English Corner – The Oxford Comma

One of the key debates in English grammar is the role of the ‘serial’ comma or what’s otherwise popularly known as the ‘oxford’ comma. Depending on whom you might ask, there are constructive arguments to be made as to why the Oxford comma is useful or why it may not be necessary at all. It all depends upon your personal preference in using or not using this kind of comma but it is important to be aware of how it is used and why it is used. Having proper grammar is a key part into developing one’s fluency in English and the Oxford comma is often considered to be necessary to developing that skillset.

The Oxford or serial comma is the last comma for a list of things, people, or places. I’ve listed some examples as to make it clear what this kind of comma is. The Oxford comma is always the last comma and cannot be classified as a serial comma if there is only one comma in the sentence. There has to be at least two or more commas in the sentence to have an Oxford comma take its’ place as the serial comma.


  1. Please bring your books, pencils, and some paper to class tomorrow.
  2. Remind Jimmy, Patrick, and Tina that they have a Math test today.
  3. I had a salad, an appetizer, steak, and dessert at the restaurant tonight.

As you can see from the examples, the Oxford comma is highlighted and bolded as the last of the commas in the sentence whether the subject(s) are people, things, or places. The thing with the Oxford comma to understand is that it is not mandatory to use and that there is a lot of debate over whether it should be even used at all. The use of the Oxford comma is stylistic and different style guides differ in terms of their views on the serial comma.

For example, the AP style guide for English grammar does not mandate the use of the Oxford comma. However, this is in contrast to other style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style or The Elements of Style, which mandate and support the use of the Oxford comma. Certain professional organizations and agencies such as the United States Government Printing Office and the American Medical Association are supportive of the Oxford comma and encourage its’ use in their employees. Depending upon whom you work for or what line of work you’re in, views on the Oxford comma are likely to differ.

The debate over the Oxford comma extends to across the pond in the United Kingdom where there is also a divide over if it should be used at all. The Oxford Style Manual and the MHRA Style guide support the use of the Oxford comma whereas well-known national publications such as The Times Style Manual and The Economist Style Guide oppose the use of the Oxford comma. When it comes to the serial (Oxford) comma, British and American style guides both fall on opposing sides of this debate.

The main argument in support of using the Oxford comma is based around how it can clear up any ambiguity that comes with using ‘and’ instead of another comma to finish up the sentence. Supporters of the Oxford comma generally wants to make them understood without confusing the audience regardless if they’re writing a newspaper article or a research paper. I’ll give you an example to see how a sentence’s meaning could be ambiguous without the Oxford comma being used.


I love my siblings, George Clooney and Katy Perry.

Because there’s no Oxford comma here, it’s definitely strange if you read it out loud. Instead of the intended meaning being that you love your siblings separately and then you also love George Clooney and Katy Perry who are known celebrities, it comes off as being that your siblings are George Clooney (brother) and Katy Perry (sister) which is likely not true.

Let’s look at the same example with the Oxford comma implemented into the ending of the sentence.


I love my siblings, George Clooney, and Katy Perry.

From this re-written example with the Oxford comma included, it becomes more clearly that the subject known, as ‘I’ loves his or her siblings, George Clooney, and Katy Perry. It’s clearly distinguished in this case that the siblings are not the famous celebrities and that they are separate people. However, if you are really opposed to the Oxford comma, you can re-structure the sentence so that it can make sense grammatically and you won’t have to insert the serial comma for it to work.


I love George Clooney, Katy Perry and my siblings.

In this re-written example, you don’t need the Oxford comma to clear up the ambiguity.

Unlike other debates, this debate within English grammar about the Oxford comma will never end. There are always going to be supporters and opposition to its usage. However, it’s important that every English learner or teacher be adaptable to its usage or non-usage. If your student wants to use the Oxford comma, they should be able to because it’s apart of how they learned English grammar and they are technically allowed to do so. If the teacher doesn’t want to teach the Oxford comma to their English students, they also should not have to if they don’t believe in it. We can learn and teach English in a world where the Oxford comma can exist and not exist.


English Corner – Regular and Irregular Verbs

Having a deep knowledge of verbs is crucial in order to develop one’s English vocabulary especially when it comes to differentiating between their varied forms. In order to understand verbs in general, we need to know that there are both ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ verbs depending upon how their past tense and past participle are formed. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two types, as there is no set rule on what specifically makes a verb regular while another one can be irregular. In the case of this particular grammar topic, memorization and practice will make you better at using the correct form of the verb and to have a list of the verbs to study whenever possible.

