Author Topic: Ask Opus: On Grammar  (Read 13501 times)

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2009, 03:12:08 AM »
My current project is set in mountains that are inspired by another U.S. National Park.  These are not as tall as the ones in Texas, but they are forested instead of being in a desert.  I usually visit this park in the winter when there are few visitors.

Kind regards,
Opus

Offline pb

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #31 on: October 10, 2009, 05:22:53 AM »
sounds fantastic, Opus

have a great time and all that good stuff.

Offline Hugh

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #32 on: October 10, 2009, 05:13:00 PM »
Hi Opus. I notice you write U.S. rather than US. Similarly, Americans still put a full stop after Mr, Mrs, Dr and the like, which seems rather quaint, since the tendency on your side of the Atlantic has been to try and modernise the English language.

Wasn’t it Noah Webster who felt the need to simplify English words? Plough became plow, colour became color, centre became center, dentist became orthodontist – oops, what happened there?

But when it comes to grammar, the “rules” seem pretty much the same on both sides of the pond, although I still don’t undertand how a preposition like “with” suddenly becomes an adverb when it ends a sentence. Not that it matters, since the rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition went out of the window years ago, as did splitting infinitives, starting a sentence with a conjunction – all those rules that were drummed into us oldies when we were at school.

Keep up the good work.

Hugh

Offline Vienna

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #33 on: October 11, 2009, 10:24:20 AM »


Opus as "the expert" here perhaps you could like explain the usage of like, like in like american like english like?? ;D American students are like coming into like the bookshop where I like work and asking for like the books for their like courses like and it's like every second like word is like well like.
Just a well-read punk peasant

Going to church makes you a christian as much as standing in a garage makes you a car!

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #34 on: October 11, 2009, 11:02:32 AM »
Comment on Interjection Like

Vienna,

I don't want to be so unfair as to answer last questions first, so I'l just go with answering the easy ones first.

Being an "expert" is more than I would claim for myself.  If there is something that one is particularly good at, one ought to plant the skill where it will be fertile and grow.  As the old Christian parable has it, we are not given talents to hoard but to put them into the service of mankind.

Take a look at meaning 25 in Dictionary.com's entry for like.  This is the usage you are hearing.  It is probably not something one would use in formal writing, but it is very common in the speech of today's youth.  It passed into the popular vernacular in the 1980s as a result of the old "valley girl" fad.  This is not a usage of the word that I employ, however.  For some people, it has become a toadstool just poisoning their speech.

Kind regards,
Opus
« Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 05:12:36 PM by Opus »

Offline Vienna

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #35 on: October 11, 2009, 11:10:32 AM »

so it's like an overuse? ;D
Just a well-read punk peasant

Going to church makes you a christian as much as standing in a garage makes you a car!

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #36 on: October 11, 2009, 11:53:21 AM »
Hugh,

Many of the changes that Noah Webster quietly proposed became the subject of controversy in 1906 when Theodore Roosevelt attempted to make them "official" by executive fiat.  Here is a list of the changes Roosevelt proposed.  You will notice that many of them never took.  The ones that did were already taking hold in the U.S. due to Webster's work.

Americans use periods in abbreviations much more frequently than other English speakers.  Our abbreviation for our own country is U.S. and NOT US or U. S. although these are not entirely unheard of.  The same is true of many other abbreviations; however, we do not use P.C. whether we mean personal computer or politically correct.  The use of periods in abbreviations should not be looked upon as the insertion of "full stops".  Instead, they just signal that a word is to be understood as a "shortened form".  I wonder why we do not do this with every abbreviation.

Note:  We do not call dentists orthodontists unless they practice that particular form of dentistry known as...well...orthodontia.  Otherwise, they are dentists.

Prepositions without objects are usually adverbs.  (I say usually because otherwise someone would tease me with the one exception in the entire language if such an exception exists.)  Words that are normally prepositions are adverbs when they have no stated object and are playing the role of an adverb.  Consider the following sentence:

I had never heard of that before.

In this sentence, before is an adverb because it answers the question when.  There is, however, a suppressed object, which could be now.  If the object had not been suppressed, before would be a preposition instead of an adverb.

The site A Tongue Untied has a small article on prepositions as adverbs.

It should be noted that not all prepositions at the end of a sentence are adverbs.  Sometimes they are at the end of the sentence because they have been stranded there in which case they are still prepositions.  This is very common with interrogative sentences:

What are you looking for?  Here, for is a preposition and NOT an adverb because its object is what.  The sentence could have just as correctly been worded, "For what are you looking?"

