QUESTION There's a certain syntax form I've been noticing lately in textbooks that doesn't seem right. Here's one such troubling instance:A balloon is being inflated to its full extent by heating the air inside it.From what I can make out, there is only one subject in the sentence, namely, the balloon. This subject, the balloon, is given a verb in the passive voice, i.e., "is being inflated."
Further in the sentence appears another verb: "heating."
If the verb "heating" belongs to the subject "balloon," that means that the balloon is now given the active voice, and the sentence is in effect saying that the balloon is itself heating the air, which of course isn't sosomething else is heating the air in the balloon.
So, isn't this kind of grammar problematic?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Brooklyn, New York Thu, Aug 9, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I can imagine a sentence being used like that as the caption for a photograph or video of the process; otherwise, I can't imagine why that passive verb construction, "is being inflated," would be used at all. The word "heating" is a verb form, but it's not really a verb; it's a gerund, a verb form used as a noun, and in this case it's the object of the preposition "by." I don't see any problems with the end of this sentence; it's just the passive "is being inflated" that troubles me.
QUESTION Is it incorrect to add "THE" in:Please join us on November the 14th for...I have heard many people say this including myself on occasion. If it is incorrect why? It may just be a Baltimore thing.
Thanks for your help.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Baltimore, Maryland Fri, Aug 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Most of my writing guides provide (as acceptable) for something like Thursday the 14th of November, but I can't find anything about the particular form you're suggesting. Most of these resources would recommend, "Please join us on November 14 for. . . . " The Gregg Reference Manual has a number of date forms it says we should avoid, but it doesn't include the Baltimorean formula: November 14th, the 14th of November, the fourteenth of November, etc.
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. 114.
QUESTION Which of these sentences is correct?
Thank you for your help.
- As many as half the population with NPH may benefit from the insertion of a shunt.
- As much as half the population with NPH may benefit from the insertion of a shunt.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Irvine, California Fri, Aug 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I would try to avoid the problem, myself, and write something like "approximately half the population with NPH. . . ." However, it seems to me that you are thinking of the individuals within the population represented by the phrase "half the population." And for that reason, I would go with the pronoun that represents something countable, "many." If you are thinking of the quantities, the statistical lump sums (as it were), then you would use "much." That's how it often works with statistical expressions: "a large percentage of the students has yet to vote" (the quantity is one thing) or "a large percentage of the students have cast their votes already" (the quantity is being regarded as individual elements). I'd go with "many" in your sentence if I had to choose between "many" and "much."
QUESTION Can one be "vigilant for" something? As in:We must remain vigilant for tigers in the woods.Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Fri, Aug 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The trouble with "for" is that it can be read as "on behalf of," and that's not what you mean. You're worried that the tigers might eat your mother-in-law, not that your mother-in-law might endanger the tigers. Oddly, a synonym for "vigilant," "be on the lookout for," doesn't seem to have the same problem. We can say that "We must be on the lookout for tigers in the woods" and know that we're looking out for our own skin. In the meantime, if you want to use "vigilant," a better rendering might be "We must remain vigilant; there are tigers in these woods." Is this really a problem in Central Park?
QUESTION In writing a product brochure I need to list watches as gift choices. However, I am unsure whether to describe them as
i.e Title: Rotary Ladies 9 Carat Gold Bracelet Watch
- Lady's watch
- Ladies watch
Description: This ladies watch from Rotary features a white roman dial......
and does it matter if I abbreviate to Gents watch as opposed to Gentleman's watch.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England Fri, Aug 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Since this watch is going to be sold to and belong to one lady at a time, I'd go with the singular "lady's watch" (unlike, say, the "ladies' room," which "belongs to" more than one person at a time). The same goes for the gentleman's watch; go with the singular "Gent's Watch."
QUESTION The sentence in question is:As soon as a cargo item has been positioned, the agents, each in its own domain, analyze the cargo location in respect to its trim and stability impact, accessibilty, hazardous material infractions, and other placement violations.The question is, is 'each in its domain' proper or 'each in their domain' proper? Two people with their Masters' in English, a journalist, and a Web designer can't figure it out. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Luis Obispo, California Fri, Aug 10, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Since the "each" refers to people (I'm assuming the "agents" are people, not robots), we certainly wouldn't use "its" to refer to the "each." And since the singularity of this event and purpose calls for the agents to be localized and singular, I think you're better off using "his or her," rather than "their" (assuming the agents can be of either gender). I suppose the phrase "trim and stability impact" would make sense to people who are packing cargo onto an airplane or a ship.
QUESTION I read, in the San Francisco Chronicle today, the headline "young couple were indicted". Is this correct usage? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Sacramento, California Sun, Aug 12, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Headlines like that are usually written in the present tense, but that's not your question. We usually use a plural verb with the word "couple": "the next-door couple walk hand-in-hand around the block" and "That couple have been together a long time." But when the word is meant to refer to two things as a singular quantity or entity, we use the singular: "A couple of bucks is all I need." If the couple you mention were indicted together, in the same legal action, it would have been perfectly reasonable to use the singular "Young Couple Was Indicted." But the "were" is not incorrect.
QUESTION This is an excerpt from the Holy Bible, the book of Daniel 5:19 (King James Version):...whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.It seems to me that there should be some kind of separation after "whom he would..." and the rest of the following statements. If so what should it be? If not, why not? In Spanish, we never say such statements. What we do is repeat the verb, as in: (whom he would 'keep alive'... he kept alive) A different Bible that I have, also repeats the verbs as we do in Spanish. This, I don't think is "old English" only, since I have seen similar instances in other literary works. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Perris, California Sun, Aug 12, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The lovely use of rhythmical, parallel form is typical of the King James Version. So is the use of elision, the "missing" verb. I do have to say that the first time I read the sentence I had to do a double-take. "Whom he would he slew??" You're right: it's easier to read if you provide the "missing" verb, as in "whom he would slay, he slew; and whom he would keep alive, he kept alive, . . . " etc. But a moment's hesitation provides the missing pieces and the sentence reads just fine thereafter. I don't think I'd change a word of it.
QUESTION Which is correct: a good-paying job or a well-paying job? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Camp Mobile, Korea Mon, Aug 13, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That looks like it ought to be a simple question to answer, but I'm having a hard time finding an authoritative answer. A search on the Web indicates that "well-paying" is used much more frequently than "good-paying." In the online archives of The Atlantic Monthly, I find "well-paying jobs" twelve times and "good-paying job" only once. That doesn't give you a reason, but it does give you an answerI guess we want the adverb "well" to modify the present participle "paying."
QUESTION We are a TV station in Syracuse Ny. The question is on the correct usage of Premiers Vs. premieres.
Does The Mole premiere on Tuesday: as a verb or as a noun: premier?
The Premieres of The Mole and Oprah will be on Tuesday.
Thanks for your help.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Syracuse, New York Mon, Aug 13, 2001 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE [This response altered on August 27th.] When you use that word as a verb, it has an "e" at the end, as in "The show premieres on Monday." There is also an "e" at the end when it functions as a noun: "The premieres of The Mole and Oprah will be on Tuesday." In either case, you can also spell it without the terminal "e," but the spelling with the "e" is preferred. Also, there's certainly no reason to capitalize that word.) When you're referring to a ruler or high-ranking official, a prime minister sort of person, there is no "e" at the end. (I don't know if that changes if the prime minister is a woman. It probably would.) The adjective meaning "chief" or "first in order or importance" is "premier": "Beethoven is the premier composer of the late classical period."
Authority: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition, Version 1.5. 1996. Used with permission.
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