The Grammar Logs
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Question

In the sentence, "Hundreds of people attended the swim meet," isn't the simple subject the word, "Hundreds" and "of people" is a modifier?

My son's teacher is trying to tell him that "people" is the subject of the sentence.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Denver, Colorado # Thu, Apr 1, 2004
Grammar's Response

You're right: "hundreds" is the subject, and it is modified by the prepositional phrase "of people." It's probably another example of how worthless that concept of the "simple subject" can be — because "hundreds" really doesn't mean much without that prepositional phrase. But if we were asked to diagram this sentence, we would put "hundreds" on the subject line and "of people" under that line as a modifier.


Question

This is the piece in question;

Three spectacular Eggs Benedict choices made with the wholesome goodness of BC Fresh Eggs, served on English muffin halves with creamy hollandaise. And a lo-carb fourth without the muffin. Comes with hashbrowns or sliced tomatoes.

I own a restaurant in a chain and this is the heading of a promotional piece we are putting out. I questioned them starting the sentence with 'and'. I also suggested that they left off a 'w' in "lo-carb," but they assure me this is acceptable.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Unknown # Thu, Apr 1, 2004
Grammar's Response

Do you serve grits and pork gravy with that? My opinion is that I'm dead before I reach the door, but getting back to the text … I don't know where the word "choices" is coming from here, and what eggs Benedict doesn't come with English muffin halves and hollandaise sauce? I agree that the sentence beginning with "And" could easily have been connected to the previous sentence with just a dash. As for "lo-carb," with the "w," it's a bit cliché in advertising. The use of "low carb" is much more prevalent. Having said that, the notion of proclaiming that anything about this breakfast is "low carb" seems almost ludicrous. But now I am hungry.


Question
"The choicest bakery" from a bakery ad. Is this sentence correct ? I mean I have never seen choicest being used as a adjective before bakery. Isn't "choice" a noun? choicest is the superlative form of choice??? But choice is a noun, not an adjectivce, right?
Source of Question, Date of Response
Unknown # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

No, "choice" can certainly be an adjective. It usually means "exquisite" or "selected from among the best." A phrase like "choice meats" is not uncommon in butcher shops, for instance. Now, can a bakery be choice? I doubt it. The bakery might offer choice breads, choice donuts, or choice desserts, but the bakery itself? That is a rather odd usage. The bakers might claim to operate "the bakery of choice" and that would probably make more sense to people.


Question

Help with the verb in the following: Sports is/are also a good metaphor for everything you do.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Crawfordville, Floria # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

Sports is usually a plural word ("Sports are an important aspect of the high school experience"), but it can be singular: "Big-time college sports is heading for a fall." The trouble with your sentence is that you probably mean the plural usage, but then you connect it to a singular predicate, "a good metaphor." If you find another verb, you can avoid the problem: "Sports can provide interesting metaphors for … ."


Question

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for agreeing to meet with me and our President, Ms. Myrna Cooks.

Seems too long ? What do you think?

Source of Question, Date of Response
Lanham, ?? # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

Technically, there's nothing wrong with it, and, as sentences go, it's really not all that long. The sentence could be considerably more efficient and less gaseous, though: "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me and and … ."


Question

Please advise of the appropriate punctuation for the following sentence. Should it be a question mark by of the word why or should it be a period because it is a statement?

You've chosen a carefree community lifestyle. Before you settle in, why not make sure the insurance on your investment is as carefree?
Source of Question, Date of Response
Norwell, Massachusetts # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

Sometimes we do embed a question within a statement, and when we do we still want to end that statement with a question mark: "His question was, can we end this statement with a question mark?" However, your sentence, above, is not really a statement. It is a question. It is modified by the introductory modifier, "before you settle in," but it's still very much a question and it needs to be ended with a question mark. It seems odd to ask people to be careful about something that is supposed to be carefree, but I suppose it's necessary.


Question

Which sentence is correct?

  • "The virus was detected in three species of monkeys and apes."
  • "The virus was detected in three species of monkey and ape."
Source of Question, Date of Response
Thorofre, New Jersey # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

It seems that when we refer to more than one species, we almost invariably use the plural after "of": as in "endangered species of plants and animals," and "the thirty-odd species of oceanic dolphins." When you refer to only one species (notice the same word serves for singular and plural), we use a singular noun after the "of." For instance: "There is a species of butterfly on the hind wing of which a large eyespot imitates a drop of liquid" and "Paleontologists in Florida recently announced the discovery of a new species of saber-toothed cat" and "it will live only if it happens to encounter a certain. species of snail." (Sentences from the online Atlantic.) There are occasions, however, when the noun following the "of" is meant as a kind of generic classification, and then we can use the singular, as in "With few exceptions all the Sierra trees are growing in the park — nine species of pine, two of silver fir, …"


Question

I heard several examples of the following: "How many times haven't we done ______?" repeated to make the point that we had done whatever was in the blank. Is this a correct use of the negative? I am confused as to whether the speaker is saying that we HAVE done _____ or we HAVE NOT done ________. (Of course, I know the point he was trying to make, I'm just not sure if it was done correctly.) Thank you!

Source of Question, Date of Response
Chaska, Minnesota # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

Well, I'm glad you know the point the speaker was trying to make, because I am quite perplexed by the use of the negative construction there. I can certainly understand "How many times have we done _______ ?" as either a question or exclamation (of triumph or frustration). And I can understand "Haven't we done this before?" But "how many times haven't we done [something]?" leaves me wondering whether we've done something or not.


Question

Is the pronoun "yourself" correct in the following: " It is through the assistance of people such as yourself that we are able to successfully. …" Thank you so much for your assistance.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Denver, Colorado # Fri, Apr 2, 2004
Grammar's Response

For most purposes, the reflexive pronouns (like yourself, myself, himself, etc.) ought to be reserved for situations in which the subject acts in a way that the action reflects upon the subject: "He turned himself into the court." and "We allowed ourselves to become lazy." The simple pronoun "you" will suffice in your sentence. Having said that, I must admit that you would be able to find, in excellent literature, plenty of sentences like yours, using the reflexive form. Lewis Carroll wrote, "For this must ever be / A secret, kept from all the rest, / Between yourself and me." And Robert Frost, in a letter, wrote, "Get me some good left-handers like yourself and Robinson." But use "you."

By permission, From Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage © 1994 by Merriam-Webster, Inc. (www.Merriam-Webster.com).


Question

I want to know the correct usage of the words "not" and "to". For example: "I was told to not give him anything" or "I was told not to give him anything." I think the word "not" should be placed right before the verb instead of before the word "to". I see this combination of words almost always used as"not to". This doesn't feel right to me because the thing that is "not" is the verb, not the word "to". Thank you.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Martinsville, Indiana # Mon, Apr 5, 2004
Grammar's Response

Actually, the "not" wants to modify the infinitive form here, "to give," so it comes before that infinitive: "He was told not to give." It's one situation where the old rule against splitting an infintive serves us fairly well.


 


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