Great writers breaking grammatical rules

As I Have posted before I am a sceptic about many of the grammatical rules that we learned at school. Here are some famous writers breaking them:

Starting a sentence with a conjunction

He had never seen a home, so there was nothing for him to say about it. And he was not old enough to talk and say nothing at the same time.” (Light in August, William Faulkner)

Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance—these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. (Four Essays on Liberty, Isaiah Berlin)

Double negatives

“I cannot go no further.” (As You Like It, Shakespeare)

“I never was nor never will be.”  (Richard III, Shakespeare)

Ending a sentence or independent clause with a preposition

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” (The Tempest, Shakespeare)

Using ‘they’ and ‘their’ with a singular antecedent

If everybody minded their own business… (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll)

Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. (Oscar Wilde)

Comma Splices

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” from A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Double superlative

This was the most unkindest cut of all. (Julius Caesar, Shakespeare)

Splitting infinitives

“It seemed that he had caught [the fish] himself, years ago, when he was quite a lad; not by any art or skill, but by that unaccountable luck that appears to always wait upon a boy when he plays the wag from school.” (Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome)

“Milton was too busy to much miss his wife.” (Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, Samuel Johnson)

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One Response to Great writers breaking grammatical rules

  1. Nichola says:

    Most of these grammar rules were “invented” in the 18th century (*/- 50 years) when certain academics believed that English should ape latin as that was – or so they believed – the perfect language.

    My favourite quote on grammatical correctnes comes from Fowler. More or less it says:
    There are those who know but don’t care, those that don’t know but care, those who know and care, and those – oh happy they, who neither know nor care.

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