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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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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.
During the writers’ meeting on Tuesday, we discussed the use of semi-colons in a list following a colon. The published historian in the group, an academic professor who knows a great deal about grammar, punctuation and writing in general, brought it up.
In professional academic papers, the rule is that a semi-colon, not the comma, must separate a list of items when preceded by a colon.
For example: The settlers of the area came from many countries: Germany; Switzerland; Poland and Spain.
FREE KINDLE READ: Shadows in the Stone
However, I have not encountered semi-colons used in this manner, so when I came home, I started to dig. It was difficult finding rules online, so I referred to my trusty handbook The Bare Essentials by Sarah Norton and Brian Green.
It recommended the use of semi-colons in complicated lists. The sentence they used as an example was: A few…
I found I couldn’t reblog it as it stands so I copied and pasted it instead. I hope Clancy doesn’t mind. I asked him about reblogging and he said it was fine, but his reblog only goes to Blogger.
Do visit his blog. It’s very interesting. He posts on a variety of things including some of his photography, which is wonderful, information about famous people, historical events, British slang and of course, grammar mistakes.
COMMON GRAMMAR MISTAKES
None of us are perfect in the English language. I often see mistakes, especially spelling mistakes on advertisements, and on TV. Here are a few that might help, courtesy of Jon Gingerich.
Who and Whom
This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” and “they.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with “him,” “her,” “it”, “us,” and “them.” It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.
Which and That
This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring. e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential. e.g., I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. e.g., The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine.
Lay and Lie
This is the crown jewel of all grammatical errors. “Lay” is a transitive verb. It requires a direct subject and one or more objects. Its present tense is “lay” (e.g., I lay the pencil on the table) and its past tense is “laid” (e.g., Yesterday I laid the pencil on the table). “Lie” is an intransitive verb. It needs no object. Its present tense is “lie” (e.g., The Andes mountains lie between Chile and Argentina) and its past tense is “lay” (e.g., The man lay waiting for an ambulance). The most common mistake occurs when the writer uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” (e.g., I laid on the bed) when he/she actually means the intransitive past tense of “lie” (e.g., I lay on the bed).
I was reading the BT news the other day. Their journalists ought to read this blog I think because they keep making errors. The first one here I noticed a couple of days ago.
The article headline said something like ‘A sneak peak at…’
Peak, of course is the top of a mountain, while Peek is a quick glimpse of something. Perhaps there was a mountain hiding behind another, or a very sly one that was hiding, but I doubt it.
To, Too and Two.
This frequently appears in comments by people, and also in, I’m afraid to say, posts by writers.
To indicates movement towards as in ‘He gave the parcel to me.’
Too is an excess of something. ‘I had eaten too much and so I felt ill.’
I don’t often see Two misused. It is, of course the number. ‘Two buses passed me before the one I wanted arrived.’
This can be a tricky one.
Breath is a noun and is what you take.
‘The doctor told me to take a deep breath.’
Breathe is a verb and is what you do.
‘The room seemed airless and I was finding it hard to breathe.’
Another one from BT news.
Baring is the act of making bare, or naked. It is also used when revealing truths.
‘Baring all, the spy held nothing back in his interrogation.’
‘She removed her clothes, baring all.’
Bearing is carrying. (or of course, a large mammal living in the northern regions of the planet.)
‘The messenger arrived bearing the news of the king’s death.’
Then there is the problem of the past tense of these verbs. The past tense of Bear is Bore.
‘She bore the news that she had not got the job with equinamity.’
BUT, the past tense of Bare is Bared.
‘During the investigation, the criminal bared all.’
I have recently been a little irritated by people’s use of collective nouns, or rather the use of the verb with them. Many people seem to think that it should always be a plural verb.
Now, collective nouns do refer to a number of things, but these things are ‘collected’ into one, hence the name ‘collective nouns.’
When I was a little girl at school, we learned a lot of collective nouns:
a FLOCK of sheep
a HERD of cows
a MURDER of crows (I particularly liked this one.)
a CHARM of larks
There are also a great many more. They all refer to a GROUP of people or things. Here are some more examples.
You get the idea? Each of those things are made up of a number of people, animals or things. The problem arises as to whether the verb that is with it should be singular or plural.
What has been annoying me recently is that many people, and educated ones too, are using the plural all the time with these nouns when they should be using the singular.
The rule is that if they are acting as a group, all doing the same thing, then the noun takes the singular verb, but if they are acting as individuals, then the verb should be plural.
I’ll give you some examples.
One is in a song for Manchester United Football Club. The fans sing ‘United ARE the team for me.’ now, they are all playing a game of football, and all the players are acting together (one would hope) in order to wim that game. The team is acting as a unit. Therefore the song should be ‘United IS the team for me.’