When it comes to regular verbs, you should know that most verbs are regular verbs and that it’s very easy to change them to the past tense or the past participle. You’re simply going to add ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ to the end of the verb in order to make it regular in the past tense. A good example of a regular verb would be ‘to play.’ In order to keep ‘play’ as a regular in either the past tense or in the past participle, you would add ‘-ed’ to the end of this word to make it ‘played.’

Example: “I played soccer with my friend Jeremy last night.”

Sometimes, you don’t even need to add –ed to the end of the regular verb but rather just the letter ‘-d’ to make it grammatically correct. A good example of that would be for the verb ‘to dance.’ In this case, you could add ‘-d’ to ‘dance’ to make it ‘danced’ for it to be a regular verb in the past tense.

Example: “We danced as a couple for the first time on our wedding night.”

Short List of Regular Verbs











In each of these ten regular verbs, the simple past and the past participle are both the same and come with an –ed at the end of the verb. When it comes to a few select regular verbs, you may change a ‘y’ in the word for ‘-ied.’ For example, ‘try’ is the regular form of the verb in the present but to change it to the past tense, you need to drop the ‘y’ and add ‘ied’ to become ‘tried.’ Also, the regular verb ‘stop’ is an exception in that you add an additional ‘p’ after ‘stop’ as well as put on ‘-ed’ after the ‘p’ to create ‘stopped’ for the simple past and past participle. Regular verbs may have some variation to their formation but not as much when compared to irregular verbs.

Unfortunately, to the consternation to those English learners looking for an easy fix to the regular v. irregular verb debate, there is no magic wand or solution to know a rule to differentiate the two categories. It is known to most that there are over two hundred and fifty irregular verbs in the English language, which is a manageable amount for the average learner to remember since there are thousands of active verbs in the English language. While there is no strict formula or rule behind what separates a regular vs. an irregular verb, there are some fairly common forms of the irregular verb to be aware of.

Short List of Irregular Verbs












(Simple Present – Simple Past – Past Participle)

Break – Broke – Broken

Swim – Swam – Swum

Drive – Drove – Driven

Bear – Bore – Borne

Begin – Began – Begun


  1. He broke his guitar strings from jamming too hard.
  2. Ben drove all through the night to get to his brother’s soccer game today in Chicago.
  3. Jackie swam for over ten miles to reach the final line of the triathlon competition.
  4. The Russian army bore the mass majority of military casualties during World War II for the allies.
  5. We began our day with a hearty breakfast before beginning the climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

When it comes to irregular verbs, there are three types of verbs that we can remember in terms of formation.

The first type is when the verb is the same for the simple present, simple past, and even the past participle. (Examples: put, hit, read)

Put – put – put, hit – hit – hit, read – read – read

The second type is when the verb is the same for two of the three grammar forms. (Examples: sit, keep, lend)

Sit – sat – sat, keep – kept – kept, lend – lent – lent

The third and last type is when the verb is formed directly for each of the three grammar tenses. (Examples: know – grow – freeze)

Know – knew – known, grow – grew – grown, freeze – froze – frozen

Regular and irregular verbs can be even trickier when you realize that a verb can be both regular and irregular at the same time. Now, while that isn’t very common, it can happen every now and then so it’s important to familiarize yourself with those few examples that can be both regular and irregular as a verb.


Burn – burned – burned (regular)

Burn – burnt – burnt (irregular)

Learn – learned – learned (regular)

Learn – learnt – learnt (irregular)

Smell – smelled – smelled (regular)

Smell – smelt – smelt (irregular)

In the case of these verbs, the difference between what’s regular and irregular is the ending of the word. Instead of adding an ‘-ed’ to the simple past or the past participle, you can add an ‘-t’ to the verb to make it irregular.

Overall, the topic of regular and irregular verbs can cause some confusion to the average English learner. However, the best way to be better adept at this topic is to really study these grammar tables and to consult your dictionary as well. Building up your vocabulary by using these verbs in your sentences will help you better understand whether or not it is regular or irregular in terms of its’ usage in the past.

Having a list of both regular and irregular verbs is key in terms of mastering the usage of them. There are also only two hundred and fifty irregular verbs so with time and effort; you will be able to separate them out from the thousands of regular verbs in the English language. Patience, diligence, and a good dictionary will help you become proficient in learning and using both regular and irregular verbs.


