QUESTION When using hyphenated words in titles, should both parts of the compound word be capitalized, or just the first?Would it be "British Columbia's Yellow-cedar Trees" or "British Columbia's Yellow-Cedar Trees"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Chilliwack, BC, Canada Fri, May 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE According to the Chicago Manual of Style, you'd capitalize the "c" of "Yellow-Cedar" regardless of where you used the word.
QUESTION Is their any difference in usage or meaning between the noun form of "employ" and the word "employment." In other words, is one of the following preferable to the other.
- "She recently left the other company's employ."
- "She recently left the other company's employment."
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Concord, Massachusetts Fri, May 26, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My dictionary doesn't make much of a distinction between them, and they're both very old words. "Employ," as a noun, still feels kind of stuffy to me. Burchfield doesn't remark on these two words; usually, that means their usage is of no great moment.
Authority for this note: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition. 1994. Used with permission.
QUESTION We have been having an ongoing battle in the office today of whether or not the correct way to say the following sentence is ...
Can you help put this to rest?
- I have six pairs of socks. OR
- I have six pair of socks.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Mt. Laurel, New Jersey Sat, May 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In the United States, you might hear "six pair of socks" in certain areas. It's widely regarded as non-standard, though, and would be entirely unacceptable in England, according to Burchfield.
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 The proper use of "was" and "were." Sorry to be a bother, but this has been a nagging quandry of mine for a few years. The question I have relates to the proper use of "was" and "were" in a sentence. Here are my examples: (Which is correct?)
- "Car 54, Officer Smith and Officer Jones were assigned the call."
- "Car 54, Officer Smith and Officer Jones was assigned the call."
I hate to be a bother, but I use this line frequently at work.
- It would be correct to say, "Car 54 was assigned the call."
- It would also be correct to say, "Officer Smith and Officer Jones were assigned the call."
- Yet, it sounds odd to say, "Car 54, Officer Smith and Officer Jones was assigned the call."
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Hollywood, California Sun, May 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE First suggestion: stop talking about Car 54. Second suggestion: we assume that "Officer Smith and Officer Jones" is a descriptive appositive for "Car 54" (i.e., they mean approximately the same thing). If that is true, we can put a comma after "Jones" and "Car 54" will more clearly be the subject of the sentence. If that works, use a singular verb, "was assigned." Without that second comma, it appears that you are calling Car 54, telling its occupants that Smith and Jones were assigned the call, but that's apparently not what you mean.
QUESTION Is this sentence correct:"I was surprised at the musical."If it is correct what is the meaning of it? It sounds wrong to me, but I don't know if it is ungrammatical. I believe the student who wrote the sentence wants to say that the musical was more than he expected and it left him in a state of awe. I would say "The musical left me without words to describe it", but that is too advanced for the student. I suggested "I was surprised by the musical." but that also seems incorrect. Please help me. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Himi, Toyama, Japan Mon, May 29, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Surprised by the musical" would, indeed, be an improvement, but "surprise" is a rather vague condition, and we don't know if the student was pleasantly surprised or rudely awakened or what. Being surprised at the musical doesn't tell us if it was the music, the performance, the appearance of long lost friends, being mugged in the lobby, or some other unforeseen event or condition that caused the surprise.
QUESTION Help us convince the attorneys in our office that one does not use "soonest" in place of "earliest",i.e. "...at your soonest convenience."The unabridged dictionary lists soonest, therefore, soonest can be defended in the manner it is used above, but it smacks of tortured or archaic usage. One would think that "soonest" cannot be used as an adjective in the superlative case, since "soon" is an adverb. Please comment. Thanks. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Houston, Texas Wed, May 31, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My, there's a usage that needs to be wiped out, the sooner the better. Adverbs can, in fact, be inflected with "-er" and "-est," as the dictionary points out ("The student who reads fastest will finish first."), but "earliest" does a much better of job of suggesting the relative time factor that you have in mind.
QUESTION When using the word "total" as a subject is the verb plural or singular? Such as:A total of 25 bids were (or was) submitted. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Chattanooga, Tennessee Wed, May 31, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE With many expressions that express a mathematical quantity, it depends on whether you're talking about a quantity that is countable or not. Since "bids" are obviously countable, I vote for the plural verb, "were submitted." "Total" in that construction does not function in the same way as "sum," say, for which we would say, "the sum of all our efforts is wasted." It's more like "percent," as in "ninety-five percent of the students have passed." I'm not sure, but "a total" might work in the same way as "a number": "the number" is always singular, "a number" always plural.
QUESTION "Regarding your comment about the lack of someone in authority NOT being at the tram stop, I can assure you that inspectors are on duty throughout the routes."The above appears in a complaint letter. My question is, is that 'not' necessary in the sentence? Doesn't it make the sentence double-negative? Shouldn't it be 'the lack of someone in authority being at the tram stop'?
Thanks a lot
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Macau Wed, May 31, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think you're right: we can't talk about the lack of someone not being there. It would be more appropriate to complain about the absence of someone in authority beingat the tram stop.
QUESTION "You walk beside me to reveal who you are"My computer tells me to change who to whom, but I think that "who you are" is the object of the verb "reveal", rather than simply "who."
Which is right?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Wed, Jun 7, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You're right. The clause "who you are" is the object of "what is revealed" here, but you need the subject form of "who" at the beginning of that clause.
QUESTION I'm trying to compose the following sentence and am having trouble between drank and drunk. Should I use:
PS: in one dictionary, "drunk" is shown as non-stardard usage, while "drank" is (I'm assuming) active. Is this correct?
- Lavender can be drank as a tea to relieve melancholy.
(ALTERNATE: Drank as a tea, lavender relieves melancholy.)
- Lavender can be drunk as a tea to relieve melancholy
. (ALTERNATE: Drunk as a tea, lavender relieves melancholy.)
Thank you very much
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Jonestown, Pennsylvania Wed, Jun 7, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm assuming that the dictionary you've consulting is referring to "drunk" as being nonstandard in certain situations. "Drunk" is the acceptable past participle, which is what you want in the construction "drunk as a tea." (You would, for instance, use the verb brewed [past participle] as a tea. . . .)
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