him.

“Pippin! That apple is mine not yours! I just put it there a minute ago.”

Pippin turned around to see his friend Merry standing there, very miffed. He folded his arms across his chest as he glared at Pippin.

Pippin looked at the apple, then back to his friend. Something Merry had said bothered him. “Merry, you forgot a comma!”

Merry shook his head. “I know there was no need for a comma in that sentence! You’re just trying to distract me as you run off with MY apple.”

Pippin shook his head. “No, Merry. I’m pretty sure you’re missing a comma!”

Oh no! Who was going to solve this grammar mystery? Was Pippin just trying to steal a snack or was he really concerned for his friend’s comma usage? Read on to find out! 😉

Contrasting Commas

“This is my precious, not your precious!” Gollum told Sméagol.

When you have contrasting parts of a sentence, a comma is needed between the two parts. In this example, Gollum is contrasting “my precious” with “your precious,” so a comma is needed between the two.

Aragorn never takes a bath, unlike Legolas who takes three baths a day.

Words like “not,” “never,” and “unlike” often indicate a contrast. In this sentence, Aragorn’s bathing habits are being contrasted with Legolas’s, so a comma is needed between the two parts of the sentence.

Denathor always compliments Boromir, never Faramir.

There is a “never” between Boromir and Faramir, which shows they are being contrasted. That means a comma is again needed.

That apple is mine, not yours!

Sorry Merry, but Pippin was right. The “not” indicates a contrast between “mine” and “yours.” That means a comma is needed between the two parts.

Merry sighed, realizing that Pippin was right. “I guess you win that one, Pippin. It’s still my apple, though.”

Pippin handed the apple back to his friend wistfully. “I suppose it is.”

“It’s quite a big apple for one Hobbit to eat,” remarked Merry. “Why don’t we share it?” Merry sliced the apple in half with his pocket knife and handed one half over to Pippin.

Pippin smiled and took the offered half. “Now it’s both our apple! Which makes the commas even easier to figure out!”

Merry and Pippin say thanks for reading! 🙂

~ Kayla

 

Grammar Rule – Commas, Cities, States, Countries, and Dates

“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out,” complained Oscar Wilde, author of The Importance of Being Earnest. I’ve often echoed Wilde’s protest as commas are one of the toughest punctuation marks to master. That’s why I’ve been doing a continuing series on comma rules so I don’t have to spend most of the day wondering where to put that little piece of punctuation. Today I’m tackling another tricky comma rule, so let’s get started!

Commas, Cities, States, and Countries

Aliens always seem to invade London, England, on Doctor Who.

When the name of the country is listed after the city, a comma is needed between them. A comma is also needed after the country’s name.

The Doctor visted Salt Lake City, Utah, with Rose Tyler.

Just like before with a country, a comma is needed between the city and the state as well as a comma after the state’s name.  

Commas and Dates

September 22, 2890, is a very important date in the Shire as it is the birthday of Bilbo Baggins.

If the date includes the day along with the month and year, then a comma is needed between the day and the year. A comma is also needed after the year in a sentence.

The Ponds arrived in July 1969 with the Doctor.

Since there’s no day, no comma is needed between the month and the year or after the year.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

 

Grammar Rule – Commas and Adjectives

Disclaimer: I don’t own Merry or Pippin. They just popped by and asked if they could help out. So, of course, I said yes. 🙂

“Pippin, I’m writing a story about our adventures in Isengard, and I can’t seem to remember something.” Merry chewed on the end of his quill pen.

“Well, I’m here to help!” Pippin bit into an apple. “What do you need to know?”

“Was Legolas’s hair ‘long, lovely’ or was it ‘long lovely?” wondered Merry. “I think I need a comma between the two words.”

“And I was just about to say you didn’t,” Pippin sighed. “I don’t know which is correct.”

Merry looked forlornly down. How was he supposed to finish his story without knowing whether to use a comma or not? This was a grammar conundrum indeed. Luckily, Merry and Pippin, all you have to do is read this post, and you’ll find the answer to your question!

Let’s start by defining what an adjective is. An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun. Black, seven, pretty, mad, cozy, soft, and hungry are all examples of adjectives. Now that we know what an adjective is, we can answer Merry and Pippin’s grammar question.

