July 16, 2014  •  Jasper

Who/whom, copular verbs, and the infinitive

Now, I’ve been rolling this question over for few weeks now. I personally believe whom in the cases, but on we go. After writing most of this, I think [1] should be who now. The infinitive phrase/clause normally takes the objective case as its “subject”. “I wanted to meet him.” Thus, the corresponding interrogative: “Whom did he want to meet?” But what happens if you take this construction and use it with a copular verb? [1] “Who/whom am I to judge.” (?) [2] “I am who/whom to be.” (?) Which may correspond to the declarative sentences (U=unacceptable; A=acceptable): [1a] “I am he to judge.” [1b] “I am him to judge” [2a] “I am he to be.” [2b] “I am him to be.” [2c] “I am to be he.” (U) [2d] “I am to be him.”(A) It is possible to expand them into relative clauses: [1a'] “I am the person who can judge them.”(A) [1b'] “I am the person whom can judge.” (U) [2a'] “I am the person (who) you should be.” (U) [2b'] “I am the person (whom) you should be.” (A) The construction has two verb constructions (one copular and the other infinitive) vying for dominance. So thoughts? These conundrums are fascinating and, due to my obsessive-compulsiveness, frustrating. </p>

May 3, 2014  •  Warsaw Will

fewer / less

In Britain the the winners of the Bad Grammar Awards have just been announced, and the prize has gone to Tesco, partly for a label on its toilet paper which said ‘More luxury, less lorries’, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect on the ‘fewer / less’ question. According to the OED, people have been using less for countable nouns since the dawn of English, and it only seems to have become a golden rule after certain grammarians latched onto the observation of one Robert Baker, who in 1770 remarked that ‘No fewer than a hundred seems to me not only more elegant than No less than a hundred, but more strictly proper.’, while admitting that less ‘is most commonly used when speaking of a number’. And it was used like this in at least two influential nineteenth century grammars - ‘less hopes’, ‘less parts or portions’ -  Lindley Murray’s English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners, and ‘No less than five verbs’ - William Cobbett’s A Grammar of the English Language. It obviously annoys a lot of people. One woman wrote on Tesco’s Facebook page that she ‘was unable to purchase’. But I can’t help wondering why. There is absolutely no danger of ambiguity, and many of us use ‘less’ with countables informally. (And for many of us ‘Ten items or less’ sounds much more idiomatic than ‘Ten items or fewer’). Does this rule really have any functional basis, (we don’t need any distinctions for ‘more’ - more luxury, more lorries) or is it simply a rule for the sake of having a rule and just another excuse for finding fault with others?

March 14, 2014  •  maltasr

“fraction of...”: singular or plural?

Recently seen on a standardized assessment for elementary students: “Which fraction of the fruit are apples?” Shouldn’t it read: “Which fraction of the fruit is apples?” Doesn’t the subject verb-agreement rule dictate “is” apples since fraction (singular) is the question’s subject?

November 28, 2013  •  Jasper

Modal Remoteness & Tense

To preface, I have been studying conditionals for the last few days because the grammar book that I used barely mentioned it. Now as the title suggests, I have a question about modal remoteness and tense. My question deals with stories, which are typically in the past tense, and when modality occurs which I should use: second (present time remote) or third (past time remote) conditional. I am unsure of which but am leaning towards third conditional. Which would be used?

November 25, 2013  •  Jasper

“a letter that had requested” vs. “a letter that requested”

While doing some homework for literature, I constructed these two sentences and was wondering if they can be interpreted differently. The original sentence was the synopsis of “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Poe and started in the present tense, which will also be included because there is a question I have about it. A1) The narrator arrived at the house of his childhood friend, Roderick Usher, who had sent him a letter that had requested his presence. A2) The narrator arrived at the house of his childhood friend, Roderick Usher, who had sent him a letter that requested his presence. What is the difference in meaning between the above sentences? The original sentence was: B) The narrator arrives at the house of his childhood friend, Roderick Usher, who had sent him a letter that requested his presence. In the sentence, the narrator is currently arriving at the house because he received a letter that requested his presence, which had been sent by Roderick Usher. Does that coincide with the above statement? For a timeline: Usher sent the letter—> the letter, through Usher’s words request the narrator’s presence—> the narrator’s arrival.

