Confused about grammar?

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I love it when people ask me grammar questions. Here are a few recent questions along with their answers.

How many children did there used to be in class?

How many children there used to be in class?
Should I add “did”?

The correct way to phrase this is “How many children did there used to be in class?” The main verb is “be.”

The auxiliary verb “do” is necessary when we form some sentences as a question because we change the order of the words.

You went to the store.
Did you go to the store?
We can’t write “Went you to the store?” Nor can we write “Did you went to the store?” So we use the auxiliary “do” to form this type of question. It’s the same with the imperfect tense (ongoing action in the past).
We form the imperfect with the auxiliary “used to”. To form a question in the imperfect, we use the auxiliary “do” along with the auxiliary “used to.”
A student spent 30 minutes on the fall test and 44 minutes on the spring test.
Which would be correct?She spent 14 fewer minutes on the spring test.
She spent 14 minutes less on the spring test.

Standard usage is to use “fewer” for countable nouns; however, there is plenty of evidence to support the use of “less” in this context. My preference is to go for the standard usage to avoid triggering a panic response in individuals disposed to strict grammar conservatism.
When using an abbreviation like (etc.) in the middle of a sentence, does the following word need a capital letter as it is following a fullstop? As in the example below with the word ‘changed’
Example: Have mobiles, I pads etc. changed our lives?
No. An abbreviation in the middle of a sentence does not make the following word begin a new sentence; therefore, there is no capital required (although your word processor may automatically change the following word into one with a capital.)
Here’s a common example: I went to see Dr. Smith. Obviously, “Smith” doesn’t start a new sentence.
I prefer to edit out these anomalies and write something like “and other items” but in some cases the abbreviation is the best way to go.

In asking if someone mixed up me and another individual I said “Did you get Tim and I confused?”

I was told that it should be “Tim and me.” I’m not sure because if you take out the other noun, you are left with “Did you get me confused?” That seems to suggest something other than individuals being mixed up. Instead it seems more like I didn’t understand something. Is it I or me?

I understand there was more artful way to phrase the question, but now I’m just confused as to how it should be phrased!

It’s an interesting question because when you make it “me” instead of “Tim and me” you change the meaning of “confused.”

In your original question, the answer should be “me”. This is because “me” is the direct object of “confused.” In this case, the subject of the sentence is “you” and “you” is the person who is confused. Another way to phrase this that might be clearer would be “Did you get me confused with Tim?” You would never say “Did you get I confused with Tim?”
But if you get me confused (without mentioning Tim), then I’m the one who is confused. The state of confusion is in my mind. In this case “me” is the object of “get”, and “confused” is an adjective to describe “me”.
I hope my explanation doesn’t get you confused.