QUESTION I am continually struck by the use of the phrase "looking to." In a recent email from our office manager referring to our new marketing manager, the office manager stated: "We are looking to hire an assistant for her."
I have also heard people say, "We are looking to buy a piece of property." I have read newspaper articles which use the same turn of phrase.
To my ear, this sounds like an incorrect use of a form of the verb "to look." Instead, one might be "planning" to do something or one "would like" to do something.
Am I getting too picky in my middle age?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Irvine, California Fri, May 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The phrasal verb "look to" has been around for a while, in the sense of directing one's attention to, as in "looking to the future" or as a substitute for "rely upon," as in "We'll have to look to our outfield for offense this year." I agree with you that "plan" would improve those sentences you give us. That's the nature of phrasal verbs, I'm afraid. Sometimes they inveigle themselves into the languagesupplanting perfectly useful, familiar, and sufficient verbsand quite often they are really quite unnecessary.
QUESTION Recently I've heard speakers say "I will speak to that issue." instead of "speak about" or "answer that question." "Speak to" sounds like a bureaucratic phrase to me. Is using "to" in that sentence grammatically correct? Thanks for your assistance. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Sacramento, California Fri, May 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Is there a plague of phrasal verbs in California? (See question #1, above.) There would certainly be nothing wrong with "address that issue" or "answer that question"; in fact, they would be improvements. "Speak to," meaning "address," is another of those phrasal verbs. There's nothing grammatically wrong with it, and the use of "to" is fine, but you'll have to decide whether you want to use it and it is, indeed, redolent of bureaucracy, isn't it? or a plainer verb.
QUESTION How do you know when to use "Due to" as opposed to "Because of"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Fishers, Indiana Fri, May 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Some grammarians would prefer that we never use "due to" at all, but the phrase has some useful and acceptable applications, as Burchfield points out:
Burchfield then points out that when "due to" is used to create a prepositional phrase in a verbless clause, many grammarians will object.
- (payable to) "Pay Caesar what is due to Caesar."
- (likely to) "It's due to rain this afternoon."
- (properly owed to) "Much of what we own is due to my wife's investment decisions."
- (following "to be") "His obesity is due to his daily diet of butterscotch sundaes."
Burchfield concludes that this use of due to seems to be forming "part of the natural language of the twenty-first century."
- "Due mainly to the engineers' incompetence, the roof began to sag dangerously."
- "Due to the efforts of the English faculty, students' scores writing have begun to rise."
The phrase "due to the fact that" can often be replaced, to good effect, with "because."
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. Examples our own.
QUESTION Is the following a sentence, some sort of grammatical phrase, or just a fragment? If it is something other than a fragment, is there grammatical terminology for the fact that a verb ("is") is missing?"Bob Smith, a man of integrity."Thanks for your help. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Washington, D.C. Fri, May 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It's not a sentence, although it might pass as a stylistic fragment, let's say when you're introducing Mr. Smith to his adoring fans. It consists of a proper noun and an accompanying appositive phrase, standing around together, waiting for a verb.
QUESTION When asking questions in the simple past, what is the explanation of not using the auxiliar "Did". Example: What happened? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Fri, May 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You mean why don't we ask "What did happen?" We would use the auxiliary "did" in that question only to clarify an earlier statement or question. Perhaps someone said that something did not happen in the restaurant this morning. We might well ask, "Well, then, what did happen?" See the various uses of "do/does/did," by clicking HERE.
QUESTION What is the meaning of "Must needs".eg: "He must needs be full of love, of wisdom and of discretion; for if either of these three be wanting there is danger." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Romania Sun, May 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In that rather archaic (but still appealing) construction, the word needs is behaving not as a verb (as it appears to be) but as an adverb, meaning "of necessity" or "necessarily."
Authority for this note: WWWebster Dictionary, the World Wide Web edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Tenth Edition. Used with permission.
QUESTION What is the proper use of "lays" vs. "lies"? My sentence has the phrase "therein lies the problem," which Microsoft Word rejects as bad grammar, but I'm sure I've heard it this way before. I changed it to "therein lays the problem" which pleases Word but displeases my ear!
Thanks for helping
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Francisco, California Tue, May 8, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Therein lies the problem" doesn't seem to bother my version of Word (Mac version of 2001), so maybe they've fixed this problem. The software is probably fooled by the inversion of subject and verb, although even that doesn't excuse it. Anyway, you're right and it's wrong, and that's all there is to it. Remember to regard your grammar checker as a kindly, well intentioned uncle who is sometimes a bit befuddled. You don't want to throw him out of the room, but sometimes you have to ignore him.
QUESTION Is the following sentence ever grammatically correct?"I want to help those less privileged than me."Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Oakland, California Wed, May 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It depends on how you feel about that word "than." Most writers will say that it is introducing a clause (with an understood verb), as in ". . . less privileged than I [am]." Some folks argue that the word than ought to be regarded as a preposition (like "like") and that the word that follows can be in the object form, "me" in this case. Personally, I think you're better off spelling out the clause: "I want to help those less privileged than I am." Without the verb, the "I" sounds stuffy, and too many people would regard the "me" as just plain wrong.
QUESTION I am trying to determine what kind of sentence this is active, passive gerund, BAD ? Is the grammar and punctuation correct?Explaining how the Bubble Memory Chip works is not the focus of the second article. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Gibsons,BC,Canada Thu, May 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The punctuation is fine; the grammar is fine. But it's still not a happy sentence. Is there any way you can shift the focus and bring the "second article" to the beginning of the sentence?The second article does not focus on the explanation of the Bubble Memory chip.That does change the focus of your sentence, too, so you might want to keep the subject where it is. In that case, placing the verbs "works" and "is" so close together causes just a bit of confusion. Could you try "Explaining the operation/function of the Bubble Memory Chip is not the focus. . . ."?
QUESTION Is the following sentence ungrammatical:This wizard will help you configure the Open File Option on each server on which it is installed. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Heathrow, Florida Thu, May 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It's our day for working with questions about high-tech installations? Grammatically, the sentence is fine, but the "on each" "on which" combination makes us dizzy. Is it possible to turn that "on which" phrase inside out and try something like "Once the Open File Option is installed, this wizard will help you properly configure the option."
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