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Oh, I'm going to get smacked for using "between three," aren't I? I blame a coffee shortage. Should be "among," of course.

Chris G. February 22, 2013, 2:38pm

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"Gift from ~" refers to who gave the gift. So, "A gift from John" means that John gave the gift.

"Gift of ~" refers to that which was given. "A gift of John" means that John was given as a gift. Between three consenting adults, there may not be anything wrong with that, but in most cases it would get you a raised eyebrow.

You often see this construction around holidays in advertisements. "Give the gift of warmth," for example, might be used to sell sweaters. Or charitable donations - "She gave a gift of $50 to her church."

Chris G. February 22, 2013, 2:36pm

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We would use the first if we were telling a story about, say, Rowling's struggles to become an author. We're beginning from the days before she published and using that as our frame of reference.

The second would be used if we start our story from Rowling as an established author, and then flash back to her pre-author days. The past perfect is generally used when you go backwards in time, in relation to where you are in your story.

I think the third is acceptable if we start our story with the present day. The present perfect is used to combine the past and the present in many interesting ways. Since Rowling wanted to be an author in the past AND she probably wants to continue her career at present, the present perfect can work. I probably wouldn't use it, though, mainly for the reason you outlined - she is an author now, and would like to remain so for the foreseeable future. There are better ways to express that idea with less confusion.

Really, the choice you make depends on where on the timeline of Rowling's career you're starting the story.

Chris G. November 1, 2011, 5:19pm

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It's a compound noun where the second word is basically an adjective that describes the preceding noun, or "head." In this case, "general" describes "attorney."
Ah, the joy of head-first compound nouns.

A regular compound noun - "military funeral," for instance - has the head at the end. So we pluralize it as "military funerals," since we're counting funerals and not militaries. More than one "company car" is "company cars," "dog trainer" becomes "dog trainers" and so on. The thing we're counting is at the end. "Army general" is another example of this.

Some compound nouns are "head first" so they kind of look backwards and annoying. In your example, we're counting attorneys, not the concept of general-ness. Therefore, "attorneys general."

There are other examples of this: passers-by, courts-martial, sons-in-law are some of the more common head-first compound nouns, and they pluralize the same way. We're counting passers, courts, and sons, respectively.

If memory serves - and I could be wrong - we get this from French, which permits adjectives to come after the noun they describe more often than English does. That's why you see it pop up a lot in law and military language, where we borrowed heavily from French. If I'm wrong, though, I expect someone will let us know. *smile*

Chris G. October 18, 2011, 5:27am

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Here's my early morning, pre-caffeinated take on it: If you reshuffle the terms a bit, you get a continuum of value judgments.

"Incorrect" suggests that something is simple not as it is supposed to be. It carries less of an opinionated or moral judgment than the others. So we can say that 1+1=3 is incorrect, but if you say that child slavery is incorrect it'll sound a bit weird.

"Wrong" can go either way - it can be a judgement of accuracy or of moral/ethical merit. Barcelona as the capital of Spain is wrong, and so is beating your wife. The word works both ways.

"Bad" has much more of a moral/ethical judgment to it. It's perfectly fine to say that Twinkies on pizza is bad, but to say it's incorrect sounds like there's a rule being broken which - to my dismay - there is not.

Whoops. Late for work. Bad.

Chris G. May 16, 2011, 2:01pm

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As dyske pointed out, when you have a double subject, each part has to stand on its own - you can say "I traveled" or "She traveled," but you would never say "Her traveled" or "Me traveled." So your administrator was right.

The same goes for a double object, too - "They police interviewed her and me." You could say "interviewed her" or "interviewed me," but not "interviewed she" or "interviewed I." And when you include yourself, the convention is to put yourself last - "Bruce, Clark, Diana and I fought the ninjas," for example. I've always seen it as a politeness gambit, but I have no evidence that that is true.

I disagree with dyske, though, that "Her and I" sounds okay. It makes me feel like someone just shot needles into my brain, and it would completely derail my attention in a conversation or a story....

Chris G. June 20, 2010, 8:15am

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There's certainly a case to be made for "myself" as an appositive in that example, but I think it's a weak one. It is, I believe, a superfluous modifier - if I fixed the car, after all, it could have been no one else, and so there's no reason to point out that it was "myself" - it's tautological. We should resolve to make sure we avoid superfluity and redundancy in our speech. *grin*

As an adverb, however, it describes how the fixing of the car was done, i.e. with no help from anyone else.

Chris December 29, 2009, 10:55am

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A reflexive is usually used as an object pronoun, when the subject is performing an action, and the object of that action is the subject. For example:

<i>I cut someone with a kitchen knife.
The person I cut was me.</i>
<b>I cut myself.</b>

Another option is as an adverb, when the speaker does something that he or she would normally have someone else do.

<b>I fixed my car myself</b> <i>(rather than have a mechanic do it).</i>

In the OP's original example sentence, there are three reasons why the reflexive is incorrect:

<i>"Serious gardeners like my wife and me/myself always use organic fertilizer."</i>

The first is that you're using an object pronoun where you should be using a subject - "My wife and I" - which makes the whole reflexives point moot. A reflexive can only be used as an object pronoun or as an adverb, not as a subject.

The second is that the speaker is not the object of the verb "use" - therefore, the reflexive object pronoun is unnecessary.

Third is that there's no implication that the speaker and his wife are doing something that a serious gardener would normally have someone else do, i.e. fertilize their garden. Therefore the reflexive adverb is unnecessary. What's more, there's no verb that "myself" could modify in this sentence.

To sum up, never use a reflexive as a subject, and never use a reflexive as an object if someone other than the speaker is performing the action. I used to have a boss (in an ESL school, no less) who would write memos that read, "Please return this form to the secretary <i>or myself</i>...." and I'd have to go sit in a dark room for a few hours with a cold compress. *smile*

Chris December 28, 2009, 8:10pm

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It's incorrect to add a question mark because it's not a question. If you wanted to make it a question, you might write, "Would you be interested in more information? Let me know and I can send it" or something along those lines.

Chris G. December 22, 2009, 5:30am

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