Legolas’s long, lovely hair is his pride and joy.

If you can interchange the adjectives and the sentence still makes sense, then you need a comma. For example, if you say Legolas’s lovely, long hair instead of long, lovely hair the sentence still makes sense. That means you need a comma between the two adjectives.

Tauriel is jealous of Legolas’s silky, shiny hair.

Another way of telling if you need a comma is to see if an “and” could be added between the two adjectives logically. It still makes sense if the wording is silky and shiny hair instead of silky, shiny hair. That means a comma is needed.

Legolas’s brown leather armor goes well with his hair.

There is no need to put a comma between brown and leather because you can’t exchange the adjectives or add an “and” and have the sentence still make sense. You wouldn’t say leather brown armor or leather and brown armor, so you wouldn’t need a comma.

Legolas’s sharp elven knives were a gift from Thranduil.

You cannot switch the adjectives here. Elven sharp knives just doesn’t make sense, so no comma is needed.

“I guess you were right, Merry. It does need a comma!” Pippin noted as Merry carefully wrote out the words “long” and “lovely” in the book, being sure to include a comma.

“I’m glad I know the difference now. I’d hate not to be able to finish my story. I’m going to call it How Two Hobbits Took Down Isengard and Plundered Isengard’s Salted Pork. I still think it’ll be better than Frodo’s story, The Lord of the Rings.”

“At least it will have correct comma usage!” Pippin said, leaving his friend to continue working on his story.

Merry and Pippin say thank you for reading! 🙂

~ Kayla

Grammar Rule – Commas and Introductory Phrases and Words

Previously On Grammar Rule: We learned about commas in a list and commas and conjunctions. In case you missed last month’s installment, you can find it here. In today’s Grammar Rule, we are learning about commas and introductory phrases and words. Don’t go anywhere because we’ll be right back with this month’s episode of Grammar Rule!

*insert catchy theme music here*

First of all, we need to clear up what exactly is an introductory phrase. A phrase is a group of related words that do not have both a subject and a verb. An introductory phrase is a phrase that comes at the beginning of a sentence and prepares the reader for the rest of the sentence. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can now move on to the commas. After most introductory phrases, you will need to add a comma.

Slipping on his ring, Bilbo turned invisible.

To find the Arkenstone, Bilbo had to face Smaug.

Drawing his two swords, Fili ran into the orc battle with a shout.

A fearsome and malevolent beast, Smaug was considered the greatest calamity of that age.  

“Slipping on his ring,” “To find the Arkenstone,” “Drawing his two swords,” and “A fearsome and malevolent beast” are all types of introductory phrases, so a comma is needed to set them off.

By firelight the dwarves heard the tale of the Battle of Moria.

In this sentence there’s an introductory phrase, but no comma. No, that’s not a mistake. If you have an introductory phrase with five words or less that starts with a preposition, there’s no need for a comma. However, it’s not considered wrong if a comma is placed after “firelight.” Crazy, I know.

Occasionally, the dwarves would hear orc screams at night.

If your sentence starts with an adverb like “occasionally,” you will need a comma after it.

Meanwhile, Gandalf travelled to Dol Guldur to find the Necromancer.

Introductory words that help sentences to connect and flow together like “meanwhile” need a comma after them.

No, Kili has never washed his hair.

On the other hand, Legolas washes his hair at least twice a day with special Elf shampoo.

Interjections and common expressions also need commas after them.

Here are a few links that I found helpful while writing this post:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

http://www.grammarly.com/handbook/punctuation/comma/11/commas-after-introductory-phrases/

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/quizzes/nova/nova2.htm – this one is a quiz you can take to test your comma knowledge

Join me next month for the next installment of Grammar Rule!

*insert more catchy theme music here*

~ Kayla

 

Grammar Rule – Commas in a List and Commas and Conjunctions

Are you ready to embark on a journey of many months that will leave you more grammatically knowledgeable? Of course you are! Over the next couple of months on my grammar rule posting days, I will be sharing the many and complicated rules of commas as I attempt to learn exactly what to do with these pesky little punctuation marks. With any luck our quest will be successful. May our journey through the land of commas begin!

