QUESTION I want to schedule a party at my house, with costumes, for my birthday, at 8 P.M. Or, do I want to schedule a party at 8 P.M., for my birthday, with costumes, at my house? What is the proper order of prepositional phrases in English? What is the proper order in English of prepositional phrases? Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan Mon, Jul 10, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't think there are any rules about the order of prepositional phrases as long as the thing remains readable and logical. You might consider scheduling a birthday party (instead of a "party for my birthday") or a costume party for your birthday. And then add the date and time in a separate sentence or sentence fragment. A long lineup of prepositional phrases can become tedious or confusing (as you clearly already know), so break up these modifiers into other forms or put them in separate sentences.
QUESTION I'm unsure of how to word the beginning of this sentence.During the summer between your first and second years as a teacher... or (between your first and second year as a teacher...)Instinct tells me the first way is correct -- but I don't know how to explain why. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Blairstown, New Jersey Mon, Jul 10, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I actually started to write a response defending the use of the singular "year," but I'm not buying it. Try another example: "Their house is somewhere between the first and second streetlights (no way you'd use "streetlight")." I will leave an e-mail icon here, though, in case someone else wants to venture an opinion.
David Eason writes:
How about this sentence? "He was caught in a rundown between first and second base." You wouldn't use bases in that sentencewould you? Or, "The gap between the first and second boy in line was too big, so John cut in line." Maybe it has something to do with the euphony between countable, discrete objects and noncountable, nondiscrete itemsstreetlights, bases, and boys are countable, discrete objects, whereas years are a continuum of items; to separate them into discrete items, the plural construction is necessary.
I am completely bamfoozled at this point, and I'm going to confess that "streetlight" and "year" and "base" now sound OK to me. Mr. Eason's distinction makes sense. (I still can't find anything in my writing manuals that would address this issue.)
C.W.D.Gerald Smyth writes:
We may be able to come to grips with this question by identifying the words that have been omitted from the relevant phrases, and that therefore have to be understood. As an example I'll consider the phrase 'the first and second boy(s)'. I feel that the noun here should be plural, for the reason given below. Here are the various possibilities for ellipsis:
In (1) through (3) the noun remains singular. In (4), we omit both a noun and an article. It seems to be difficult to mentally supply both, and this has the effect of turning 'first and second' into a plural modifier. The phrase is then analogous to 'the two boys'.
- the first boy and the second boy [no ellipsis]
- the first and the second boy [ellipsis of earlier noun]
- the first boy and the second [ellipsis of later noun]
- the first and second boys [ellipsis of earlier noun and later article]
The other examples given can be similarly accounted for:
- In 'between your first and second years as a teacher' and 'Their house is somewhere between the first and second streetlights', there is ellipsis of an earlier noun and a later article or possessive pronoun, so that 'first and second' effectively becomes a plural modifier. These are therefore both correct in the plural form, as initially suggested by both you and your correspondent.
- In 'between first and second base' there is no article, so it is a simple case of ellipsis of the earlier noun, as in (2) above: 'between first base and second base'. So this is correct in the singular form, as suggested by Mr Eason.
QUESTION Please tell me if the following sentences are structurally correct:
- Therefore, beginning this Friday and every Friday thereafter, please send your rating sheets to Sally by 3:00 p.m.
- Therefore, please send your rating sheets to Sally every Friday, beginning with this Friday, July 14, by 3:00 p.m.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Windsor Locks, Connecticut Mon, Jul 10, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The trouble with the first version is that "beginning" tries to modify "every Friday thereafter," which doesn't make sense. You could say "beginning this Friday and continuing every Friday thereafter," or you could use your second sentence and include the "beginning with this Friday, July 14" in parentheses.
QUESTION How does one write the past tense of an acronym? For example, in a technical manual: "Once you have *OCR'd* the document . . ." where OCR is being used as a verb, what is the correct form? OCRed? OCR'd? OCR'ed? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE North Providence, Rhode Island Mon, Jul 10, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'd just write it as OCRed. But only where it is very clear to my audience what the abbreviation means and how it (the abbreviation) is said as letters and not as an acronym. Otherwise, people will think you're talking about hitting someone with a pot of gumbo. I can't think of an analogous situation. Again, I will leave an e-mail icon here, in case someone else wants to venture an opinion.
QUESTION I am proofreading a romance novel for a publisher. My question is probably four-fold. The author has used a personal pronoun following a phrasal verb, "looking around." Ex:"She looked around her and saw a tree."Should "her" be deleted? Or should "her" be reflexive?"She looked around herself and saw a tree."The author has a similar sentence where she does not use the reflexive and the result is ambiguous."She saw him as he stepped out of the carraige and looked around him."Who is doing the looking? She? Or he? If the above sentence used the reflexive, then who did the looking would be clear."She saw him as he stepped out of the carriage and looked around himself."I read your comments regarding the reflexive. I interpret them to mean that the reflexive pronoun is used when it refers back to the subject of the sentence or clause and the subject is either receiving the action of an active voice verb or is the one to or for whom the action of an active voice verb is being done.
