QUESTION I work for this Management Company in FL and my boss wrote a report which contains the following sentence:However, saying you have teams of 8's, 9's and 10's and really having them is what sets Aurora apart from other companies.I think the verb is in the sentence is wrong it should be plural are. His partner who is an English Major and president of a major corporation also agrees with him. I think they are both wrong. I told him that sentences with plural subjects must have a plural verb, but he doesn't agree with me. He says "saying" and "really having" requires a singular verb.
In my opinion the sentence should read:However, saying you have teams of 8's, 9's and 10's and really having them are what sets Aurora apart from other companies.What is the correct verb to use?
Thank for your help.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Miami, Florida Thu, Jul 12, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Although your general principle is certainly correctzethat plural subjects require plural verbs, I think in this case your boss has a good point. It is possible for compounded subjects to behave as one thing. In this case, it is exactly the message of the sentence, in fact, that "saying you have something and really having it" are one and the same. In this case, the singular verb is really the essential meaning of the sentence. The "you," however, muddies the issue a bit. Wouldn't "we" be better?
QUESTION My boss and I are having a disagreement on punctuation after a friendly business letter. A business letter to someone you know and greet them by their first name (i.e., Dear Jane). Is Jane followed by a colon or semicolon? There are other people in the office who are interested in knowing which is correct. Thank you so much for your assistance in the past. Your knowledge is helpful and valuable. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Thu, Jul 12, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think you mean a colon or a comma (I can't imagine any use for a semicolon in this situation). In social-business correspondence, put the person's address at the bottom of the letter (below your signature/title), and use a comma instead of a colon in the salutation. If you think it's a good idea, write Personal or Confidential on the envelope.
Authority: The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin. 9th Edition. McGraw-Hill: New York. 2001. Used with the consent of Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. p. 402.
QUESTION Is it ever necessary or more correct to use "whether or not" instead of "whether"? I have never felt the need to use "whether or not" in my writings, but I note that many educated writers use it. Am I incorrect in my usage of "whether" without the "or not" appendage?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Kearney, New Jersey Sat, Jul 21, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Whether you use the "or not" or not depends on whether you are providing a clear alternative to your reader or not. If there is no clear alternative, don't add the "or not." The NYPL Writer's Guide gives this excellent example:Whether you keep your appointment is up to you, but you will pay for an office visit whether or not you show up.
Authority: New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage HarperCollins: New York. 1994. Cited with permission. p. 107.
QUESTION In the following sentence, why can we use the adverb "recently," but not the adverb "lately":My friend had her baby recently. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Novi, Michigan Mon, Jul 23, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I can't find anything in my dictionary or my usage manuals that speaks to this, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the repeatability of the event. We can say, for instance, that "He's been running in the park lately/recently" or "Lately/recently she ate breakfast on the porch" (either one will do). For unique events, however, "recently" doesn't work very well. We would use "recently," not "lately," in your sentence or in something like "She graduated from high school recently." My dictionary's definition, which suggests that the words are interchangeable, is misleading.
QUESTION I need help with following sentence. I am not sure if I should use who or whom.
- She is engaged to a Rodolfo, a banker, whom she grew up with and is of the same social class as her.
- She is engaged to Rodolfo, a banker, who she grew up with and who is of the same social class as her.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Lauderdale Lakes, Florida Mon, Jul 23, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You need "whom she grew up with," but that means you need to use the pronoun again in its subject form in the next clause, "who is of the same social class." The sentence is not greatly improved by these changes, though. Can we provide that final bit of information earlier in the sentence?She is engaged to a man of her own social class, the banker Rodolfo, with whom she grew up.Or better yet, can we put the fact that she grew up with Rudy in another sentence.
QUESTION Which verb is correct in the following sentence?
- Enter current before-tax or tax-deductible contributions you, or your spouse, is making.
- Enter current before-tax or tax-deductible contributions you, or your spouse, are making.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Jose, California Tue, Jul 24, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm not sure why the commas are included in this sentence. Get rid of those commas, and your sentence should readEnter current before-tax or tax-deductible contributions you or your spouse is making.The verb "is making" agrees with the subject that is closer to the verb, "spouse." If you truly mean to set off "or your spouse" with commas, then it probably should be done with something more forceful than the commas dashes, perhaps. And then you could use "are making," to agree with the "you" subject. However, the sentence is still clumsy. Can we use the passive voice to good effect in this sentence and write something likeEnter current before-tax or tax-deductible contributions made by you or your spouse.
