Mind Your Language

 A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
-Alexander Pope

Many a times, we find ourselves stuck in the middle of a sentence, grappling for the right words, the right pronoun or the perfect adjective. We are often a times judged harshly for our faulty grammar, even though we are giving it our best shot. English proficiency has become a very important skill in the current scenario. One should always be careful and constantly learning.

Here are some quick tips for polishing your grammar skills.

‘Cause you should know the difference!

As vs Since vs Because

As, because and since are conjunctions.

More common than as or since, because is used to give extra focus to the reason or explanation.

As and Since focus more on the result than the reason.


  • Because

We’ll come over on Sunday because David’s got to work on Saturday.

  • As

He decided to go to the conference in Barcelona as he was in Spain anyway.

  • Since

They’re rather expensivesince they’re quite hard to find.

Here’s a tip-

As and since are more formal than because.

Since vs For

We use for when we measure the duration, i.e., when we say how long something lasts so it has a starting point and an end point.

I have been an teacher for five years.

They stayed for two weeks.

Since gives the starting point of actions, events or states in the past and are still in continuance.

We have been married since 2002.

 She is present since 9 o’clock.

Because vs Because of

Because and Because of are both used to introduce reasons.

Because is used before a subject and verb.

Because of is a two-word preposition. It is used before a noun or a pronoun, or before verb+ing.


  • Because

He moved to Italy because his girlfriend lives there.

  • Because of

He moved to Italy because of his girlfriend or because of her.

Whether vs If

Whether and If are often used interchangeably, in informal writing but in formal writing, it’s a good idea to make a distinction between them because the meaning can sometimes differ depending on your word choice.

The formal rule is to use if when there’s a conditional sentence and whether when there are two alternatives or choices.

Here’s an example where the two words can be used interchangeably:

Ron didn’t know whether Sean would arrive on Friday.

Ron didn’t know if Sean would arrive on Friday.

In either sentence, the meaning is that Sean may or may not arrive on Friday.

Now here are some examples where the words are not interchangeable:

Ron didn’t know whether Sean would arrive on Friday or Saturday

Here there are two possibilities that Sean will arrive on Friday or Sean will arrive on Saturday.

Now let’s see the change in meaning on the application of if  instead of whether:

Ron didn’t know if Sean would arrive on Friday or Saturday.

Now in addition to arriving on Friday or Saturday, it’s possible that Sean may not arrive at all.

These last two sentences show why it’s better to use whether when there are two possibilities.

Which vs That

In defining or restrictive clauses we use that whereas in non-defining or nonrestrictive clauses we use which.

For Example

Gems that sparkle often elicit forgiveness.

The words that sparkle restrict the kind of gems you’re talking about. Without them, the meaning of the sentence would change. Without them you’d be saying that all gems elicit forgiveness, not just the gems that sparkle.

Diamonds, which are expensive, often elicit forgiveness.

Diamonds are always expensive, so leaving out the words ‘which are expensive’ doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence.

Here’s a tip-

If you can remove the clause without destroying the meaning of the sentence, the clause is nonessential and you can use ‘which’ otherwise use ‘that’. 

To be continued.

Prabhleen Kaur Malhotra
Editor for English  | ISC, ICSE & CBSE Boards
Oswal Publishers

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