Grammar Lesson of the Day




Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion. e.g., The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.


As in Moot Point. Love that phrase.

moot point. A debatable question, an issue open to argument; also, an irrelevant question, a matter of no importance. For example, Whether Shakespeare actually wrote the poem remains a moot point among critics, or It’s a moot point whether the chicken or the egg came first.


The question does not have to be irrelevant, but most times is. Arguing opinion is almost always a moot point…as is arguing something that cannot be proven one way or the other.

Moot court is for practice and is relevant only in grading the performances of the students. The outcome is irrelevant whether the case being argued is real or fictional because the verdict is not recognized by any real court.


None of which explains why many liberal activists substitute “mute” for “moot” in their babble.


That is in the category of “ignorant use of the wrong word”.


The use of “less” and “fewer” is often errant.

Fewer refers to the units of measure. Less refers to that being measured.

Fewer gallons of water means less water.

There is no such thing as less gallons of water.

There is such a thing as a lesser amount of water.…otherwise known as less water.

Less and fewer are not interchangeable.

…unless one is stupid.


Just like much and many.


Here are many commonly misused phrases.



These are three different words.
Often, suppose is incorrectly used when the word should be supposed.

Educated people are supposed to know this.

I suppose that not all do.

Suppose is a verb.
Supposed is an adjective.
Supposedly is an adverb.


There, their, they’re…two words and a contraction…all pronounced the same.

There…A place not here.
Their…Belonging to them.
They’re…They are.


I wonder about “who” and “whom”. I know when I’m supposed to use each one, but rarely do I see native speakers distinguish between the two. I’m hard-pressed to recall offhand the last instance where I encountered a native speaker who said “I don’t know whom to support”, even though that’s clearly the correct option. I’ve even seen “who to support” in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, which further compounds my uncertainty, for surely a competent proofreader would’ve noticed it.

Is failing to distinguish between the two not really considered a mistake?


I think that unless you are quoting “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, nobody will notice.

As to your being somewhat surprised to see journalists using errant grammar, please remember that today’s standards for being a journalist are low.

The most succinct description of the who/whom rule I have found is:

The answer to “whom” is a person. The pronoun “whom” functions as the object of a verb or a preposition. The corresponding pronoun “who” functions as the subject of sentence or a clause. The pronoun “what” functions as a subject or an object in a sentence.

Here is another simplified test of which should be used.

Rule. Use this he/him method to decide whether who or whom is correct:

he = who
him = whom

Who/Whom wrote the letter?
He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

Who/Whom should I vote for?
Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

We all know who/whom pulled that prank.
This sentence contains two clauses: we all know and who/whom pulled that prank. We are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. He pulled that prank. Therefore, who is correct.

We wondered who/whom the book was about.
This sentence contains two clauses: we wondered and who/whom the book was about. Again, we are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. The book was about him. Therefore, whom is correct.

Note: This rule is compromised by an odd infatuation people have with whom—and not for good reasons. At its worst, the use of whom becomes a form of one-upmanship some employ to appear sophisticated. The following is an example of the pseudo-sophisticated whom.

Incorrect: a woman whom I think is a genius

In this case whom is not the object of I think. Put I think at the end and the mistake becomes obvious: a woman whom is a genius, I think.

Correct: a woman who I think is a genius

Learn to spot and avoid this too-common pitfall.


Which is correct?

In regards to (subject)…


In regard to (subject)…

The correct phrase is “in regard to.”. You may be confused because “as regards” is another way to introduce a topic. Many people believe both phrases are unnecessary business jargon. Better options, depending on the particular sentence, include “concerning,” “regarding,” “about,” “in,” and “with.”.

Regard vs. regards The traditional distinction goes like this: the singular regard is correct in phrases like with regard to and in regard to where these phrases mean with reference to, while the plural regards means good wishes expressing respect, affection, or condolences.

In that regard, give my best regards to your lovely spouse.