Category Archives: grammar

Using Verbs part 1

Before I get going with the verbs, I am puzzled. This, I suppose is a throwback to previously when I did nouns. I also mentioned it in that treatise, too, but it’s beginning to bug me.

So many pieces of writing I see nowadays, that mention our beautiful planet, fail to give it a capital letter. Why? It’s name is a PROPER noun. Proper nouns begin with a CAPITAL LETTER.

I haven’t noticed people writing Mars, Venus, Jupiter, the Asteroids, etc, and not capitalising the first letter, so why don’t people, and people who should know better, too, not treat our own home in the same way?

Writers and other supposedly educated people do it. One writer I read recently (who claimed an editor in the acknowledgements) occasionally used a capital, and sometimes didn’t. (What was the editor doing?)

It’s Earth, folks, if you’re talking about the planet, and earth if you’re talking about the ground or soil.

OK, that’s done, so let’s begin on the problem of verbs.

I propose to do 2 posts on this as there are 2 main problems people have.

 Every verb has to agree with its subject. Yes, you know that. I know you know that. But why can’t people get it every time.

The worst is ‘there’s. This is short for ‘there is’, so we cannot say ‘There’s three of them.’ Yet I hear it all the time, and even see it in writing.

 Then there’s another one I mentioned in the last post. Agreement with a collective noun. Collective nouns are SINGULAR.

How many governments does a country have? One? Yes, only one, and so it’s singular. To say ‘the Government are planning to look into this problem.’ is WRONG.

The same goes for ‘team’, ‘herd’, ‘flock’, ‘peloton’ (if you’re a cyclist) All singular. ‘The team are..’? wrong. ‘The flock are…’? wrong.

 Finally, some people make the verb agree with something that’s not actually its subject.

e.g. One of the girls ARE going to come with us.


Here, the verb is referring to ‘one’ and not ‘girls’, so it should be:

One of the girls IS going to come with us.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples.

I know I’m not as brilliant at doing these grammar posts as some others, but I hope to be able to help a few people.

It also helps me get things that annoy me off my chest!
If you think this will help others, please feel free to reblog and I would be grateful for any link back to my site.

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HOMONYMS

When I was at school, many, many moons ago, we learned about homonyms. These are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings. We were given lists of hthem and told to write a sentence containing each and showing what it means. Some of them are very tricky, and often catch people out. Yes, even writers!

A recent spate of these in a variety of places has prompted me to write this little post to try to help. So here we go!

Wet/Whet.
We all know the first of these. It’s what happens in the rain. We get WET. But the second? WHET is to sharpen something. Hence a WHETSTONE, which is something used to sharpen knives, daggers, swords scissors, etc. It does not need to be wetted before use as it’s not a WETSTONE. When I was little, I thought that’s what it was and pictured people sharpening their knives with a bucket of water by their sides to keep the stone wet.
So we WHET our appetite, we don’t WET it.

Examples.

Davrael sat by his horse WHETTING his knife before the battle.

As we sat down to our meal, the waiter brought a small savoury to WHET our appetites.

When the dragonet plunged into the water, they all got WET.

Peek/Peak

This is one I’ve mentioned before, but I make no excuse for doing it again. I see it spelled wrongly far too often.

Peek. This is a quick, or sometimes sneaky look at something. Many authors will give a sneak PEEK at a chapter of their new book.

Peak. The top of something, often a mountain.

Examples

Thadora PEEKED around the corner to make sure there were no guards visible before venturing into the alley.

The climbers were exhausted by the time they reached the PEAK of the mountain.

I think that the fact that Peek is often written after Sneak that causes the problem.

Poured/Pored

Pour. To run in a steady stream, or, of rain, to fall heavily.

Pore (verb). To be absorbed in reading or studying something.

Examples.

When we went to catch the bus it was POURING with rain.
Or
The barman POURED a measure of whisky into the glass.

In order to pass the test to leave his apprenticeship behind, Carthinal PORED over the magic texts.

Pore (noun) a small hole, often in tissue, such as skin or plant tissues, or even in rock.

Poor Needy, destitute, penniless, lacking money.

Examples.

He had runs so hard he was sweating through every PORE.

