QUESTION I see 'off of' being used by Americans. This horrifies me; surely the use of two prepositions in series is a mistake? A sentence like 'He got off of the chair' makes me go 'Yuck!' Surely just 'off' should be used instead? e.g. He got off the chair.
Thanks for your time.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Mexico Sun, Jan 7, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE According to Burchfield, "off of" is regarded as completely, "indisputably nonstandard" in British English, even though the OED lists instances of its use in Shakespeare and Bunyan. In American English it is found often in casual writing and speech, but it is "rare in edited writing." Some people will try to extend their distaste for "off of" to "out of," but that's a mistake.
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 question for which I can't seem to find an appropiate answer. I hope you don't mind my bothering you with it.
I checked your "page" on the elipsis and it gave me a part of the answer but.... Perhaps I am looking for a confirmation of my way of thinking and can't find it because I am wrong. I always thought that the ellipsis required any punctuation which would normally be there. Poorly stated, sorry. What I mean is that yes, it needs the period at the end of a sentence but does it require a comma where there would normally be a coma or does it "replace" a coma?
I work as a translator and hate giving a customer a text which I am not 100% sure of. I just discovered your site and it looks like an excellent place to brush up on my English. I intend to make good use of it.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sun, Jan 7, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The Chicago Manual of Style puts it this way: "Other punctuation marks may be used on either side of the three ellipsis dots if it helps the sense or better shows what has been omitted." Thus in an abbreviated quotation of a passage listing several musical instruments, you might read something like "ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, . . . and all kinds of music." In other words, no, the ellipsis does not really replace anything, but if you don't need the comma for the sense or structure of the sentence, you would leave it out.
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993. p. 372.
QUESTION If a noun clause is used with a number of predicate adjectives such as certain, glad and sorry, as in "I am certain that I have posted the letter," "that I have posted the letter" is a noun clause tied to certain. Would you draw the diagram of the noun clause underneath the main line, under certain, or above the main line? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Turkey Mon, Jan 8, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Quirk & Greenbaum describe this structure as a "that-clause modifying adjective phrase complement," and the example they give is just like yours: "I am sure that he is here now." That doesn't really tell us how to diagram the sentence, though. Modifiers, however, generally, go under the line, so I would suggest that we put the that-clause under the word certain. In a passage that suggests how this kind of clause acts as a modifier, Quirk & Greenbaum point out that "That-clauses cannot be preceded by prepositions. Hence adjectives which are constructed with prepositions before noun phrase complements drop them before that-clauses . . . " and give an example by comparing "I am sure of his innocence" to "I am sure that he is innocent." I hope this is helpful.
Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p. 823.
QUESTION "New York Appraisal Lab provides independent, unbiased appraisals of diamonds, colored gemstones, and jewelry of all description."Does "description" need an "s?" "Descriptions" seems to make sense, but "description" sounds better. Your thoughts?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Albany, New York Mon, Jan 8, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I agree with your suggestion that "description" sounds better. I would guess that the word is acting as a collective noun there and that the plural seems unnecessary if not inappropriate.
QUESTION My question is about word order in 'wh' nominal clauses. Grammar books tell us that these clauses retain the ordinary S-V order, unlike 'wh' interrogative clauses where there is S-V inversion. Thus:
have as their equivalent nominal clauses:
- What are you reading?
- Why do you like skiing?
- How important is it to eat well?
This is the rule; Yet I have often seen 'wh' nominal clauses with S-V inversion even in the writing of good, highly educated writers. Here are two examples:
- I want to know what you are reading.
- The reporter asked him why he likes skiing.
- They discussed how important it is to eat well.
According to the rule, the two 'wh' nominal clauses above should be:
- As we understand more of its [the Bible's] cultural context we are also coming more and to see how eclectic and diverse are its orgins. (Robert Carroll and Steven Prickett, Introduction, p.XXI, The BibleAuthorized King James Version, Oxford World's Classics, 1997 )
- However, some old-style Jacobins are still ranged against the doctrinaire 'liberals', so there has been repeated debate on what should be the proper role of the State today.... (John Ardagh, France in the Century: Portrait of a Changing Society, p.9, Penguin Books 1999)
My question then is this: did these writers make a mistake or is the rule more flexible than we think?
