The Grammar Logs
#580

logo
THE DATES ON THESE ENTRIES READS 'Tue, AUGUST 5, 2003' INSTEAD OF THE ACTUAL DATE OF ENTRY. THAT ERROR WILL BE CORRECTED AS OF DECEMBER 11th. WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY CONFUSION.
Question

In reading about team sports, it is always "men's" golf or "women's" basketball, but I usually see "boys" golf and "girls" basketball. Isn't this inconsistent? Why the difference? Space-saving on the part of the newpapers or just bad grammar? Thanks!

Source of Question, Date of Response
Madison, Wisconsin # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

Yes, it is inconsistent. Of course, you wouldn't say "men golf" or "women basketball," so you end up using the possessive form with those mutant plurals. With boys and girls, though, you could use either the possessive (to be in line with "men's" and "women's," or you could use the nouns as attributive words. (For instance, you can belong either to a writers club or to a writers' club.) So it's not necessarily bad grammar, but it is inconsistent.


Question

Can "timely" be used as an adverb? Is it correct to say "Items should be timely investigated"? Or should it be "Items should be investigated in a timely manner"?

Source of Question, Date of Response
New York, New York # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

Left to my own devices, I would have answered no to this question. My Merriam-Webster's, however, does give an accepted adverbial use of "timely," (meaning "opportunely," it says) with this example: "The question was not timely raised in the state court." I find it clumsy, myself, and would still use "in a timely manner," but there you have it.

By permission. From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, 11th edition © 2003 by Merriam-Webster, Inc. (www.Merriam-Webster.com).


Question

What are other companies doing for the IT or Networking professional that you would like Cisco to start doing?

(A question on a questionairre. Clear? Ambiguous? Gramattically correct? )

Source of Question, Date of Response
San Jose, California # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

I think most readers can figure out fairly quickly what the question means, but it is not very well constructed. The clause "that you would like Cisco to start doing" is trying to modify the word that immediately precedes it, "networking professional," and that doesn't make sense. "What would you like Cisco to do for IT or networking professionals that other companies are already doing?" might be a clearer rendering. Or "What training and educational programs [or whatever you call them] already offered at other companies should be instituted at Cisco for its IT and networking professionals?"


Question

A client of ours uses this to describe their business:

"Our company focuses upon staffing for the health care industry."

I think the correct phrase is:

"Our company focuses on staffing for the health care industry."

Can you tell me please which is correct?

Source of Question, Date of Response
Hauppauge, New York # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

Most authorities agree that the choice between these two prepositions is strictly arbitrary and will depend on one's sense of the rhythm of the sentence more than anything. "On," we are told, is used thirteen times more often than "upon," although that probably doesn't prove anything for a particular phrase. Personally, I think "upon" gives that sentence a stuffy, nearly bloated feeling.


Question

Which is correct?

  1. He stared at the boy in the grimy t-shirt upon which was written the words "Kiss Me, I'm Irish."
  2. He stared at the boy in the grimy t-shirt upon which were written the words "Kiss Me, I'm Irish."
Source of Question, Date of Response
Unknown # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

I was trying to convince myself that we could argue that "the words" should be taken as a collective entity, an entire phrase at once, so the singular "was" would be appropriate.Technically, though, the plural subject, "words," should control the verb, and it should be "were."


Question

Which sentence is correct?

  • Upon completion, the essay should be sent to the trainer that delivered the module.
  • OR
  • Upon completion, the essay should be sent to the trainer who delivered the module.

Thank you.

Source of Question, Date of Response
New York, New York # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

You can use "that" in that sentence, but most writers would prefer "who." The first phrase is a bit clumsy; it sounds like the essay has completed something. Can you use something like "When it is completed, the essay … "?


Question

This sentence sounds odd to me. Is it grammatically correct or is there a better way to rephrase it? The sentence comes from a corporate "meet and greet" invitation.

The purpose of our meeting is to acquaint ourselves with each other and the goals of team.

Thanks for your help!

Source of Question, Date of Response
Charleston, South Carolina # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

Indeed, the phrasing is odd, especially "to acquaint ourselves with each other." It's time to blow that sentence away and try again:

The purpose of this meeting is to get acquainted and to discuss [review/learn/etc.] our team goals.


Question

If I were to say, "No one likes it but we," is that correct, or should "us" be used instead? Thank you.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Columbus, Ohio # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

In that sentence, "but" is a preposition, and you want the object of the preposition there — and "us" is the object form of the pronoun.


Question

I'm confused about using the present perfect tense and the present perfect continuous tense. It seems like they are sometimes interchangeable (I've driven a cab for ten years/I've been driving a cab for ten years) and sometimes not, and the not part is where I'm confused.

"She's had a cold for three days"›is correct, but "She's been having a cold for three days" is incorrect. Why? I thought about this, came up with some other sentences (She's had a boyfriend for 6 months-ok, She's been having a boyfriend for 6 months-not ok). Diseases seem to create a problem, i.e. been having cancer/headache/the flu are all incorrect. I thought that "been having" had some grammatical problem attached to it until I realized that "She's been having an affair" is correct, so there goes that theory. Is there a rule that can help me?

Source of Question, Date of Response
Unknown # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

More often than not, "to have" is what we call a stative verb, which means that it shows qualities not capable of change. It is also what we call a relational verb, meaning that it cannot take progressive forms. Other examples of relational verbs are "to own" (I can say "I own ten acres of land," but not "I am owning ten acres of land") and "to seem" (I can say "he seems sane," but not "he is seeming sane"). "To have," however, is tricky: it can also slide into the other category of verbs, the dynamic verbs, which can take the progressive form. The dynamic verbs have several sub-categories: whether "is having an affair" falls into the category of transitional events, momentary events, or verbs of bodily sensation, I leave up to your imagination.


Question

I am a tad confused. When speaking, is it correct to say, "I dare she do that to me, I dare he do something like that, or I dare they do that to Kelley?"

Is "she, he, and they" correct; or should it be "her, him, or them?"

Even If I said, "I dare she, I dare he, or I dare they."

Is this correct, or should it be "I dare her, I dare him, or I dare them?"

Source of Question, Date of Response
Baltimore, Maryland # Tue, Aug 5, 2003
Grammar's Response

You would want the object forms of the pronouns there: I dare her/him/them to do something." A confusion might arise because in a sentence that challenges, we might have a construction such as the following: "How dare she/he/they do that?" There, you use the subject form of the pronoun.

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.


 


#Previous Grammar Log

#Next Grammar Log

#Index of Grammar Logs

#Guide to Grammar and Writing