QUESTION About 50 years ago, when I learned how to diagram sentences, "there" was called an expletive when it was used as an emphatic term, e.g., There! or Here! or There, I told you so! In a sentence such as "There are too many grammarians around here" it would have been another part of speech. Of course, I don't remember what it would have been and when I look up sentences with "there" in modern grammar books, it is identified as an expletive. HELP! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sun, Apr 23, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You might have learned, as I did, that "there" served as an adverb, as in "Too many grammarians around here are there." Frankly, that's not a useful way of categorizing the word's function. As Kolln points out, the reason it's hard to define the word's function is that it doesn't really have one. It "plays no grammatical role in the basic sentence pattern" (133). Kolln calls this construction "the there transformation," but she specifically identifies the word "there" as an unstressed expletive.
Authority: Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln. 4rth Edition. MacMillan Publishing Company: New York. 1994. p. 133.
QUESTION As a journalist, I was always taught to use a single quote (instead of a double quote) in a headline or heading. For example: EPA Encourages 'Make Every Day Earth Day' (instead of EPA Encourages "Make Every Day Earth Day"). Is this correct? In scientific papers? English compositions? The standard procedure? Help us resolve this! Thanks very much. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Davis, California Wed, Apr 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The standard practice for quotation marks is to use the double quotation marks everywhere except in headlines (as you point out) or when you have a quote within a quote. (There is an exception: when you're referring to certain philosophical concepts within a philosophical treatise, but that rarely happens, except to philosophers.)
QUESTION Which is correct, "body fluids" or "bodily fluids"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Orlando, Florida Wed, Apr 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know why or how this has come to be, but "bodily" has taken the role of adjective here, as in the phrase "bodily organs."
QUESTION This is an exerpt from the Indiana State Drivers Manual. In the sentence"If the applicant has a parent or guardian who has legal custody of the minor and who resides in the state of Indiana, such parent or guardian is the only person who may sign the affidavit."does the phrase "who has legal custody of the minor..." further describe both the parent and the guardian, or does it only describe the guardian?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Indianapolis, Indiana Wed, Apr 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The who clauses refer to either "parent" or "guardian." This is especially true since "such parent or guardian" is picked up later on as an option. The sentence would read differently if the article "a" were picked up again: "If the applicant has a parent or a guardian who has. . . ." Then we might read it to mean that the who clauses refer only to the word "guardian." If the writer wants to make a clearer distinction between a parent (on one hand) and a guardian (on the other hand and further defined or qualified), the writer should say so in a separate sentence.
QUESTION I can best ask this question by giving an example.
Suppose I ask someone a question in the following way:The shoes were given to you by ________?Should I use "who" or "whom"? My conflict is that ______ follows a preposition and is also the shoe giver.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Chapel Hill, North Carolina Fri, Apr 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My favorite device for determining whether we want who or whom here would work nicely in this sentence. Try substituting either he or him. There's no way you'd say, "The shoes were given to you by he?" We want him, which means we need the object form there, which means we want whom.
QUESTION Hello, Grammar! Is the word "at" misused if you write "He spoke at the conference"? My managing editor says you need to say "during," since "at" refers to physical locations. I think I am a darn good copy editor, and I don't agree with him--though I must defer to him. Now the sentence that sparked the question has the word "during" in it twice--ugh! What do you think, Grammar? And, hey, what if you say, "The meeting is at 1 p.m."? That is not a physical location. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Seattle, Washington Fri, Apr 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think your managing editor is wrong. There's nothing wrong with "He spoke at the conference." The word "at" has many functions besides pointing to physical location, and besides, it seems to me that "speaking at a conference" does, indeed, imply that he was there, at the physical site of the conference. Speaking during the conference might, in fact, suggest that the speaker was doing the speaking elsewhere, while the conference was going on.
QUESTION The book was co-written by the woman and her husband. Which is correct:
- The book signing party will feature she and her husband's book.
- The book signing party will feature her and her husband's book.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE McAllen, Texas Tue, May 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The correct pronoun form is "her," but there must surely be a better way of saying this like "their book" or "The co-authors will be available to sign their book."
QUESTION How would you punctuate this copy?One of basic cable's leading weekly prime-time series "WCW's Monday Nitro Live" on TNT is watched by 10.4 million viewers.Where do the commas go? Please make your reasoning clear.
Thank you very much.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Denver, Colorado Tue, May 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We would set off the appositive "WCW's Monday Nitro Live" with a pair of commas, and then set off the parenthetical information "on TNT." So, we'd have the following:One of basic cable's leading weekly prime-time series, "WCW's Monday Nitro Live," on TNT, is watched by 10.4 million viewers.The appositive title (as important as it is) is not essential to the structure or meaning of the sentence. Remember that in the U.S. periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic. In formal text (as opposed to newspaper writing), by the way, we would italicize or underline the title of the show.
QUESTION What's the subject of this sentence?Swimming in the surf after sunset can be very hazardous. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Brisbane, Australia Tue, May 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Well, something "can be very dangerous," right? What can be very dangerous? "Swimming in the surf after sunset." That's your subject. (We can't say that "swimming" is the subject because we can't say that "swimming" is dangerous; that's not enough information. The entire gerund phrase is the subject.)
QUESTION Which is correct and why?
- There is one less student in this room than in the room next door.
- There is one fewer student in this room than in the room next door.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Thu, May 4, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We use "less" with uncountable quantities and "fewer" with countable. You really can't count one student. Well, you can count him or her, but "one student" cannot be pluralized (forget cloning!), so "one student" is a non-count noun. This means we want "less" in that sentence.
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