Under the leaves, plant have small PORES called stomata.

The woman was so POOR that she could barely afford to eat, and her clothes were ragged.

And one I had never thought about, but I came across only the other day on a notice for a lost cat.

Spade/spayed

Spade An implement for digging.

Spayed the neutering of a female animal (usually cat or dog) by surgically removing the ovaries.

(the sign said ‘Lost Cat, Black and white, called Shadow, spade…’ I had a picture of said cat digging the garden!

Examples

The ground was so hard after so little rain that I nearly broke my SPADE when trying to dig it.

There are so many unwanted cats in the district that all cat owners are requested to have their animals SPAYED.

I hope this has made it a bit clearer.

Please leave your comments in the comments box. I like to hear what you think.

A Treatise on Nouns

I’ve noticed recently that when people are writing about our planet they are not giving it a capital letter.

When I was at school, I learned that there are three kinds of nouns, common, abstract, collective and proper. Of those three, proper nouns need a capital letter.

Common nouns are the names of most objects, such as dog. house. flower. There are many of these things and the name does not refer to any particular one.

A dog is an animal with four legs.

Jane lives in a big house,

Johnnie gave me flowers for my birthday.

And so on.

Abstract nouns are intangible things, such as an emotion.

Jo felt fear when confronted by the snarling dog.

The love that the elderly couple shared was obvious.

Freedom is important.

And so on.

Collective nouns refer to a group. When I was at school, we learned the collective nouns for a number of things



A flock of sheep (not a herd as I’ve sometimes seen.)

A herd of cows.

A skein of geese when flying but a gaggle when on the ground.

A charm of larks, a murmuration of starlings and a murder of crows etc.

Collective nouns are referring to ONE thing. That think might be made up of a number of individuals, but it’s still ONE thing. Thus you should use the singular form of the verb.

The team are playing well. (wrong)
The team is playing well. (correct)


The government are going to pass a law. (wrong)
The government is going to pass a law. (correct)

The crowd are applauding. (wrong)
The crowd is applauding. (correct)

Finally, we come to what started this off. Proper Nouns. They always begin with a capital letter.

The names of people are an obvious one. We refer to Harry Brown. It’s one specific person we are talking about, so Harry has a capital letter.

If we know the name of the dog we were talking about in the first example, its name would be in a capital letter.

Come here, Rover.

If we are going to a particular place, it would have a capital letter.

I’m going to Paris next week.

Now I’ve noticed that people are no longer giving our planet a capital letter. If we are talking about Mars, Venus, Saturn, or any of the other planets, people always capitalise the first letter. Not so our own planet. Why is that? Is Earth not as important as another planet? Are we saying that Earth is a generality? Why? Surely the planet we live on is more important to us than all the others.

My reasoning goes like this:
We often refer the stuff the planet is made from as earth. Thus we don’t make a difference when referring to the planet.
The gardener planted the tree in the earth.

That’s fine, because in this case, earth is another word for soil, which is a common noun. But we must be careful when we are referring to our planet. Then Earth is a proper noun, so should be capitalised.

And while we’re on it—Fantasy and SciFi writers, please don’t refer to the soil or ground as earth. It’s not.

Thank you for reading. Please leave comments in the box. I would like to know what you think of this.

Collective Nouns

 

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A lot of things have been irritating me in people’s use of the English Language, but recently it seems the fact that a collective noun is singular has disappeared.

One I hear frequently, being a fan of Manchester United, is in one of their songs.

‘U-N-I-T-E-D United are the team for me.’

Now we would not say, ‘some team’, or ‘those team’. We would be aware that ‘team’ is singular in those cases, so why, in this one case, does ‘team’ suddenly become plural?
Is it one team, or several? No, it’s one team, so it’s singular.

Similarly ‘Crowd’. ‘The crowd are…’ is now commonplace. ‘The crowd are cheering.’ Again, we would not say ‘Those crowd’ or ‘Some crowd’ We’re talking about one crowd, so it’s singular.

I can understand it in some instances where there is a plural noun involved, as in ‘A crowd of people’, but it’s still the crowd we’re referring to.
‘The crowd of people was making its way toward the exit.’

