Do you correct people's grammar mistakes?

Okay, I was in a bookstore today and the cashier said, “Can I help who’s next?” Grrrr! I hate that! Since I was next, I said to him, “You should say ‘Can I help the next person?’. ‘Who’ is a pronoun and can’t be used as the object of a sentence.” He said, “Oh.” Then I thought… Oh my FSM, I’m turning into my father (may he rest in peace). Am I alone in thinking people should be able to speak their own language more or less correctly?

I also hate it when people say, “What was your name?” like your name has changed since you told it to them five minutes ago.

“May I help the next person?”

(Not that I’d do that to a stranger)


I rarely correct an adult’s spoken grammar mistakes, unless I am trying to be deliberately provocative but for whatever reason think it unwise to actually punch the person in the nose. Correcting the grammar of others is quite rude, in my judgment.

When I am tutoring a student for the SAT, I sometimes correct egregious grammar mistakes, but not always.

I have an ex-girlfriend who once got mad at me for NOT correcting her grammar mistakes, as she felt I was deliberately allowing her to sound stupid. But with her, I couldn’t win for losing.

It’s not in this case. It’s quite properly the subject of a noun clause being used as a direct object.

Nitpickery aside, though, I agree that "May/Can I help the next person is a better rendering of the thought.

I’m with Skald, I consider it rude to correct the mistakes of random adults I encounter. I will correct the grammar of adults who work under my supervision as writers or editors, and of course I correct the grammar of anyone who pays me to do so.

I understand the impulse, but yes it’s rude. Just bite your tongue next time.

You’ll note that I left myself wiggle room by specifying spoken.

One of my older brothers–the one I **don’t **hate, except for his behavior during the following anecdote–once said that I was in error for This is he, rather than This is him, when confirming my identity to a telephone caller. I thought about saying It’s a predicative nominative, bee-yotch! but was dissuaded by my inability to use the word bee-yotch convincingly. :smiley:

The same brother has the terrible habit of using the pointless irregardless. I never correct him, though.

To clarify: I will correct the spoken grammar of adults who work under my supervision as writers and editors. I’ll do it nicely, but I will do it.

Twix, please don’t take this as a criticism, but why do you feel this is appropriate?

I don’t think it’s necessary to expect persons speaking extemporaneously to always adhere to the rules of proper grammar & usage. Now, I concede that I will speak up of another person says something in so non-standard a fashion as to render his or her meaning difficult to parse. But if one of my sales reps, say, erroneously uses a singular verb form with a plural subject, what business is it of mine to correct him or her?

I don’t do it except as a joke with friends. As I remarked to someone a few days ago, I often don’t correct people who call me by the wrong name. If I am not going to meet them again why bother making them uncomfortable and if I’m going to be working with them they will figure it out soon enough.

No, I think so as well. The difference, perhaps, is that I think they almost universally generally do.

You know, there’s a school of thought that holds that you should have written Am I alone in thinking persons should be able to speak their own language more or less correctly.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker has already pointed out a problem with the reasoning in your “correction”. But, might I add, where on earth did you get the idea that a pronoun cannot be a grammatical object [as in, e.g., “John killed him”]?

Yeah, that’s…beyond rude. And I also speak as one of the more strict proofer/editors in my department. I refuse to correct informal correspondence, too; thankfully, right now almost everyone in my office types pretty well. The last time I did correct someone’s email was when a coworker wrote “.25 cents” when discussing rate of pay.

I would never, ever correct someone’s speech. Ever. At most, if I can’t understand what’s being said, I’ll just keep asking for clarification until the speaker wises up.

(An interesting post on Language Log on the very phrase “Can I help who’s next?”. The phrase is grammatically distinctive, in a manner not otherwise deployed in modern English. But just because it’s an isolated construction doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it…)

I will correct the grammar and occasionally the vocabulary use (American English versus International English) of -some- foreign students that I deal with. Otherwise, I have to listen to much better or good/well.

Because I expect someone who is working as a professional writer/editor to have a solid grasp of correct grammar.

I don’t lurk about waiting for errors, or beat them over the head with every minor mishap – god knows I’ve misspoken more than once. If someone who reports to me makes a glaring grammatical error, though, I’m going to point it out.

As do most people who study language use professionally (as you are no doubt aware, but a fact likely unknown to the OP).

OP: Your behavior was rude, and you were wrong besides.

I don’t correct people’s grammar. Or their breaches of etiquette … .


There is a difference, don’t you think, between being a roving grammarian on the one hand, and elaborating on why you might choose not to be a roving grammarian, when asked if you are and a subtext of personal moral rectitude infuses the original query on the other.