Commas in a List:

Bill the Pony walked up the hill, trotted across the field, and ran through the gate into the Shire.

The first rule today is about commas in a list. The rule seems fairly straight forward: when you have three or more items in a list, you should use commas between the items to avoid confusion. While everyone can agree that there should be commas between the first two items, there is an all out war about the third comma, more properly called the Oxford comma. This little comma is a source of great strife among grammar lovers everywhere. Some want to remove this comma, while others want it to remain. What it all boils down to is that you can chose to use the Oxford comma or not to use the Oxford comma. However you chose to punctuate your lists is up to you, as long as you’re consistent in your usage. I personally use the Oxford comma, so my examples in this post will include the third comma. If you’d like to know a bit more about this war, here’s a great video from TEDEd which you can find here.

Thranduil, Tauriel, and Legolas are all elves from Mirkwood.

Now that the confusion over the Oxford comma is cleared up, we can continue on our little journey. In this example, there are three elves in this list, which means commas are needed between them to avoid confusion.

Kili and Fili are brothers.

In this sentence, there are only two dwarves in the list, so there is no need to add a comma.

Commas and Conjunctions:

Legolas fired at the orc with the bomb, but he missed.

The second rule is about commas and conjunctions. This rule is pretty straight forward as well: when there are two independent clauses joined together with a conjunction, a comma is needed before the conjunction. The hardest part about this rule is the terms. A conjunction is a word that joins two other words or clauses together. “And,” “but,” and “or” are all examples of conjunctions. An independent clause is a clause that has a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought so it can stand on its own in the world of grammar.

You can tell if a clause is independent by reading the two clauses separately without the conjunction in the middle. “Legolas fired at the orc” is a full sentence. “He missed” is also a full sentence. So, in this case, there are two independent clauses, and there is a conjunction connecting them. Therefore, there needs to be a comma before the conjunction.

Legolas and Tauriel were not in The Hobbit book.

In this example, the conjunction “and” is not connecting two independent clauses. Neither “Legolas” nor “Tauriel” are full sentences by themselves, so no comma is needed between the two.

Smaug is fire, and he is also death.

Both “Smaug is fire” and “he is also death” have subjects and verbs and express complete thoughts. That means a comma is needed before the conjunction.

Here’s another great TEDEd video about commas and conjunctions, which you can find here.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Grammar Rule – Beside vs Besides: A Romantic Tale

In my grammar book’s units, there is always a lesson concerning those pesky little words that people tend to get confused. Now, I like being grammatically correct, but those are killers. Well, this unit’s words are “beside” and “besides.” Ugh. I still can’t remember the difference between the two. Not only are the words almost exactly alike, they also can be used as the same part of speech. I’m hoping by writing this short romantic tale, I’ll be able to help myself (and maybe a few of you) remember how to use these words correctly.

Disclaimer: Despite the content in this post, I absolutely do NOT approve of the Tauriel/Kili relationship. In fact, I hate the whole thing and cannot listen to their theme in the Desolation of Smaug soundtrack without disgust. However, since no one asked my opinion when they made the movie, I am forced to live with it. Besides, it makes for some interesting sentences. 🙂

At the Elven feast, Kili wanted to sit beside Tauriel.

Beside is all about location and means “next to” or “close to.” Since Kili wanted to sit next to Tauriel, you’d leave off the S.

Fili also wanted to sit beside Tauriel, but Kili discouraged him with a dirty look.

In this case, Fili wanted to sit next to Tauriel as well, so again you’d leave off the S.

Besides Kili and Fili, Legolas also wanted to claim the seat next to Tauriel.

“Besides” means “in addition to” or “apart from.” Since I’m saying  in addition to Kili and Fili, Legolas wanted to sit with Tauriel, the one with the S would be correct.

Legolas told Tauriel, “I cannot believe you would sit next to that dwarf. He smells horribly, his hair is unkempt, and besides, he is so short!”

Tauriel replied, “Well, at least he doesn’t spend hours and hours gazing at himself in front of the mirror! Besides, he’s quite tall for a dwarf.” 

“Besides” in this conversation is used as an adverb and means “furthermore.” This one is easy to identify because it’s set off by itself with a comma.

