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Sentence Construction


TalonRider

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Verbs

Verbs are the action of the sentence and tell us what is happening or taking place. You often will find more than one verb in a sentence because several different actions are taking place.

Verbs generally show action, possession, and being.

Action:

To write, to sing, to walk, to think, to run, to know.

John will walk in the annual charity walk-a-thon.

Mary knows every punctuation rule.

Possession:

To have.

The office has new carpeting.

Bill and Ellen have a home they are remodeling.

Being

To be has many common forms, am, is, are, was, were, will be, has been, had been, have been, is being, will have been. It is often called a ?linking verb? because it connects a subject to other nouns or adjectives that describe it. Nouns describing a subject are called ?predicate nominatives,? and adjectives describing a subject are called ?predicate adjectives.?

Bill is nice. (nice is a predicate adjective.)

Arthur will be the fourth president to receive the Leadership Award. (President is a predicate nominative.)

Subject and verb agreement:

Since subjects and verbs together provide the main idea or content of a sentence, they must have the right relationship, which is called ?agreement.? Singular subjects require singular verbs, and plural subjects require plural verbs.

One person out of several hundred applicants is to be awarded the prize.

Several people out of 300 applicants are to be awarded the prizes.

If two subjects both identify the same person or thing, the verb is singular.

The winner and new ?Customer Service Representative of the year is Ms. Trisha Carlson.

Macaroni and cheese is a low-cost and healthy dinner choice.

Several words are always singular:

anyone ..........each ............anybody .................every

everyone .......either ...........everybody ..............neither

someone ........none ............somebody ..............another

one ................nobody

Caution: Two subjects joined by or or nor take a singular verb.

Incorrect: Either the tenant or the owner must present their grievances.

Correct: Either the tenant or the owner must present his grievances.

Accuracy tips for agreement

Mentally omit prepositional phrases (starting with: in, of, for, with, by, from, to) immediately following the subject and preceding the verb.

Each (of the programmers) has 10 or more years of experience.

Either (of the supervisors) is able to answer you question.

Ignore expressions beginning with as well as, in addition too, accompanied by, and other explanatory phrases. They always follow the subject and precede the verb.

The paper, as well as the pens and pencils, has been counted.

Look to the meaning rather than the spelling to decide where the subject is singular or plural.

The World Series is almost over.

Economics is a required subject.

Collective nouns

A collective noun is a singular word that refers to a number of people of things acting as a unit. While they may occasionally be plural when indicating separate actions, most collectives are singular.

The class of new supervisors is scheduled to begin training on hiring and firing practices soon.

The committee hopes to meet at 1 p.m.

Completers:

Completers finish the thoughts of subjects and verbs. An adjective or a noun may ?complete? the thought begun by the subject and verb.

Objects

Objects tell your reader what the verb is doing. They answer the questions ?what or whom?? and are always nouns or pronouns.

Linda gave the report to the Purchasing Department. (Linda gave. . . .what?)

John saw Mary at the meeting. (John saw . . . whom?)

... S........V......................C

Ellen completed the reports before her deadline.

Predicate adjectives and nominatives

An adjective completing the subject and verb is called a ?predicate adjective? and a noun completing the subject and verb is called a ?predicate nominative.? They both always follow some form of the verb to be, often called a ?linking verb? because it links the subject to the completed thought. Verbs such as looks, seems, and feels are also linking verbs when they could be replaced by is.

...S....V..........C

Ellen is very tall. (Tall is a predicate adjective.)

..S....V.........C

John is the winner of the ?employee-of-the-month? contest. (Winner is a predicate nominative.)

Exercise 3 ? Subjects and Verbs

Choose the correct word(s) to finish each of the following sentences.

1. Maggie, along with Jack and Jose, __________________(is, are) meeting Bob and Hilda at the restaurant.

2. Everyone ____________(know, knows) the outcome of the vote.

3. That dog is __________(your?s, yours).

4. Either of the two choices _________(is, are) fine.

5. If I _________________________ (was, were) to go, I would need to pack my laptop.

6. Sara, as well as several other employees, _____________________(is, are) familiar with the policy.

7. I ___________________ (shall, will) call Mrs. King tomorrow.

8. _____________________ (Its, It?s) good vendor management to hold the supplier accountable.

