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November 21, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: MS Word Spelling and Grammar checker

Ms_word_grammar_errorAndy Fan points out:

This is a screenshot of the Spelling and Grammar checker in Microsoft Word.

I was just checking my spelling when this correction popped up.


Are you saying that the grammar checker is broken because it only caught one problem with that paragraph?

Posted by: Dan at November 21, 2005 12:48 AM

Actually, the grammar checker is not broken; it determined the proper verb by looking at your object (not actually an object, but that is beside the point) because you used "any" as the subject. Since "any" can be either singular or plural,it saw that you used a singular noun as the object, so it tried to correct your improper grammar.

Posted by: trekkie4christ at November 21, 2005 01:49 AM

I agree: The grammar checker is not broken. The sentence is.

Try "If you or any of your parents is a merchant or a businessperson or has a paying job, please listen to my offer.". It still sounds redundant, though; would being a merchant or a businessperson imply having a paying job?

Posted by: Kenton at November 21, 2005 02:02 AM

Grammar check is working fine, and in most cases is a useful sanity check. That being said, your sentence makes my head hurt.

Attention: Are you or someone you know a Merchant, Businessperson or gainfully employed? If so, don't miss out on an exciting offer from me, horrible grammar Andy!

Posted by: Joshua Wood at November 21, 2005 09:40 AM

Not Broken. Remember the most basic rule in English grammar is That your subject, verb and object must agree in gender and number. As it is used in this case "any" is singular and the object is singular as well therefore the verb must be singular.

Posted by: Andrew Hoffman at November 21, 2005 09:44 AM

Actually, Kenton, this is wrong too:

"Are you or someone you know a Merchant, Businessperson or gainfully employed?"

This is better:

"Are you or is someone you know a Merchant, Businessperson or gainfully employed?"

(Though I would spice it with dashes for comprehensibility.)

Posted by: DaveC426913 at November 21, 2005 09:57 AM

How about changind the sentence to be simpler and a lot mroe honest. "If you have any money please let me con you out of some of it". ;-)

Posted by: Ray Stevens at November 21, 2005 10:36 AM

Sorry about verb-object agreement, but only the subject and predicate (verb) must agree in number. The verb doesn't care about the object; its only duty is to the subject. It's a common error to try to make the verb agree with the object. So, 'the things I like are horses' is a correct sentence, but so is 'the thing I like is horses,' although poorly phrased.

The trap in the original sentence is the requirement that the second person you, though singular, requires a seemingly plural form of be: are. 'If Dick or Jane is staying' is correct; 'if Dick or you are staying' is correct; and so is 'if you or Jane is staying.' When faced with this dilemma, take the number of the verb from the nearest member of the compound subject.

The rest of the sentence is crap.

Posted by: dan at November 21, 2005 11:05 AM

PS, Mr. Hoffman. Please tell us a little bit about verb gender, if you will.

Posted by: dan at November 21, 2005 11:11 AM

It should be "is."

Posted by: Roger at November 21, 2005 11:53 AM

Dan, sorry about that. Still stuck in Spanish mode!

Posted by: Andrew Hoffman at November 21, 2005 12:01 PM

i think its broken even though the sentence isnt the greatest, it is definitly broken or came from the south

Posted by: the runescape guy at November 21, 2005 12:30 PM

"i think its broken even though the sentence isnt the greatest, it is definitly broken or came from the south"

Might want to correct your capitalization, punctuation, and spelling there runescape guy. Or are you from the south?

Posted by: Ron Mexico at November 21, 2005 12:45 PM

The sentence could be changed to " If your parent or you are...."

Posted by: observer at November 21, 2005 01:35 PM

I wonder if perhaps the writer objected to Word correcting his grammer at all. Perhaps he did not want to have it checked. While it correctly flagged a grammatical error here, I find it often flags legitimate constructions.

Posted by: Bruce at November 21, 2005 02:12 PM

Andrew, I found verb gender a tantalizing concept. English is so blah--I'm sorry it doesn't exist. :)

Posted by: dan at November 21, 2005 02:19 PM

The grammar checker is correct. Remember, the word any is always followed by an implied "one." As in: If any one of your parents IS ...

Granted, in spoken English this sounds odd.

Posted by: Anton at November 21, 2005 02:20 PM

"I wonder if perhaps the writer objected to Word correcting his grammer at all."

Interesting that you should bring up "correcting his grammer." Because my version of Word (Word 2002, build 10.2627.2625) indeed has this feature listed in a menu item under "Tools" as "Spelling & Grammer..."

