QUESTION "Tom did not just like grammar, he thought it was wonderful."I was told that the above is a run-on sentence. Doesn't the word "just" turn the first clause into an incomplete thought, needing a complete clause? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Gainesville, Florida Thu, Mar 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think that your sentence enters a realm in which two independent clauses can, in fact, be engaged with only a comma (i.e., we don't need a semicolon or a period after "grammar"). A semicolon would be correct there, because that first clause is, in fact, an independent clause, as is the second, but the clauses are so nicely balanced and the second clause depends so clearly on the sense of the first, that it seems clear to me that a comma does an adequate job in separating the two clauses and allowing them to connect. In short, the person who said this is a run-on sentence is probably correct, but I'd let this one be.
QUESTION Please answer the following question aboutI had breakfast at 6:30.Does this sentence mean "I began to eat breakfast at 6:30." or "I finished eating breakfast at 6:30."? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Osaka, Japan Fri, Mar 3, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I doubt if it means either, exactly. It probably just means that you were eating breakfast around 6:30 this morning. If you wanted to get more precise about whether you were starting to eat or finishing up the last of toast and coffee, you'll have to say so.
QUESTION In writing a research report. Are there several ways to separate paragraphs. My daughter and I are at odds with this concept. I was taught that you insert an extra line to separate paragraphs. My daughter just indents the next line and starts a new paragraph. Can you help us with this problem?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Ann Arbor, Michigan Fri, Mar 3, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Don't fight it; your daughter's right. At least that's how they recommend beginning a new paragraph in the MLA Handbook. Don't forget to double-space between all lines, though.
Authority: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Joseph Gibaldi, Ed. 4th ed. Modern Language Association: New York. 1995.
QUESTION I find the following used frequently. Please clarify whether "any" is always singular.If you have any question(s), please ask.I was taught that "any" should never be plural. anyone, anybody, etc. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Pleasant Hill, California Sat, Mar 4, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Those constructions you give us anyone, anybody are, indeed, always singular. But the word any, in itself, can modify singular words, plural words, and non-count nouns. We can say, for instance,
When it precedes a plural, the word any frequently receives the stress of the sentence in speaking.
- "Any explanation would have satisfied the customer."
- "Do you have any used furniture?" and
- "I see all these red cars. Do you have any blue ones?"
Authority: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. pages 62 & 109. Used with permission.
QUESTION Is it correct to use the word "else" after the conjuction or?Be careful, or else you will make a mistake.A conjunction with a comma before it is supposed to separate two independent clauses. "Else you will make a mistake" doesn't sound or look like a correct sentence.
In the sample sentence, is the word else an adverb? Does it modify the verb be or the verb will?
Isn't this construction of the compound sentence better?Be careful, or you will make a mistake.The two independent clauses are clearly visible now. Be careful. You will make a mistake.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE O'Fallon, Illinois Sat, Mar 4, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The word else used to be used as a conjunction (meaning "otherwise" or "if not") itself: "Be careful, else you will rue the day." But we seldom use it that way anymore. But that usage does sort of suggest that the combination of "or" and "else" is redundant, and your suggested revision, "Be careful, or you will make a mistake," is a definite improvement. "Leave or else you'll be sorry," however, is not incorrect. Yes, the word functions as an adverb modifying the verb "will make" in your first sentence.
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.
QUESTION Does this sentence take a singular or plural verb, and why?What characteristics do/does each of the two figures symbolize?Since it includes both "what" and "each," it's stumped me. Thanks! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Raleigh, North Carolina Wed, Mar 8, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Because this is a question, the subject is coming after the verb. To find the subject-verb relationship, turn the sentence around: "Each of the two figures does symbolize what characteristics." "Each" is the subject; "figures" is the object of a preposition. Another example: what if we said,"How many courses do/does he take each semester?"It is clear that the subject of the sentence is "he" and that we need a singular verb, "does," to go with it. I hope that helps.
I will leave an e-mail icon here, hoping that someone else might be able to explain this more clearly.
QUESTION Recently, a memo was distributed in our company with the following sentence:"Security and Safety are everybody's business."That sentence sounded correct to me. Someone else said that it should have read: Security and Safety is everybody's business. However, that person couldn't give me the rule of grammar. The more we discussed it, the more I began to think the other person might be correct. For my own edification, I would like to know which is the correct sentence and what is the rule of grammar?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Plant City, Florida Wed, Mar 8, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You have to decide if "security and safety" are two different things or if they've glommed together like macaroni and cheese to become one. If they're two separate entities (and I believe they are, but I could be wrong), you want a plural verb, "are." That's the only rule of grammar at stake here: is there a compound subject (joined by "and") or have these two things become one?
QUESTION Which is correct (express or expressed) ?The document cannot be released without the express(ed) written approval of the administrator. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Washington, D.C. Wed, Mar 8, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The word "express" can mean "for this special purpose," and that's the word you want here.
Authority for this note: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition. 1994. Used with permission.
QUESTION When abbreviating a person's first and middle names, is there a space between the periods? The usage would be as an adjective:
- Ex: W. R. Clinton Public Library
- or W.R. Clinton Public Library
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Nashville, Tennessee Wed, Mar 8, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The Chicago Manual of Style says to put a space between the initials. You want to be careful, however, not to allow a line-break to appear between initials.
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993. p. 461.
QUESTION In the following sentence, is "which" singular or plural?Which of the following sentences is (or are) correct? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Lansdale, Pennsylvania Wed, Mar 8, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It depends on how many choices you're giving us and how many might be correct. If you're only giving us two to choose from, that means the word "which" is referring to a singular sentence, so we want a singular verb, "is." The same is true regardless of how many sentences you're asking about if you wish to imply that there is only one correct sentence. If more than one might be correct, we need "are."
Previous Grammar Log
Next Grammar Log
Index of Grammar Logs
Guide to Grammar and Writing