QUESTION Which is correct?
- Let me give you the number really quickly?
- Let me give you the number really quick?
- Let me give you the number quickly?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Hermosa Beach, California Mon, Oct 22, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE More often than not, it is wise to omit the intensifier "really." It seldom truly intensifies anything (but, then, neither does "truly"). The word quick is often used as an adverbas in "Get rich quick!"and has been used that way for centuries. But nowadays we are more apt to use quickly as the adverb form. I prefer your final version of that 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 She arrived at 4:00 sharp. Is "sharp" an adverb or an adjective? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Cypress, Texas Tue, Oct 23, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The word sharp is acting as an adverb there, modifying the prepositional phrase "at 4:00" (which is, itself, acting as an adverb, tell us when she arrived).
QUESTION What is the plural of "hole in one"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Carmel, Indiana Tue, Oct 23, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The Chicago Manual of Style says that hyphenated compounds should pluralize the element that is subject to the change in number. I gather from that that "holes in one" would be appropriate. I did a search of the online Golf Journal and couldn't find any instance of the plural of the phrase, unfortunately. (What kind of person worries about the plural of such a singular event, anyway?) I'll leave an e-mail icon here in case some avid grammarian-golfer has better information.
QUESTION A question on subject-verb matching:
"There ARE one or two HORSES here" is grammatically correct. But given the rule "when nor or or is used the subject closer to the verb determines the number of the verb," and a logical need to reverse the order (perhaps for emphasis or clarity), does that mean that "There IS two or one HORSE here" is also correct?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Mesa, Arizona Tue, Oct 23, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Your sentence suggests another good reason for avoiding expletive constructions and writing "One or two horses are here," instead. Generally, you're right: when subjects are connected with "or," the subject closer to the verb determines the number of the verb, as in "Is your father or your brothers responsible for this?" It nonetheless sounds odd, and one can usually avoid the problem by putting the plural subject closer to the verb, "Are your brothers or your father responsible for this." We probably can't reverse the order, though, when we write "one or two _____" (although I'm not sure why). I suspect that in an expletive construction like this, the entire phrase is regarded as the subject and the notional plurality of "one or two horses" dictates a plural verb.
QUESTION In the following sentence: "This pie is deceptively good.", is the pie actually good though at first glance it does not seem to be so, or is the pie not good but only appears to be so? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Fairfield, Connecticut Tue, Oct 23, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It is sometimes said of an outfielder in baseball or a pass receiver in football that he is "deceptively fast." I always took this to mean that the athlete is lanky and long-legged and takes long, loping, easy strides, and barely looks like he's trying but he covers a great deal of ground very quickly and thus is "deceptively fast." If the analogy holds, I suspect the pie is actually quite good, but didn't appear to be so at first. There are surely better, less ambiguous ways to describe a pie.
QUESTION What part of speech is times in this sentence?I have tried it eight times. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Salemburg, North Carolina Wed, Oct 24, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It's a noun, meaning roughly the same as "instances." I think that the construction itself is probably a kind of prepositional phrase with an omitted preposition, something like " on/foreight occasions/instances."
QUESTION Which of these is correct:
Are there any other ways for this sentence to be improved without using "our car." I know that in many cases it is of better form and more polite to not have the first person pronoun appear first in the sentence, but is it flat out wrong in any case?
- There is a problem with my and my wife's car.
- There is a problem with my wife's and my car.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Houston, Texas Wed, Oct 24, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If there is a mix of possessive formsas, in this case, a common noun (wife's) and a personal pronoun possessive ("my")it's always better to put the personal pronoun after the other one. So your second version would be an improvement. Your instincts about using "our" are right, though. If we can somehow refer to "me and my wife" in a prior construction so that we know what "our" refers to, we'd be much better off with that possessive form: "My wife and I took a taxi to work this morning; there is a problem with our car." The combination of possessive forms will almost always sound a bit clumsy.
QUESTION Can either preface more than two subjects: The Yankees will have to bench either Paul O'Neill, David Justice or Chuck Knoblauch. Or can either only apply to two subjects. The Yankees will have to bench either O'Neill or Justice. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bristol, Connecticut Thu, Oct 25, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Some writers will avoid constructions such as your first one in the belief that either must refer to a choice between two things. It is true, however, that if I choose David Justice, I can't choose one of the others, so the logic of either still holds. It is acceptable. Burchfield worries about this and says that "if the number of coordinators is extended to more than two, opinions vary widely about the elegance or even the acceptability of the results." He notes, too, that the negative form is commonly followed by more than two alternatives: "Neither ABC nor CBS nor NBC has a permanent team. . . ."
Authority: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. Used with permission. p. 258.
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. (under "either")
QUESTION I am conducting research for a paper I am writing for a linguistics course at Indiana University, and I'm not having much luck. I have to research the history of the grammar rule that it is improper to end a sentence with a preposition. I've noted your section on this topic, but I wonder if you know of any good resources for the history of this rule: when, why, and where it was adopted and how it may have changed over time. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Indianapolis, Indiana Thu, Oct 25, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If you go to your favorite search engine (Yahoo!'s a good one) and do a search for Bishop Lowth (author of A Short Introduction to English Grammar in 1762), you'll probably find some good material on this rule. (You'd probably do much better, though, going to your local library.) Much of the error in the ways of prescriptivist grammarians in English is laid at the feet of Lowth, who has a bad reputation for basing his rules on English usage on inappropriate Latin models.
QUESTION Question #1: Is it ever correct to use "between" when referring to more than 2 items?
Question #2: Can a "twist" be "emboldened"?
Both questons relate to this sentence from my hometown newspaper:"It was a bizarre twist in an increasingly tense political tussle between Ms. Marshall, Sheriff Jim Thomas, and her longtime political foes, emboldened by a bitter dispute over the Pledge of Allegiance."Thank you!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Santa Barbara, California Thu, Oct 25, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It is very difficult to say who or what was "emboldened" in that episodeor how, indeed, one is emboldened by a "bitter dispute" in the first place. (Doesn't one need a victory of some kind to be emboldened?) I'm sure that the writer meant "emboldened" to refer to one or more of the characters involved, not the "twist," but the sentence is, at best, ambiguous. As for the use of between, the writer would have been well advised to use among instead. However, between is often used to describe a close relationship among more than two things or people, where among describes a looser relationship. This is especially true when the choices can occur among pairs within the grouping (thus, the argument occurs between Ms. Marshall and the sheriff and then between the sheriff and the political foes and then between the foes and Ms. Marshall, etc.), so between could actually be acceptable in that sentence.
Authority: The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin. 9th Edition. McGraw-Hill: New York. 2001. Used with the consent of Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. p. 285.
Authority: New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage HarperCollins: New York. 1994. Cited with permission. p. 32.
Previous Grammar Log
Next Grammar Log
Index of Grammar Logs
Guide to Grammar and Writing