If a word that is usually a preposition has no expressed object, it is, again usually, an adverb.

The rule about not splitting infinitives, however, is more sensible because to frequently and carelessly, without regard to clarity or pity for the nerves of poor readers, split an infinitive can make for awkward, unclear, and idiotic sentences.  As a result, I am more sympathetic toward this rule.  Infinitives should not be split except for creative effect (e.g. to boldly go, etc.) and never with more than a word or two.

Kind regards,
Opus
« Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 05:25:22 PM by Opus »

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #37 on: October 11, 2009, 12:09:02 PM »
so it's like an overuse? ;D

Don't make me have to come over there. :-*

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #38 on: October 11, 2009, 01:08:11 PM »
Punctuating Parentheses and Brackets

What, dear Opus, is the correct punctuation for brackets.  does it count as a comma on its own, it being a sort of pause or should you if necessary put a comma alongside it? and if so, does the comma go inside the bracket or outside?

When I was in primary school, I was taught that punctuation goes inside the close parenthesis (or bracket).  Not so!  Punctuation goes on the outside unless the material inside requires punctuation for its own sake, and then the outside sentence still requires punctuation.   Consider the following sentence that I absconded from The Keables Guide.

Miranda's frequent exclamations express pity ("O, woe the day!" "O the heavens!" "Alack, for mercy!") and wonder ("O, wonder!" "O brave new world!").

How is that for a juicy example of a rule?  (I don't usually steal my examples, but this was just too good to pass up.)

If, however, the parenthetical material is external to any sentence, then the punctuation goes inside the close parenthesis with no punctuation following.

Kind regards,
Opus
« Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 05:10:41 PM by Opus »

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #39 on: October 11, 2009, 03:20:29 PM »
Affect vs. Effect

Affect and Effect are two words that are often confused because of their occasional similarity in meaning.  Affect refers to emotional and mental states, pretense, and alterations to the general state of things.  The noun form falls exclusively within the province of the medical fields of psychology and psychiatry and is not used outside of those disciplines.  The transitive verb generally means to influence, to produce a mental or emotional effect, or to put on a false appearance.  Effect, in both noun and verb form, refers to concrete, if sometimes unnamed, results of events, actions, and behaviors.

To assist me in keeping these words straight, I use the following as a guide.

When a noun, use effect.  When a verb, use effect when something new is coming into existence; otherwise, use affect.

Affect

The noun is not used in common writing, but here are some examples of uses of the verb form:

The concerto played by the girl visibly affected Bob.  Alteration of a person's mental or emotional state.

Music affects people in various ways some of which are not easy to define.  Alteration of the general state of something.

Bob affected an expertise in music.  Pretend or put on a false appearance.

In the first sentence above, the child's playing altered Bob's mental or emotional state.  The second sentence speaks of the often intangible influence music has over people.  In the third, Bob pretends to know more about music than he really does.

Note:  If you ever do see affect as a noun, be aware that the stress will be on the first syllable.

Effect

While affect is never used as a noun in common writing and effect is, the situation reverses when it comes to the verbs.  The verb form of affect is much more commonly used than that of effect.  Here are some examples of the use of effect

Noun:

The effect of the storm on the city was catastrophic, and the citizens were deeply affected by it.

This sentence not only illustrates the use of the noun effect, but it also demonstrates the application of the verb form of affect in the same context speaking of the general effects of the storm on the people living in the city.

Verb:

The architect effected an alteration of the building's design.  The alteration affected the building's structure.

These two sentences illustrate the subtle difference in the use of the verb forms of these words.  In the first sentence, the architect brought something into existence, the alteration.  While one might be tempted to use affected here because something that already exists, the design, is being altered, it is the grammatical object that must be considered in choosing the right word.  It is the alteration that is new and that calls for the verb effected.  In the second sentence, the building's structure is the grammatical object, and since that structure already existed, on paper at least, the correct word is affected.

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #40 on: October 11, 2009, 07:01:24 PM »
e.g. vs. i.e.

Judging from the frequency of the misuse of e.g. and i.e. that I see, the meaning of these abbreviations must be either a complete mystery or a matter of indifference to many people.  Some apparently believe that these terms are interchangeable.  They are not!

I.e. is an abbreviation of the Latin id est meaning "that is".  It is used to identify or clarify a statement or idea.

My next project (i.e., in writing) will be a short story about the connubial felicitations of three sisters.  ("that is" NOT "for example")

E.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin exemplī gratia roughly translating to "for example".  It is used to list one or more instances that exemplify a concept.