October 15, 2013  •  Jasper

“as” clause and tense

From “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin: “She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who had cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.” At the ‘as’ clause, why is it fine for the verb to be conjugated in the present tense (continues), instead of past tense? I don’t believe it’s wrong, but I would like an explanation.

September 21, 2013  •  Brus

“into” vs “in to” and “onto” vs. “on to”

Something has happened to the spellings of “into, onto” and “in to, on to”: they seem suddenly to feature in newspapers spelled wrong more often than right. It is a quite new phenomenon. These examples might serve to show what I mean, although they are made up by me, typical nevertheless: He went onto become president. He got in to bed. He climbed on to a chair. The firemen went into rescue a cat from the burning building.  Now, how do we go about explaining to folk when these should be two words, and when one word? To my mind it is simple enough: the “to” which is separate is part of the infinitive form of the following verb: to become, to rescue. When the following word is a noun the preceding preposition is ‘into’, ‘onto’. There are other situations, too: “....he carried onto Rome” instead of “Instead of going back home he carried on to Rome” where ‘on’ goes with carried, and ‘to’ goes with Rome. Any rules to help those who are suddenly getting it wrong everywhere? Politicians not excepted.  You don’t see these errors in books, which have been proof-read by literate editors. Why then are they suddenly everywhere in newspapers, and even signs in public places? At Gatwick there is a huge, expensive sign telling people where (or is it when?) they should check-in (sic).  Check-in is the name of the place where you check in, surely? (noun/verb). Any thoughts, anyone? I shall supply, tomorrow, examples gleaned from the UK Sunday Telegraph, one of the more prestigious newspapers in this country.

September 13, 2013  •  Jasper

Past vs. past perfect

I had always wondered about a construction (of conjugation within a sentence) but never could write it down properly. I have since found that construction. This is a quote from “The Day It Happened” by Rosario Morales. A) “I wouldn’t have known anything about any of this [if Olga next door hadn't rung our doorbell and banged on the door just when Mami was too deep in prayer to hear and Maria was leaning out over the sill with her eyes bugging out].” Specifically the verbs in that clause. My question here is why is “when Mami was... and Maria was...” past tense instead of past perfect. I’m perfectly aware that the actions of Mami and Maria are happening simultaneously with Olga’s banging of the door. I concluded that it was because that it would be interpreted further in the past than Olga’s banging. But I have supposed I’m looking for a logical consistency similar to math.

August 27, 2013  •  jayles

“The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?

Please look at the following examples: a) The plants died.        ( an event - intransitive verb) b) The plants were killed.   ( event -passive verb) c) The plants were dead.  ( state - adjective) d) The plants were withered  (state? - adjective?)  e) The plants were withered by the sirocco. (event? - passive) f) The plants shrank. (event - intransitive verb) g) The plants were shrunk by the dry wind (event - passive) h) The plants were shrunken. (state - adjective) and finally: i) “I was bored” - is this a passive or an adjective, an event or a state? Is it ambiguous, context-dependent or a case of “unmarked-grammar”?

August 2, 2013  •  Missy Sosler

If ... were/was

Which is correct; If the current owner WERE allowed to have an auto body shop of if the current owner WAS allowed to have an auto body shop? I am questioning whether Owner should be with WERE or Owner should be with WAS?

