Posts Tagged ‘verb form’

How and where does people…? Whoops!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Here is another sentence I came across on an Internet site this week:

How and where does people get rid of their timeshare without getting scam?

Whew! One sentence, three errors. That's uncalled for even for the Internet.

 

First, although the sentence begins with HOW AND WHERE (2 things), the verb DOES (singular) should go with the noun PEOPLE (plural), so the first problem is agreement.  PEOPLE DO, not PEOPLE DOES. Notice that in this question form, the subject (PEOPLE) comes after the verb (DOES).

 

Second, common sense would suggest that this writer is referring to many PEOPLE who are stuck with TIMESHARE(S) (plural), not TIMESHARE (singular), so THEIR TIMESHARES.

 

Third, SCAM is a noun. In this sentence, the past participle SCAMMED is needed after GETTING.

This sentence should read as follows:

How and where do people get rid of their timeshares without getting scammed?

 

As for content, I really don't know the best way to get rid of a timeshare, but I would certainly suggest seeking advice from a reputable real estate agent you trust.

PLEASE NOTE: Speaking of past participles, one of my readers asked a very good question about using participles like SCAMMED, DRIVEN, TASTED. Stay tuned, I will answer that question in the next post–which may be Monday if I don't get back from the Sylacauga Marble Festival early enough tomorrow. You can check my website at www.ruthbeaumontcook.com for more information about the third annual festival. Just click on the "News" button.


Better comma placement would help 59 word sentence.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

 

I had to read the first part of this sentence a time or two to figure out the main statement. It is an extremely long sentence (59 words!), but once the comma is relocated, I don't think the length is a problem. See if you agree:

Monday's offensive, which included air attacks on the ruler's home, as well as three strategic military garrisons  marked an unprecedented escalation in the international community's efforts to oust Gbagbo, who lost the presidential election in November yet has refused to cede power to Ouattara even as the world's largest cocoa producer teetered on the brink of all-out civil war .

Whew! That is a mouthful and an eyeful. The major problem here is an "earring comma" problem. The first comma in the pair is correctly placed between OFFENSIVE and WHICH. The basic subject and verb of the sentence are MONDAY'S OFFENSIVE and MARKED.

 

The second comma was placed between HOME and AS, but that is an incorrect location.  The phrase AS WELL AS THREE STRATEGIC MILITARY GARRISONS is also part of the material that is set into the sentence between the main subject and verb. Therefore, the second comma should be placed between GARRISONS and MARKED. (In other words, those air attacks hit not only the ruler's home but also the three strategic military garrisons.)

 

Beyond that, I think the length is okay if the commas make the meaning clear. I would offer one additional change: make the verb TEETERED present tense TEETERS because, as of this writing, the Ivory Coast is still teetering on that awful brink.

Here is my suggestion for improving this sentence:

Monday's offensive, which included air attacks on the ruler's home as well as three strategic military garrisons,  marked an unprecedented escalation in the international community's efforts to oust Gbagbo, who lost the presidential election in November yet has refused to cede power to Ouattara even as the world's largest cocoa producer teeters on the brink of all-out civil war .

 Does anyone else have a suggestion for rewriting this sentence, which appeared this week in AP feed to local newspapers?


Place verbs on a “mental” time line.

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Verbs express action, and the reader should be able to understand easily when one action happens in relationship to another action.  With all the different tenses, that is not always easy to do.

My thanks to one of my readers for letting me use some example sentences from his writing about chess to illustrate this point.  Here is the first one:

When my father saw me one afternoon playing chess with my classmate, he hurriedly approach me and on that day he taught me how to play the right and serious way….

The first verb in this sentence is SAW (past tense). From that verb we know that the afternoon referred to has already occurred.  The second verb is APPROACH. If this verb were in the Present tense and used with HE, it would be written APPROACHES, but since the father SAW (past tense), the correct form would be APPROACHED (past tense) because the father APPROACHED on the same afternoon that he SAW. The third verb TAUGHT is correct because it is in the Past tense. The sentence should read this way:

When my father saw me playing chess one afternoon with my classmate, he hurriedly approached me, and on that day he taught me how to play the right and serious way….

