Friday, August 2, 2013

Grammar Brigade: Insure vs Ensure and misc. rules

Here's a couple more commonly confused terms, and how to keep them straight:

Ensure: To make certain
ex: Ensure that Mike takes his bike this morning.

Insure: As in car insurance, flood insurance, etc.
ex: When my house turned into a pickle, I realized my decision to insure only my car against acts of magical nature was probably unwise.

How to keep them straight:
e: ensure: extra sure, as in, make extra sure it happens!
i: insure: in case of disaster, I want money!

And some miscellaneous grammar rules:

Rule #1

Compound subjects and predicates do not have commas, but compound sentences do.
Walking to the store and eating pickles wore me out last week. (compound subject: 1 predicate)
I ran out of pickles and needed to refill my pickle jar with premium-quality pickles. (compound predicate: 1 subject)
My friend Charlie went to the magic store, and I chose a likely house to turn into a pickle. (compound sentence: each part of the sentence has both a subject and a predicate)
 Sometimes you can count verbs, but remember, that only works if there are no infinitives, gerunds, or other instances of verbs acting as non-verbs. "Walking to the store" is considered a single subject, and acts a noun in this sentence (quick definition: gerund=verb phrase acting as a noun).

It's possible to have both a compound subject and predicate without having a compound sentence:
Chuck and I laid the spell and spent the afternoon eating pickles. (2 subjects: Chuck and I; 2 predicates: laid the spell and spent the afternoon eating pickles)

The easiest way for me to tell is to look for a coordinating conjunction: most commonly, and, or, so, for, nor, but, yet. Aka, "FANBOYS." And will usually combine two noun or things acting like nouns, and will combine two predicates. And also usually combines two halves of a compound sentence. Look for both together:

Chuck and I: Neither thing combined has a verb.
laid the spell and spent the afternoon eating pickles: who did these things? Neither has a subject.

Chuck laid the spell, and I spent the afternoon eating pickles.

Chuck laid the spell: Chuck lays a spell. Both subject and predicate present.
I spent the afternoon eating pickles: I ate pickles. Both subject and predicate present.
These two complete sentences are combine with and, thus, a comma is needed.

(Still confused? See clauses for more detailed explanation.)

Rule #2
They can fight over it.

Dual ownership and pluralities:

Annie's and Marie's favorite flower...
Annie's and Marie's favorite flowers...

Which is correct?

Ask yourself, is it the same flower? If so, use singular: flower.
If they have different favorite flowers, it's plural: flowers.

Annie's and Marie's favorite flower is on the table. (There is a rose on the table)
Annie's and Marie's second-favorite flowers are on the counter. (Annie's got a daisy, Marie has a lily)

Example 2:
The prices for a sweater at two stores are different. (different prices=more than one, use plural)
The price for a sweater at two stores is the same. (same price=one price, use singular)

Example 3:
Chuck's and Stacy's pickle was crunchy. (They shared one pickle between them.)
Sarah's and Lucy's pickles were limp. (Sarah and Lucy each had their own pickle.)

Keep it straight:

Do you have any grammar questions, or want to know how to keep any particular word pairs straight? 

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