QUESTION I had a question based on a GMAT review guide:
The guide states that the word "Billy's" is a descriptive adjective in the case of "Billy's father said..."
However, the guide says in the following 2 examples "Billy's" is NOT an adjective:
"Billy's balding father asked..." "Billy's parents were"In each case, "Billy's" answers the question of who is being referred to specifically. Yet, why is the word an adjective in one case and not in the latter two? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Jonesboro, Georgia Tue, Apr 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You'll find some grammar textbooks that say that possessive nouns and possessive pronouns should not be classified as adjectives; others will admit them into that class. I myself don't regard the distinction as terribly important, and I would categorize possessive nouns and pronouns as modifiers and admit to their adjectival status. I certainly don't understand why "Billy's" could be regarded as an adjective in one of those sentences and not in the other. That seems simply inconsistent.
QUESTION I remember hearing or reading that the word English should not be modified by qualitative adjectives, such as good or bad. The reasoning being that grammar can be good or bad, but that the language itself is not subject to such judgements. My problem is that I am unable to find verification of this, and am beginning to wonder if I dreamed it. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Marietta, Georgia Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I hope you dreamed it. As one who speaks abominable, absolutely wretched French, I can assure you that there is such a thing as good and bad English, French, Spanish, Finnish, Chinese, whatever. It's simply a shorthand way of referring to idiomatic and intelligible language of some persuasion or another.
QUESTION I don't know how "several times" is used in the following sentence, and I don't know where to put it on a diagram."The boy walked around the library several times."Thank you very much for your help. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE At first, I wanted to make "several times" an adverb phrase, modifying your verb, but the dictionary doesn't seem to allow for that. Too bad. "Many times," my Merriam-Webster's says, is a noun phrase a noun preceded by a quantifier in which the word "times' means "one of a series of recurring instances." What makes sense to me, then, is that you'd put it under the verb, as if it were a prepositional phrase (with the word "times" on a horizontal line and the word "several" on a diagonal line under "times"), modifying the verb, but you won't have a preposition.
QUESTION Regardless of who is chosen, the majority of the board members promises to support him.
Regardless of whom is chosen, the majority of the board members promises to support him. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE University, Mississippi Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Who is chosen" is a clause, and the proper pronoun, "who," has been chosen as the subject of that clause. That noun clause is then the object of the preposition "of," but the form of the "who" does not change. You might consider a rewrite, something like "The majority of the board has promised to support the winner of the election [or whatever process is being used]." And that would avoid the clumsy moment of that "regardless of who/whom" phrase.
QUESTION I have consulted two grammar handbooks, the Associated Press stylebook (I am a journalist), and your Web side (which is fantastic, by the way: a wonderful resource and terrific public service), and am still stumped as to what the answers would be the following three problems. Answers and explanations would be very, very helpful. Thank you.
- Who/Whom were you going to contact about the job?
- Do you know who/whom is to blame for this mess?
- This the woman who/whom I asked you to contact.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Plattsburgh, New York Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Click HERE for general help with who and whom, and take the quizzes, while you're at it.
In your first sentence, you need "whom," because you're looking for the object of the verb, as in "You were going to contact him." In the second, you want the subject form, "who," because you need the subject for the verb "is." That clause ("who is to blame for this mess") then becomes the object of what you "know," but the form of the pronoun, "who," doesn't change. (See the grammarlog above this one, also.)
In your third sentence, we need the object, "whom," as the object of the clause, "I asked you to contact him (whom)." The clause then becomes a modifier (adjectival) for "the woman."
QUESTION When addressing a letter to the Secretary of State which is correct? Dear Secretary General, Dear Ms. Harris, Dear Secreatary General Harris, SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Write to cabinet members as follows:
The Honorable [full name]
Secretary of [department]
Washington, DC 10510
Dear Mr. Secretary: (except when the office is occupied by a woman, when you will use Dear Madam Secretary:).
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. 547.
QUESTION Is it "They have sawn down trees by stealth of night" or "sawed down trees"...? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My Merriam-Webster's seems to prefer "sawed," but allows for "sawn." I like the sound of "sawn down trees by stealth of night," myself.
QUESTION This is regarding proper subject/verb agreement for a specific sentence. Which sentence is correct: Your total countable resources equal $1,000.
Your total countable resources equals $1,000.Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Concort, New Hampshire Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE When it refers to the supplies of an individual's wealth, "resources" is used with a plural verb. Use "equal."
Authority: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition, Version 1.5. 1996. Used with permission.
QUESTION In the following example, is the use of the pronoun "His" an acceptable way to begin the sentence?"His, is a humorously entertaining narrative of misadventure and drama." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Seattle, Washington Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You could write the sentence this way only in a context in which your reader would know exactly what it is you're talking about: his novel, his story, his play, etc. The fact that you're leaving out a word is indicated, in fact, by the pause called for by the comma after the subject, a kind of caesura. In short, you can write the sentence this way, but there is definitely an implied but missing subject.
QUESTION I'm an English teacher working in Brazil, please could you help me settle this argument I'm having with my boss! I recently saw an English test in which the student must identify the mistake in the following sentence:"To my surprise, my brother stayed happy when we told him his football team had lost."The mistake is supposedly the word "stayed", which should be replaced with "got" or "became". However a student of mine argued (rightly, in my opinion) that if my brother was already happy and merely continued to be happy despite the news then the verb stay would be possible. Trying to save my employer's blushes, I commented that I would use the verb "remain" to express this meaning of "continued to feel". However, I cannot find any rule against this use of the verb "stay", is there one? Thank you for your attention SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Thu, May 2, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The verb remained can, indeed, work there, to mean "continued to feel." We can't use "stayed," however, strictly for idiomatic reasons. We wouldn't say "He ate like a pig, but stayed hungry"; we'd use "remained," instead. I'm afraid I can't give you a reason, though. The two are close to being interchangeable in a sentence like "We remained/stayed behind" or "They stayed/remained good friends for the rest of their lives." (In that second example, I think I'd definitely lean toward "remained" again.) Your student deserves credit for his argument, but advise him to use "remained" in that sentence nonetheless.
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