Notice that I moved "one afternoon" to a smoother place in the sentence and added a comma after ME.

 

Here is the second sentence:

He didn't stop until I understand the proper use and value of my chess pieces.

The first verb in this sentence is DID STOP, which is Past tense. Therefore, UNDERSTOOD should also be in the Past tense because the chess player learned the proper use at a point in the past, not in the present. This sentence should read this way:

He didn't stop until I understood the proper use and value of my chess pieces.

 

Here is one more tip about verb use in sentences.  Take a look at this sentence:

 From beginner tactics to intermediate plans, all the fundamentals of chess were taught within a month by my father .

There is nothing grammatically incorrect about this sentence, but because it uses the Passive Voice (WERE TAUGHT), it does what I like to call "going around your elbow to say what you mean." It would be much more effective in the Active Voice.  This can be done by making MY FATHER the subject of the sentence as follows:

 From beginner tactics to intermediate plans, my father taught me all the fundamentals of chess within a month .

I think most readers would agree that this is more direct and easier to read.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 


Collision with bull teaches lesson, but not a grammar lesson!

Monday, March 14th, 2011

This morning's The Birmingham News contains an article from The Anniston Star about a man who was injured when his truck collided with a "mighty healthy" Angus bull on Alabama 9 during a pitch-black night. 

The headline suggests that the man learned a lesson from the encounter, but apparently the reporter, Jason Bacaj, needs one or two grammar refresher lessons. Consider this sentence:

His son was laying 15 feet behind the truck.

Whoops! I want to ask, "laying what?"  An egg? A trail for the bull to follow?  The word LAY (LAY, LAID, LAID) requires an object and means "to put or place something." The reporter needed the ING form (LYING) of LIE (LIE, LAY LAIN) to indicate that the poor man was reclining on the ground.  The sentence should read this way:

His son was lying 15 feet behind the truck

The article goes on to discuss a blip in Alabama law that limits compensation for a cow collision on a roadway to $25.  The reporter explains it this way:

State law says that if a rancher's cattle gets on a roadway, he or she (the rancher) can be fined "in no case more than $50, one half of such a fine to go to the injured party."

Whoops again! CATTLE is a plural term, referring to a group of cows (perhaps including bulls).  CATTLE requires the plural verb GET, not the singular verb GETS.  The sentence should read this way:

State law says that if a rancher's cattle get on a roadway, he or she (the rancher) can be fined "in no case more than $50, one half of such a fine to go to the injured party."

 

PLEASE NOTE: Horatios Bookstore–Next time you see this bookstore mentioned on Grammar Glitch Central, it will be written "Horatio's Bookstore," WITH the apostrophe.  The final vote of customers is in–61% for the apostrophe and 39% against the apostrophe.  Store owners plan to unveil the new apostrophe on April 2. You can follow the fun at www.horatiosbookshop.co.uk

(See the February 27 Grammar Glitch Central post for more information on this bookstore.  Only a few of my readers cast votes, but the split was 50% to 50%.  I promised to break the tie, so I am voting FOR the apostrophe.

     

     

     

     


    EVERYTHING is singular (whether it sounds that way or not)!

    Friday, March 11th, 2011

    Last time I checked, the word EVERYTHING was still taking a singular verb.  The idea is that you are referring to each individual one of something.  When you add items between the subject and verb, it is even more difficult to keep this straight.

    Here is a sentence from the front page of yesterday's The Birmingham News:

    Shoppers are feeling the squeeze in their grocery budgets these days, particularly at the meat counter, where everything from T-bone steaks to pork chops and hamburger patties are getting pricier.

    Whoops! The word EVERYTHING is treated as a singular pronoun.  It does not matter how many steaks, chops, and patties are mentioned after the preposition FROM.  It should still be EVERYTHING IS.