When the match is over, the players are no longer acting together. They are going home to their separate families and so now we say ‘The team are all going home.’
Here is another. When a flock of sheep sees the sheepdogs coming, they bunch together and run in the same direction to try to get away from them. They are all acting together to try to escape this perceived threat. This time it is correct to say ‘The flock WAS driven towards the gate by the sheepdogs so that it could eat the new grass.’ Note the use of the singular pronoun too.
When they are through the gate and in the pasture, the sheep will spread around, each one grazing, but not acting as a unit. Therefore we use the plural and say ‘The flock are now eating the new grass and they seem to be enjoying it.’ Here the verb and pronoun are plural because the sheep are acting as individuals.
I hope this has helped you to sort out these problems. Grammar can be a bit tricky at times, but I think it is important. People generally do not complain about correct grammar, but incorrect grammar can make a reader stop reading a book, and not buy any others by that author. They also tell other people not to bother. I know, I have done it myself.
Another downside of poor grammar is when applying for jobs. If your grammar is poor, your letter will go straight in the bin.
Please leave a comment by clicking on the comment button. I love reading what you have to say, and answering you.
I am going to take a rest from my usual second Tuesday subject of Commonly Confused Words to talk about a few words and phrases that I think are very overused in today’s world. The unfortunate thing is that the overuse dilutes the meaning and/or impact of the words.
I am talking from a UK point of view, here, of course. These words and phrases may not be in common use in other parts of the English speaking world. They may interest some of you. though.
1. ICONIC or ICON.
Everything nowadays seems to be iconic. An icon was originally a religious picture. They were used in the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches and were usually pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints or angels and were used as aids to worship.
Another meaning of the word is a small picture or symbol that links to a program in computing.
Neither of these seem to fit the use of it as used commonly these days. It has come to mean something that represents something else.
‘The Eiffel tower is an iconic building.’ It represents Paris.
There are so many icons around these days! Nearly everythibng and everyone is an icon.
I’m afraid our American friends are largely responsible for this one. While there are some truly awesome sights and events in the world, much of the time this word is used, the users mean something really good. It won’t fill them with awe and wonder, just make them feel excited and possibly surprised.
Having used the word ‘wonder’ above, it occurs to me that the word ‘awesome’ is going the same way as ‘wonderful’ and having its meaning diluted. What are we going to say to something truly awesome?
3. AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME.
As opposed to a moment out of time? where else is a moment except in time?
What’s wrong with ‘NOW’?
4. One beloved by football commentators. I’m still not sure how it came about.
This means that someone is going to do something , well, early! Why the ‘doors’ has been added, your guess is as good as mine. Are doors early? How are doors early? It irritates me.
5. VARIOUS DIFFERENT.
As opposed to various the same? Tortology, I think. Can you have a variety of things that are the same?
6. There are a couple of variations on this one.
THE REAL TRUTH, or THE TRUE FACTS.
You can’t have either an unreal truth or untrue facts. It’s either true or not, or it’s a fact or not.
‘Unique’ means there is only one. It does NOT mean that something is unusual or rare. You cannot have things that are ‘fairly unique’, ‘very unique’ or any other modifier. Something is either unique or it’s not. Period!
This word has come to mean some large event. We, in the UK have apparently been having floods of epic proportions. (Or else, if not epic, then of Biblical proportions!)
Epic is supposed to mean a monumental struggle of some kind, or something monstrously huge.
It originally meant a heroic story.
It is another use of a word being downgraded.
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Since I started writing about these words, more and more are coming to my notice. I suppose it’s because I’m now looking out for them. Some can be quite amusing, like in a previous blog when I talked about vicious and viscous.
A pupil wanted to say that a liquid became more VISCOUS, i.e. thicker and less runny. In fact, he said it became more VICIOUS.
Here are this week’s words.
Advise is a verb. It is what you do. You advise someone.
e.g. I would advise you not to put all your money in the same shares.
Advice is a noun. It is what you give.
e.g. My advice to you is not to put all your money in the same shares.
Comprise means to include.
e.g. The house comprised five bedrooms.
Compose means to make up.
e.g The hamper was composed of a bottle of wine, a ham, a box of dates and a goose.
Lie is to recline.
e.g. My back hurts when I lie down.
Lay is to put an object down.
e.g. The man came to lay the carpet in the hall, or Lay the book on that table, please.
Defective means that something does not work.
e.g. When I tried the new camera I had bought, I found it to be defective.
Deficient means that something is missing.
e.g. When the doctor analysed the results of the girl’s blood test he found she was deficient in iron.
Oh, here is one that is always got wrong.
Hung refers to an object.
e.g. He hung his coat in the cloakroom.
Hanged refers to a person or other living thing.
e.g. One argument against capital punishment is that if a person is found to be innocent after they have been hanged it’s too late to do anything about it.