The latest books I've read (e.g., Gone With the Wind, Moby Dick, etc.) are not among my favorites.  ("for example" NOT "that is")

Note:  The use of a comma following the second period is preferred by most authorities, but it is something I often forget.  These abbreviations are often employed with parenthetical usage.  The periods are NOT optional.

Tip:

Use i.e. to identify or clarify something.  Use e.g. to give examples of something.  Follow the last period of either with a comma.

Offline Don

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #41 on: October 12, 2009, 02:17:22 AM »
Quote
Follow the last period of either with a comma.

I always thought that comma was optional, in the same vein as the second listing or Oxford comma. I avoid it primarily because it adds visual clutter.

On another note, let me be the last to congratulate you for creating an excellent thread. I suspect you've helped far more people than those who took the time to comment. Well done.

I have a motto: when in doubt, go for the cheap laugh.

Offline Hugh

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #42 on: October 12, 2009, 06:16:12 AM »
color=blue]What are you looking for?[/color]  Here, for is a preposition and NOT an adverb because its object is what.  The sentence could have just as correctly been worded, "For what are you looking?"


For a moment I thought I’d got it – Eureka – then I thought again about the Churchill quip, and I’m not sure that I have.

“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

Put another way round, it becomes, “I will not put up with this sort of English”. The “with” has an object (this sort of English), which makes it a preposition, doesn’t it?

So, if you say, “This is the sort of English I will not put up with”, the “with” still refers to “this sort of English”, and so still has an object, and is therefore a preposition. Or is it?

Not that I’m all that bothered about what it’s called, since, as you pointed out in another thread, ending a sentence with a preposition is not an error – despite what we had rammed down our throats at school – and so whether it’s a preposition or an adverb becomes immaterial.

Besides, if a sentence flows well, is easy to read, and conveys exactly what you mean, does it matter if the grammar is not strictly correct?

You’re doing a grand job with this thread, Opus, so if some of your eager readers find some things confusing, do bear with us.

Hugh

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #43 on: October 12, 2009, 06:36:17 AM »
I always thought that comma was optional, in the same vein as the second listing or Oxford comma.

On another note, let me be the last to congratulate you for creating an excellent thread. I suspect you've helped far more people than those who took the time to comment. Well done.

Thanks for the encouragement.  Maybe folks are not all that interested in the subject matter.

According to, among others, the Chicago Manual of Style, the comma is required following these abbreviations, and I will do my best to try to remember them.

Kind regards,
Opus

Offline Opus

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Re: Ask Opus: On Grammar
« Reply #44 on: October 12, 2009, 06:58:17 AM »
For a moment I thought I’d got it – Eureka – then I thought again about the Churchill quip, and I’m not sure that I have.

“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

Put another way round, it becomes, “I will not put up with this sort of English”. The “with” has an object (this sort of English), which makes it a preposition, doesn’t it?

So, if you say, “This is the sort of English I will not put up with”, the “with” still refers to “this sort of English”, and so still has an object, and is therefore a preposition. Or is it?

Not that I’m all that bothered about what it’s called, since, as you pointed out in another thread, ending a sentence with a preposition is not an error – despite what we had rammed down our throats at school – and so whether it’s a preposition or an adverb becomes immaterial.

Besides, if a sentence flows well, is easy to read, and conveys exactly what you mean, does it matter if the grammar is not strictly correct?

You’re doing a grand job with this thread, Opus, so if some of your eager readers find some things confusing, do bear with us.

Hugh


Remember that what is important here is what is going on grammatically.  In the sentence highlighted above, this is NOT the grammatical object of with.  Put up with is actually a phrasal verb, so with's role is either adverbial or auxiliary.  It is certainly not prepositional.

Grammar rules are not, as some have said it, "made to be broken."  They are also not things that we just give a passing nod to.  After all, what "flows well," is "easy to read," or "conveys exactly what you mean" may do no such thing for others if you are utilizing a private grammar construct that you have simply gotten used to.  Others may read the same material and say, "WTF?"  Grammar rules are also not written in stone, and they certainly did not come down from on high.  They simply tell us what ought usually to be done.  Some rules are more flexible than others, but this does not imply that they are superfluous.

Grammar is important because it provides a standardized framework, that is (mostly) understood and (mostly) agreed to, to facilitate communication.  While one might contend that there is a great deal of disagreement over grammar, the simple fact is that there is much more agreement than otherwise.

Kind regards,
Opus

PS:  Thanks for the encouragement. -- O.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 07:00:44 AM by Opus »