Allowing for Laid-Back Grammar

In a recent lesson on YouTube, I decided to teach and practice agreement with the informal responses “Me too” and “Me neither.” (Watch Basic English Lesson 106.) I had seen some online discussion about the correctness of such phrases (or the lack thereof), but I decided that if I hear it and I personally use it, then a piece of language is worth teaching. It’s important to present more standard or even more formal variations at some point, but if a language item is going to be encountered and if it would help learners sound more natural, why not present and practice it. Agreed?

Some top picks for laid-back grammar worth teaching:

1. Me too.

YouGlish and GetYarn will provide plenty of examples if you’re looking for them, but in this day and age it’s also relevant to explain the hashtag #MeToo and the Me Too movement, which fights against sexual harrassment and sexual abuse.

I like this variation as opposed to “I [do] too” or “So [do] too” because it doesn’t require the student to choose the correct auxiliary verb. I see “Me too” as a convenient stepping stone to other ways to agree.

2. Me neither./ Me either.

We can argue back and forth over which one is used more, or we can agree that both are equally informal and likely non-standard. I went with “Me neither” for simplicity. It was recognized as a spoken form of agreement in most sources I checked. Merriam-Webster lists both variations.

3. Object pronouns before gerunds.

Which would you choose? (a) His snoring kept me up all night. (b) Him snoring kept me up all night?

You’d choose A. Right? But when we move the gerund to the object position, consider if your choice changes: (c) I can’t deal with his snoring all night. (d) I can’t deal with him snoring all night.

Do you feel that C and D are possible? I do. We can teach students that gerunds function like nouns, so it’s logical to use a possessive adjective before them, but in conversation we sometimes use an object pronoun instead. Wrong or not, it’s a fairly common practice. Technically, the speaker’s problem is with the snoring, not really the guy, but to the listening, the variation shouldn’t change the meaning. Agreed?

4. More than me.

My father used to correct me as child, reminding me that comparisons to myself should end with “than I” and not “than me.” Once I became a teacher, I started to learn about prescriptive vs. descriptive grammar, so now I feel more confident saying “than me” in my spoken statements. I think usage has won this battle, and saying things like, “She’s older than me” has become acceptable in everyday conversation. In a more formal context, we can revert to the old school rule: She is older than I am./ She is older than I.

5. What’s that for?

Like me, were you taught not to end a sentence with a preposition? Again, I think descriptive grammar has won some ground, and now we make a distinction in register, but ending with a preposition is no longer a big no-no. Honestly, who would reword the question and say, “For what do you use that?”  I’d only make the effort to avoid ending with a preposition in formal writing.

6. For who? To who? About who?

The use of “whom” has certainly become limited. Thankfully, sources today not only note that it’s more formal than “who,” but Merriam-Webster also calls it “awkward and unnatural.”

Got any more examples of laid-back grammar? Please share.

Featured photo by pasja1000 retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/relaxation-sunny-day-beach-lake-5356803/.

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