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The weirdest and most confusing English grammar rules

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Even though English is widely used all over the world and is sometimes (wrongly) considered to be one of the easiest languages to learn for speakers of other European languages, it can be very confusing sometimes, especially when it comes to odd spelling and explaining certain obscure and weird grammar rules. Some of these rules might not make a lot of sense, and even native speakers feel perplexed about them. Keep scrolling to check them out!

Quirky plurals

For some words in the English language, the plural form of the word is exactly the same as the singular form. Take, for example, words like “deer,” “sheep”, and cannon (one deer, three deer; one sheep, three sheep; one cannon, three cannon). However, English grammar gets really weird when it comes to different fish species. Two tilapias, two dolphins, and two sharks, but two salmon, two cod, and two herring!

Em-dashes, en-dashes, and hyphens are not the same!

Yes, there are three different lines that have different lengths, and it's important in writing:

Em-dash: —

En-dash: –

Hyphen: –

Here is what you should know: hyphens are commonly used to separate compound words and names (e.g. “well-known,” “mass-produced,” “Jean-Paul"), en-dash is slightly longer than a hyphen and is used to separate numbers/dates in a range (e.g. pages 200–250, 1920–1930, July–September), while em-dash, the longest of all, separates words in a sentence (e.g. They had three granddaughters—Elizabeth, Jane, and Kitty). Phew!

Insane collective nouns

What do you call a group of wolves, cows, sheep? A pack of wolves, a herd of cows, a flock of sheep. Pretty common, right? But what about other animals that flock together? Turns out it's correct to say “a parliament of owls,“ “a mischief of rats,“ “an ambush of tigers,“ and “an unkindness of ravens."

French expressions in the English language

Bon voyage! Carte blanche. Crème de la crème. Déjà vu. En masse. Faux pas. Pièce de résistance. There are many French phrases used in both written and spoken English. But how do you actually pronounce them? Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage says that “all that is necessary is a polite acknowledgement of indebtedness to the French language indicated by some approach in some part of the word to the foreign sound.“ So you should not sound both too French and too English. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Want to boost your English skills and confidence? Join classmates from around the world in 100% online teacher-led classes and interactive lessons at ​LEO International Online School. We have beginner to advanced-level ESL classes to improve your proficiency levels in English. Check our English courses here and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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