9. The reasons for the problem __________________________ (was, were) too numerous.

10. The group _________________________ (have, has) left the conference room.

Edited to add a missed sentence.

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1. Maggie, along with Jack and Jose, _____is_____________(is, are) meeting Bob and Hilda at the restaurant.

2. Everyone _______knows_____(know, knows) the outcome of the vote.

3. That dog is ___yours_______(your?s, yours).

4. Either of the two choices _____is____(is, are) fine.

5. If I _____________were (although was is acceptable)____________ (was, were) to go, I would need to pack my laptop. [see McPeek and Wright, for example.]

6. Sara, as well as several other employees, _______is______________(is, are) familiar with the policy.

7. I _________shall (but will is used in common speech and is correct if the intent is to show determination)__________ (shall, will) call Mrs. King tomorrow. [see McPeek and Wright)

8. ___________It's__________ (Its, It?s) good vendor management to hold the supplier accountable.

9. The reasons for the problem _____________were_____________ (was, were) too numerous.

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Caution: Two subjects joined by or or nor take a singular verb.

Incorrect: Either the tenant or the owner must present their grievances.

Correct: Either the tenant or the owner must present his grievances.

Okay, this one attracts the politically correct (PC) police force.

The problem is compounded if the tenants are not the same sex.

It is also not clear whether the "his" refers to a third party or not. We need more information for that to be determined.

At least with "their" we are more inclined to assume it relates to the tenant and the owner.

There is a developing tendency to plural forms to avoid the situation where a gender is assumed in order to keep the more correct singular grammatical expression.

The awkward obvious replacement by "his/her" is also problematic for the PC people in that they then argue about whether "his" or "her" should be placed first. (I am not joking, I have seen them argue about this.) :unsure:

The sentence meaning is also not the best choice to illustrate the above misuse of "their".

The implication is that only the tenant or the owner can present any grievances but not both. This does not suggest a just situation.

In light of the ability to misconstrue the context and the grammar problems it might be better to advise avoidance of the structure to accommodate a clearer , more precise and less confrontational construction.

*The tenant and the owner should present any grievances.*

It reminds me of the old trap often favoured by my elementary school teachers to ridicule those they considered retarded:

"Which is correct:

The yolk of an egg is white?

or

The yolk an egg are white?"

The answer of course is that neither is correct.

Do I need to ask, "Why?"

:evilgrin:

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Okay, this one attracts the politically correct (PC) police force.

The problem is compounded if the tenants are not the same sex.

It is also not clear whether the "his" refers to a third party or not. We need more information for that to be determined.

At least with "their" we are more inclined to assume it relates to the tenant and the owner.

There is a developing tendency to plural forms to avoid the situation where a gender is assumed in order to keep the more correct singular grammatical expression.

The awkward obvious replacement by "his/her" is also problematic for the PC people in that they then argue about whether "his" or "her" should be placed first. (I am not joking, I have seen them argue about this.) :icon1:

The sentence meaning is also not the best choice to illustrate the above misuse of "their".

The implication is that only the tenant or the owner can present any grievances but not both. This does not suggest a just situation.

In light of the ability to misconstrue the context and the grammar problems it might be better to advise avoidance of the structure to accommodate a clearer , more precise and less confrontational construction.

*The tenant and the owner should present any grievances.*

It reminds me of the old trap often favoured by my elementary school teachers to ridicule those they considered retarded:

"Which is correct:

The yolk of an egg is white?

or

The yolk an egg are white?"

The answer of course is that neither is correct.

Do I need to ask, "Why?"

:evilgrin:

There's another solution. Declare that "their" can be either singular or plural. :unsure: Hey, this sort of thing has been and is done to the English language all the time, often as the result of popular usage. English is still a living language.

Colin :wub:

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There's another solution. Declare that "their" can be either singular or plural. :icon1: Hey, this sort of thing has been and is done to the English language all the time, often as the result of popular usage. English is still a living language.

Colin :unsure:

Yes that would be a reasonable approach that I think has been accepted at least in common usage which is why I responded with my thoughts.

Formal recognition may take somewhat longer.

