QUESTION "Mr. Utterson sighed deeply but said never a word."I have two questions about such a phrase. First, why is "he said never a word" legal? An adverb cannot be placed between the verb and its direct object, can it? Also, an adverb cannot modify a noun. I guess that it modifies an article "a" acting as an adjective. Am I right?
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Second, is there any difference between "he never said a word" and "he said never a word"?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Moscow, Russia Mon, Jan 24, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That is, indeed, a rather unusual construction, but it's quite legal. We can negate in a number of ways. We can say "I didn't see any cars" and "I saw no cars." We can say "He was never any wiser" and "He was never the wiser." Adverbs are probably the most slippery of the parts of speech; it seems they can pop up just about anywhere in a sentence, sometimes signifying a slight change in emphasis. In Stevenson's sentence, the "never" seems to modify the word (as in "not a word"); in the more normal order of things "He never said a word." it seems more clearly to modify the verb "said." In Stevenson's sentence, the word never seems to mean the same as "not a" and lose its normal temporal meaning. It's unusual, but perfectly acceptable.
QUESTION "His expertise in business and financial management and strategic planning makes him an excellent choice."
Is the singular form "makes" correct in this sentence to agree with the noun "expertise..."? OR, should the correct form be the plural "make" in agreement with expertise in business and financial management AND strategic planning? In other words -- TWO different areas of "expertise" and therefore plural. Which is correct?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Washington, D.C. Mon, Jan 24, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE His expertise is still one thing even though it manifests itself in three different areas unless you want to repeat the word expertise, that is. Then you could say "His expertise in business and financial management and his expertise in strategic planning make. . .." Otherwise, I'd go with the singular verb "makes."
QUESTION When using an em dash to set off more specific information, does the following verb agree with the subject or the more specific subject? For example, "The human raceand specifically Christians(is/are) returning to their roots." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Richfield, Minnesota Tue, Jan 25, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The information (frequently descriptive) included within the dashes should not influence the choice of verb. We want "is returning." Also, we might consider using "its roots."
QUESTION I say the following sentence is correct:"Except mealtime, he was busy with chores."Another writer has decided that the word "for" needs to be inserted, as follows:"Except for mealtime, he was busy with chores."I think the word except here means "other than" and the word "for" is unnecessary. What do you think? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Seattle, Washington Tue, Jan 25, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It's a matter of personal preference in this case (in which you are using except as a preposition). I think most people would use "except for" in that sentence, but except, by itself, is acceptable: "He works every day except Sundays."
QUESTION Are there any rules that apply to the usage of the words expensive and high as relating to cost? EX: The cost of the trip would be expensive or The cost of the trip would be high? Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Indianapolis, Indiana Tue, Jan 25, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Actually, I don't think the cost is expensive; the trip itself is expensive. As an adjective to describe price or cost, the word high is certainly acceptable in most situations: "The high cost of living," the price of gasoline is higher in Connecticut than it is in Pennsylvania," "the cost of the tour was too high for Molly," etc. Great or greater might sometimes be preferred in formal situations.
QUESTION Hi there -- I'm inclined to place a comma after "garden" in the sentence below. Am I right?"I went into the garden where I picked some flowers."What rule determines whether there should be a comma?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Wed, Jan 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You have to determine whether clause "where I picked some flowers" is essential to the meaning of the sentence or not. Do we have to know that you entered the garden where you picked the flowers (i.e., are there other gardens you might have entered where you didn't pick flowers?), or does that clause represent what we call "added information," a parenthetical element. I think it's parenthetical; it's not exactly an afterthought it's something you want to say but it is not really essential to your meaning, either. We want the comma. See the rules on Comma Usage.
QUESTION YOUR QUESTION WAS: Who, or what group, sets the standards for grammar and usage at the highschool and college levels? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Arlington, Texas Wed, Jan 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I do. 8-)
I was once told that there is, in fact, a body of grammarians and lexicographers in France who attempt to establish standards of purity for the French language. I don't know how successful they are or if it still exists. There is no such body for English. What is acceptable and not acceptable in standard academic prose is loosely determined by standards adhered to (or challenged) by editors in the publishing world, including editors of newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and (especially) dictionaries. These standards, in turn, work their way into the writing manuals and writing course textbooks that are put out by publishing houses. For instance, who decides, finally, that data can be regarded as a singular entity with a singular verb (The data is lost)? Some dictionaries already announce that data can be a noncount noun (like furniture) and go with singular verbs. Some of the newer textbooks use it that way; others stick to the traditional notion that data is a plural Latin noun that must be accompanied by a plural verb. There is no group that determines this usage, though; it's a complex process of social and linguistic change.
Which of these two is correct? The person who wrote this in a piece of news copy started with version #1, then changed to version #2 to make it "gramatically correct." I thought that, while #2 was probably correct, it was odd to say that the series went deep. Instead, I thought that it wasn't a sentence. I thought #1 would be closer to correct (with deep describing the memories), but we'd have to add "It is" to the front to make it a sentence. I'm wrong, right? What is "that goes very deep" in this "sentence"? Could you explain this to me?
- A series of memories that go very deep.
- A series of memories that goes very deep.
Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Baltimore, Maryland Thu, Jan 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It is clear from the context of these sentences that the relative pronoun "that" is referring to the memories (mostly because it's not the series that goes deep, it's the memories). In either case, it's not a complete sentence, if that's really a question. The word series (if that's going to the subject of the main clause) is still waiting for a verb: "A series of memories that go very deep was recorded by the psychiatrist." It might be better all around to turn the "that go very deep" into a modifying phrase: "A series of deeply-seated memories. . . ."
QUESTION I searched the site, but searching on "number" yields a lot of results, and I couldn't wade through them all! So please forgive me if this has already been addressed.
I understand the use of singular and plural with "a number" and "the number." The sentence I am looking at has me puzzled, though:An uneven number of justices is chosen.To my ear, the singular verb is correct here. But when I replace the noun, say with people or cars, I think the plural is correct. Does the adjective change the number of the noun in some cases? I'm confused!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Redmond, Washington Sun, Jan 30, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "The number" is always singular; "a number" is always plural. Don't be confused by the fact that an intervening adjective ("uneven" in this case) causes us to use "an" instead of "a." We want "are chosen" for this sentence.
QUESTION When is it appropriate to use the conjunction nor? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Atlanta, Georgia Sun, Jan 30, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Nor is used more often than not in conjunction with its old pal neither: "He could neither run the ball nor pass with any accuracy." Occasionally, however, you will find the word nor acting as a conjunction, alone, in its own clause (especially when the first clause contains a negative element): "Dogsbreath was not a very good athlete; nor did he excel in his studies."
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