Dear CAE candidates,

You might have heard the term 'Grammar Nazi' - sometimes called the Grammar Police. These are people who are so annoyed by bad grammar that they HAVE to correct it (even if it really isn't the right time). The Grammar Police can be very annoying, but if you're taking the CAE exam you might find them useful...

This week I encountered the Grammar Police in a lot of pop culture (popular culture). There was an incident in the latest Game of Thrones episode; a video game had an educational moment; and I remembered an episode of Sherlock.

Game of Thrones

King Stannis is a major character in the Game of Thrones TV show. He doesn't show much personality, but one grammar mistake drives him so crazy that he always has to correct it. It's when someone uses the word 'less' with countable nouns.

Tip - use fewer with countable nouns or King Stannis will get angry!


There is a videogame called Wolfenstein in which you sneak around a castle and fight Nazis. I haven't played it but this week someone found a funny moment in the game. While sneaking around, the player can hear two Nazi guards on patrol, and one tells the other a story.

laying or lying grammar nazi wolfenstein

Guard 1 - 'So I was laying in bed next to this girl and...'

Guard 2 - 'Lying.'

Guard 1 - 'What?'

Guard 2 - 'You were lying in bed. Not laying.'

Guard 1 - 'Laying, lying. What's the difference?'

Guard 2 - 'You lay eggs. You lie in bed. I assume you're not a bird, are you?'

wolfenstein do you want to hear the story or not


Tip - Lying is for beds, laying is for birds. (Also, if you lay an object down, you place it somewhere. For example, you can lay a book down on the table.)



One of the best examples of Grammar Nazism is Benedict Cumberbatch's modern-day Sherlock Holmes. In this video he corrects a second conditional sentence, points out the difference between 'teach' and 'learn', avoiding a double negative, and the meaning of 'hung' versus 'hanged'.

All that in 90 seconds!

(When I uploaded this originally, the video was much higher quality than this new one. Sorry about that!)


Tip - I wasn't... You weren't...

My father taught me how to cook / I learned how to cook (from him).


So in summary - try not to be a Grammar Nazi, but do try to learn from them.

Best wishes,