I always question the sanity of the people who standardized the words in the English language. Why? That’s because the English language and many of the words in it are confusing. There are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently; words look nothing alike, yet have similar meanings; and words that change form depending on their usage.
Words that change form are often misused in writing because they are so commonly used. A writer must always understand that not all ways that a word is used are correct. They must consider where the word is, how it is being used, whether it fits the meaning of the sentence, and much more. How is anyone supposed to write a decent paper when there are so many things to consider when choosing a word? Let’s talk about a few rules for words that change forms and see if we make this a little easier for you.
The first set of words that change that we will look at are maybe and may be.
Maybe you should avoid hugging that skunk. This sentence uses maybe as one word. In this case, maybe is used as an adverb and means perhaps (Brians). The trick to deciding whether or not maybe should be used instead of may be is whether or not you can replace it in a sentence with the word perhaps.
Perhaps you should avoid hugging that skunk. In this sentence, the word perhaps is grammatical, so you should use maybe as a single word. Let’s try a few more:
Maybe you will be able to read this blog without falling asleep. If you replace maybe with perhaps, you still have a grammatical sentence.
This blog maybe educational for you. If you replace maybe in this sentence with perhaps, the sentence reads: This blog perhaps educational for you. In this sentence, perhaps doesn’t make sense, so you must use may be. The correct sentence would be: This blog may be educational for you.
When may be is written as two words, it is often used with other verbs to create different tenses (The University of Chicago Press 241). You may be rewarded for your actions.
The second set of words that change that we will look at are apart and a part.
A part is a noun that references a portion of the whole (Smith). A part of baking a cake is licking the beaters. In this sentence, we are talking about one stage of the process of baking a cake. Since we talk about one part of the entire process, the proper form of the word would be a part.
Apart, as one word, is used as an adverb. It describes something that is in pieces or separated (Smith). The teddy bear was ripped apart by the dog’s teeth. In this sentence, we are talking about how the teddy bear was ripped. In this case, the proper word would be apart.
Let’s try an example.
This fact is a part of life. OR This fact is apart of life. In this sentence, we are talking about how the fact is one portion of the life. In this case, a part would be the correct form.
A part from this assignment, there is also an essay due tomorrow. OR Apart from this assignment, there is also an essay due tomorrow. In this sentence, the word apart is being used to mean separate. Separate from this assignment, there is an essay. For this sentence, the second one would be correct.
These are just two of many word form changing words. The key to finding the correct usage and to become a better writer is to look up things you don’t understand. This blog is only the first step.
Brians, Paul. “Maybe/May Be.” Common Errors in English Usage. 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
Smith, Kevin Leigh. “Grammar Trap: Apart Vs. a Part.” On Target: A Web Newsletter with Communication Tips 10.4. Purdue
University, Dec. 2005. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
The University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 2010. Print.