QUESTION The principal parts of the verb to fly: present tense he flies; past tense he flew; past participle he has flown. Given that this is correct, when is the only time the word "flied" in place of "flew" is acceptable? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Princeton, New Jersey Mon, Feb 26, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE As far as I know, the only time we use "flied" is when we describe the action of a baseball player who hits a "fly ball," a high-arching hit that usually results in an "out." We say, then, that he "flied out" to center field (for instance).
QUESTION What is the proper way to denote the time period before Christ and after Christ? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Vermillion, South Dakota Mon, Feb 26, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE When you're using numerals, it's customary to put the AD before the number, as in "Pope Justin died in AD 766." And the abbreviation for "before Christ," BC, should appear after the numerals: "The Emperor Augustus was born in 78 BC." Those abbreviations are supposed to appear in "small caps," but they might not, depending on your browser.
QUESTION Could you please tell me what "ice skating" is in the following sentence:Several people went ice skating in the park.Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Wed, Feb 28, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm not sure, and I'll leave an e-mail icon here in case someone has a better idea. But I think it's a participle form. Just as the verb go is accompanied by what is called a "bare infinitive" in a sentence like "I'll go put the kettle on for tea," it can be accompanied by a participle form. "Let's go fishing this afternoon." Another explanation could be that it's a noun phrase "ice skating in the park" but then I'm hard pressed to explain how the verb went is working, unless it's some kind of linking verb. I'm hoping for a better explanation from other users, but for now, I'm content with calling it a participle.
QUESTION What is the deal with "woe is I/woe is me?" I thought that in this construction, me/I would be acting as an object and so would be "me." But I have learned (or think I have) that it should be "woe is I." Can you explain this? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Wed, Feb 28, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That sentence can't, technically, use an object form because the verb "is" won't take an object; it can be linked to a predicate nominative, which would be "I." On the other hand (take a deep breath), no one talks like that. The phrase "Woe is I" is actually the title of a popular book Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O'Conner. I don't own the book, so I don't know what O'Conner says about this titular phrase, but I suspect it's like the detective who discovers, at long last, the murder victim's body: "My God, it's her!" he's going to shout, not "My God, it's she!" (which would be grammatically correct). Perhaps O'Conner makes an argument for why "me" would, in fact, be correct.
QUESTION Question about "questions", specifically, the question mark. I am a little confused whether or not to place a question mark when the question itself is actually a request. A few publications state that you do not need to when a request is worded as a question. On the other hand, a few of my colleagues suggest using the question mark as it is a form of politeness.
Do these examples classify as rhetorical questions and/or does a "?" need to be used? Could you clarify this up for me as it is driving me crazy.
- Could I have a coke (when ordering something)
- Can you pass the peas (requesting for the peas)
- Could you shut up (requesting someone to shut up)
With thanks. . . .
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Wed, Feb 28, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE When a question constitutes a polite request, it is usually not followed by a question mark. This becomes more true as the request becomes longer and more complex:
Would everyone in the room who hasn't received an ID card please move to the front of the line.Because your examples are relatively brief, I think you could probably get away with a question mark at the end of those sentences, but they would be correct without the question mark, also.
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 had an exercise come home from school for my daughter who is in grade 1. The exercise said"The three things I learnt about penguins are .... "What is the correct usage of the word learned? Is there a rule about using learned instead of learnt? Are both correct? I have a feeling that learnt is archaic, and if that is the case, should this spelling be taught in grade 1? Thanks. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Wed, Feb 28, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Your child has probably not been ruined by exposure to "learnt," but the exercise probably comes from a textbook that is decidedly British in orientation. Americans tend to favor -ed endings such as learned and will even say creeped instead of crept. Learnt is not archaic, exactly, and there's nothing wrong with it, but I'm sure that learned has become much more popular considerably so in the United States.
QUESTION Hello there -- I'm finding the word "learning" somewhat jarring in the following sentence:"How helpful was this article in learning how automated system management can help your company save money?"I want to change "learning," which belongs to an implied "you," to "explaining," which belongs to "article." What do you say? Is the sentence correct as written?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Portland, Oregon Fri, Mar 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I see what you mean, but I'm not sure how to fix the problem. The wording suggests that the article was learning something, which isn't the case, obviously. And adding "your" to the sentence "How helpful was this article in your learning" explains things better, but it's clumsy. I think changing learning to explaining is a good move. If you move to a yes or no question, it's not so hard: "Did this article help you understand how . . . ?"
QUESTION I have been encountering more and more often a writing style that places a comma after the and in the sentence. For example,"Hansen strongly believes it can convert all of the data presently stored without issue and, continue to support the chosen LRS model."Is this an acceptable use of a comma? Is it actually being taught to people? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Sacramento, California Fri, Mar 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't think this practice is being taught exactly, but when people aren't taught the proper usage of commas at all, they will tend to use them wherever they feel a bit of a pause in a sentence. I can imagine someone pausing after that "and," and that's why the writer dropped a comma in there. The sentence doesn't need a comma there; in fact, it's inappropriate. That particular and is not connecting two independent clauses; it's simply connecting the two verbs, and the and can do that without the help of a comma either before it or after it. Many times you will hear a speaker pause after a coordinating conjunction, and that results in the comma being inserted there whether it's grammatically appropriate or not.
QUESTION A fellow copy editor tells her clients this regarding the use of before and ago:The word ago is used in the present tense, and before is used in the past tense. For example, you should write "I remembered something I'd meant to ask days before" instead of ". . . days ago."I thought I knew how to use these words in a sentence, but this has confused me. Follow this "rule" and sometimes it just doesn't sound right. Thanks for your help. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Fri, Mar 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I had never heard this before, but it's interesting and it sounds right to me. Ago refers to a time previous to the present. It's the past tense in "had meant" that calls for before, though. The "had meant" (past perfect) means that you're referring to a time prior to something that has happened, so we want before. You can use ago with a past tense verb. "Did you ever play basketball?" "Yes, but that was years ago." (It wouldn't make sense to use before in that sentence.) I have a feeling my input here doesn't help your confusion much.
QUESTION While translating a text from english I found this sentence:"Commercial use of the Internet is being fuelled by the expansion of the World Wide Web, an easy-access global information retrieval initiative."I had serious problems understanding whether the two adjectives were referred to the whole compund (information retrieval initiative) or to...? I don't know!
My problem is: in such cases, how can I attribute the adjectives? Is the whole compund one single noun or they are several distinguished nouns?
Thank you very much
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bologna, Italy Mon, Mar 5, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That phrase, "an easy-access global information retrieval initiative," is part of what we call at packed noun phrase. It's really one thing, "information retrieval initiative," which is being modified by "easy-access" and "global," respectively. In some other languages, like German, those three nouns would be melded into one word, and you wouldn't have this problem of determining that the nouns "information retrieval" are really attributive, telling you what kind of "initiative" you're describing. I can see the problem in translating the entire phrase. To avoid misunderstanding in the English original, one can sometimes break up the noun phrase into its parts. See the section on packed noun phrases.
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