QUESTION I`m bothered by the following: Nobody but I know the truth. Nobody knows the truth but me.
These are two correct sentences, but I don`t see why the first "but" should be considered a conjuntion, but the second a preposition. I`d like to see "Nobody but me knows the truth."
What do you think?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Oldwick, New Jersey Thu, Jan 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think your instincts are absolutely correct, and "Nobody but I know the truth" is not correct. "But" often acts as a preposition, meaning "with the exception of." The only thing odd about its usage is that you won't see it at the beginning of a sentence (in its conjunctive role), not by itself, anyway.
QUESTION Is it gramatically correct to say "She inputted the plan yesterday" or "She input the plan yesterday" or both? We're having a debate over the use of the word "inputted." Can you help? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boulder, Colorado Thu, Jan 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You can't use "entered," instead? My Merriam-Webster's shows "inputted" as the preferred alternative to "input" in the past tense, but it sounds awful to me. If you look up "inputted" in Yahoo!, you'll find 27,000 uses of the word. Mercy!
QUESTION Jim says to Dan "How's it going?" Dan says "Good." Jim replies "Don't you mean ''well'?" Dan says 'good' is correct because "going" is a gerund. Jim says Dan is wrong and his response should have been ' well ' because in this case, "going" is an adjective modifying the indefinite pronoun 'it'. Jim also says that rephrasing would result in the statement "It is going well," which sounds more correct than "It is going good."
Who is more correct, Jim or Dan? What's the answer and is going a gerund, adjective or something else?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada Thu, Jan 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Jim is finally correct, but he loses points for saying that "going" is an adjective, which it is not. Dan's argument that "going" is a gerund costs him dearly; "going" is just part of the verb, as you see when you rephrase the question into a statement, "is going." To modify the sense of how things are going, we might well use an adverb, "well." On the other hand, the question itself"How are things going?"calls for a response that the word "good" will nicely fulfill. In conclusion, your narrative suggests that these gentlemen have way too much time on their hands.
QUESTION Does the following quote contain a double negative?"With dreams and ambition, there is nothing you cannot accomplish; and, if the passion is strong enough, the world cannot help but lay at your feet."Thanks for you help. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Albuquerque, New Mexico Thu, Jan 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Yes, "nothing you cannot accomplish" is a double negative. But it's also a good example of how double negatives are often stylistically effective. Does the world really "lay" at your feet? Or does it "lie"?
QUESTION In a column of a national publication, the author uses quotation marks for the same words continuously throughout the column. The author pretends that her dog writes the column. When the column refers to the humans that live with the dog, those names are in quotes. Here are some excerpts: "...I'm certain that "mom" will hustle me off to the vet..." "...her "mom" and "dad" were discussing the benefits..." "His "sisters" were cute." "...my "grama" was a patient..."
These quotes are so repetitive that they make us look at them rather than concentrate on the article itself. Please get in touch ASAP. We did check your pages under Word and Sentence Level choosing the area quotation marks. We did not see any references to this type of usage.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Edwards, Mississippi Fri, Jan 11, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I wouldn't know what to call that use of quotation marks. I suppose the writer is trying to be "cute" and is drawing attention to her "cute" use of language, over and over again and has succeeded only in irritating the reader. A one-time use of quotation marks in this manner is OK, but used repeatedly, as you point out, this usage causes the reader to see only a flurry of quotation marks. Any practice that makes readers more aware of the writer and less attentive to what they are reading is a bad practice.
QUESTION "Commonsense." Is it one word or two? I've seen it both ways. It seems to defy common sense to make it into one word. Can you tell me which is preferred?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bismarck, North Dakota Fri, Jan 11, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Common sense" (two words) is preferred in the noun form: "He was brilliant, but he had no common sense" and "This appeals to our common sense."
"Commonsense" (one word) is used as the modifier: "The builders used a number of commonsense design principles" and "Its paradoxical logic overturns commonsense linear logic."
The next time you're in a library rich enough to own a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, you can look up this word and find out when this compounding occured (or if it's still an ongoing process).
QUESTION I keep seeing and hearing entitle and title used synonomously. I think they have distinct meanings. When I hear Garrison Keillor introduce poems on NPR as "entitled" it makes me nervous. What is your advice? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Thu, Jan 17, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My dictionaries do not provide much of an argument for you. They define "entitle" as "to give a title to (a book, etc.)." And "to title," of course, means the same. So the passive construction, "the poem is entitled 'Fire and Ice'," seems quite acceptable. If you do a search for "entitled" in the online Atlantic, you'll find several examples of "entitled" in Keillor's manner, but you'll find more uses of "titled" with that same meaning. The online New York Times Book Review seems more intent on using "titled" when it's talking about the titles of books, poems, essays, etc. We would probably be better off if we used entitle to refer to things that we have a right to, as in "They're entitled to the POW status" or "you're entitled to a double rebate."
QUESTION Can the sentence "They were ready and waiting." be correctly said to have a compound predicate?
This question arises from a difference of understanding between a homeschooling mom and her student's grammar text. We look forward to your response! Thank you for your time.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Apex, North Carolina Fri, Jan 18, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That's really not a compound predicate; it's saying that "they" were two things: you've got one verb and a compounded complement. To have a compound predicate, we'd need something like "They were ready and waiting but refused to get on the bus when it came." Now the conjunction "but" is compounding the verbs "were" and "refused" and you have a compound predicate. A moment spent with our diagrammed sentences (looking, especially, at those sentence with compound predicates) might be helpful.
QUESTION In the sentence "It is 6 o'clock," is 6 o'clock an adjective or adverb? thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Canada Mon, Jan 21, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I would call it a noun complement in this sentence. The number "6" is a noun (just as "midnight" or "noon," for instance, is a noun) and "o'clock" (a shortened form for "of the clock") is a prepositional phrase modifying "six."
QUESTION Which is correct subject/verb agreement?
Thanks for your answer.
- Invariably, life dictates that one or more of these ARE out of commission ...
- Invariably, life dictates that one or more of these IS out of commission...
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boston, Massachusetts Wed, Jan 23, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I can't find an authoritative answer for this in my reference books, but I will suggest that the rule that applies to "more than one" would also apply here. We would say "more than one of these is out of commission" (in spite of the fact that the subject seems to be plural). This construction (that you've used) means the same thing as "one or more than one of these," so I'm going with the singular verb.
On the other hand, Theodore Bernstein says that "one or more" is a plural entity meaning "some" and insists that it take a plural verb. I stand corrected. Authority: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Theodore Bernstein. Gramercy Books: New York. 1999.
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