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Determiners and other adjectives

Is the following noun OK? If not, I appreciate modifications. severe and increasing numerous critics.Read More...
The critics are "severe," right? And they're "numerous," right? (You can't say "increasing critics"; you would have to say "increasing number of critics.") The word "increasing," then, must have been meant to modify the adjective "numerous." Therefore it must be in the form of an adverb, since adjectives are modified by adverbs, not adjectives. The correct form of the phrase is severe and increasingly numerous critics Note: predeterminers are words like "all," "both," and "half." This phrase...Read More...

Prepositional phrase -- repeat preposition?

In the following sentence, are the second "in" and"with" optional or obligatory? Do you live in New York or in Tokyo? Do you eat with chopsticks or with a fork? masami fujiiRead More...
optional. In this case, prepositional phrases are parallel. The other one, objects of the preposition are parallel.Read More...

Phrasal verb "call for": repeat particle?

(1) She called for urban apartments and for clustered suburban housing. (2) She called for urban apartments and clustered suburban housing. I feel, 1 is incorrect. Any comments?Read More...
Unless prepositional phrase is seen, parallelism at PP level seems ungrammatical. Let us look at the following Nouns: 3.Urban apartments for which she called 4.Urban apartments which she called for Sentence 4 clearly reflects the meaning of phrasal verb, whereas sentence 3 does not.Read More...

"Us" or "ours"

I would like to know, which Pronoun "us" or "ours" must be used in the following sentences: Books are ... These books are ... We have learned to say e.i. " These are our books," but I need some explanation on how to use object pronouns. Thank you. CyrusRead More...
There's no such form as "*Books are us." You may have seen the name of a toy store called "Toys 'R Us." This is not natural English; it's a trade name. A statement of ownership needs the definite article or another determiner before the noun, hence the correct forms would be These books are ours The books on the top shelf are ours ; the other ones are hers BUT These books belong to us Finally, a pronoun that comes after the verb be and that refers to the grammatical subject is not an object...Read More...

Comma before "that" in relative clause

I saw the following heading in the Washington Post dated Dce. 7. Saad Saffar walks through a building in Baghdad, burned by departing Baathists, that he is converting into an Islamic cultural center. I believe this メthatモ is a relative. When there is a comma, a relative メthatモ is not used. Isnユt this a rule? Is this sometimes allowed, or a new trend, or a simple error? mitsukoRead More...
The commas in this question belong to the appositive " burned by departing Baathists ". Appositive is a word or phrase that immediately follows the other word or phrase to identify or explain it. Here the writer used the appositive to explain a building in Baghdad . Words in apposition can be either parenthetical or defining. Usually if they are parenthetical (i.e. merely to provide further information), they are set off with commas as shown in this sentence. If you remove the appositive...Read More...

Gerund or infinitive?

Some students argue that a verb phrase in -ing form could function as subject and that sentences like the following would be acceptable as well: Being there is important for me. I suggested saying "It is important for me to be there". I could say nothing more than that. Thank you. Chuncan FengRead More...
No, that construction doesn't exist in English. With the "It's easy" cleft sentence, the only complement is the infinitive, e.g. It's easy to make New Year's resolutions but less easy to keep them; It's not easy for my husband and me to make ends meet. You can think of the complement as a unit: the "for-to" complement construction." That's what it's called in linguistics. Marilyn MartinRead More...

Singular or plural verb with numbers, percentages and fractions

Should the verb to be be singular or plural in these cases? Over one-quarter of students (is, are) ethnic minorities. One in 10 students (is, are) English language learners. 39% of the students (is, are) full-time students. What is the rule governing the usage in each of the examples? Mary BethRead More...
The verb should agree with the subject rather than the subject complement. For this particular sentence, I'd say the correct sentence is: The first thing I noticed about him was his eyes. because the first thing is the singular-noun subject of this sentence. Since his eyes is an identifying complement, subject-complement reversal is possible. If reversed, the use of verb is changed as follows: His eyes were the first thing I noticed about him. Now the subject of the sentence becomes a plural...Read More...

"Much good"

In the following passage I found in a book, are "much good" and "very good" interchangeable? I'm not familiar with "much good" except when it is in the sentence as in "It doesn't do us much good". "He built the house with the help of his brother." "Oh, that brother, Sam. He wasn't much good." Is "he isn't much good" standard usage? appleRead More...
As I said ealier, much , in the sense of very , is usually used with adjectival past participles. Ex: much interested, much pleased by the compliment, or much gratified. The use of not much good seems to be an idiomatic expression. The use of much to modify other adjectives might be possible, but, based on my google search, I didn't see any good examples of such usage.Read More...

