QUESTION I have a question about the wording of a wedding invitation. I will write the wording first and then ask my question: Jane Smith and John Jones
would like you to share OUR joyous first day as a married couple
Sunday May 3, 2001
With our parents we invite you to.....
My question is this: Is it correct and proper to use two names (without using the word "we") and then write "would like you to share in OUR joyous first day" rather than writing "would like you to share THEIR joyous first day"? Is the "we" understood or is it just bad grammar?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Wed, May 30, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The "our" doesn't sound right to me; you just haven't established the "first-person point of view" yet, and I think you need to use "their." I have suggested to others who have this kind of question that they visit several of the online services that sell invitations, etc. and check out their language, modeling yours on theirs. There surely must be a way to make the language more personal and avoid that third-person "their."
QUESTION My daughter's English teacher has informed her class that the expression is "how 'much' clothes do you have?" and not "how 'many' clothes do you have?" However you would say there are "many clothes on the floor" not "much clothes on the floor" right? What's the difference? Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Kanata. Ontario, Canada Wed, May 30, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Clothes" is a plural noun, meaning things that we wear. And since they are countable things, we use "many" to describe them. "There are too many clothes in this suitcase." I'm trying to imagine a way in which "much clothes" makes sense: "How much clothes can you buy for a hundred dollars"? I think I'd still use "many" in that sentence. I will respectfully disagree with your daughter's teacher, even though I might get in trouble for doing so.
QUESTION I am trying to determine whether it is correct to create a possessive form of a company name. For example, is it correct to write "IBM's latest earnings"? My question arises from an elementary school rule I learned that said only animate beings can have possessions. I know that many publications use the apostrophied form of company names, but wonder whether this is a house rule or goverened by grammar rules.
Thanks for your time and support.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Campbell, California Wed, May 30, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think that only a disgruntled employee would argue that IBM should not be allowed to possess things. As a general rule (that has plenty of holes in it), you're right: the 's form of the possessive should not be used with inanimate objects. Companies and countries and other organizations of people, however, are widely regarded as animate (some being more animate than others).
QUESTION I have read your description on the use of "one" as a pronoun. How about "two" or any other numbers?
Here's the example:Three of Phoebe's chickens had come to peck at the peas she had thrown outside. Two had already fallen dead. The third was still moving its wings. (By the way, this is from Phoebe the Spy, by Judith Griffin, published by Scholastic.)It strikes me that "two" in the second sentence is functioning as a pronoun; it "takes the place of" "chickens." . . . Or should we think of it as an adjective with an UNDERSTOOD noun--so that the second sentence is actually a fragment that has, merely, an UNDERSTOOD subject?
But then . . . what about the third sentence? With "the"--an article, which is also an adjective--the word "third" can't be a pronoun. It must be a noun. But isn't it actually an adjective? . . . So now we have an ADJECTIVE acting as a noun? . . . Or do we have a situation that is parallel to that in the second sentence and, in fact, we really do have an adjective with an UNDERSTOOD noun?
. . . And as long as we're at this: if you say that, in the manner that they are used, "two" and "third" are adjectives with understood nouns, then why doesn't anyone speak of "one" in the same manner?
Help! And thanks for your service!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Highlands Ranch, Colorado Wed, May 30, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Much of your question is based on the assumption that a pronoun cannot be modified by an article or a determiner. But they often are. "I'll take those two," for instance. Or "He took the two that I'd left on the table." In the case of "one," you will sometimes see the number-pronoun modified by an adjective, "She took the pretty one." I would regard "the third" in Griffin's third sentence as a noun, meaning "the one that is after the second" (to use the dictionary definition). It's not very useful to think of these words as adjectives with understood subjects.
QUESTION There has been an accident. Five people died. Three were injured. Can I write"Eight people were killed or injured"?Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Fri, Jun 1, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You could, but the ambiguity of being "killed or injured" might lead your reader to think you couldn't tell the difference. For some reason, the ambiguity is not so bothersome when you're dealing with much larger numbers. Still, I think you're better off treating the two categories in different clauses.
QUESTION I would like to know the proper subject-verb agreement when using "never." Is never singular, plural, or neither?Following is an example:I would like to know if the verb, "has," is used correctly in this sentence.
On a milk carton, I ran across this phrase..."Never before, we are convinced, has the earth and her creatures more craved the sustaining care of organic farming."
I would appreciate your response.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE El Paso, Texas Fri, Jun 1, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The adverb "never" or the adverbial phrase "never before" has no bearing on the subject-verb relationships in that sentence. The subject of the clause in question is "the earth and her creatures," which feel, to me, like two distinct things. I think we need a plural verb there, "have." Only if you argue that "the earth and her creatures" can be regarded as one thing (which I suppose is possible at some level), can you use "has."
QUESTION When writing a sentence beginning with "not only", does the subsequent clause have to begin with "but also"?
- exp. Not only was he a salutatorian, but he was also a star athlete.
- or Not only was he a salutatorian, he was a star athlete..
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE White Plains, New York Fri, Jun 1, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Usually, a "not only" feels lost without a "but also" to pal around with. However, it is idiomatically possible and acceptable to omit the "but also." Burchfield gives this example: "Rowers not only face backward, they race backward."
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. (under "not")
QUESTION Is it proper and if so what is the proper way to use golf as a verb? Is it proper to say I golfed today or let's go golf? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Dallas, Texas Sat, Jun 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Sure, you can use "golf" as a verb. You probably wouldn't want to do so in formal or academic prose, but you shouldn't be golfing in academic prose anyway.
QUESTION I'd like you to read the sentence below.There is a pen in the box that is on the table.Which is the antecedent, a pen or the box?
Some people say 'that' is the subjective case in this contact-clause, so 'a pen' is preferable to 'the box' as the antecedent. (For the box is an objective case and a pen is the subjective case in the principle clause.)
Does English have the rule above?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sat, Jun 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Unfortunately, in English, the form of the word "that" gives us no clues about what it's referring to. Also, in English, nouns generally don't show case; they will have functions that correspond to case, but they don't show case in terms of inflected endings. In English the antecedent is apt to be determined by proximity, even when that isn't intended by the writer. In this sentence, the "that" is referring to the "box" simply because it's closer to the box.
QUESTION Is there rule for the -ian versus -an endings of some adjectives formed from proper nouns? We are trying to figure out why "Avicennian" (rather than "Avicennan") is the adjectival form of "Avicenna" since we're not Americians!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New Haven, Connecticut Sat, Jun 2, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I just read Burchfield's comments on "suffixes added to proper nouns," and I gather that this is an issue that not even the Oxford English Dictionary has chosen to address (with very few exceptions). Apparently the choice of a suffix has more to do with euphony (which is a very subjective matter) than any rules; in fact, there are no rules.
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.
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