QUESTION Associated Press this morning under the heading of "U.S. Arrests 'Dirty Bomb' Suspect" had this sentence: "We have a man detained who is a threat to the country and that thanks to the vigilance of our intelligence gathering and law enforcement he is now off the streets, where he should be," President Bush said. As Bush used it, the antecedent for the adj. clause, "where he should be," is the phrase "off the streets." If we want the antecedent to be just one noun, or "streets," as is commonly the case, he should have said, "äwhere he shouldn't be."
Where do you come down on this, your politics aside? We of course know what he meant. But the question is, did he say it in a manner that would please his wife, a former school teacher?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Thu, Jun 13, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Mrs. Bush probably cringes like the rest of us whenever President Bush steps into one of the grammar pies littering the front yard of his language. There is a by-no-means exhaustive list of similar and worse errors on our Anomalous Anonymies page. It's bad enough that our nation's leader has such trouble with the language; what makes it worse is that he seems to think it's kind of funny. Such blundering serves an interesting political purpose: it makes the President's prepared speeches seem downright Lincolnesque in comparison. No matter what he says in his speeches the media think "Wow! He didn't mess anything up. He must be kind of smart after all."
You're right. It doesn't make any sense for "where he should be" to modify "streets." The President meant the phrase to modify the place of detention, but that isn't even in the sentence. The sentence gets off to a bad start when we jump from a clause beginning with "who" (modifying "man") to a clause beginning with "that" which doesn't seem to link to anything at all. The propensity of government officials to use the passive voiceand thus to evade responsibilityis evident in a phrase like "We have a man detained" (instead of "We have detained a man").
QUESTION What is the capitalization rule for the word STATE? For example, when writing something like, " . . . Hawaii state schools", or "the state of Hawaii", or "I live in the state of Hawaii". Are we supposed to capitalize state or not? Thank you! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Honolulu, Hawaii Fri, Jun 14, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Generally, we capitalize the word state only when it appears after a state's name, as in "We will travel to Washington State this summer." (But make sure that your reader won't confuse your intentions with a visit to the university known as Washington State. Perhaps "state of Washington" would be better.) In the phrase "state of Hawaii," you don't capitalize the word state. And I wouldn't capitalize the word in your construction "Hawaii state schools" because that might mislead readers into thinking these are somehow, officially, state schools (like state universities), as opposed to being local public institutions. Finally, don't capitalize the word state when it's being used as a substitute for the state's name, as in "My father works for the state." It is capitalized, however, in imaginative names such as "the Nutmeg State," "the Empire State," "the Aloha State," and we capitalize "States" when we say things like "We're returning to the States after twenty years in Europe."
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. 98.
QUESTION What is the difference, if any, between using 'once in a while' and 'once and a while"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Sun, Jun 16, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE These two idioms mean the same thing occasionally. If you do a search on google.com for both phrases, you'll find that "once in a while" is used ten times more often than "once and a while." The latter, I imagine, might well have grown up as a misunderstanding of "once in a while" or a confusion of that phrase and "once and for all," but I don't really know that. Use "once in a while."
QUESTION I am not clear about the difference between the word "into" and the words "in to." Which is most appropriate when? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Portland, Oregon Sun, Jun 16, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Whenever the "to" is a particle of the infinitve, be sure to keep them separate: "We dropped in to visit my Aunt," "He just stepped in to pay the bill." We use "into" to express motion or direction: "He stared into her blue eyes," "She walked into the store to say hello," "She drove into the side of the garage." In a sentence such as "Let's invite them in to dinner," of course, you wouldn't want people walking into your dinner. I hope that helps.
QUESTION The other day I heard Barbara Walters say something that went like this:"...she killed her son while he slept."I was surprised she used the Simple Past tense with the word "while". I often see it used with the Past Continuous. Do you have any comments? Thanks. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE St-Luc, Quèbec, Canada Mon, Jun 17, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Technically, I don't think it's wrong to use the simple past tense here. We can say something like "While Nero fiddled, Rome burned." There is a slight possibility that the usual temporal meaning of while (meaning "at the same time as") can become confused with the concessive meaning of the same word (meaning "although," as in "While Chicago is known as the Second City, Los Angeles is actually larger in population"), but it's unlikely that that would happen in the sentence you give us. I will not deny, however, that ". . . she killed her son while he was sleeping" is an improvement.
QUESTION I saw this on a vinegar bottle: "genuine brewed vinegar." I think it has to be " genuinely brewed vinegar" just like "really nice car" (adv + adj + n ) SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Mon, Jun 17, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE It is not the brewing that is genuine; it's the vinegar. So you've got genuine vinegar, but it happens to be of the brewed variety (whatever that means). So I'll go along with the labelling, "genuine brewed vinegar."
QUESTION Should the following title have an apostrophe:Records' Custodians SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Tue, Jun 18, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE These custodians don't actually belong to the records (although they probably often feel like they do). I'd go with the plural form there, "Records"
QUESTION My question is, When is a verb a linking verb? Let's start with the obvious. In this sentenceThe proposal seemed reasonable."seemed" is a linking verb, and so an adjective complement ("reasonable") is called for. Likewise, an adjective complement is (I assume) correct in this sentenceThe food arrived hot.because "hot" describes a state, not an action (i.e., it could be reworded as "The food was hot when it arrived").
But what about this sentence?Heavy objects should be held close to the body."Closely" does not sound right. Could "hold" in this case be construed as a linking verb in the sense of "to become," just as "keep" is in "The boxes should be kept close to the door"?
Or is "close" functioning as an adverb?
In short, is there a rule for determining when a conventional verb (as opposed to "seems," "tastes," "sounds," or the other common linking verbs) is acting a linking verb and can take an adjective complement?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Livermore, California Tue, Jun 18, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Your description of linking verbs is quite good. But that little question, which you toss in nearly as an aside"Or is 'close' functioning as an adverb?contains the truth of the matter. "Close" can behave like an adverb. How many love songs would be ruined if we had to sing "Hold me closely"? "Close" will do the job, and it will do it as an adverb. ("Tight" works exactly the same way in this context.) This is true of many modifiers that can act as adverbs with the typical "-ly" ending and also act as adverbs without the "-ly" ending. In some situations, the form without the "-ly" will be used in casual situations "Speak loud and clear" but the "-ly" would probably be used in more formal settings.
QUESTION I say that it is DRINK........DRANK..........DRUNK I used the sentence .......I have not drunk any ....................... My friend says that it should be.............I have not drank....... That drunk only pertains to intoxication. I need something in writing as proof of who is right. Thank you very much for your help. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bryan, Texas Tue, Jun 18, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My Merriam-Webster's lists "drank" as a variant spelling of "drunk" for the perfect tenses, but "drunk" is definitely preferred.
Authority: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition, Version 1.5. 1996. Used with permission.
QUESTION When you list three or more things as examples (as in the following sentence), shouldn't you always use "and" rather than "or" as the conjunction?Omit extraneous words (such as pop-up menu, command button, or drop-down list) unless the omission would sacrifice clarity. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Morgan Hill, California Tue, Jun 18, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Not necessarily. The "or" will simply emphasize the choices as exclusionary or as alternatives. But there is nothing wrong with the "or" in that case. (If you are suggesting that "or" can be used only in situations in which two things are being offered in a list, that, too, is imposing a limitation on "or" that is neither appropriate nor necessary.)
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