QUESTION When a prepostional phrase modifies any form of the verb to be, is it still just a prepositional phrase, or does it also take on another function?
Example: The pencil is under the table.
The letter is in her hand.
Thank you for your help.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Tampa, Florida Wed, May 29, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm not sure what you mean by "just a prepositional phrase" because prepositional phrases are nearly always functioning as modifiers, telling us where or when. This means that they are either adjectival or adverbial in function. In the sentences you give us, the prepositional phrases are telling us where the object is (in an existential sense), so we can say the prepositional phrase is modifying the verb, and that makes it adverbial.
QUESTION I never did go to see the zookeepers giving the baby elephant a bath. Instead, I stayed by the monkey cage for two or three hours. I felt sad ________ Bomba.
a.) left b.) leaves c.) leaving d.) to leave
A and B are obviously out. Is choice C alright? Is "leaving Bomba" a kind of clause at the end of the sentence? Choice D seems a good choice too, if "felt" is acting as a linking verb. Any help would be appreciated.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE South Korea Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think you could go either way with this. "Leaving Bamba" wouldn't be a clause; it's a participial phrase. It's modifying the "I," as we can see if we move it to the front of the sentence: "Leaving Bamba, I felt sad." This means the sentence contains a kind of double predicate adjective, linked to the subject, as you've pointed out, by the linking verb "felt."
I don't think "to leave Bamba" would be wrong, and the infinitive phrase would be acting the same way. With other adjectives, the choice of an infinitive seems even more natural: "It just felt wrong to leave Bamba there."
QUESTION Are both of these sentences correct?
I don't think I have ever said, "had better" in my whole life. I just say "better". Have I been making a mistake unknowingly for 29 years? Perhaps dropping the "had" is slang?
- You better wash your hands before dinner.
- You had better wash your hands before dinner.
Thanks for your time!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Canada Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Dropping the "had" from this idiomatic auxiliary is not slang, exactly, just a bit casual. According to Burchfield, you would never drop the had in England, but the had is often dropped in the U.S. and other countries in informal contexts only. Burchfield calls "had better" a "modal idiom."
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 "better")
QUESTION Please clarify the part of speech "that" when used as a function word to indtroduce a noun clause. You call it a "relative pronoun" and give a very helpful quotation from Theodore Bernstein on when to use it. Webster's 10th Collegiate calls it a "conjunction."Example: "We believe that as time goes on, our security system will improve." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Boulder, Colorado Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That is functioning as a relative pronoun when it is, itself, the subject of the clause it introduces. For instance, in "The hallways that lead to the atrium must be repainted," the subject of the dependent clause is that, and the relative pronoun that refers to (relates to) "hallways." The verb of that clause is "lead."
In the sentence you give us, above, the conjunction that introduces a dependent clause: "our security system will improve" (somewhat complicated by the fact that it includes yet another dependent, adverbial, clause, "as time goes on"). The subject of this clause is "security system" and the verb is "will improve." The word that subordinates (or conjoins, if you will) this clause, but it does not play a role in the subject-verb relationship of the clause.
QUESTION I would like some examples of me versus I in complex sentences. For example, is this correct:"I think that you and me meeting with her would be fine."I would like to see some other examples. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Annandale, Virginia Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That's a peculiar construction. If you break it down, you want the subject form because the sentence is actually saying (structurally), "You and I would be fine [meeting with her]." In any case, though, the sentence is unbearably clumsy. Can't we write, instead, "I think it would be fine if you and I met with her" or "I think you and I should meet with her" or "A meeting of you, me, and her would be fine." (This last option is grammatically OK, but it sounds awful.)
QUESTION I'm an editor at a weekly newspaper, and my degree in linguistics and stack of textbooks are not helping me explain to other editors and writers the proper placement of the word "only" or the phrase "not only ... but" in a sentence. Can you break it down in a way they'll understand? Thanks. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Sag Harbor, New York Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Theodore Bernstein recommends taking a sentence (from G. & C. Merriam's Word Study)I hit him in the eye yesterdayand placing the modifier only in eight different places in that sentence, beginning with "Only I" and then "I only" and then "I hit only him," etc. As the position shifts, so does the meaning. It's a neat illustration of how the placement of only can be critical. Normally, we want to make sure that the word only modifies what it's supposed to modify, and that usually happens by adjoining the word to its intended object. For instance, in the sentence, "The college can only provide a small measure of security," the only is trying to modify the verb "provide," and it would be much better placed immediately before "a small measure of security."
Having said this, however, there are situations in which a precise placement of only can sound contrived and unnatural. Bernstein's example is "What is happening now can only be called a paperback-book explosion," in which the only should actually be placed after the verb and before "a paperback-book explosion," but that placement sounds "pedantic and unnatural." Bernstein also points out that sometimes only modifies an entire sentence, as in "He only thought that he was being helpful." The only is not really modifying "thought," nor is his thinking limited to a single idea (which would be implied if only came after the verb "thought"). A sentence adverb invariably appears before the verb, so only is in the right place in this sentence.
For your purposes, it might be helpful to photocopy the pages regarding only from Bernstein's book and leave the document on selected desktops.
Authority: The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein. The Free Press: New York. 1998.
QUESTION What is the difference between orient and orientate? I love your site. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE They both mean the same thing, but orient is the simpler and more precise alternative, and lots of people really dislike orientate.
Authority: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Theodore Bernstein. Gramercy Books: New York. 1999.
Should there be commas after "Enclosed" and "Attached." If so, why? Is the word order unacceptable?
- "Enclosed please find my resume."
- "Attached you will see a copy of the required form."
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Denver, Colorado Thu, May 30, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Those expressions, without the commas, are common enough. I never particularly liked them; the "enclosed please find" and "attached you will see" sound coy and silly to me. I would much rather take ownership of the action: "I have enclosed/attached my resume/a copy of the required form."
QUESTION What is the most proper way to pronounce either, i.e., is the i or the e long? Does the same rule apply for neither?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Diego, California Mon, Jun 3, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE According to Burchfield, the two possible pronunciations of these words are used with just about equal frequency. I suspect that the long "e" pronunciation is more frequent in the U.S., but I certainly have no real evidence to back me up.
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.
QUESTION I cannot find any sources to help in this question...and why either would be improper.What (Kind of, kind of a) dictionary are you using? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Vancouver, Washington Mon, Jun 3, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The word "kind" implies a category or subcategory, and since you can't have a category of a particular, singular thing, the "a" (or "an") doesn't make sense in this construction. Leave it out.
Authority: The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein. The Free Press: New York. 1998. (under "kind of")
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