Student Stumper 47: Can’t Have and Couldn’t Have

How could I have thought there wouldn’t be another tricky question about perfect modal verbs? Modals and their many meanings stump us teachers from time to time. It’s easy enough to explain the basics, but part of the challenge is understanding where there’s overlap and where there isn’t. I addressed one question regarding perfect modals…

Student Stumper 46: “As if” and “As though” Revisited

I initially addressed this topic a few years ago in Student Stumper 35. However, some recent questions opened the can back up, and out came some worms  that I couldn’t ignore. Not having clear answers to grammar questions makes me squirm in my seat! QUESTION: Can I use the present tense after as if and…

Student Stumper 44: How can an adjective follow THAN in “later than usual”?

QUESTION: I read a sentence with the phrase “later than usual.” I thought only nouns could follow the preposition than, and usual is an adjective. Is “later than usual” grammatically correct? ANSWER: Dictionaries list than as a preposition and a conjunction. To be honest, I sometimes find it tricky to make the distinction, especially with comparisons. I see it as a…

Student Stumper 42: Could do vs. Could have done

QUESTION: Which question is correct? “How could I have missed that?” or “How could I miss that?” ANSWER: If only I could easily and confidently answer that! Could we first look at other uses of this modal verb? We could look at a few examples together if you’d like. That wasn’t actually my initial reply to the…

Student Stumper 40: Can I use “will” in a clause with “when”?

Often answers to grammar questions are easy to give, but occasionally a question really gives me pause. Even if I believe I know the answer, I find myself asking, ‘”Why is that correct?” The first rules that come to mind somehow don’t apply. Some choose to downplay the importance of studying grammar. I agree that language learning goes…

Student Stumper 39: Can “that which” be used together?

QUESTION: Can “that which” be used together? ANSWER: Hmm. It can, but why does is sound odd to my ears? That was my first reaction to a student’s question. My clue was his source.  He encountered the combination in a scholarly work. The statement he quoted also made use of “ofttime,” which is recognized as…

Student Stumper 38: The Grammar of Perception Verbs (Part 2)

Q: If you say, “Listen to Mona sing,” how is the word sing functioning in that sentence? A: It took some thinking and digging for me to decide on an answer. I had originally addressed verbs of perception in Student Stumper 14, but one thing I did not focus on in that post was labeling…