QUESTION What part of speech is the word "times" in the following sentence:I circled the house three times.Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Spokane, Washington Tue, Jan 29, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It looks like an idiomatic prepositional phrasein which the preposition has been omitted something like "for three times"??). It works the same way as "twice," which would be an adverb, so let's call "three times" an adverbial phrase.
QUESTION A group of German teachers of English recommended to tolerate, i.e. not to mark as wrong in essays and other forms of written English of 17 to 18 year olds in the Gymnasium (grammar school, high school) the following uses of Past Tense instead of Present Perfect Tense. Their argument is that these forms are so frequently used in American English (and beginning to be used in British English) even by educated people that they have become acceptable and are no longer regarded as wrong, or even substandard.
What is your opinion about this? Would you accept such uses in English essays of American high school students?
- I never made a mistake in my life. (Howard Cosell)
- I retired several times. (Fred Astaire)
- Cabot was a member of "Family Affair" since premiered in 1968. (Montreal Gazette while he was still appearing in the show)
- They found 12 bodies so far. (CBC News.)
- We built several prisons already. (BBC News 9/4/90)
- I lectured on the subject a number of times. (Channel 4, After Dark (1987)
- The main target is Dubrovnik, which suffered the worst bombing yet. (BBC news, 12/11/91
- I always stood for certain values. (The Sunday Times, 3/6/90
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Germany Tue, Jan 29, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE There might be certain contexts in which some of these sentences would make sense in the simple past, but virtually all of them would be improved in the present perfect. Cossell's sentence makes sense only if he's looking back at his life from a perspective in which he feels he can make no more mistakes (the last day of his life, his report at the pearly gates of heaven?). The same is true of Astaire's announcement, but in a funny kind of way: he's at a point where additional "retirements" are out of the question. The sentence about Cabot makes no sense at all if he's still on the show, and the sentence about the "12 bodies" is dubious with the "so far" in there, which definitely suggests that the search is continuing into the present.
The "already" and the "yet" of the sentences from the BBC work the same as that "so far." The sentence "I lectured on the subject a number of times" seems quite possible to me: it suggests, doesn't it, that the writer's lecturing (at least on this topic) is now over. And your last sentence could also make sense if the writer means to suggest that his days of standing for certain values (at least in any important way) are over.
I'm not sure if your group of German English teachers has made its recommendation based on grammatical correctness/acceptability or pedagogical despair/expediency. You've given several examples of imperfect tense choice from sources that ought to know better, but I would urge perseverance, myself. Sadly, determining the point at which an English instructor stops "marking as wrong" what is manifestly wrong is sometimes a matter of classroom efficiency (i.e., is it worth our time and energy to mark as incorrect something that the BBC and the Sunday Times have deemed acceptable?).
QUESTION How would you diagram this sentence? Let's walk around. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Europa, Mississippi Tue, Jan 29, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE This is a common but peculiar construction. Quirk and Greenbaum call this a first-person imperative and describe the "us" as the subject of the verb even though it is in the objective form. The same construction occurs in "Let me drive now." Quirk and Greenbaum note that a third-person imperative is also possible with "let," as in "Let him turn the crank for a while." In your sentence, then, "us" will be in the subject position and the verb will be "let walk" (with the adverb modifier "around").
Authority: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. Used with permission. p. 202.
QUESTION What part of speech is the word "please" in the sentence "Please feed the dog." I think it is an adverb, but someone else says it is an introductory element with no meaning in the clause. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Jose, California Thu, Jan 31, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My dictionary classifies "please" as an adverb, but also calls it a "function word" to express politeness or emphasis. "Function word" frequently means that people can't really decide how it's functioning in a sentence. In other words, if it's an adverb in your sentence, it must be modifying the verb "feed," but how it modifies that verb is not very clear; it's more like "please" modifies or casts the entire sentence in a certain mood. So you're both right.
QUESTION The following sentence appears in Will Durant's history of Rome, Caesar and Christ:" What shocked army and populace WERE his economy of the public funds and his strict administration of justice."
The subject, what shocked etc., is singular and should therefore take the singular form of the verb, namely, WAS. It just feels so, well, plural. Could you elucidate this matter, please?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Kew Gardens, New York Thu, Jan 31, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I agree with your analysis of the sentence. The subject is a noun clause and should take a singular verb, "was," even though the predicate (on the other side of the linking verb) is plural. It would be like "What he really wanted was a white sports coat and a red Corvette."
QUESTION Please diagram the following sentence.She rarely spoke loudly.If rarely modifies spoke, it changes the meaning of the sentence. On the other hand, it is a stretch to say that rarely modifies loudly.
Thanks for your help. The English teachers here are split in their opinions.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Goleta, California Thu, Jan 31, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE When an adverb modifies another adverb, as an intensifier, say, it's an easy matter to say what it modifies. In "He spoke very loudly," for instance, the very clearly modifies the loudly. However, when you mix an adverb of mannerloudlywith an adverb of frequencyrarelywhat modifies what is not so clear. How does she speak? Loudly. But how often does she speak loudly? Rarely. I think we have to say that the verb is first modified by the adverb loudly and then that construction is modified by the adverb rarely. I don't know how to show that in a diagram, frankly. I would put both adverbs under the verb. Because of the word order of the sentence, I guess I would have to put rarely first, but it might make more sense to put loudly first. I agree that rarely does not modify loudly, though.
QUESTION Can you DISAPPEAR someone? What do I look for in the dictionary?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, UK Sun, Feb 3, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I was very surprised to find, in my Merriam-Webster's dictionary, that "disappear" can be used as a transitive verb, which suggests that you can, indeed, disappear someone or something. My Oxford American does not, however, provide for that usage, and I would definitely avoid it. You can make someone disappear, though.
QUESTION We are trying to improve our writing and have set forth several sentences as part of a test. The extra credit is this sentence:The worst of these air episodes (seem/seems) to happen around cold-weather holidays, such as Christmas.I believe WORST takes the singular SEEMS; my friend believes the opposite. Can you offer an opinion? Thank you! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sun, Feb 3, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Worst" can be either singular or plural. In this sentence, you seem to be referring to several instances of "air episodes," and I would use the plural verb "seem."
QUESTION Which is correct?
- "Students were ranked high in recent comparisons of math scores."
- "...students were ranked highly in recent comparisons of ......
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Toronto, Canada Sun, Feb 3, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If usage on the Internet means anything, either form seems to be acceptable. Georgetown University says that its graduate schools "ranked high" in a recent study, and I think that's what I'd use if I were you. The University of Kentucky, on the other hand, says its nursing program is "ranked highly" by the same report. (And you can find dozens of institutions using either form.) Apparently, some people will use "rank" as a linking verb and use the adjective "high"; others think "rank" is a transitive verb and use the adverb "highly." It's nice when you're right no matter what you do.
QUESTION If the user name and password is one in the same, should the verb be written as singular?Example: "Your user name and password is 12345."
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Sun, Feb 3, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The gist of your sentence is that these two things are really one thing, so I'd use the singular verb.
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