I trust you did not think I was representing, the PC dark-side or grammatical tyranny. Heaven forfend. :wub:

Confining myself to the nature of the discussion I discussed the problems with that sentence.

If the result has been to coax such a sensible solution as you suggest, I am well pleased.

Colin, perhaps we should begin a campaign to get "their" accepted as you suggest.

Well done!

:evilgrin:

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I don't think "declaring" things to be so works with English. I'm not sure just how the language evolves, but it certainly does. It grows constantly; words also fall out of usage. The mechanism that make this work doesn't seem to be declaration as just a popular shift in mood.

I was taught in school that "all right" was two words. Back then, it was not listed in the dictionary as one word. "Already" was one work, "all right" was two. Now, many dictionaries list "alright" as an alternative and acceptable spelling. It's only a matter of time before it becomes entirely legitimate.

The purists among up of course rue the changes. I applaud them and think they keep the language vital.

So you have my encouragement to declare what you will. It's rather like Don Quixote tlliting at windmills and seems a picaresque venture, but is an amusing and fanciful one. Good luck.

Cole

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When it comes to political correctness, I believe it has its place in formal and/or business writing. When it comes to writing stories, if the author uses waiter/waitress, then that's what it should be. I can't see changing it to waitstaff/server.

*The tenant and the owner should present any grievances.*

I believe that would solve the probem, remove the gender language and make it about the grievances of the tenant and the owner.

Jan

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I trust you did not think I was representing, the PC dark-side or grammatical tyranny. Heaven forfend. :evilgrin:

Confining myself to the nature of the discussion I discussed the problems with that sentence.

Absolutely not! I could tell this is an open discussion, with alternate POV's allowed. :icon1:

If the result has been to coax such a sensible solution as you suggest, I am well pleased.

Colin, perhaps we should begin a campaign to get "their" accepted as you suggest.

I don't know, I think it's one of those "do it and they'll come" deals. If enough people "do it" it will become more or less standard, and finally accepted probably long after I'm dead and buried! :wub:

Colin :unsure:

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Yes Colin,

I suspect you are right about it being a "do it and they will come" thing. (I know if I did it, I would come.) :evilgrin:

However, it might not be accepted after you are dead in quite the way you expect.

As Cole describes; he was taught that alright was two words, I was taught it was one (in the 1950s).

Now it seems to be a constant state of change between the two depending on where you are or to whom or what you reference.

So it may be right to write "alright" when you use "all right" to avoid saying it is okay. :unsure:

Like Cole I applaud the purists, but for sustaining the reasoned and logical definitions of the core of the language.

This of course should also accompany generation of new words, incorporating them and alternative uses of older words whilst obeying the rules which may also be changing and redefined hopefully, with logic and reason and dare I say also with a smattering of human compassion laced with cantankerousness. That is a living language for me. :icon1:

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Yes Colin,

I suspect you are right about it being a "do it and they will come" thing. (I know if I did it, I would come.) :icon10:

However, it might not be accepted after you are dead in quite the way you expect.

As Cole describes; he was taught that alright was two words, I was taught it was one (in the 1950s).

Now it seems to be a constant state of change between the two depending on where you are or to whom or what you reference.

So it may be right to write "alright" when you use "all right" to avoid saying it is okay. :icon11:

Like Cole I applaud the purists, but for sustaining the reasoned and logical definitions of the core of the language.

This of course should also accompany generation of new words, incorporating them and alternative uses of older words whilst obeying the rules which may also be changing and redefined hopefully, with logic and reason and dare I say also with a smattering of human compassion laced with cantankerousness. That is a living language for me. :icon_geek:

My mom's a writer, and she says specifics about options like "all right" and "alright" depend on the style guide used by each publisher, as interpreted by each editor. So, you might have to use "all right" for one publication/publisher, and "alright" for another. She says it can drive you crazy. :omg:

Colin :icon10:

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Caution: Two subjects joined by or or nor take a singular verb.

Incorrect: Either the tenant or the owner must present their grievances.

Correct: Either the tenant or the owner must present his grievances.

Here you chose a modal verb must which happens to be invarient in singular and plural forms. The second example sentence only visibly differs from the first in the number of the posesssive pronoun their. You could rephrase these to illustrate the point you want to make:

Incorrect: Either the tenant or the owner have the right to present their grievances.