English Corner – Personal Pronouns

When you begin to learn the English language and specifically English grammar, it is very important to be able to address people whether it’s a man, a woman, or a collective group of people. You won’t be able to become personal with people unless you understand and know about personal pronouns.

The good news is that learning about personal pronouns is quite easy and doesn’t take much time compared to other grammar topics. Personal pronouns can be divided into two separate categories: subject pronouns and object pronouns. It’s important to recall that we use pronouns in place of a full noun. Pronoun words tend to be shorter than regular nouns in terms of syllables and length too.

The subject pronouns are as follows in the list below:

I         (Singular)

You   (Plural)

He     (Singular)

She     (Singular)

It         (Singular)

We      (Plural)

They   (Plural)

These subject pronouns are personal and apply to both singular and plural subjects. The singular subject pronouns are ‘I, he, she, it’ while the plural subject pronouns are ‘you, we, they.’ Regardless if you are using the present, past, or future tense of the verb form, the singular pronouns stay singular and the plural pronouns stay plural.

The object pronouns are as follows in the list below:

Me    (Singular)

You   (Plural)

Him   (Singular)

Her   (Singular)

It       (Singular)

Us     (Plural)

Them (Plural)

These object pronouns are also to be used for personal reasons and apply to both singular and plural subjects. The singular object pronouns are ‘me, him, her, it’ while the plural subject pronouns are ‘you, us, them.’ Regardless if you are using the present, past, or future tense of the verb form, the singular pronouns stay singular and the plural pronouns stay plural when it comes to objects. If you study both the subject and object pronouns consistently, you’ll be able to tell which words are singular and which words are plural.

It’s important to remember that in the English language, gendered nouns are not as prominently used compared to other languages such as Spanish or Italian. However, he / him is always used to refer to a man or boy while she / her is used to refer to a woman or girl. ‘It’ is often used to refer to a non-human entity such as an animal (whose gender is unknown) or an object like a desk.

Another key thing to keep in mind is that ‘you’ is a singular pronoun in terms of it referring to just one person, thing, or object. However, ‘you’ goes along with the plural form of a verb such as ‘to be’ making it more of a plural pronoun. For example, instead of putting ‘you’ and ‘is’ (to be) together, you would instead put ‘you’ and ‘are’ (to be) together, which is the plural form of the verb and not the singular form.

‘You is smart’ is a sentence that is not grammatically correct in English while ‘You are smart’ is correct instead. I like to call this English rule of personal pronouns the ‘You’ exception. Similar to ‘I, He, She, It’, ‘You’ is singular in its’ meaning yet it can be used with the plural form of the verb ‘to be’ instead of the singular form. Due to this exception, ‘You’ should be grouped more with ‘We, They’, which are both plural subject pronouns rather than with the former singular subject pronouns.

Here are some examples to show you how the singular and plural subject pronouns can be formed in complete yet simple sentences:

Subject Pronouns (Singular)

  1. I am doing okay.
  2. He is feeling good.
  3. She is playing tennis.
  4. It is raining outside.

Subject Pronouns (Plural)

  1. You are being mean.
  2. They are going to the movies.
  3. We are hungry for dinner.

From the examples above, you can see that the singular subject pronouns go with the ‘am, is’ form of the verb ‘to be’ in the simple present tense while the plural subject pronouns all use the ‘are’ form of the verb ‘to be.’ By following the examples above, you’ll have a better understanding of how to use the subject pronouns correctly in order to be personal in English.

One of the main differences between the subject and object pronouns is that the ‘subject’ pronouns begin the sentence while the ‘object’ pronouns often come at the end of the sentence. The English language follows a structure of ‘subject – verb – object’ and that is a formula of a basic sentence that rarely changes. The singular ‘object’ pronouns are words like ‘me, him, her, it’ while the plural ‘object’ pronouns are words like ‘you, us, them.’ As mentioned before, the word ‘you’ falls into the plural category with object pronouns like it does for the subject pronouns.

Here are some examples to show you how the singular and plural object pronouns can be formed in complete yet simple sentences:

Object Pronouns (Singular)

  1. The horse jumped over me.
  2. Think about him.
  3. Sing loudly with her.
  4. They did it.

Object Pronouns (Plural)

  1. I like
  2. The reservation is for us.
  3. We were here before

Without being able to address anyone or anything properly, your English will not advance that much. If you want to be comfortable forming sentences either verbally or in the written form, you must study and master the personal pronouns to the best of your ability.