Posted by: Pat at November 21, 2005 03:06 PM

The Word spelling and grammar check problem, if it is even a problem, pales to the horrible-ness of that sentence. There are so many things wrong with it...

Posted by: Didactylos at November 21, 2005 03:08 PM

In Heberew, verbs are truly gender specific; a male, for instance, OCHEL (eats) and a woman OCHELET, men OCHLIM and women OCHLOT. In modern Hebrew, the feminine plural tends to be ignored, but woe to the person who uses the wrong verb gender when speaking one on one!

Posted by: Shalom at November 21, 2005 03:24 PM

The only broken thing happens when you try to start a sentence with "pH"..

Posted by: ______ at November 21, 2005 04:58 PM

The grammar in that part is *correct*, but the whole sentence could be clearer. The checker it wrong. If the cat or the dogs like tuna, feed them. With two subjects using 'or', the verb agrees with the subject nearest to the verb (dogs).

Word seems to get its and it's wrong all the time. Its = possessive (like John's); it's = it is (a contraction).

Posted by: dfbgdfgb at November 21, 2005 07:03 PM

Is you or is anyone you know a merchant person who is wanting to do the business with me? My name is Kenton Farq You, I am Kenyan national, and and I looking for associate in the U.S. to make the big money with, you just need the bank account I am to use.

Posted by: Boris die Spinne at November 21, 2005 07:32 PM

Broken: This commenting system. It's slightly ambiguous which name goes with which post. (DaveC426913 thought Joshua Wood's post was mine.)

Boris: Um. What?

Posted by: Kenton at November 22, 2005 12:40 AM

I seem to remember one occasion in which Word kept telling me to change something, then when I changed it it said that was wrong, and to change it BACK, and so on.

Posted by: Fuzzy at November 22, 2005 08:35 AM

What is yalls complainen bout, i think dat der is sum cerrect grammamitecally statted words right der..... yep sure looks fine to me.

Posted by: Miker at November 22, 2005 12:34 PM

If I had a dime for every time I hit "Ignore" in Word, I would be as rich as Bill Gates.

Posted by: JAC at November 22, 2005 12:37 PM

word is definately broken- it makes me so mad when im trying to do paragraph formatting and it thinks it knows what should be, and doesnt. Then spacing gets all wonky, and spell check can take words and change them into completely other words if youre in a hurry and ok'ing everything. Its ok for a rough check- but proof reading is still very necessary

Posted by: smartypants at November 22, 2005 02:28 PM

This grammar suggestion is incorrect. It should not be is. "You is" is incorrect.

Posted by: al at November 23, 2005 12:57 AM

I've got to say not broken also. "Any" is the subject, not parents or you. A singular noun requires a singular verb.

Posted by: Ron Mexico at November 23, 2005 09:12 AM

Your entire sentence stinks. Word should have suggested the deletion of the whole thing.

Posted by: Bob at November 23, 2005 02:07 PM

Your comment is broken... or should I write "are broken"

Posted by: TBook at November 27, 2005 08:31 PM

any is the subject.

Posted by: j king at November 28, 2005 03:47 PM

The fact that I read every single comment makes me wish I wasn't a proofreader. Take it from me, Chris.

Posted by: beckett at November 28, 2005 10:03 PM

The sentence is broken. "You or any of your parents are" would work way better, trust me.

Posted by: Bob at November 30, 2005 06:13 AM

Actually, you were checking spelling AND grammer. Note the check in the "Check Grammer" box.

Posted by: Lewk at November 30, 2005 07:38 PM

"The fact that I read every single comment makes me wish I wasn't a proofreader."

If you "was" a good proofreader, you'd understand the subjunctive gooder.

Posted by: Henry at December 3, 2005 02:49 AM

I am surprised no one has quipped: "All of your base are belong to us."

Posted by: Nigel Pond at December 5, 2005 01:08 PM

Is is correct. Put it this way. "If any person IS a merchant..."

Posted by: The Eloquent Hick at January 4, 2006 09:33 AM

u r a dumb ass. have u ever taken English?

Posted by: vxzc at February 2, 2006 12:27 AM

I'll try to put this to rest. If, as we have here, there is a subject divided by "or," you make the verb agree with the noun closest to it. Therefore, the grammar checker is incorrect. This is an easily forgettable aspect of high-school grammar.


"The fact that I read every single comment makes me wish I wasn't a proofreader. Take it from me, Chris. Posted by: beckett at Nov 28, 2005 10:03:17 PM "

Your lack of understanding of the subjunctive makes me question your abilities as a proofreader. It's the same principle as demonstrated in that catchy jingle: "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner...."

Posted by: Jack Carter at February 28, 2006 07:23 PM

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