QUESTION What should the verb form be in the following sentenc?What we need (is/are) a couple of stiff drinks.Is the verb form determined by the the subject in this case or by the subject predicative? What's the rule? And is this the same rule in both American and British English?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Stange, Norway Thu, Feb 17, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Even though the noun clause "What we need" equals (through the linking verb) something plural, "a couple of stiff drinks," it remains, in itself, singular in nature and needs a singular verb. It does sometimes happen that a singular subject is linked to a plural predicate and vice versa, but the number of the verb is determined by the number of the subject, regardless. I have no reason to think that the British and Americans would disagree on this.
QUESTION I have a probem using "as follows" correctly, especially when noun or pronouns being referred to is in plural. For example:(1) The issue that was resolved is as follows:When the noun in question becomes a plural, the question becomes difficult.
For example: Should the statement be -
Thanks for your help.
- The issues that were resolved are as follow:
- The issues that were resolved are as follows:
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Austin, Texas Thu, Feb 17, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Actually, the question remains simple. Regardless of what follows and regardless of the cataphoric nature of the phrase (the fact that its meaning always depends on what follows, not what precedes it), the verb is always singular ("as follows"). Its fixed form, according to Burchfield, is a result of the expression's being the child of an impersonal form, "as it follows."
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 I have a two-fold question:
What sources do you cite for your answer?
- In writing assignments, what is the conventional spacing used after end-punctuation (i.e., periods, question marks and exclamation points)?
- Under the same circumstances, what is the conventional spacing used after a colon?
Many thanks for your help!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Tempe, Arizona Fri, Feb 18, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Writing manuals have been slow to address the matter; it becomes an issue because modern word-processors are capable of accommodating the spacing after an end-mark (or a colon). In fact, double-spacing can actually mess up the normal spacing of a sentence in a modern word-processor. A couple of writing reference books that speak to this are the APA Publication Manual (p. 244) and the New York Public Library's Writer's Guide to Style and Usage (p. 699). One exception to this general rule would come about if you use a mono-space font such as Courier. It's difficult to teach your fingers new tricks; I doubt if anyone actually gets upset when they see two spaces after a period.
QUESTION In the phrase " Many have tried and many have failed," does this mean >
- All of those who have tried have failed ( Many = Many )
- A significant number of those who have tried have failed.
- something else?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Ireland Fri, Feb 18, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE This sounds like a logic question to me, and I'm very nervous about answering it. The sentence, in itself, does not exclude the possibility that some of those who tried also succeeded although that is probably the intent of the writer.
QUESTION Is there an apostrophe in Presidents Day? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Tacoma, Washington Sat, Feb 19, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Most of the big sales ads I've seen seem to agree that we ought to pluralize the word first (since it's for both Lincoln and Washington) and then make it possessive: Presidents' Day. That's also what the dictionary has. But then we write Veterans Day without an apostrophe at all. Go figure.
QUESTION Please tell me if the subjects and verbs in these two sentences agree and why.
for some reason my computer program believes the verbs should be 'is'.
- A majority of the stores are locally owned.
- A recent addition to the community are large chain stores.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Brooklyn, New York Sat, Feb 19, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In the expression "a majority of ____," we invariably use a plural verb. The word majority is always singular in itself when it means a superiority in number "The majority was small but enough to carry the day." In other senses, the word can be either singular or plural, depending on whether you're thinking of the group in question as a singular entity or as a group of individuals: "the majority [of the students] have voted already"; "the majority is sometimes wrong." But "a majority of ______" requires a plural verb (as in your first sentence).
In the second sentence, the subject of the verb is not "stores," but "addition," which is singular, so you do want a singular verb there. So far, your computer is correct half the time, which is not a very good score.
QUESTION I was taught that words like "honest" and "waterproof" are absolute termssomething either is, or it isn'tand therefore they cannot be subject to modification, such as "almost honest", "very honest", or "95% waterproof." Please comment and refer me to where I can learn more about the proper [and also incorrect] use of these kinds of words. Thanks so much. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Wallingford, Vermont Sun, Feb 20, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE This issue is touched upon in our section on Adjectives. Whether or not an adjective is subject to modification, to degrees, can be a matter of debate, as a woman nine months pregnant with twins might well attest. Most politicians would lobby for degrees of honesty, and deep-sea divers probably need a watch that is more waterproof than something you can buy at Wal*Mart. Still, you make a good point: "almost honest" is silly (or at least suggests a falsification of the concept of honesty). I think you suggest the best test: if we can say that something either is or isn't [some quality], then we shouldn't try to modify that qualityat least in most cases.
QUESTION In the following sentences,
what part of speech are "red" and "clean"?
- I painted the boat red.
- I scrubbed the floor clean.
They seem to function as adjectives, telling us something about the boat and the floor. They are also sort of adverbial, telling us about the result of the painting and scrubbing. My best guess is that they are Object Complements but just what does that mean?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada Sun, Feb 20, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You're right. They're object complements. An object complement completes the meaning of a direct object by following it with an adjective (and it has to come immediately after the object). "The judge declared her insane." An adverb can also come after the direct object, but it will modify the verb: "The judge looked at her insanely" (not a good sentence, but you get the idea). An adverb is relatively slippery and might appear elsewhere in the sentence.
Authority: The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers by Chris M. Anson and Robert A. Schwegler. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.: New York. 1997. p. 281.
QUESTION Question 1: Is it "30 days' written notice" or "30 days written notice"?
Question 2: Is it "advanced written notice" or "advance written notice"?
Please explain your answers. Thank you.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New Orleans, Louisiana Sun, Feb 20, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Thirty days' written notice" would be correct. It's a bit odd, but expressions like that show that the written notice "belongs to" the thirty days. Thus the possessive of the plural "days." I'd use "advance" written notice. The written notice hasn't been "advanced"; it's simply written in "advance," meaning "sent or furnished ahead of time." The simple adjective form will suffice.
Authority (for the "thirty days'" part): New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage HarperCollins: New York. 1994. p. 273. Cited with permission.
QUESTION I have a question about the capitalization of hyphenated words in titles. An example would be the capitalization of "spangled" in "The Star-Spangled Banner." Would it be capitalized or not? Is there a general rule covering this?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Huntsville, Alabama Sun, Feb 20, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE According to the Chicago Manual of Style (which has entire chapters devoted to this issue):Capitalizing hyphenated and open compounds in titles may be simplified by application of the following rule: First elements are always capitalized; subsequent elements are capitalized unless they are articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, or such modifiers as flat, sharp, and natural following musical key symbols; second elements attached by hyphens to prefixes are not capitalized unless they are proper nouns or proper adjectives. If a compound comes at the end of the title, its final element, whatever part of speech it may be, is always capitalized.In other words, yes, capitalize "Spangled."
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993. p. 283.
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