QUESTION Isn't it improper to say "furnish me with a copy" or "provide me with a copy"? I believe one should say "furnish me a copy" or "provide me a copy." I believe "furnish" and "provide" have the same meaning as "give," and one does not "give me with a copy," SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Houston, Texas Thu, Apr 4, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I see the logic of your argument. In Dos, Don'ts and Maybes of English Usage, Bernstein says that using with with provide is standard usage. He doesn't say anything about "furnish," but I suppose it would work the same way. Authority: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Theodore Bernstein. Gramercy Books: New York. 1999.
- I've been wanting to write for sometime now. OR
- I've been wanting to write for some time now.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fri, Apr 5, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The single word "sometime" is limited to adverbial uses, as in "He was arrested sometime last night" and "I'll get around to it sometime tomorrow." (There's also an archaic use, as in "the sometime King of Denmark.") In your sentence, you are looking for an object of the preposition, which would be "time," and you're modifying it with the quantifier "some," so you want two separate words.
QUESTION I need some help in a grammar question I got from school. It is as follows,"The next few years has/have/had been predicted as a period of great change and countries must tighten up their economies now."I personally thought it to be "have", but my teacher said it was "has". I based it on "the next few years", while she based her answer on "a period". Is that really how it should be interpreted? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Singapore Mon, Apr 8, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm going to go along with your teacher on this one. You are right in thinking that "the next few years" is the subject, but the phrase "next few years" is meant, in this context, to be taken a singular "lump," a quantity, and the singular "has" is appropriate. A similar example would be "the 1970s was a decade of ______."
QUESTION I write for a newsletter and I notice that my editor ALWAYS changes my word order when I use the word "also". I'll give an example. I'll write:"An informational brochure was also developed and..."She'll correct:"An informational brochure also was developed and..."To me, my way sounds much more natural and I can't think of any grammatical or logical rules that would indicate that her change is necessary. Is this just her own personal quirk or is there an actual rule behind it? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Indianapolis, Indiana Tue, Apr 9, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In that particular sentence, your editor might have a point. Embedded within the verb string (your positionining), the adverb will, of course, modify the verb. You developed the brochure; what else did you do to it? If it comes before the verb string, however, the "also" can suggest that you did things in addition to developing a brochure, which is probably what you mean. Adverbs are slippery things, and they can often pop up just about anywhere in a sentence and the sentence meaning will remain unchanged. Sometimes, though, there can be a slight difference in meaning, and an exact placement can be very helpful.
QUESTION Which is correct -- "worse becomes worst" or worst becomes worst"? I know ever since that the first one is correct, but someone corrected that the second one is it. Now I am not so sure. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Manila,Philippines Tue, Apr 9, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE According to Theodore Bernstein, the idiom doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's "worst becomes worst" or "worst turns to worst." You would think it would be "worse becomes worst," but idiom is as idiom says.
Authority: The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein. The Free Press: New York. 1998.
QUESTION There probably is no "solution" for the matter. Unless you get your boss to send out a memo advising people that writing e-mail and messages in any form for that matter in ALL CAPS is regarded as bad form. Text in all caps is not easier to read. In fact, tests prove that it's much more difficult to read text in all caps. And, generally, you're right: it's regarded as rude, like shouting in someone's face. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Dubai, United Arab Emirates Tue, Apr 9, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Is using all capital letters in e-mails or other correspondence wrong. I think so....it screams out. What is the best way of sending mails & messages out to collegues. EG: THIS IS TO INFORM YOU THAT MR. R HAS RESIGNED .......OR..... WHY DID YOU TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER WHEN YOU WENT FOR LUNCH........when it can also be...Why did you turn off your computer when you went for lunch?.....I am facing major problems here with my staff using the CAPS very often,,,is there a solution?
QUESTION You list "attorney/lawyer" as confusables. Webster's 10th defines (loose paraphrase) an attorney as one who acts on your behalf in legal matters and a lawyer as one who advises in legal matters and handles lawsuits for clients.
My lawyer's business card says "attorney at law." I have always assumed the two words, attorney and lawyer, were used synonomously. Is there a distinction that we should know about in common usage? If so, what is it?
I don't mean to be argumentative but I like your site and plan to use some of your confusables in my style bulletin (I'm an editor for a company that provides market intelligence for the energy industry) -- giving your site credit, of course.