Another site states that the reflexive pronoun is used when the pronoun refers to the subject of the sentence or the clause. That seems a little too encompassing.
What about this sentence?"He drew her to him."Or, should this read, "He drew her to himself"?
Thanks for your help. I love your site!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Buda, Texas Mon, Jul 10, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE With the possible exception of your final example, above, I'd just get rid of the pronoun. Let these romantic people just "look around," if it's really in their character to do something that pedestrian. Personally, I think they're better off doing something else. "Looking around" doesn't do much for us. Why can't they just see the tree and be drawn to it or repulsed by it or whatever? And in a romance novel, we'd never want to say "He drew her to himself" (even though that's better than "He drew her to him"). In romance novels, the male always draws the female "to his [fill in the blank] chest." And don't leave out the heaving, ample bosom (hers, preferably).
QUESTION Is it better to write, "What do you think are your strengths as a baseball player?" or "What do you think your strengths as a baseball player are?" I believe it is the former but I'm not sure why. Can you help? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Albany, New York Tue, Jul 11, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We would write, "What are your strengths as a baseball player," right? The "do you think" is a kind of parenthetical element but not so parenthetical that we really need to set it off with commas. Whether we use commas to set it off or not, though, it wouldn't alter the order of our subject and verb within the larger question.
Gerald Smyth writes:
I don't believe the 'do you think' in the example is intended to be parenthetical. Rather, the questions with and without 'do you think' are entirely different: 'What are your strengths...?' vs 'What do you think...?'. Here are a pair of simpler questions:
In this case, the insertion of 'do you think' (the inverted form of 'you (do) think') clearly requires the undoing of the inversion present in the shorter question. In other words, in each case a different verb is put in the inverted form to give a different question. On these grounds I suggest that your correspondent's second choice is preferable.
- Where are we?
- Where do you think we are?
Of course there is also a parenthetical 'do you think', but I feel that this should be distinguished by setting it off with commas, or perhaps more naturally by moving it to the end of the sentence:
Hope this makes sense.
- What, do you think, are your strengths as a baseball player?
- What are your strengths as a baseball player, do you think?
QUESTION How would you explain to a low-intermediate ESL class why one uses the "that" relative pronoun instead of "where" in the following sentence: "If you are a patient at a sleep lab, you get ready for bed in a room that looks like a hotel room."? A room is a place, so why don't we use "where"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Atlanta, Georgia Tue, Jul 11, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE When where acts as a relative pronoun, it stands in the place of in which. If in which doesn't fit, use that or which:
- That's the room in which the patient gets ready -->That's the room where the patient gets ready. BUT
- The bed is an a room that looks like a hotel room --> No "where" because no prepositional phrase replacement.
QUESTION This sentence/question is driving me crazy:"What sales strategies have your company identified to increase sales of your products and services?""Sales strategies/have" seem to agree, but it sounds bizarre. Do I turn it into a statement to analyze?"Your company has identified sales strategies..."What is the rule? What is the answer?
Many thanks in advance.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Mt. View, California Wed, Jul 12, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In a question, the subject follows the verb. The subject is "your company," which (being a singular entity) requires the singular verb "has." So your impulse to change the verb is a good one.
QUESTION When do I use "speeded" if ever? For instance, do I say, "The car speeded up" or "The car sped up"? Do you always have to use "up"? Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Sterling, Virginia Wed, Jul 12, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My dictionary lists "sped" as the preferred past tense of this verb, but "speeded" is also listed as acceptable. "To speed up" means to accelerate, I think (or at least it did back in the days when I owned a car that could actually speed up). Your car can speed along the highway quite nicely (without the up), but if you speed up, that means that you go even faster.
Authority for this note: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition. 1994. Used with permission.
QUESTION Need refresher on words such as bring and take. 'Take out the garbage' is what I believe is correct; however, I often hear young people say, 'Bring out the garbage' (when we are both in the kitchen and referring to the dumpster outside). Where may I find these types of examples listed on your website? I also hear, 'Bring me to the store'.
Thanks for providing a GREAT service!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Seabrook, Texas Wed, Jul 12, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I used to think the confusion over these verbs was a regional matter, not a matter of age. These verbs usually rely on direction relative to yourself. You ask someone to take away these books and bring you some aspirin. If I live in another town, I could ask you to bring your spouse to a party at my house, and you would then have to decide if you really want to take him/her to the party. When you're in the car, though, it's anyone's guess whether you're bringing or taking your spouse to the party. The choice is not always as clear-cut as it seems to be in the sentence about books and aspirin. Bring and take are briefly addressed in the Notorious Confusables, but we probably didn't do them justice.
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