Correct: Either the tenant or the owner has the right to present his grievances.

Here you can see the difference between the third person singular and third person plural verb forms.

Jakob

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There's another solution. Declare that "their" can be either singular or plural. :icon_geek: Hey, this sort of thing has been and is done to the English language all the time, often as the result of popular usage. English is still a living language.

Colin :icon10:

Not necessary to declare anything in this case. This usage of their that you suggest is as old and as well represented as the apparently correct use with his/her/its. Declaring it incorrect is an innovation that seems to date from the late 18th century and is based (as is often the case) on a misunderstanding of Latin Grammar. Dr Johnson used their in this way and if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Jakob

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Not necessary to declare anything in this case. This usage of their that you suggest is as old and as well represented as the apparently correct use with his/her/its. Declaring it incorrect is an innovation that seems to date from the late 18th century and is based (as is often the case) on a misunderstanding of Latin Grammar. Dr Johnson used their in this way and if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Jakob

Wow! That's fantastic information! I'm going to find my Creative Writing teacher and point that out to her. :icon10:

Colin :icon_geek:

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  • 3 years later...

I don't get why 5 and 9 are both were.

I might ordinarily have chosen it for both, but I was trying to follow the rule as I understood it. (Yes, I know where the emphasis lies in that sentence)

The answer has to be simple compared to him/her, her/him; I have to wonder if we ever attain anything approaching equality, if we will worry less about who's on top. I said worry, preferences are a different matter all together. :wav:

Rule or law, i'll not choose shall. It's just...stuffy.

Tracy

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I don't get why 5 and 9 are both were.

I might ordinarily have chosen it for both, but I was trying to follow the rule as I understood it. (Yes, I know where the emphasis lies in that sentence)

Tracy

The reason 9. is 'were' is because it's a plural verb to match the plural noun 'reasons'.

5. is trickier. And actually, either 'were' or 'was' works. A few years ago, the subjunctive always took 'were', but recently it's going out of vogue. Whenever I try to use it, Colin corrects me and tells me I'm old fashioned. So, to keep his wrath in check, along with his apoplexy, I usually forgo the 'were' in subjunctive sentences and whore myself out with 'was', sacrificing correctness for fashion.

Does that help?

C

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Yes, it does, very much. 9 I got right. 5 is said was. And even though in this case it helps my score for either word to be considered acceptable, I'm not sure how changes based on "vogue" will help in the long run. I can only hope it's not as arbitrary as it sounds...

Thanks Cole.

Tracy

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5. is trickier. And actually, either 'were' or 'was' works. A few years ago, the subjunctive always took 'were', but recently it's going out of vogue. Whenever I try to use it, Colin corrects me and tells me I'm old fashioned. So, to keep his wrath in check, along with his apoplexy, I usually forgo the 'were' in subjunctive sentences and whore myself out with 'was', sacrificing correctness for fashion.

Cole,

I'll have you know I certainly don't have an apoplexy (they are usually chosen by older folks, something I simply don't understand). I don't have a wrath, either, but if I did it would be fuzzy and friendly and just want to have its belly rubbed. On the other hand, I wonder why anyone in their right mind would have or want to have a subjunctive. They're unattractive, have poor hygiene, tend to piddle on keyboards, are almost impossible to train, and usually don't follow directions. They are certainly best avoided, and I strongly recommend that you do so.

Colin :wav:

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Cole,

I'll have you know I certainly don't have an apoplexy (they are usually chosen by older folks, something I simply don't understand). I don't have a wrath, either, but if I did it would be fuzzy and friendly and just want to have its belly rubbed. On the other hand, I wonder why anyone in their right mind would have or want to have have a subjunctive. They're unattractive, have poor hygiene, tend to piddle on keyboards, are almost impossible to train, and usually don't follow directions. They are certainly best avoided, and I strongly recommend that you do so.

Colin :wav:

Colin, you are precious. That was a prime example of forum posting at its best! :wav:

I can only hope it's not as arbitrary as it sounds...

Sadly, Tracy, quite a lot of grammar rules are pretty arbitrary, and that's why it's sometimes appropriate to break them... to boldly go, as the great man said, where no man has gone before!

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