English Grammar - Intermediate

Reflexive Pronouns

What is the difference between these two sentences?

Sam and Dan looked at each other in the mirror.
Sam and Dan looked at themselves in the mirror.

In the first sentence, Sam looked at Dan and Dan looked at Sam. In the second sentence, Sam looked at his own reflection and Dan did too.

"Themselves" is a reflexive pronoun. English doesn't use reflexive pronouns as often as many other languages. We say:

I shaved this morning. NOT I shaved myself this morning.

We use reflexive pronouns to make it clear the subject and the object of the verb are the same.

You take yourself too seriously.
He looked at himself in the mirror and began to cry.
The cat bit itself and everyone laughed.

We can also use them for emphasis. Look how these are used:

I didn't drive, I walked there myself!
Did you clean the kitchen yourself or did someone help you?
The Queen herself signed the letter.

One Word Or Two?

There are some expressions in English where it can be difficult to know if it is one word or two. Do you say "every day" or "everyday"? How about "anymore" or "any more"?

Often there is only one correct answer for grammatical reasons. Sometimes, the difference may be British or American English.

And sometimes, there is only one possibility and the alternative is simply wrong!

Let's have a look at some of the most common examples of one- and two-word phrases.

Every Day / Everyday

Everyday is an adjective that means 'common', 'normal'.

Everyday life in the village was very boring for Katya.
"Don't wear anything special, just come in your everyday clothes."

"Every day" is a phrase that indicates that something happens each day.

He goes to speak to his old cow every day.
Every day that you don't study, the worse the exam will be!

Anymore / Any More

Anymore is an adverb that talks about time. It has a meaning of 'still' or 'at present'.

He doesn't come to the club anymore. He said he hates it!
Why don't you bake anymore? You used to love it!

'Any More' is an expression that talks about quantity.

Is there any more cheese in that tin? I'm still hungry.
Any more trouble from you and we are going home!

See the difference here:

Are you going to bake anymore? >> Don't you still like cooking? Have you stopped doing it as a hobby?
Are you going to bake any more? >> (The noun here is left out, but understood from context) Are you going to bake any more....cookies?

Maybe / May Be

These two expressions have similar meanings, to talk about 'possibility' but, grammatically, they are very different!

'Maybe' is an adverb that means 'possibly'.

Maybe I'll phone my auntie tomorrow. I haven't spoken to her for ages.
I don't know who's coming to the party. Maybe John is coming, I'm not sure.

It's often used in replies to questions to express doubt.

"Are you coming to the concert tomorrow, John?" "Maybe, I'll let you know."

'May be', however, is a modal expression where 'may' takes the same meaning as 'might' or 'could'. 'Be' can either be the main verb or used as an auxiliary verb.

It may be the coldest day of the year today.
It may be raining, but we can still go out!

Forever / For Ever

In American English, the one-word version, 'forever' is the standard word used whereas in British English, you will see both 'forever' and 'for ever', with an increasing preference for the former.

In older British English, there were slight differences between the two, but nowadays, that is not so much the case. If in doubt, use 'forever' as it is accepted in both British and American English.

Anyway / Any Way

'Anyway' is an adverb that carries the meaning 'notwithstanding', 'in any case' or 'regardless'. It's also often used to move a conversation on to another topic.

I know Tom didn't want me at the party, but I went anyway.
Anyway, what do you want to do this evening?

'Anyways' is a more informal version of 'anyway', especially in American English.

'Any way' is a determiner expression that means 'in all ways' or 'in whichever way'.

Is there any way you can give me a discount on that car?
I'll help you in any way, but I won't do it all for you!

All Right / Alright

Though you may see 'alright', as one word, written in informal texts, it isn't correct and you should always use "all right". 'Alright' is becoming more commonly used however and there's a good chance it will become standard English in the coming decades.

Log In / Login

This is one specific example of a common rule in English which can be applied to many similar examples. 'Log in' is a phrasal verb and it can be used only as a verb. 'Login' on the other hand is a noun or adjective created from the phrasal verb.

If you want to see your emails, you will need to log in to your email account.
Can you remember your login password?

NOT "Tell me your log in.".

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