QUESTION Is it okay to say "John is the oldest child" even if there is only two children in his family? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Atlanta, Georgia Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You can find many examples of sentences like that in great literature: "She was the youngest of the two daughters," writes Jane Austen, and "to prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine," writes Shakespeare. But Burchfield recommends that we leave such exceptions to the great writers and stick to the general pattern (meaning that "older" would be an improvement in that sentence).
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press. (under "superlative")
QUESTION The word 'intelligentsia' is a plural noun, but does it necessarily take a plural verb? A construction such as, "the intelligentsia expects...," seems to convey the idea that a group or collectivity is doing the expecting. Using the plural form of the verb weakens the monolithic sense, granting the herd of conformist thinkers marching lockstep individuality they don't actually possess. Your thoughts, please. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Kew Gardens, New York Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE When I paw through the pages of the online Atlantic, I discover, mostly, plural verbs with this noun. It is not that unusual, however, to find the word used to describe a singular class of people, and singular verbs are then used, as in "China's intelligentsia has still not cleansed itself of this tendency" and "The urban intelligentsia, which loves to characterize the suburbs as a cultural wasteland, seems to have missed . . . ." You should feel very comfortable using the word in that manner to convey what you describe as "the monolitic sense" of the concept.
QUESTION Can you use "former" and "latter" to refer to more than two items, as in the following example:"Informants reported interest in enviromental controls, advanced generation, and transmission software, although the latter was of distinctly less interest."I advised the author to use "last-mentioned" instead of "latter" but wanted to get the definitive grammatical answer. Thanks! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boulder, Colorado Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The short answer to your question is no, you can't. Burchfield and Bernstein concur that using either "the former" or "the latter" to refer to the first or last of more than two things is "illogical" or a "misuse." You would think that English would provide a more elegant solution than "last mentioned," but you'll probably have to use that construction or re-name the antecedent being referred to ("transmission software"). Incidentally, the "although" of that sentence implies a logic that escapes me.
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.
Authority: The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein. The Free Press: New York. 1998.
QUESTION Please, be kind enough to clarify what is the difference between, neither and or, for example:"This agreement shall not be applicable to disputes which arose before its entry into force, notwithstanding that it has not yet been settled before this date, or to disputes relating to events or actions taken and completed before its entry into force, even if the effects remain after that date".
"This agreement shall not be applicable to disputes which arose before its entry into force, notwithstanding that it has not yet been settled before this date, neither to disputes relating to events or actions taken and completed before its entry into force, even if the effects remain after that date".Do these sentences mean the same? If yes, which one is gramatically wrong?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I hestitate to get involved in disputes about language in legal settings. If that were my sentence, I would write"This agreement shall apply neither to disputes which arose before its entry into force, notwithstanding that it has not yet been settled before this date, nor to disputes relating to events or actions taken and completed before its entry into force, even if the effects remain after that date".If you keep the negative construction "shall not be applicable," the "neither," later on, seems illogical.
QUESTION When using the word "testament" in the sense of a tangible proof or tribute (Webster's Collegiate 2a), does it take the preposition "of" or "to." I've checked Bernstein and other sources with no luck. "To" sounds right to me, but I can see the case for "of." Thanks SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Milwaukee, Wisconsin Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In that sense (as opposed to the books of the Bible or the "last will and testament" of someone), the word "to" seems to be used all the time. If you "Google" these phrases, you'll find about 90,000 uses of "testament of," and the first several pages are things like "last will and testament of Joe Griggs," etc., and "the testament of Shakespeare." "Testament to," on the other hand, will yield nearly five times that many returns, and the first several pages fulfill the description of the word you're looking for. In itself, this doesn't prove anything, but it does suggest that this is how people use the word in these two phrases.
QUESTION Which one is correct:
- To test whether any of these promote....
- To test whether any of these promotes....
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bern, Switzerland Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The subject of that verb in question is "any," and the problem is that "any" can be either singular or plural. Here, though, you're talking about "any" of something that is countable. You can tell because of the pronoun "these," which you would use only with countable things. So we want the plural verb form, "promote."
QUESTION YOUR_QUESTION_WAS = When addressing a letter and there is a "care of" is the c/o supposed to be capitalized or lower case.
c/o Joe Water or is it C/O Joe Water
123 Lake Shore
Lake Shore FL 33333
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Tallahassee, Florida Wed, May 22, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Use lower-case letters, as in "c/o Joe Water."
Authority: The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin. 9th Edition. McGraw-Hill: New York. 2001. Used with the consent of Glencoe/McGraw-Hill.
QUESTION I am preparing for the GMAT exam which includes sentence correction. While taking a preparation test I came accross a question with an answer that is wrong in my opinion. Unfortunately the author does not provide justification for his/her answer. Discussion with a friend has left the issue unresolved. Can you please enlighten us on this problem?
Replace the part of the sentence in brackets with the best choice provided:
[If read closely, the attitude in much of Loren Eiseley's work] seems solemn, even morose.
My choice for the answer was A, suggesting that the sentence is best as it is. The author's answer is D). My argument against this answer is that it changes the meaning of the original sentence. The original sentence is talking about the attitude in the work and not the work itself.
- If read closely, the attitude in much of Loren Eiseley's work seems solemn, even morose. (This choice implies that there is nothing wrong with the sentence.)
- In reading closely, the attitude in much of Loren Eiseley's work
- In reading it closely, the attitude in much of Loren Eiseley's work
- If read closely, much of Loren Eiseley's work
- By being read closely, much of Loren Eisley's work
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boston, Massachusetts Tue, May 28, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I see your point. The intent of the question (as phrased in GMAT) is to find out if the reader perceives that the phrase "if read closely" in the original is trying to modify "the attitude," and it should be modifying "much of Loren Eisely's work." The D option puts the modifier next to the thing it should modify, but the rest of the sentence would also have to be rewritten to incorporate, somehow, that idea of attitude, which is the solemn thing. It wouldn't do to say that "much of Loren Eiseley's work seems solemn, even morose," because that's not what the original statement allows for.
QUESTION When describing a person's clothing would you say... your suit does you proud? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boylston, Nova Scotia, Canada Tue, May 28, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't know where that peculiar idiomatic expression comes from, and I can't find it in any of my reference books (although I don't have a dictionary of slang, either). It is certainly an acceptable idiom of long standing in casual use (at least in my experience).
QUESTION Is the use of neither/nor used properly in the following sentence?The 46th Street corridor is not sufficient for neither current nor future demands that are, or will be put, on this roadway.Thank you! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bettendorf, Iowa Tue, May 28, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The "not sufficient" followed by the "neither-nor" puts a kind of triple negative spin on this sentence that makes it awfully hard to read. I'd change it to "either current or future demands." Or change "not sufficient" to "sufficient."
We also have a problem in parallel form towards the end of that sentence. We can solve the problem either by getting rid of the commas or by putting "or will be" between dashes (and getting rid of the commas).
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