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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Criminal Sentence 474: Having a Dialogue with Subject-Verb Agreement

From a Web site:

"The dialogue he had as a child with his family capture the emotional truth if not the factual truth of what was said."

This sentence pairs a singular subject, "dialogue," with a plural verb, "capture." What's strange is that there's no plural noun to pair up with a plural verb. It's also strange that this sentence is rather nonsensical. Let's try to make sense of it:

"The dialogue he had with his family when he was a child captures the emotional truth--if not the factual truth--of what was said."



Westley said...

I like your use of dashes, but as the dialogue occurred in the past, I saw the sentence as “The dialogue captured the truth…”

On that point, how does a plural past-tense verb differ from a singular past-tense verb??

A San Diegian Wishing That it Would Snow Here said...

Good Day, Ms. Trenga:

I'm wondering if you could please explain the logic of why you re-arranged the words "The dialogue he had as a child with his family . . ." to "The dialogue he had with his family when he was a child . .. "

Does the former phrasing have a misplaced modifier?

Thank you.

A San Diegian Wishing That it Would Snow Here!

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Westley, I don't recall if the surrounding sentences were in past or present tense. I just picked present. But you could change "capture" to "captured."
In English, most past-tense verbs have the same form whether or not they're singular or plural: I had/they had/she had.
San Diegian: Yes, two misplaced phrases!!
"As a child" was just hanging there without anything to go with it, so that's why I changed that.
Also, "with his family" needed to go with "the dialogue," so I moved it.
I'm glad my readers are so astute!!

A San Diegian said...

Misplaced modifers still trip me up. I wonder if you could explain what "as a child" modifies in the incorrect and the correct sentences.

One more question, please. When I say, "I wonder if you could explain so-and-so. . ." why do I not need a question mark at the end of the sentence? (Or: Do we?)

A San Diegian Who Not Only Wishes that it Snows Here, But is Grateful for this Blog.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

"As a child" needs to go next to the person who was a child, so As a child, I ate too much candy.
I wonder-type sentences, although they're about a question, aren't actually questions. They are declarative sentences and therefore don't take a question mark.