QUESTION Why do I often see the adverb "too" set off by a comma at the end of a sentence. Here are a few examples, both from a classic novel by the Wilkie Collins:
Thanks for your help. This "too" business has been bothering me for years.
- "...Mr Vanstone showed his character on the surface of him freely to all men. An easy, hearty, handsome, good-humoured gentleman, who walked on the sunny side of the way of life, and who asked nothing better than to meet all his fellow-passengers in this world on the sunny side of life, too. Estimating him by years, he had turned fifty."
- "'No, he can't,' said Magdalen. 'He's in the business, too.'"
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Diego, California Tue, Jul 24, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE According to the Gregg Reference Manual, we shouldn't set off "too" when it appears at the end of a sentence and means "also," which would seem to apply to Wilkie Collins's sentences, above. It's easier to generalize about punctuating around "too" when it appears in the middle of the sentence (and still means "also"), as in "He, too, is in the business." Generally, I think GRM is right: we can get along without the comma when this additive adjunct (in case someone asks) comes at the end of a sentence, and I would probably leave out the comma at the end of the second sentence, above. For the first sentence from Collins, though, the adjunct feels nearly tacked on and the meaning and rhythm of the sentence depend on setting off "too" with a comma. I'm afraid this description will not make your choice any easier. Just remember that when "too" appears at the end of a sentence and it means "also," you can almost always skip the comma but use the comma if the complexity and sense of your sentence seem to call for it.
Authority: The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin. 9th Edition. McGraw-Hill: New York. 2001. Used with the consent of Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. p. 29.
QUESTION Base wage rate has historically been cited, by departing personnel, as a key consideration.Do I need commas to separate `by departing personnel' from the main construction of the sentence?
Thank you very much!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Tue, Jul 24, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE No, that's an important phrase, not a parenthetical element, and commas don't make the sentence any more readable. You might consider shifting "departing personnel" into the initial subject position, as in "Departing personnel have frequently cited the base wage rate as a key consideration in their decision to leave the company [or whatever]."
I am checking the grammar on an ad in our catalog and this sentence makes me uncomfortable, but I cannot figure out why and I could not find out by using your search engine or index, because I don't really know where to look. Thank you for taking the time to help.These sleek cases will provide you with the ultimate in protection, quality, and security that you deserve without sacrificing the style that you demand.According to me it is incorrect to say "the ultimate in protection.... that you deserve" and it has something to do with the relationship between "ultimate in protection" and "that you deserve", but I don't know what it is that sounds wrong to me.
Usually I would say "the" protection that you deserve, but once I add in the words "the ultimate in" I don't know how to phrase it correctly.
My coworkers tell me the sentence is correct as it is, but it just sounds off to me. Thank you,
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Burbank, California Wed, Jul 25, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I agree with your instincts here. The "ultimate in protection that you deserve" accomplishes the opposite of what is intended. It implies that the person might also deserve something other than the ultimate. I think it would be quite enough, really, to say "the protection, quality, and security that you deserve. . . ." (That certainly implies, anyway, that they deserve the best.) I'm not sure that you want to say that your customers demand style. That is probably quite true, but to say that your customers are demanding doesn't seem quite appropriate.
QUESTION Sentence:Our product is the attitudes, talents, troubleshooting abilities, and professional experiences of our people.What would you suggest is the most appropriate (agreeing) way to use the words in this sentence? Should the words "attitudes," "talents," "troubleshooting abilities," and "professional experiences" be singular to agree with "product" or should they be plural to agree with "people"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Fort Lauderdale, Florida Wed, Jul 25, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE With all due respect, I don't think you're asking the right question. There is nothing really wrong with the sentence, but "Our product is the attitudes, etc." just sounds weird. Can we avoid the problem by saying something like "Our product is a combination of the attitudes, talents, troubleshooting abilities, and professional expertise of our people"? (And I would look for a better word than "attitudes," which nowadays can have a bit of a negative tinge to it.)
Previous Grammar Log
Next Grammar Log
Index of Grammar Logs
Guide to Grammar and Writing