QUESTION I'm trying to figure out the correct way to write this sentence. I think that it should be written the first way since class is singular, but my friend thinks that it should be written the second way since there are multiple students in the class:
Thanks for your help.
- When most of the class has finished, ask the students at the board to explain their methods.
- When most of the class have finished, ask the students at the board to explain their methods.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Evanston, Illinois Wed, Jul 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If the dependent clause were standing alone (without that subordinating word "when"), we would write "Most of the class has finished" because we're regarding that group as a singular unit. However, when we shift to a different perspective in the main clause and are considering the students in the class as individuals, things get confusing. It is grammatically possible to write the sentence the second way, to regard "most of the class" as a plural and use "have finished." But it goes rather against our natural instincts about "the class." Can you revise the entire sentence to something like "When [most of ?] the students have finished, ask those [the students?] at the board to explain their methods"?
QUESTION Can an appositive come before the noun it modifies? I raise this question because of the following sentence from The Big Wave by Pearl Buck (p. 44):[T]o live bravely, to love life, to see how beautiful the trees are and the mountains, yes, and even the sea, to enjoy work because it produces food for lifein these things we Japanese are a fortunate people.It appears to me that the entire series of infinitives serve as (appositive) modifiers to things, which is the object of the preposition in. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Colorado Wed, Jul 4, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It's probably a mistake to think of an appositive as a modifier: it's rather a re-naming or amplification of something usually something earlier in the sentence, but it can work either way (as in "Peter, my best friend, came over last night" or "My best friend, Peter, came over last night"). Quirk and Greenbaum would define the kind of apposition we see in your sentence as designationthe second term ("things") is less specific than the first. In this case, the general term, "things," is in apposition to a series of particulars, four infinitive phrases, which precede the general term. That's rather unusual, but it's also very effective, as we see in Buck's sentence.
Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p. 625 and 630.
QUESTION A very simple question. Is it:
thanks in advance
- an unusual large change
- an unusually large change
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Germany Thu, Jul 5, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Is it a large change that is unusual (first option) or is it an exceptionally large change (second)? Either is correct, but there is a difference in meaning. The first option wants a comma after "unusual" because these become what we call coordinate (or coordinated) adjectives.
QUESTION In terms of usage, is it acceptable to modify the word "unique"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE St. Petersburg, Florida Thu, Jul 5, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The debates goes on. It's probably wise to avoid modifications of this word as in very unique or quite unique. Most dictionaries still list, first, the primary meaning of "one of a kind" (or words to that effect), which is not gradable. However, there are other meanings like "remarkable" or "special" and those meanings are gradable. Still, to avoid a stay in someone's grammatical doghouse, it's a good idea not to modify the word.
QUESTION What do you think of IBM's new slogan? It is, "Who Do You Need?" I think it should be, "Whom Do You Need?" Whom is the object of the verb do need. Or another way I would put it, for clarity: You Do Need Whom? I'm surprised that a big company such as IBM with a major ad agency would use this wrong construction. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Evanston, Illinois Thu, Jul 5, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Perhaps IBM is now using the same ad agency as Macintosh, whose ad campaign, "Think Different," raised a few hackles among language lovers. It really is too bad that corporations don't think that they have a responsibility to use correct grammar. And you know that they know they're making a mistake but have chosen to use the language incorrectly anyway. And then you wonder, why?
QUESTION When a doctor dictatesThe patient presents with left leg pain and right hand numbness,do we place a hyphen between "left" and "leg", and "right" and "hand"? If not, why not?
Could you please explain the rule?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Thu, Jul 5, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I asked a professional medical transcriptionist this question and she tells me that there wouldn't be any hyphens in those constructions. I'm rather surprised because we would write "left-hand margin" and "right-hand man," but the world of transcriptionists probably has its own conventions for such mattersespecially since transcriptionists must run into this situation constantly.
QUESTION I did not want to go to class, nor did I want to write that paper.Why is a comma placed after class? Can the sentence after nor stand alone? This is the question from the quiz in this site.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Atlanta, Georgia Fri, Jul 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Nor is often categorized with the other coordinating conjunctions, but it is a little different. Two syntactic features stand out when nor is used to connect two independent clauses (as it is in our quiz sentence).
In spite of these differences, the punctuation of the sentence will be the same as it would be if you used, say, "and ___ not" (I did not want to go to the class, and I did not want to write that paper.") Note that "nor" is not equivalent to a "negative + or" construction, but to an "and + negative" construction.
- There will almost invariably be a negative statement preceding it.
- There will be a subject-verb inversion following it.
Authority: A Grammar of Contemporary English by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. Longman Group: London. 1978. p. 565.
QUESTION Do I write, "Two fellows were in a boat, one of WHOM began to drill a hole . . . ." or "one of WHO began to drill a hole"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bull Shoals, Arkansas Fri, Jul 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You want "whom," because you're looking for the object of a preposition ("of") here. You'd probably be better off, anyway, with "Two fellows were in a boat, and one of them began to drill a hole. . . . ." Isn't one of them supposed to be Jewish and the other Irish?
QUESTION What is the proper capitalization in the greeting "To Whom it may concern" when writing a business letter? I remember learning that only the word "Whom" should be capitalized. Am I correct? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Brooklyn, New York Fri, Jul 6, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Most writing manuals nowadays are urging people not to use that salutation. Instead, when you don't know your recipient's name, write "Dear Sir or Madam:" or (more formally) "Sir or Madam:" If you know that both men and women are recipients, you can use "Ladies and Gentlemen." In a simplified letter style, you can skip the salutation altogether and write a single line in ALL CAPS announcing the subject of your message.
Authority: The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin. 9th Edition. McGraw-Hill: New York. 2001. p. 367.
The NYPL Writer's Guide says that the trend is to use a "to" line, as in "To the head of the Park Department:"
Authority: New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage HarperCollins: New York. 1994. Cited with permission. p. 210
QUESTION Is it "mean" or "means"?Your interest and involvement in the program mean the world to John and the rest of the gang. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Colorado Springs, Colorado Sun, Jul 8, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't think the plural "mean" would be incorrect, but I think the "interest and involvement in the program" coalesce into one idea or theme here. Go with the singular "means."
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