Lots of uses for "as"

I've been wondering about something and tried hard to work it out,but it's still hard to me. "As" has a lot of meanings. Would you please tell me how "as" works in clauses? Thank you.Read More...
The only one in which as can be paraphrased easily is 6c): 6c) We will be closed for the next two days, as/because the heating system has broken down and needs to be repaired (reason) The rest of the examples do not seem to have alternatives for the "as" phrases, many of which are idioms or at least idiomatic. Maybe other members will have suggestions. Marilyn MartinRead More...

Present participle--function in sentence?

"Keegan's point was valid, the grammarians said, forcing ETS to throw out the question and bump up the test scores of nearly 500,000 students, of the 1.8 million who took the test that day." In the above sentence, "forcing" is functioning as adverbial, for there is no noun to be modified by the participle. Why dont we call dangling participles adverbials? Or how to decide one is dangling or adverbial? VenRead More...
No, the quoted material is the direct object of the verb said and has nothing to do with the present participle forcing . The subject of the main clause is grammarians and the verb of the main clause is said . Compare: She said "Yes," making me the happiest man in the world It was the action of saying "yes," not the "yes" itself, that caused the speaker/writer to become the happiest man in the world. Marilyn MartinRead More...

Adjectival clause, modifying verb

Rachel wrote on Sep 23, 03: [Quote] For an adjective clause that modifies the entire sentence, "which" is preceded by a comma, as in: All the students scored very high in the university entrance examinations, which pleased their teacher very much. [EndQuote] How come adjectival clause, which modifies only noun, acts as adverb as in the above example. Can somebody shed light on this?Read More...
Since this latest question is on another topic, I'm posting it as a new query. Look for it under "Present participle--function in sentence?"Read More...

Singular and plural nouns

The passage is that "The boys wear a gho,and the girls wear a kira. They are like kimono." Would you tell me why "a gho" and "a kira" are xpressed like this,not "ghoes","kiras","gho" nor"kira"? And why is "kimono" expressed like this,not "a kimono" nor "kimonos"? Thank you.Read More...
Corpus search yields more examples with the article before "kimono" than those without it.."a" is almost always used when an adjective is attached as in " a bright colored kimono". The kimono, a kimono, her kimono,. My humble analysis and guess in regard to kimono is that Japanese language does not have singular plural sense. We can safely say "This three pen" instead of "these three pens." " I have many book" is correct in Japanese. We don't always add "s" at the end of plural count nouns.Read More...

"Freer" or "more free"?

Who will help me? Today,I saw this sentence:"He began to feel that he was more free than ever before in his life." "free" is a one syllable word. Why is "more free" used instead of "freer"? Thanks for any help. CombeingRead More...
It's not "against the rule," because there is no across-the-board rule against such usage. In the case of "long" it would be very rare indeed to find the "more" comparative. With "red," you will find "redder" and, occasionally, "more red." It depends on the word involved as well as on the speaker's or writer's choice. A good way to find out about the frequency of such collocations is to do a Google search for each version. Marilyn MartinRead More...

Inversion

In a narrative about a childhood episode, one of my students mentioned his sense of thrill about being in a big city. I have a doubt concerning a certain sentence containing an inversion, which at first I thought was wrong, but now, thinking a little bit more about it, I´m not so sure. He wrote the following: " I was stunned, as I walked out of the bus station with my mother. Unforeseen were such a crowd and so much noise, coming from various sources, which I did not find unpleasant at...Read More...
Dear Marilyn and Rachel, I would like to thank you both for your very informative comments! Best, GiseleRead More...

Collective noun and its pronoun

Consider the sentence from a news article below: The government have strengthened its efforts to crack down drug business since Feb. 1, when it declared the beginning of the war on drugs. I understand that government is a collective noun which can use either singular or plural verbs depending on the context. Here, the subject uses the plural verb have , but the pronoun used for the subject is it . I'm not sure about this inconsistent use of pronoun or verb. Is this kind of use acceptable?Read More...
The writer, most likely a speaker of British English, has chosen to use the plural verb with the noun "government" and then has switched to the singular form for the pronoun references. This is unusual. Biber et al.* state "Collective nouns can occur with both singular and plural personal pronouns and possessive determiners..." (p. 331) They give as the only example relevant to Ananja's query this sentence: The committee has decided that their faithful followers should be the ones to decide...Read More...