July 2, 2013  •  roland_butter

have gone to

I’d like to ask your opinion on the following sentence: “I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old.” A student recently asked me whether or not this sentence was grammatically correct. I said that it sounded correct to me, but I couldn’t answer with confidence. I understand that, if we are talking about our experiences and completed trips, we use (the past participle) ‘been’ instead of ‘gone’. (For example, ‘I have been to California.’) But what about ‘go’ in the sense of ‘to attend’? For example: A: What school do you go to? B: I go to X High School. I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old. I understand we could phrase it a different way, for example: “I have been at X High School since I was fifteen.” or “I have been going to X High School since I was fifteen.” But I am specifically interested in the use of ‘have gone’ here. (Not least because there are situations when ‘been at’ might be inappropriate. For example, the below sentence sounds wrong to me: “I have been at cookery classes since I was a child.” I think here I would prefer to say: “I have gone to cookery classes since I was a child.”) I’ve been thinking about this type of sentence for far too long today, and now I have no idea at all whether it’s correct or not. I tried searching the internet for the answer, but couldn’t find any posts discussing this usage of ‘to go’. I’d very much appreciate your opinions on this matter. Thank-you in advance!

July 1, 2013  •  jayles

Five eggs is too many

A: What are you cooking? B: An omelette. A: How many eggs are you putting in ? B: Five. A: Five eggs is too much. Or “Five eggs is too many” Or “Five eggs are too many” (which sounds weird to me)

June 24, 2013  •  Patrick James McKee

I’ve vs I’ve got

“I’ve (You’ve) to go swimming” vs. “I’ve (You’ve) got to go swimming”  and “I’ve (You’ve”) the Frisbee”   vs.  “I’ve (You’ve) got the Frisbee”  vs.  “I have the Frisbee” They could all be correct or not, but the ones I believe are wrong, at least the ones that  sound wrong, are when there is a contraction used without “Got”. Anyone know a definite answer to which is correct grammatically, and if it is grammatically correct, whether it is correct common usage.

March 20, 2013  •  abbeautiful

“If I had studied, I would have a good grade.”

In the third conditional, the structure uses the past perfect with the if clause (e.g. “If I had studied...” and the conditional modal + present perfect in the second clause (...I would have gotten a good grade.”) When and why is it also acceptable to say “If I had studied, I would have a good grade,” where “have” is used as a possessive auxiliary instead of a conditional modal?

January 4, 2013  •  Sbee

“my” vs. “mine” in multiple owner possessive

Is this correct? “I so appreciate you taking mine and Gregg’s child to school today.” Is it correct to use “mine” or should I say “my”?

January 1, 2013  •  Jasper

Misplaced clauses?

Can clauses be misplaced because I always thought that they were superordinate of that. While searching for math accuplacer questions, I was given a set of problems, which I did not want, and, in boredom, did the first one and was wrong. The question was this: Select the best substitute for the parenthesized parts of the following ten sentences. The first answer [choice A] is identical to the original sentence. If you think the original sentence is best, then choose A as your answer. Question 1: Although she was only sixteen years old, (the university accepted her application because of her outstanding grades).   A. the university accepted her application because of her outstanding grades.   B. her application was accepted by the university because of her outstanding grades.   C. her outstanding grades resulted in her application being accepted by the university.   D. she was accepted to study at the university after applying because of her outstanding grades. I chose A, but it said D was the correct answer on these grounds: The clause Although she was only sixteen years old describes the characteristics of the female student. Remember that clauses always need to be followed by the name of the person or thing they are describing. Therefore, “she” needs to come after this clause. So, to reiterate, is there such a thing as misplaced clauses?

December 23, 2012  •  Denkof Zwemmen

Correct preposition following different? Redux

I’d like to go back to an old question which was discussed here in 2011. What is the correct preposition to use with “different?”  Every time I hear the BBC’s “different to” it grates on me. I distinctly remember my 6th Grade teacher, Mrs. Murphy, explaining to us that “different” takes “from” because in arithmetic, when you subtract one number from another you obtain a difference. Her analogy was faulty, of course; but her grammar was correct. The abuse she was trying to correct was “different than.”  I never heard “different to” until relatively recently, on the BBC World Service. The consensus of the 2011 discussion seemed to be that “different to” is British usage and “different from” is American.  Well – yes and no. I’ve gone through some quotation websites looking for 19th and early 20th century British examples and could find not one “different to.” They all use “different from.” I did also find this, however, from the 1908 edition of Fowler’s “The King’s English.” “. . .’different to’ is regarded by many newspaper editors and others in authority as a solecism, and is therefore better avoided by those to whom the approval of such authorities is important. It is undoubtedly gaining ground, and will probably displace ‘different from’ in no long time; perhaps, however, the conservatism that still prefers from is not yet to be named pedantry. Well, that was prescient – if you concede that 100 years counts as “no long time” when it comes to the English language.  (In response to some of those 2011 posts which mentioned “more different than” as an acceptable use of “different than”: in that case “than” refers to “more” not “different.”) 

