QUESTION The highlight of the fall season was the appearance of both the men's and women's (or mens' and womens') boats in the Head of the Charles Regatta, the world's largest rowing event.
Can you tell me which is correct?
- Opinion 1. Men's and women's are plural already and the apostrophe goes before the "s." Whether boats is plural or not does not matter.
- Opinion 2. Because the word boats is plural, it has to be mens' and womens' boats.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts Mon, Dec 4, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You're right the first time. It doesn't matter whether there is more than one boat or not. We form the possessive of an irregular plural by adding an apostrophe and then the "-s." So we'd have "men's and women's boats." "Children's clothing" would work the same way.
QUESTION We are puzzling over this sentence:"Upon further investigation, boards were found in the cellar."Regarding "Upon further investigation..." one of us thinks this may be similar to a dangling modifier, one of us thinks that the doer of the investigation is implied, and one of us thinks that if it read "After further investigation...," we wouldn't even be talking about it.
Is there something wrong with this sentence?
What part of speech is the phrase "Upon further investigation"?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Renton, Washington Mon, Dec 4, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Upon further investigation" is a prepositional phrase. It's trying to modify, adverbially, the verb of the sentence, "were found" (telling when or under what conditions the boards were found). The problem is not really with the initial phrase; it's with the passive construction of the main clause. If the sentence shifted into an active construction, we wouldn't have the problem: "Upon further investigation, we/they/he found ___ boards in the cellar." In its present structure, the prepositional phrase does, indeed, feel like a dangling participle (although it's not) because it's trying to modify the next thing that comes along "boards" and the boards weren't investigating anything.
QUESTION I would like to know how to use the words 'quite', 'rather' like a quantifier. Quite means both "completely" and "pretty"
How to determine the right meaning?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Papeete, French Polynesia Mon, Dec 4, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Only the British would use "rather" to mean "completely," and then only in that odd context: "Did you enjoy your holiday?" "Rather!" You'd never hear that in the United States; it's not allowed. "Rather" can mean "pretty" (in the sense of "somewhat" or "to a certain extent"), as in "That child is rather handsome, isn't he." In that role, the word tones down the assertion of the child's handsomeness. The word can act as an intensifier, though: "We were rather encouraged by the preliminary verdict."
"Quite!" can act the same as "Rather!," above, but again, it's strictly a British usage. "Quite" can mean completely in a structure such as "We had quite a row in the back alley last night, didn't we?" (The word quite followed by an indefinite article followed by a noun.) Usually, though, with gradable adjectives, it means "rather, fairly, to a moderate degree," as in "We visit New York quite often, maybe twice a year." (With ungradable adjectives, it's more apt to mean "completely," as in "I'm afraid this task is quite impossible.")
I hope this doesn't confuse you. It's quite a pleasure to hear from yet another country. Rather!
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 Please tell me which is correct for the following example:More important [or, more importantly], you should be sure to lock all the doors before leaving.Can you please explain what "more important(ly)" means? That is, what is its grammatical function? I often read, for example, "More important, his work explores the various intersections of race, gender and class within society." My English background instinctively wants to use "more importantly," but I'm not sure. I'd like to explain to others if they are using the phrase incorrectly. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Wed, Dec 6, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The adverb phrase, "more importantly," does not modify a verb in the following clause; it is said to modify the entire sentence. Most sentence modifiers are single-word modifiers, "Frankly, he did a lousy job," and are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma as a parenthetical element. ("Perhaps" is a noteable exception: "Perhaps he did a lousy job.") Don't confuse the sentence modifier (which will take an "-ly" adverbial ending) with enumerators, which ought not to have an "-ly" ending: "Third [not "thirdly"], he coached his own football team."
Authority: Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln. 4rth Edition. MacMillan Publishing Company: New York. 1994. p. 219.
QUESTION Last night I was at a basketball game. During the action I was asked, "What happened?" My response was "Mike got picked." A parent close by corrected me.... She said, "No, Mike was picked." Is "Mike got picked." grammatically correct? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Zanesville, Ohio Thu, Dec 7, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I take it that what you meant by "Mike got picked" was that an opposing player "set a pick," a block, and Mike smashed into the opposing player and got knocked on his butt. I think that "got picked" is a better translation of that event than "was picked." The exigencies of sports often call for a language of its own, which is why sports writing can be so exciting. If I heard that a player "was picked," I'd think that the speaker meant that the player was chosen, selected. "Ran into a pick" might be a better rendering of the event.
QUESTION Is the following sentence gramatically correct:"We have no choice but not to do anything unless directed in writing by you."Thank you SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Thu, Dec 7, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You might try "We have no choice but to do nothing unless otherwise directed by you." That "not" in your sentence is confusing. You might also try to rewrite the entire thought: "We will have to wait for further written instructions from you."
QUESTION Is T should be in capital letter form or small letter form in "the" of "the Netherlands"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Hyderabad, AP,India Thu, Dec 14, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Unless you're putting the country's name in a list, you wouldn't capitalize "the." The official title is Kingdom of the Netherlands. (Perhaps this question is why people came up with the name Holland?)
QUESTION To what extent are someday and sometime interchangeable? Perhaps my "sometime friend" could be my "someday friend?" Maybe someday includes today? Could either someday or sometime be any day or any time?
Or is someday less likely, less definite than sometime?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Diego, California Thu, Dec 14, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We generally use "someday" to mean at some point in the future. "We will go to Disney World someday." Be careful about "sometime." As an adverb, it can mean the same thing as "at some point in the future" "I'll do it sometime, but not now" but it can also mean at some unspecified time in the past: "He dropped it off sometime last night." You might not find it in the dictionary, but it's also used adjectivally to mean "on again, off again" (in terms of fidelity). Thus, in Showboat, the tune claims that "a woman is a sometime thing," and that's not good. A "sometime friend" cannot be depended upon.
I'm confused by the "ing"s above. In #1, is "missing" a gerund or present participle? It seems to be a gerund because "missing" suggests "what they reported." But the sentence could be rewritten as "They reported him who was missing to the police." If a relative clause is used, the "missing" in the sentence is a present participle. I don't know whether the sentence could be rewritten with a relative pronoun. Please let me know your advice.
- They reported him missing to the police.
- I have been following your article concerning the saving scheme.
- He tore a ligament playing football.
In #2, it's very similar to the #1. Is "concerning" a gerund or present participle?
In #3, I think the sentence should be rewritten as "He tore a liagment while playing football." Thank you very much.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Hong Kong Thu, Dec 14, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In the first two sentences, it seems fairly clear that the "-ing" form is a participle modifying "him" and "article," respectively. In the third sentence, you have what Quirk calls a "verbless clause," and you describe how it works pretty well in your rewrite. A verbless or non-finite clause assumes a subject that is identical to the subject of the main clause ("he" in this case). If it is not immediately clear that the implied subject of the verbless clause is identical, the sentence is in trouble.
Authority: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. Used with permission. p. 329.
QUESTION Is "remainder" a collective noun? Should the verb be plural in the following sentence: "The remainder of his subtest scores were Below Average for his age."? (In this sentence "remainder" does have a plural sense.)
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Silver Spring, Maryland Sat, Dec 16, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It works the same way as the word rest would work: "The rest of his scores were below average. . . . " The word will be either singular or plural depending on what it's talking about: something countable or not. ("The rest of the grain was spoiled.") When it's behaving as a singular, I suppose you could call it a collective noun.
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