    The sentence should read this way:

    Shoppers are feeling the squeeze in their grocery budgets these days, particularly at the meat counter, where everything from T-bone steaks to pork chops and hamburger patties is getting pricier.

    I have definitely noticed the higher meat prices, and I imagine you have, too.  Time to get creative with other proteins in the kitchen!


    Hanged or Hung? Which would you choose?

    Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

    I thoroughly enjoyed spending most of last Saturday soaking up the annual Southern Voices program of authors at the Hoover Public Library. (www.hooverlibrary.org)  One of the featured speakers was author Batt Humphreys who has written a fascinating novel based on the 1910 court case of Daniel Cornelius Duncan.   Duncan, an African-American, was the last person to die by hanging in the state of South Carolina, and Humphreys became convinced that Duncan was innocent.

    I will leave it to you to track down a copy of Batt Humphreys' book, Dead Weight, if you are interested in the rest of the story.  You can read more about the author and his book at www.deadweight.us/ 

    What I wanted to share with Grammar Glitch readers is the amusing scenario that took place shortly after Humphreys began speaking about his book on Saturday.  He was explaining who Duncan was and said, "Duncan was the last person to be hanged, uh….hung, uh…Let's see."   Then he laughed and added, "Oh wow, not good to get it wrong in front of a group of librarians!"  To his credit, Humphreys settled on the correct choice, HANGED, and went on with his talk.

    His scenario gives me the opportunity to remind readers of the correct usage.  HANGED is always the correct past tense choice if you must unfortunately write about putting someone to death by hanging.  In ALL other instances, (HUNG on a hanger, HUNG out together, HUNG on the wall), the correct past tense choice is HUNG.

     


    Subject/Verb Agreement Error #2 for 2011: The Kudzu Bug!

    Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

    Anyone who lives in Alabama knows about kudzu, "the vine that ate (and continues to eat) the South."  Now comes the Kudzu Bug, which sounds at first like a wonderful new invader that can gobble up the invasive vine we imported on purpose over a century ago.  Kudzu was supposed to curb erosion, feed cattle, and do all sorts of other good things, but mainly it just grows a couple feet every night and wraps itself around trees and shrubs until it chokes them.

    In an article in The Birmingham News this week, Thomas Spencer wrote about these Kudzu-eating bugs and warned that they emit a detestable odor when crushed.  They also dine on useful crops like soy beans, and they have been known to invade homes in large numbers.  They've even been found clustered on the window sills of high-rise condos in Atlanta, 30 feet off the ground.  Ugh!

    Spencer's article is interesting (and disgusting), but it also contains the second subject/verb agreement error of the new year in this sentence:

    When temperatures drop, the pea-sized bugs–also known as the lablab bug or the globular stink bug–invades homes in hordes.

    Whoops!  The subject of this sentence is BUGS, which is plural.  The verb is INVADES, which is singular, so it needs to be changed to INVADE.  I'd also suggest making the two bug names in the dash phrase plural for parallel clarity.  What is written between the dashes should not affect the relationship between the basic subject and verb, but it can make the sentence awkward.  The sentence should read as follows:

    When temperatures drop, the pea-sized bugs–also known as lablab bugs or globular stink bugs–invade homes in hordes.


    Associated Press Proofreads, Fixes Headline

    Monday, December 13th, 2010

     

    The second GRAMMAR GLITCH CENTRAL Getting the Grammar Right award goes to The Associated Press for catching and fixing an error in one of their online headlines.  When I first scanned the headlines on my home page this morning, this one made me cringe:

    Snow in NW Indiana trap more than 70 motorists

    Whoops! SNOW is a collective noun (like LAUNDRY or SALT or MONEY).  It takes a singular verb (with an S on the end).

    By the time I ran a few Christmas errands and came back to the computer, AP had corrected the headline to read correctly:

    Snow in NW Indiana traps more than 70 motorists

    Hats off to AP for spotting the error and correcting it. Let's hope those 70 motorists have now been rescued and are cozy and warm at home.

