Why English Grammar Is So Complicated

This is going to be a rant, so if you are expecting something from me about how I love grammar, forget it! For me English grammar has been, is and will forever be a pain in my rump. I have been criticized by many for my lack of proper grammatical usage [ is there such a term as ‘grammatical usage’?] if not, I don’t care. I have struggled with grammar since grammar school. Is that the reason they called it grammar school? Were we there just to learn grammar?

So in surfing the Internet and I ran into a site dedicated to grammar. What the heck, I’ll see what they have to say. This is where I discover why English grammar is such a pain. There is no semblance of structure or order! There is my problem with grammar. I am a black and white person, no gray allowed. Grammar depends on a set of rules that someone, somewhere made up and the rest of us are stuck in using.

Like this one:


Unlike most possessives, “its” does not contain an apostrophe. It is just one of the many cases where the English language is unnecessarily complex. The trouble with English is not that it has too many rules – it’s that there are too many exceptions to the rules. But “its/it’s” is a case wherein it’s good to remember that an apostrophe often replaces a letter. If the word is “it’s,” ask yourself, “What letter has been removed?” The answer clearly is “i.” The letter i from “it is” has been replaced by the apostrophe.

So, to clarify:
Its = belonging to it. “The frying pan has a dent in its handle.”
It’s = it is. “It’s not my fault the frying pan is dented!”

There is the problem. I don’t care if the pan has a dented handle. I just want to know who dented it! :-)

Rant Off.

Comments welcome.

More grammar help is here.

[tags]grammar, english, dislike, spelling, help, confusing, words. [/tags]

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.


  1. Denny says:

    . . HOW–DO–IT–NO . . Ron

    . . . . . English grammar . . .

    . . Thats . Be . My . Best . Subject . In . Dah . School . . –

  2. Ron Schenone says:

    Hi Denny,
    I knew that! LOL

  3. Barry Kirwan says:

    As an Englishman, now living off your northern shore, in Canada, I can readily relate to this article.
    The rules and, sometimes, the lack of them can make “precise” English something of an anathema to most people.
    I remember watching CNN one day and was very surprised when an elder newswoman gave an explanation of why a particular news article was misunderstood and had raised many complaints. Her explanation covered the “loose” use of English grammar and the inappropriate, or lack of, commas mixed with “Americanisms. The lady concerned was quite precise and very clever with her analysis and surprised the heck out of me. She knew her English and how she is meant to be spoke.
    The nub of her explanation was that the newscaster who created the hiatus was reading text from a prompter in which text had been written by someone who was, perhaps, more in tune with “street lingo” than good English grammar. The newcaster, in their dilemma of not understanding the full meaning of what was on the prompter, read the words exactly as they were written and thus created a small furore.
    Therein lies the real problem. Should we write as we speak or should we speak as we write? The days of speaking as we write are long since gone, more than a century ago.
    Bear in mind that as America was formed and for many years since its earliest days the level of education of its inhabitants was, probably, less than it is today and commenced its own development distinct from that in the UK.. Imagine that the formation of American English came, not from the United Kingdom (UK) but from the general American population. Remember that many of the inhabitants came, not from the UK, but from many other European and Asian lands where English was not necessarily the first language. Thus we might see that American English is not only English but is also a distinct and separate strand from UK English.
    I often suck my teeth a little when I hear the variants of sentence structure, grammar and Americanisms all combined in common parlance and attempt to understand what is meant as distinct from what is said. This is most so when I read a word spelled phonetically instead of in correct English.
    Then I remember the marvel of watching and listening to two little old ladies talking in the street and hear them switch between English and French (well, the Canadian variety) as if they were both the same language, each selecting their terminology from either language as best suited their needs. This gives a new meaning to “franglais” as she is understood in Europe.
    Remember English has been growing and developing for thousands of years and contains words and meanings from many languages. English has never stopped growing and never will. The American variety goes its own way as does the English variety and, no doubt, the Canadian.
    A parallel might be the languages used in writing web pages. When writing html, xhtml or any other code there is often the need for the write-arounds to overcome one difficulty or another. Perhaps we might classify as “good” English the rules that determine “good” code and the non UK English as the write-arounds
    So fear not, use it as befits your level of education and understanding. Providing that what you say and write is understood by others, what the heck, who cares that much?

  4. GOOSE says:

    Yeah….we all knew that one……

  5. Harry says:

    Just try French grammar, for a complete knock-out.

  6. Ron Schenone says:

    Hi everyone. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  7. John Howard Oxley says:

    The situation with grammar is exactly the same as it is with operating systems and programming languages — while there will be some logic operating in each, at the bottom, some axiomatic and arbitrary choices have to be made for the system to work at all.

    Two considerations worth hoisting inboard, for those who would rather slang than switch to proper English:

    1) The wide range of irritating exceptions in English testifies to its open and adaptable nature [see _The Mother Tongue_ for a good explanation] — it is precisely this ambiguity in rules that makes English both powerful and close to universal.

    2) Using language is communication — if you did not make sure that your network wires were unbent and undamaged, and that your contacts were well-made, and that you were using the correct protocols, then you would suffer degraded [or perhaps no] communication performance. The exact same thing is true of communicating in English. If you speak/write to me in a sloppy and careless manner [you can tell I’m a teacher, can’t you?] then you are devaluing your thoughts and making the communication process needlessly difficult.

    So you should not be surprised if you do not care about grammar, that I in turn am less than impressed by the quality of your thoughts and ideas.

  8. Denny says:

    ______Geeeeeeeezzzzzz , , John Howard Oxley

    . . Readin Your Comment Just About Put-Me To Sleep . . :-)

  9. Lovs2look says:

    So you should not be surprised if you do not care about grammar, that I in turn am less than impressed by the quality of your thoughts and ideas.

    What a great tag line…if you don’t mind I’m going to steal this little pearl.
    Now this will be the first comment on all blog sites that I visit…!

  10. Ron Schenone says:

    Thanks for the comments and for sharing your thoughts. :-)

  11. juan pelouts says:

    Grammar is important in language, but we need to communicate with people, so spoken english is more important for me.

  12. Jeff M says:

    I agree the English language is annoyingly complicated. I tend to have a pretty good grasp on it, but like you like to view things as black and white. What irritates the hell out of me is homophones and whatever the opposite of those are (ie words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently). Then the other one is words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have multiple meanings (almost every word in the dictionary)

    record (play my record)/record (record my voice)
    wind (man it’s blowing hard)/wind (wind up your cords)

    Whenever I have a type on one of these words, it leads me to think, why can’t we just change the spelling on some of these. Why can’t one of the winds be winde or one of the records be recard or recorde. There are billions of combinations why can’t the damn words be unique…OK I’m done with my rant.