You seem to take a pretty down-to-earth approach to language so this one made me wonder first if you're right and second if maybe you're hair-splitting. Thanks for your time!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boulder, Colorado Wed, Apr 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In common usage, you're probably right: it's hair-splitting. Strictly speaking, however, a lawyer, having earned his law degree, can hang out his shingle (do lawyers do that?), but he's not an attorney until a client secures his services to transact business for him. Not all attorneys are lawyers, but nearly all are. According to Theodore Bernstein, "It may be that the desire of lawyers to appear to be making a go of their profession has accounted for their leaning toward the designation attorney. Another reason undoubtedly is their belief that attorney is more elegant" (60). The same distinction, by the way, is made in the New York Public Library's Writer's Guide to Style and Usage.
Authority: The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein. The Free Press: New York. 1998.
QUESTION Is "hold accountable" a compound verb? The dictionary says that accountable can only be an adjective. Our problem sentence:This crossover makes it difficult for the department to hold the staff who forward incomplete applications accountable.If "hold accountable" can be considered a compound verb, this would be acceptable:This crossover makes it difficult for the department to hold accountable the staff who forward incomplete applications.We were perplexed when we considered that one frequently says "hold staff accountable." In that phrase is "accountable" an adjective? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Austin, Texas Wed, Apr 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Yes, accountable is always an adjective. The problem with the first version of your sentence is that the modifier is getting so far away from the thing it is supposed to modify that it's trying to modify the wrong thing, "applications." It's like the phrase "find guilty." You find someone guilty or you find guilty someone who did something. But you wouldn't want to say, "We found the accused who spent the last five years in the Bahamas running a diving shack guilty."
QUESTION My English professor and I are having a dispute over a sentence in the following paragraph from William Maxwell's "Over by the River":The sun rose somewhere in the middle of Queens, the exact moment of its appearance shrouded in uncertainty because of a cloud bank. The lights on the bridges went off, and so did the red light in the lantern of the lighthouse at the north end of Welfare Island. Seagulls settled on the water. A newspaper truck went from building to building dropping off heavy bundles of, for the most part, bad news, which little boys carried inside on their shoulders. Doormen smoking a pipe and dressed for a walk in the country came to work after a long subway ride and disappeared into the service entrances. When they reappeared, by way of the front elevator, they had put on with their uniforms a false amiability and were prepared for eight solid hours to make conversation about the weather. With the morning sun on them, the apartment buildings far to the west, on Lexington Avenue, looked like an orange mesa. The pigeons made bubbling noises in their throats as they strutted on windowsills high above the street.The specific sentence in question is: "Doormen smoking a pipe and dressed for a walk in the country came to work after a long subway ride and disappeared into the service entrances."
I say that it should read, "Doormen smoking pipes..." because it is pretty clear from the passage that it is not referring to multiple doormen smoking one pipe, but rather to multiple doormen, each smoking his own pipes.
My professor, however, maintains that this changing a plural to a singular is an example of some literary device used to show that, to the people living in the buildings at least, the doormen don't really exist.
I've never heard of this particular literary device either, and I'm just wondering which of us is right.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Oneonta, New York Fri, Apr 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Your English professor's argument seems a bit farfetched to me. In that paragraph, I don't see any evidence for the social invisibility of the doormen they're as real and obtrusive on the world's consciousness as the pigeons and the newspaper truck. It's a common situation in English in any language, I suppose when singular and plural notions seem in conflict. If I say that "the children put on their hats," it might sound as if each child has more than one hat (or that the children are multi-headed?), but the singular "hat" would have several children squabbling over that hat. "The politicians have to make up their mind" has many politicos with a single brain, but the plural is probably worse. The doormen in Maxwell's paragraph are smoking "a pipe." Giving them "pipes" has more than one pipe sticking out of a single doorman's mouth, and that's a problem. Click HERE for further discussion of the issue. In short, though, I wouldn't change the "pipe" to "pipes," but I wouldn't say that Maxwell's choice is a matter of literary device, either.
QUESTION I do not believe a semi-colon belongs between the words "interviews and particularly." I think a comma would be appropriate. Do you agree? or am I wrong?Margarita is frequently called upon by other Bureau investigators to assist them with sensitive interviews; particularly with women SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Commerce, California Fri, Apr 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You can't use a semicolon there. A comma would do the trick. If you want a somewhat stronger break to set off "particularly with women" (as if it were nearly an afterthought), a dash would work there.
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