December 2, 2012  •  José

who vs. whom

I watched some movies over the weekend, and by doing so some questions arose regarding the use of who and whom. In the movie “Prometheus” one of the main characters is describing the reason of traveling to a planet so far away from earth, and a suporting character says: “We are here because of a map you two kids found in a cave?” - “Not a map, an invitation” - “From who?” Now, I think the guy is asking for the object. Is he not? Also, I understand that whom must be used after a preposition. Then shouldn’t it be “from whom”? In the movie “X-Men: First Class” two CIA agents are conversing and the following dialogue takes place: “A war is about to begin.” - “I know. But a war with who?” Same as the other one: Shouldn’t “whom” be used here? “with” is also a preposition, and he is also asking for the object.

November 4, 2012  •  Kamran Saif Qureshi

Verb-tense agreement for a quote that is still true

Sequence of tenses requires us to use, for example, past tense if the verb in the introductory clause is in the past tense. For example: All the members of the survey team said: “You have a beautiful library!” All the members of the survey team happily acknowledged that we had a beautiful library. NOW, This holds true if the quote is a universal truth, quite obviously. But, what if the physical situation talked about in the quotation still holds true? For Example: Ring Ring. Sarah: Hello! Sarah: Yes this is she. Sarah: Oh really! Sarah: Well, your ring awoke us. Sarah: No, I have no laundry outside. Sarah: Thanks, Bye! Jeff: Who was it? Sarah: it was Betty. Jeff: What did she say? Sarah: She said that it was raining / it is raining. (Now, here the logical sequence does not follow the grammatical sequence,) Another: The survey team said about Plymouth High School, “They have a beautiful library.” (in March 2012) Subsequently talking to the principal of Plymouth school, Saba told her that the committee commented that (you had a beautiful library / you have a beautiful library). (May 2012, and the situation still holds true).

October 31, 2012  •  Magician Bob

“who she was” vs. “what she was”

I have a question to ask of you. A professor of English Usage said the next expression is incorrect: (a) She is not what she was ten years ago. He insisted that this sentence should be corrected like: (b) She is not who she was ten years ago. In my opinion, both sentences are correct but there is some difference between them: (a) implies that she changed her habit or attitude, or lost her physical strength etc., but (b) implies that she became ill and lost her physical ability etc. Do you agree with my opinion? I examined the following examples: who he was (1) ‘I believe he was a massive influence on the pitch when we played against them. He was United’s football brain, he was highly motivated and he was a quality player. At 34 he is not what he was in central midfield aged 28. But he is still a top Premier League player and a loss for United.’ — The Independent (London, England), November 19, 2005 (2) Mr Wolff added: “Murdoch is an 80-year-old man. He obviously is not what he was five years ago. He is in the midst of an enormous legal situation and lawyers have taken over. He is under an emotional strain as great as any in his life. This is incredibly painful for him.” — The Evening Standard (London, England), February 17, 2012 what he was (1) All this is understandable. Arenas is returning from an interminable rehabilitation process. He is not who he was. And getting back to who he was will not be easy on him or his teammates, not when he has the ball in his hands so much of the time. — The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 23, 2009  (2) Parkinson’s disease has kidnapped my wife. It is in the process of killing her. I hug and kiss what is left of her, hang photographs of the old, strong Milly throughout the house, and talk to her. We hold hands. We make love. But she is not who she was. She cannot walk, and now she can barely speak. She is being carried into an abyss, and I am helpless to rescue her. — Morton Kondracke, Saving Milly: Love, Politics, and Parkinson’s Disease (2001) p. xix I am looking forward to your comment on this!!!

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