In the end, none of them sat beside Tauriel. She chose to sit next to Dwalin, because she liked bald men, or should I say, bald dwarves.

Here’s a link to a website that I found helpful writing this post. It even has a test down at the bottom for you to take to see if you really do know how to use beside/besides!

http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/beside_besides.htm

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

 

Grammar Rule – Literally vs Figuratively

Right now, all over the world, someone is using “literally” when they should be using “figuratively.” And I’m afraid that I am as guilty as the rest of the world. I’ve probably misused the word “literally” literally (and I mean it here!) hundreds of times. Well, today it’s time to put me (and maybe a few of you) on the straight and narrow path of correct word usage. 😉

The trolls were literally going to eat the dwarves.

The funny thing about literally is that it means just that. If something literally happened, it means that the thing actually happened. The trolls were actually going to eat the dwarves, so literally is the best choice.

Legolas’s haircut was so bad that I literally died.

Now, if you really, truly died when you saw Legolas’s haircut, then yes, you may use literally. However, since you are alive to tell everyone that you literally died, the correct word should have been figuratively. Remember literally means whatever you said actually happened, happened.

Smaug had such a gorgeous voice, I figuratively cried.

While you might have wanted to cry over Smaug’s awesome voice, if you didn’t actually have tears streaming down your cheeks, then you should use the word figuratively. I would like to point out that while this sentence is grammatically correct, it’s probably not what you’d normally say in real life which is why some dictionaries (like Merriam-Webster) have added a second definition of literally: “in effect; virtually.”

I’ve literally seen An Unexpected Journey a gazillion times.

Even though figuratively might be the best grammatical option in this sentence, it’s probably okay to say literally. Your friends would understand that you have just watched the movie lots of times. Just don’t blame me if a certain superhero shows up to restore the balance.

Balance Restored! Thanks to Studio C for the grammar rule idea. 😉

~ Kayla

 

 

 

Word Usage – Myriad

(Note: There is no proof that this conversation is canonical, nor do I know if this word is used in the Shire. Also, I do not own Merry or Pippin; however, they had so much fun helping me out with the grammar rule post, that they decided to help me out with this word usage post. 🙂 )

It was time for afternoon tea, and Merry and his friend Pippin were coming home after a long walk in the Shire.

“I’m starving, Merry!” Pippin said suddenly. “I could eat a myriad of mushrooms I’m so hungry!”

“Oh, but Pippin, I don’t think you’re using myriad right,” Merry said, concerned for his friend’s improper word usage. “It should be myriad mushrooms since myriad is an adjective,” corrected Merry. This seemed to go over Pippin’s head, so Merry tried clarifying. “You wouldn’t say I could eat countless of mushrooms would you?”

Pippin shook his head.

“Then you shouldn’t use myriad of, since countless of is essentially what you are saying,” finished Merry.

“I don’t think so,” Pippin said. “I’ve always heard myriad of. After all, it is a noun.”

“No,” replied Merry, “Myriad is an adjective.”

They couldn’t agree on myriad’s part of speech. The two Hobbits were confused (as well as hungry!). What were they going to do? Well, Merry and Pippin, read this post, and you’ll have your answer. 🙂

The question is whether the word myriad is a noun or an adjective. To use an “of” or not to use an “of” after the word. Which is correct? To answer this question, let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. Back to the Ancient Greeks, actually. Myriad used to be the Greek word myrias meaning “ten thousand,” and it was used most commonly as a noun. From there it can be traced to the Latin word myrias and then to the French word myriade in the 1550s. What does this have to do with knowing whether to use an “of” after it or not? Well, a lot actually. You see, myriad started life most commonly as a noun. Even in our English language it was used as a noun. Then around 1800, the adjective form of myriad came along and was so frequently used, it came to be thought, even today, to be the only correct usage of the word. However, both uses of the word are correct.

So, the point of this long-drawn-out story is that both Hobbits are right.

“You see, Merry, we’re both right!” cried a triumphant Pippin.

Merry shook his head. “Well, I guess you were right, Pippin. But I still don’t think you can eat a myriad of mushrooms. That’s a lot.”