We often get ‘The flock of sheep are…’ instead of ‘The flock of sheep is…’.

‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary is beautiful.’ not ‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary are beautiful.’
Just remember that if you wouldn’t say ‘some bunch,’ or ‘some crowd,’ you use the singular verb. It’s not the individual flowers we’re referring to here, but the bunch. One bunch, Singular.

Please save my sanity and be careful when you come across a collective noun and decide whether or not you should use the plural. Chances are, you shouldn’t.

Punctuationg Dialogue

Today I’m going to talk about punctuating dialogue.
First of all, let me begin by defining some terms. I find writers, like many other professions, use their jargon so often they forget that new people may not know them. So here goes.
1. Tags. These are the words used to indicate who is speaking. They are things like ‘he said’, ‘Judith whispered’ and the like.
2. Beats, These are words telling you what someone is doing. e.g. Fred paced to the window. ‘Are you sure she said that?’ he asked.
Here, ‘Fred paced to the window’ is a beat.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, lets continue with our punctuation.

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I admit that when I started writing, I was unsure about this. I did not know what punctuation to put after the speech and after the tag. I learned by reading books and other writers’ blogs. Not a bad way to learn. In fact, a very good way to learn.
The first thing I should note is that US English and British English use quotation marks the opposite way round from each other. As I am British, I use British English, and the dialogue in my books is the British Standard.
In British English, we use single quotation marks for direct speech and double quotation marks for speech quoted within that speech. (Not very good English there. I apologise.)
Mary said, ‘Jaqui, go and see who rang the doorbell.’
and,
Jaqui said, ‘It’s John. He said, “I’ve come to return the book you lent me.” Do you want to see him?’
In American English it’s the other way round. The above would look like this:
Mary said, “Jaqui, go and see who rang the doorbell.”
and
Jaqui said, “It’s John. He said, ‘I’ve come to return the book you lent me.’ Do you want to see him?”
The quotes, either British or US go round direct speech only. If it is indirect, then there are no quotes.
This would be wrong.
‘John said that he came ‘to return the book you lent him’.
Whenever we write ‘he said’. ‘she whispered’, etc, we always separate it from the quote using commas. See the above examples.
Now should the punctuation be inside or outside the quotation marks? That depends on whether it is part of the quotation or not, Here are some examples.
‘How can he return a book’, said Mary, ‘when I never lent him one?’
‘Said Mary’ interrupts the sentence she is saying, which is, ‘How can he return a book when I never lent him one?’ The comma goes outside the quotation marks.
But if the quotation mark is part of what is being said, then it goes inside.
John said, ‘Did you not lend me this book then?’
The question mark is part of John’s speech so it goes inside the quotation marks. If it was a full stop (period if you are in the USA) then, as it ends John’s speech, it would go inside as well.

John said, ‘I’m sure I borrowed it from you.’

The punctuation goes outside the quotation marks if it is not part of the quoted material.

Now, if you have a beat, then that is completely separate.
Susan walked to the window and looked out. ‘Tell John to come in and bring the book up.’
There is a full stop (period) after the beat and not a comma because it is a separate action. I would say that we only put a comma after or before a tag, not a beat.
That’s enough for now, Hope I’ve not confused you.
Please feel free to make a comment of any kind.

2 more words that cause confusion (and are driving me insane)

 

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Last month I talked about the words NUMBER and AMOUNT. Today I’m going to talk about some similar words that get confused.
These words are FEWER and LESS.

I say they are similar to the previouys words because the same rules apply. So many people will say something like,
‘There were LESS people at the match this week than last week.’
This is WRONG. IN this case, it should be FEWER.
Just as NUMBER refers to things we count, like people, goals, sheep in a flock, minutes in an hour, items in a shopping trolley etc., so FEWER also refers to those things.
FEWER is a digital word. It refers to things we COUNT.
LESS refers to things we MEASURE. Thus we would have something like,
There is LESS snow today than the same time last year.
or There is less flour in this cake than that one.
BUT There are fewer eggs in this cake than that one.
We MEASURE the flour, but we COUNT the eggs.

Please leave a comment on this post. I love hearing from you, and reblogging would help get the message across to more people and save me from continually shouting at the TV and radio.