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Sari's grammar thread


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#151
ZedU54

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...here's another one of those 'pedantic' grammar rules that people very commonly violate in common everyday speech...and most people probably don't even realize they're violating it. It's not as obvious or as 'grating on the nerves' as some of the other grammatical 'faux pas' that have been discussed here, but strictly speaking, it's a violation nonetheless.

Consider the following sentence:

'I can understand him being devastated by news like that.'

So, what's the violation of proper grammar? It's that pronoun 'him'.

Why is that grammatically incorrect?

It's the wrong case. 'Him' is an objective case pronoun. It would be fine if it were not followed by the phrase 'being devastated by news like that'; in that case it would be the direct object and thus perfectly correct. However, that phrase changes everything. (Question 9 of that 'their/they're/there' quiz [refer to post #137] touched on this.) The phrase 'being devastated by news like that' is a gerundive or participle phrase. Gerunds (the present participle or '-ing' form of a verb standing alone) and phrases that contain them function as nouns; therefore, this entire phrase is now the actual direct object of the sentence instead of the pronoun 'him'. In this sentence, 'him' is now being incorrectly used as a modifier of this gerundive direct object. The only form of a pronoun that you can use as a modifier of a noun (or a phrase that functions as a noun) is the possessive case (which functions as an adjective). Thus, the sentence should correctly read:

'I can understand his being devastated by news like that.'

...I love this stuff...

Edited by ZedU54, 26 March 2009 - 07:01 PM.

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#152
sari

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ZedU54, you're welcome to add whatever you'd like (and correct me when necessary, since I do make mistakes!).
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#153
ZedU54

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ZedU54, you're welcome to add whatever you'd like (and correct me when necessary, since I do make mistakes!).

...why, thank you. But, since you are the 'Grammar Department Administrator', I doubt that you will need correcting very often...
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#154
sari

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Well, I hardly claim to be perfect. I know they're/there/their and your/you're, and I can spell. It's a good start!
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#155
wannabe1

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Spelling isn't all that important:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

*wannabe1 hides from the grammar godess
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#156
sari

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I know where to find you. :)
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#157
sarahw

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1 G0† m3 4 d1˘†10n4Яj, h0vv 31337 1$ †h4†!!!!!!!one!!!!!!!!!shiftone111111
kthxbai

Edited by sarahw, 27 March 2009 - 06:11 AM.

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#158
Onaipian

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That is so cool wannabe1! At first, I was having troubles because I was trying too hard to find the mistakes, but then I read the part about reading it as a whole. I find it so interesting that I can just read through it even though it is filled with errors that makes it look impossible to read.

Thanks for sharing! (I'm going to tell my English teacher that next time I get marked down for spelling :))
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#159
BHowett

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yaeh taht qitue an old jkoe, I'm srue yuor tcaheer has seen it bferoe. :)
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#160
TooNew2

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Thanks for this important thread, Sari! :)

Spelling isn't all that important:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

*wannabe1 hides from the grammar godess

That may often be true, but does not always work. I see poorly writtten questions trying to ask for 'technical information' on a car club site I moderate, and sometimes I can't figure out the intent. With more than a simple idea, things can get confusing.
Also, try writing a contract that way and then enforcing it in court. Many radio ads are written that way just so the company can say the ad never actually said what is being 'implied', or what listeners think it says.

BTW, my favorite 'Error', the use of "their' for the singular, was brought up in post 5. I think it was originally done to appease the "Femminatzis" by avoiding "his" or "her" because "his" has always traditionally been used when the gender was unknown. This error has gotten so widespread that few people seem to understand, to notice it, or to even care about it.
An example of this misuse is:

"Every customer deserves their needs to be met". [The original was actually worse, but I've forgotten how.]

I have actually called a few advertisers to explain this misuse, and one eventually corrected his ad!
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#161
sari

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That may often be true, but does not always work. I see poorly writtten questions trying to ask for 'technical information' on a car club site I moderate, and sometimes I can't figure out the intent. With more than a simple idea, things can get confusing.

Of course, in that example the sentence makes sense. I know the type of confusing questions to which you refer, and the biggest problem is not the spelling itself, it's that the sentence is just incomprehensible.
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#162
ZedU54

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BTW, my favorite 'Error', the use of "their' for the singular, was brought up in post 5. I think it was originally done to appease the "Femminatzis" by avoiding "his" or "her" because "his" has always traditionally been used when the gender was unknown. This error has gotten so widespread that few people seem to understand, to notice it, or to even care about it.
An example of this misuse is:

"Every customer deserves their needs to be met". [The original was actually worse, but I've forgotten how.]

I have actually called a few advertisers to explain this misuse, and one eventually corrected his ad!


...people have been making that mistake long before there was such a thing as 'Feminazis', and long before the bozo who is credited with giving us that term was ever on the air. I can remember my 1960s English textbooks addressing this. You don't use the plural 'their' to refer to a singular subject (in grammatical technical terms, it's called 'agreement').
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#163
TooNew2

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...people have been making that mistake long before there was such a thing as 'Feminazis', and long before the bozo who is credited with giving us that term was ever on the air. I can remember my 1960s English textbooks addressing this. You don't use the plural 'their' to refer to a singular subject (in grammatical technical terms, it's called 'agreement').

The difference is that the practice used to be considered wrong by literate people (who themselves might accidentally use it) but today even the teachers either condone it or just don't know the difference. It's the change in attitude mostly, plus the lowered standards of education to a lesser degree, that are responsible for the widespread misuse.
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#164
ZedU54

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...and another one I pick up from time to time: 'loath' vs 'loathe'.
'Loathe' is a verb meaning 'to detest' or 'despise': 'I absolutely loathe malware and the clowns who write it!'
'Loath' is an adjective meaning 'reluctant': 'Out of respect, we were loath to approach the survivors of the accident.'
Most commonly, we see/hear people using the word 'loathe' when they should be using 'loath'...
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#165
hawklord

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as this seems to be a grammar thread and singular and prural are linked, there is a question or 2 -

what is the plural of sheep, or singular if you like ?

and whats the plural of crowd ? - we all know that the singular of crowd is person, but isn't crowd a singular in itself ?,

just a bit of fun

(i had my little alien thinking that a single sheep was called a shoop)
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