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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
What's wrong here? "The source of the beliefs are as important as the beliefs themselves."
Use of reflexive
You guys are too smart!
"Source" is singular, so "are" should be "is."
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
"their freshmen year"
This sentence concerns two people. Had it concerned one person, the correct phrase would have been "his/her freshman year." It's about two, so let's pluralize both words: "their freshmen years."
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I recently came upon this sentence and, though I couldn't figure out why, it rubbed me wrong.
"Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event."
My question is, should events be plural (because reactions are plural)? If it was just one emotion, it should read Grief is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. But it is a group of emotions, therefore plural. To me, the subject-verb don't seem to be in agreement.
The short answer is that this sentence is fine. The subject is the plural "Profound sadness, grief, and anger" and the verb is the plural "are." Don't be fooled by other elements in the sentence. You can have one or more reactions to a single event, so this is just peachy.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
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."
Monday, November 15, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
What is the problem here? (ha ha)
Beware of a sentence that begins "As a..."; such a beginning introduces a characteristic of a person. For example, "As a mom, I have a lot of experience changing diapers."
You have to ensure that the person follows the "As" phrase, so here, "what" is the problem.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
"He was in casual clothes wearing glasses."
Thanks, R., for being a good sport about this. That was a funny sentence! How did the clothes wear the glasses?
How about this less-funny version:
"He wore casual clothes and glasses."
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Is this right? "What we were discussing were the grounds on which he would make the motion."
A tough one. I had to look this up to be sure. Strange as it may seem, this sentence is correct. Pages 103-104 of the Grammar Desk Reference explain that the word "what" is not what the verb agrees with; rather, it's what comes later in the sentence. GDR gives these examples of correct sentences:
What is most essential is a clear explanation.
What are most essential are clear explanations.
Friday, November 5, 2010
"My answers is still the same as last year."
What do you get when you cross a typo with an incorrect comparison?
Of course, the second word should be "answer"; the second mistake is just a comparison problem.
My shoes are the same as yours.
This sentence compares "shoes" to "yours" (meaning your shoes). Correct-a-mundo!
Now this: My answer is the same as last year.
This sentence compares "answer" to "last year." Oops. Let's fix-a-mundo:
My answer is the same as last year's.
Hope you have a fun weekend burning off all the Halloween candy you ate.
P.S. What is a mundo, anyway!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
"In attendance were myself and Maggie."
This is just a bad sentence. "Myself" is called a reflexive pronoun and it refers back to I: "I myself love candy," you might say, or "I gave myself a present." A reflexive pronoun doesn't stand alone.
If we fix the pronoun problem, we get "In attendance were Maggie and I."
Still a terrible sentence. Why not just say, "Maggie and I attended"?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
"But the photos the lieutenant had showed him ... were troubling."
Had showed? Now that's troubling!
Often, the past-tense verb and the past participle are the same, as in "heard": "I heard the bell"/"I have heard the bell." Other times, they're different, as in "ate" and "eaten."
The past tense of "to show" is "showed." The past participle is "shown."