"Know somebody" or "know of somebody"

Here is a situation where you are holding a picture of Princess Diana and showing it to a young child. You: Do you know who this is? Kid: Yeah, I know her. Princess Diana! Would that mean the kid knows her personally? Would you correct her to say I know about or/of her, instead of I know her? Is it always better to say I know of, or I know about someone when you do not know the person well? Or can it be easily presumed whether you know that person personally or not? appleRead More...
English speakers quite often use "know" when they mean "know of" in casual speech. The hearer usually understands what is meant. If there is any uncertainty, the hearer asks for clarification. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"Alive" and "living"

Is there a difference between the two? 1. We used to play cards when my father was alive. 2. We used to play cards when my father was living. appleRead More...
In your sentence, "alive" and "living" mean the same thing. They are synonyms. However, there are differences in construction of some sentences with "alive" and "living." For example, "alive" has to appear after a linking verb or after the noun itself; you CAN"T say "an alive person," but of course you can say "a living person." And, "alive" can be followed by a prepositional phrase, such as "The hills were alive with the sound of music," but NOT "The hills were living with the sound of...Read More...

"To " vs "for"

Which preposition should we use, to or for, in the following sentence: It is important ____ me to attend the meeting. Thank you. Chuncan FengRead More...
Chuncan Feng's analysis covers almost the whole issue. A little more needs to be explained. Let's look at each of the sentences. 1. It is important to me to attend the meeting. It depends on the discourse up to that point. If there is no other party mentioned or understood to be considered for attendance at the meeting, the one involved is the speaker. For example: There's a strategy meeting tomorrow at 8 in the board room. It's important to me to attend because they're considering my...Read More...

Why the present perfect?

Hello, I would like some explanation for the following sentence please: a) Oh, Ann I am glad I've caught you. Can you stay on and help us finish some work? Why is it I've caught you and not the past simple I am glad I caught you. THANKS ..Read More...
Both forms are correct. The statement is probably British English usage. British English uses the present perfect much more than does American English. There is nothing mysterious in the use of the present perfect. The speaker is referring to the present situation, the "aftermath" of the action of "catching." (American English often uses the simple past for such situations, as in "The mail arrived" meaning that the mail is now here.) According to the historian of the English language, Otto...Read More...

Count or noncount -- "grin" and "glee"

In one of the children's books, I came across these two expressions. 1. he said with a grin. 2. he said with glee. Why is a grin count noun and glee isn't? appleRead More...
Grin is a count noun and glee is a mass (noncount) noun. A good learner's dictionary will give you examples of each. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"I don't know who to help me": correct?

Here is the first of Chuncan Feng's follow-up questions mentioned by Rachel in the "wh-words and infinitives" thread: 1. Can we say "I don't know who to help me", as another way of saying "I don't know who will help me"? Chuncan FengRead More...
One of my students wrote that sentence. We know that we can say "I don't know who to trust", but I was at a loss what to say when faced with "who to help me". Thanks. Chuncan FengRead More...

"In which city" or "in what city"?

Without further context, which should we say, "I don't know in which city to settle" or "I don't know in what city to settle"? Chuncan FengRead More...
In the student workbook we are using here there is a sentence to be translated from Chinese into English. The original Chinese sentence has no context: there is not a list of candidates available. The teacher's book says that the correct translation is "I don't know which city to settle in." Just as you said in your post, I thought the use of "which" would need a list of target cities. So I posted the question so as to be prepared to answer students' questions. Chuncan FengRead More...

Stylistic Status of an Expression --"fall about one's ears"

Dear experts, Could you advise me on the stylistic status of the expression FALL ABOUT SOMEONE'S EARS: fall about someone's ears - collapse; fail suddenly: All our careful plans fell about our ears when the government changed the tax laws. Is it known in US or is it UK only? Is it dated or current? Thank you, YuriRead More...
From my google search, it seems like this expression is still in current use, mostly in British media. Here are some examples: Atherton departed with the slight reluctance and pained expression of a man whose world was falling about his ears . (Guardian, Thursday December 29, 1994) Service personnel in the case of every fire have a right to expect that the building will not fall about their ears , that they can get in and out safely, and that their job will not get more difficult if the...Read More...

"Play the guitar" vs. "play guitar"

I'd like to know: What's the difference between "he plays the guitar." and "he plays guitar."? Thank you.Read More...
"He plays guitar" is an informal variant of "He plays the guitar." Usage varies according to the instrument and the kind of music that is played. With instruments like the guitar, the piano, the drums, and the saxophone--instruments used in jazz and popular music--the article is often omitted. With instruments associated mainly with baroque or classical music, e.g. the flute, the oboe, the French horn, the harpsichord, the bassoon, the definite article is often used. Because the piano and...Read More...

Semantic Relevance of the Article -- "feel a draft" or "feel the draft"?

Dear experts, Would you say that the article is semantically relevant in differentiating the expressions below which are not interchangeable (or are they?): feel a draft feel the draft feel a draft - 1. (US sl.) have the sensation that one is not welcome in a place; sense racism: Have you ever felt a draft? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt uncomfortable because you are white? 2. (arch.) feel an inclination or an impulse: I felt a secret gentle draft to visit to meetings in...Read More...
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