- how eclectic and diverse its origins are
- what the proper role of the State today should be
Thanks in advance.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Melbourne, Australia Mon, Jan 8, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Quirk and Greenbaum describe this phenomonen you're pointing out as an instance of a "literary style," in which "there is an occasional subject-veb or subject-operator inversion when the wh-element is the A of an SVA type clause, or the C of an SVC type clause [as in] I told them how strong was my desire to visit the famous temple."
Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p 736.
QUESTION I am puzzled by this sentence in the Powerpoint presentation on Subject-Verb Agreement:"We were looking down the street when all of a sudden here come Joe and his two brothers."I can't figure out why this is not "here came Joe and his two brothers." What am I missing? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Dallas, Texas Tue, Jan 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The point of the Powerpoint exercise is to show that the subject that determines the number of the verb comes after the verb thus "Joe and his two brothers come." Your question is why we don't use "came" when "were looking" couches the event in the past tense. Perhaps a grammar exercise is not a good place to use this device, but we do sometimes use the present tense (especially in fiction) to signify the persistence of a present effect. A simple example would be "Towando tells me you're a foreman in the new plant" when the past tense "told" is clearly implied. I would suggest that the suddenness of Joe and his brothers' appearance makes the use of the present tense "come" appropriate.
QUESTION I am a little confused about sentential clauses. Why can clauses beginning with "which" act as clauses that modify an entire sentence. I thought "which" had to modify the word immediately preceding it. Why wouldn't these clauses be considered dangling modfiers.e.g. Charlie didn't get the job in administration, which really surprised his friends. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Tue, Jan 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Unlike other relative clauses, sentential relative clauses (which all begin with which), refer back to the entire sentence (and not just to the noun or noun phrase immediately preceding it). Thus "which really surprised his friends" is not modifying "administration" (which would, indeed, make of it a dangling modifier); it's modifying the entire main clause. Quirk and Greenbaum use the example of a storyteller summing up an entire tale with a sentence like " which is how the kangaroo came to have a pouch." A sentential clause can thus refer to an entire set of sentences, not just the main clause of a single sentence. Sentential clauses are sometimes introduced by a phrase such as "in which case," "as a result of which," "by which time," etc.
Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p. 764.
QUESTION I couldn't find any info re something I have a vague recollection of from school days roughly 30 years ago: How do you show plurals and plural possessives for proper names. Some problems for me include:
What about a possessive plural proper name which ends in S? ("The Hass____ garage is painted blue.")
- Clara ("There are two Clara___ in my French class.")
- Wes ("There are two Wes___ in my French class." AND " Wes___ eyes are very blue.")
- Bess (Is a word-final double-S treated the same way as a single S?)
- the family of Hass ("We saw the Hass___ last night.")
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, California Tue, Jan 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE
- There are two Claras in my French class.
- There are two Wes's in my French class (because "Wes" ends in "s" and there's no other way to show this, other than to say "There are two kids named Wes in my French class).
- Bess's car; there are two Besses.
- We saw the Hasses last night (or avoid the problem with "the Hass family").
- The Hasses' garage is painted blue. The Joneses' garage but the Chambers' garage. . . . .
QUESTION Our Board of Trustees recently appointed an ex officio member. We list our board members at the bottom of our company stationery. We don't know how to indicate his/her status.
Do we include the word "member?" Should it be in italics? In parantheses? What's the rule on this one?
- Jane Smith, MD, Ex Officio Member
- Jane Smith, MD, Ex-Officio
- Jane Smith, MD, Ex-officio
Thanks for your help!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Tue, Jan 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE There doesn't seem to be one. In some text like Harvard University's Webpage this term (meaning "by virtue of one's office") is not italicized, but in other places, you will find it italicized. I would suggest that the word is commonplace enough that it need not be italicized. And I would drop the caps and the word "member," especially in a list including other members: Jane Smith, M.D., ex officio.
QUESTION Would 'seemed' be a linking verb in the following sentence?-The day seemed promising.- SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Hazlehurst, Georgia Wed, Jan 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Yes. The only difference between seemed in that sentence and in "The day seemed long" is that the subject is being linked to a present participle, "promising," instead of a simple adjective. The verb works the same way, though, in both sentences.
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