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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Poll Results 164

Here was the last question of the year:

Anything wrong here? "The judge motioned for the guards to sit him back down."

40 (75%)
13 (24%)

Congrats to 24% of you. The potential for error was in the word "sit." Is it transitive (takes an object) or intransitive (doesn't take an object)? A quick dictionary check indicates it's both.

Why did 75% of you think there was a mistake?


Duncan said...

I'm struggling to come up with a better sentence, do you have a suggestion?

Duncan said...

This sentence has been bugging me all day.. thanks!

I worked out why it was bugging me.. It's the "him" that is the problem.. It could refer to the judge, or the defendant..

Here is my attempt at a much better sentence..

"The judge motioned to the guards to sit the defendant back down".

ChildsPlay said...

Maybe because the sentence is out of context, but it sounds like the antecedent of him is the judge.

gclason said...

You indicated that nothing was wrong with this sentence: "The judge motioned for the guards to sit him back down."

There is a LOT wrong with this sentence. The sentence is written as if the antecedent for the pronoun "him" should be "guards", in which case the author has forgotten agreement between a plural antecendent and a singular pronoun. Looking further back in the sentence for an antecedent, gives us "judge", which would imply that the judge is ordering the guards to force himself to sit. This is proposterous for logical reasons having nothing to do with grammar.

So we are left with the implication that there is an antecedent further back in a missing sentence and the judge is actually requiring the guards to seat some unruly spectator, defendent or lawyer. Or perhaps the guards had previously forced someone to stand and the judge is now requiring them to allow the poor tired soul to retake his seat.

Bob King said...

The problem is using a pronoun - "him" - without an antecedent. It's not clear in the sentence who the guards are sitting down.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

My apologies for not putting the sentence in context, which did make it clear that "him" referred to the defendant.

The potential problem I thought blog readers would pick up on was the verb "sit." I have heard some people from the South use "set" in this case.

Anyone have any thoughts on "sit" vs. "set"?