GrammarPhile Blog

More Grammar Questions From Our Readers

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 22, 2011 5:30:00 AM

We receive questions quite often from blog readers, visitors to our website, and clients. Today, we'll list a few questions and answers that you may find helpful.

Question:  Why is it not AN historic event?

Answer:  Here in America, we correctly pronounce the "h" in "historic" as we would in "history" or "hip" or "him." Therefore, it is a consonant sound, and the correct article is "a."

In England, they generally drop the "h" and pronounce it as "istoric" - and so they use the article "an" with it.

Question:  Can you start a sentence with "And"?

Answer: In many writing contexts, it is quite all right to begin a sentence with "and." Marketing writers do this all the time. In more formal contexts, though, it is frowned upon. In documents submitted by your colleagues, we seldom if ever see sentences beginning with "and" and we think that's good. Your corporate documents are more formal, highly polished, and aimed at sophisticated, big-company readers. The writing is not folksy, and it is not conversational.

In personal newsletters, and certainly in advertising, sentences beginning with "and" are appropriate and welcome. And they make a point: that kind of writing is meant to be more casual, more personal, and easier to read.

Bottom line: Successful use of "and" at the beginning of a sentence depends on context.

Question:  Is the following sentence grammatically correct? "It wasn't I or another Alliance leader talking about where the Alliance is and where it needs to be if we are to prosper." Or should it be, "It wasn't me?"

Answer:  The correct pronoun is "I" in the context you cite. The subject "It" is referring to the speaker; the nominative (subjective) form is needed to redefine the subject.

To figure these things out, replace the subject with its renamed form "I" (or "me") and see if it fits: 

I was talking
or
Me was talking

The ear immediately rejects "Me was talking" so you know the right pronoun is "I" here. Modern-day conversational English sometimes replaces the subjective with the objective, as in:

Knock, knock.
"Who's there?"
"It's me, Phil."

This is considered acceptable in many grammar books these days, but I prefer the nominative form: "It is I, Phil." Proper grammar may sound stilted, but that's almost always due to the dumbing down of English in these carefree times.

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Topics: using I or me, starting sentences with and, correct pronunciation, pronouncing words beginning with h

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