Pippin rubbed his stomach, “You’d be surprised, Merry. I think I can eat myriad mushrooms, and I’d like to start now!”

With this dilemma out of the way, the Hobbits could focus on the more important things in life – such as finally enjoying their afternoon tea and seeing just how many mushrooms Pippin could eat.

In case you’re still a bit confused or want to read more about this word, here’s a link to a really helpful article I found:

http://www.talkwordy.com/2009/02/a-myriad-of-misconceptions-well-just-one-really/

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Merry and Pippin for their help! 🙂

~ Kayla

Grammar Rule – It’s vs Its

(Note: There is no proof that this conversation is canonical, nor do I know if this grammar rule applies in the Shire. Also, I don’t own Merry or Pippin. They just volunteered for the skit. 😉 )

It was a fine day for a walk in the Shire, and Merry and Pippin were taking advantage of it.

Its a fine day for a walk, Merry,” said Pippin, while looking along the road for mushrooms.

“But Pippin, you’re wrong. Its not a fine day. It’s a fine day for a walk. You wouldn’t use its. At least, I don’t think you would.” said Merry, afraid his friend had made a horrible grammar mistake.

“That’s not what I remember learning,” protested Pippin. “I always use its.”

Well, this was certainly a dilemma, and one that neither Hobbit knew how to solve. Luckily, Merry and Pippin, all you have to do is read this post, and you’ll have the answer. 🙂

It’s a long walk to Mount Doom.

The best and easiest way to figure out which “its/it’s” to use is to remember that “it’s” is a contraction that means “it is” or “it has.” So, if you can replace the “its/it’s” in your sentence with “it is” or “it has” and have it still make sense, then you should use “it’s.”

It’s always been raining in Bree.

You can replace “it’s” in this sentence with “it has” and the sentence is still clear. So, in this case you would use “it’s.”

The map hung in its place on Bilbo’s wall.

If you replace “its” in this sentence with “it is” or “it has,” the sentence doesn’t make much sense. The “its” in this sentence is the possessive form of “it” and doesn’t use an apostrophe.

Sting earned its name in the forest of Mirkwood when Bilbo fought the spiders.

“It is” name or “it has” name doesn’t make any sense. Once again the possessive form of “its” is needed.

It’s a fine day for a walk in the Shire.

Sorry, Pippin. It looks like Merry was right. Since “it is” makes sense (It is a fine day for a walk), it’s the correct “its/it’s” to use.

“Well,” said Pippin, apologizing to Merry as they were walking back, “it looks like I was wrong. Its not a fine day for a walk. It’s a fine day for a walk. Now I know, and I don’t feel like such a fool of a Took!”

Hopefully this post has been as helpful to you as it has been to Pippin! Thanks for reading, and thanks to Merry and Pippin for their help! 🙂

~ Kayla

A Grammar Rule – Farther vs Further

Although that movie theater is further away from my house, it is nicer and will have the new Hobbit movie in HFR 3D. Or is it farther away from my house? I need to figure out this grammar rule quickly because The Desolation of Smaug is opening soon …

Have you ever had a serious grammar dilemma like this involving further and farther? If so, then read on and find out which one it’s supposed to be.

How much farther do we have to walk until we reach Erebor?

Who do you think walked farther – the Fellowship of the Ring or Thorin Oakenshield’s company?

Farther is used for a measurable physical distance, such as how far it is to walk to Erebor or Mount Doom. A good way to remember this is that the word used for physical distance has the word “far” in it.

If you are looking for someone who knows how to read moon runes, look no further than Lord Elrond himself.

Here, we’re not talking about a physical distance. We’re talking about a figurative, non-physical one. So for figurative distances, you should use further.

Upon further reflection, Bilbo remembered Gandalf, the wizard.

Also use further when meaning more or additional.

Wishing to further Frodo’s success, eight more members joined the Fellowship.

And finally, further can mean to help forward, advance, or promote a work, undertaking, or cause.

So to answer my original question about the movie theater, since I was talking about an actual physical distance, I would use farther in my sentence.

Hope this post cleared up some of the confusion surrounding these two words! Here are two articles that were helpful to me while writing this post:

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/further-versus-farther

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/farther-vs-further/

~ Kayla