    If you missed the first GRAMMAR GLITCH CENTRAL Getting the Grammar Right award, please check back to my blog entry for June 4, 2010.  It went to Publix Grocery for using the word FEWER correctly on a sign at their checkout lanes.


    To split or not to split? The infinitive question!

    Friday, December 10th, 2010

    One grammar guideline I like suggests avoiding split infinitives "most of the time."  I don't believe in an absolute rule on this one.  There are times when a split infinitive is effective for emphasis.  I think common sense should be used when deciding whether to split or not to split.

    In a recent blog post, Mignon Fogarty reminds of us perhaps the most famous effective split infinitive–the Star Trek mission "to boldly go where no one has gone before."  (See http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/split-infinitives.aspx.)

    A quick refresher: An infinitive is TO + a verb, as in TO GO or TO DRIVE.

    I do think it is wise to avoid splitting an infinitive (inserting a word between TO and the verb) unless there is a compelling reason to do so.  Here are two examples from a recent edition of The Birmingham News:

    In an article on school bullying, Marienne Thomas-Ogle wrote this sentence:

    The system's bullying prevention committee is working to not only stop bullying from occurring, but to detect and do away with any that exists.

    Inserting NOT ONLY between TO and STOP creates a split infinitive that is not necessary and sounds awkward. The usual phrasing with NOT ONLY is BUT ALSO.  The concept of "stop bullying from occurring" really means "prevent," so I would change STOP to PREVENT for clearer meaning.  I also think "from occurring" serves no purpose in this sentence, and I would not place a comma before BUT.  Here is my edit (without the split infinitive):

    The system's bullying prevention committee is working not only to prevent bullying, but also to detect and do away with any that exists.

     

    Here is a second example from a "Just a Chat" interview by Val Walton.  NOTE: It is a good example, but it is also a quotation, so the reporter would not be expected to change the grammar:

    I would often go to Europe to visit family and to also sight-see.

    WOULD OFTEN GO is a wordy phrase that should be replaced with OFTEN WENT.  The word ALSO splits the infinitive TO SIGHTSEE and should be moved.  I checked my trusty American Heritage Dictionary as well as numerous websites and determined that the standard usage is SIGHTSEE (without the hyphen).  I would reword this sentence as follows:

    I often went to Europe to visit family and also to sightsee.

     

    If you'd like to read a comprehensive analysis of  the split infinitive–its history, its usage, and opinions about when to split it and when not to, please visit Grammar Girl at the web address given earlier in this post.

    Alas, poor writer, there is no absolute rule or answer on this one.

     


    Does your screen porch wake up early?

    Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

    Remember the dreaded "dangling participle" banned from English class compositions?  It's still a no-no out in the real writing world.  Here is an example from an essay entitled "My Favorite Place" that appeared in a recent issue of Senior Living:

    Waking early, the screen porch is a great place to enjoy drinking a cup of hot coffee while viewing the sun rising over the mountains, and pondering the many opportunities and adventures the day holds.

     WAKING (an ING participle) should modify the subject of the sentence.  That subject is PORCH, but the writer is talking about himself waking up early, not the porch.  

    Another point about this sentence: The writer enjoys doing TWO things while drinking his hot coffee–VIEWING the sun and PONDERING the opportunities.  Since these two actions are connected by the word AND, there is no need for a comma after MOUNTAINS.  Because this sentence abounds in ING forms and because we can assume that the writer is drinking his coffee if he is enjoying it, I would leave out DRINKING.

    Here are two suggested edits for this sentence:

    If I wake up early, the screen porch is a great place to enjoy a cup of hot coffee while viewing the sun rising over the mountains and pondering the many opportunities and adventures the day holds.

    Waking early, I enjoy a cup of hot coffee on the screen porch while viewing the sun rising over the mountains and pondering the many opportunities and adventures the day holds.