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Spelling and Grammar Q&A

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Riddle: What do knights and cowboys have in common, besides being ahorse a horse, of course, Mr. Ed(itor)?

Is the answer anything to do with bareback mounting?

groan :roll:

...sorry...

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I don't understand why "so that" is considered correct. It seems unnecessary in a sentence like "He gave me the money so that I could buy the tickets." I think it should be "He gave me the money so I could buy the tickets."

Here's what my dictionary says:

NOTES: Many critics and grammarians have insisted that so must be followed by that in formal writing when used to introduce a clause giving the reason for or purpose of an action: He stayed so that he could see the second feature. But this rule is best regarded as a stylistic preference; in such clauses that is frequently omitted even by reputable writers in formal contexts, as in They will have to double up so (or so that) room can be found for the new arrivals. - Both so and so that are acceptably used to introduce clauses that state a result or consequence: The Bay Bridge was still closed, so (or so that) the drive from San Francisco to the Berkeley campus took an hour and a half.

---------------------------------------------------------

Excerpted from American Heritage Talking Dictionary

Copyright ? 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I agree with the dictionary. However, my Creative Writing teacher last year demanded that in this context it had to be "so that".

What do you think? "So"? Or "So that"?

Colin

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It seems unnecessary in a sentence like "He gave me the money so that I could buy the tickets." I think it should be "He gave me the money so I could buy the tickets."

What do you think? "So"? Or "So that"?

I don't have a problem with either one, but in this case the "THAT" really works better for me. The "that" is implied.

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:blush:

Thanks for the comments on my "so" / "so that" question. The consensus seems to be that it's a matter of choice. I prefer "so". So now I have to go talk to my creative writing teacher from last year so I can convince her. LOL!

Colin

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Either one works fine. I'd have no problem with omitting "that" in that example.

Sometimes a "that" is needed to make clear a relative clause or a subjunctive clause. Those cases usually will take care of themselves, though.

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Hi

Let me see what this somewhat intuitive look, adds to the so_that debate;

"He has fucked me so that I will go to the movies."

No problem understanding this. He did something to me to achieve what he wanted me to do,

namely "go to the movies."

Now consider:

"He has fucked me so I will go to the movies."

This statement, in addition to the above meaning could also mean, "having got what I wanted I will go to the movies. (Yes other interpretations are possible, but that is the point.)

In these examples I try to show that the "that" in the first example ties the action of going to the pictures as a condition of the fucking.

The second example does not have this condition as going to the movies is not necessarily conditional on being fucked, but is an independent action after being fucked. It is not dependent on having been fucked because the "that" is not there.

Going to the movies is a consequence in both examples. One is directly conditional the other is not.

The "that" induces this dependency of condition.

I suspect that common usage has caused this dependency to become obscured.

Is there a correct way here? Probably this depends on the meaning the author wants to convey.

The ambiguity of the so without the that may well be part of the plot-line/style. It could also be just a colloquial usage without other implications.

The surrounding phrases may add to the author's intentions.

**********

I was hoping to meet a stranger at the movies so that he would fuck me.

In this first of two examples, if you leave the that out it becomes a statement of intent rather than one of hope. The emphasis is shifted to the end result.

**********

My boyfriend and I had nowhere to go, so we went to the movies to fuck.

In this second one if you put the that in, it sounds awkward if not retarded.

**********

These things are subtle and no doubt vary by local usage.

Once again I think the clue here is "how it sounds." When in doubt say it out loud and see if it makes sense. Then look at the grammar of it as it is written. Finally say it to yourself in your mind as your readers will (hopefully) do, to determine if the meaning and implication is what you want in relation to the developing characters and unfolding drama.

I can remember going to the sauna so that I would get..... oh well that is a different story.

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"I used to drive my ..."

This "used to" usage DRIVES ME NUTS.

Alright, I'll plead ignorance on this one. I know that's wrong, but what's the alternative?

I used to think that "used to" could be used that way.

When I was in the 8th grade in intermediate school I took a Creative Writing class for the first time ever. It was a revelation! I loved it. One day, in the class, we had a discussion for about a half hour on "used to". The consensus of the class was that we needed a replacement word for "used to" that sounded like what we (kids) actually said. We contended with the teacher (who vigorously disagreed) that we were saying something verbally that wasn't accurately represented by a written word. Are you ready? Barf bags nearby? (Oh, and don't rag on ME about this. I was only 12 years old. Cut me some slack, here, guys!)

The word we "invented" was:

yust

:biggrin:

I never used it, but a couple of kids did just to bug the teacher. She physically cut the word out of their papers, and lowered their grade on that story by ten percentage points. :lol: No one ever used it again.

Colin :biggrin:

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And they SHOULD have had that 10% cut in marks. Everyone knows the word is yusta. If they're going to forget the A, then the teacher will do the same.

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"I used to drive" is fine. It's only wrong if one says, "I use to drive." :shudder:

"I formerly drove" or "I drove" are OK too.

Still, "(Pronoun or Noun) used to (verb)." is just fine. If a grammar teacher complains it needs, "He used (direct object) to (drive, sing, write...)" then I'd say that grammar teacher is using the wrong construction for the wrong meaning.

In other words, "used to (verb)" is a fixed expression, an auxiliary verb form, about like "would have (verb-ed)" or "I am going to (verb)" are others. English uses lots of auxiliary or helper verb forms to get across shades of meaning. That's just how English works.

I could rant about using a Latinate grammar for a non-Latin language, but I won't, except to say that each language, whether English, Spanish, French, German... or any other language... has its own separate grammar rules.

Yes, grammar rules can and should adapt to fit the usage of the language. I've read that people complained about Caesar's "vulgar" (commoner) Latin. Big deal. The Latin-based languages that came from it are perfectly fine, even though they are "corrupted Latin."

I can guarantee you that what I see in people's writing, at all educational and usage levels, is very different from the textbooks and English classes in which I made A's. Is that deplorable? Sometimes, yes. At other times, it just means we need to reflect what's really used, instead of what the textbooks say.

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Someone asked in the editing section about lie vs. lay.

I'm too lazy to see if I already said something, so I'll either say it again or for the first time.

-----

To, Too, and Two:

* Two = 2;

* To = at, toward; to you, to the tree, to do something;

* Too = also, and, more; too much, include him too;

~ She wants to (listen) too.

~ He brought two horses to the corral too.

Sit versus Set:

* To sit, sits, sat, sat, sitting;

* To set, sets, set, set, setting;

~ He sits but he sets something on something else. If it would make sense to put or place something somewhere, then it would make sense to set it there. Sit is called an intransitive verb, because it doesn?t transmit the action to an object: He sits. Set is called a transitive verb, because an object takes the action of the verb: He sets it. She sets it on the table.

~ Exception: A setting hen is sitting on her nest.

Lie versus Lay: * Note: This one gives me trouble too; I looked it up.

* To lie, lies, lay, lain, lying;

* To lay, lays, laid, laid, laying;

~ He lies down but he lays something down on something else. If it would make sense to put or place something somewhere, then it would make sense to lay it there. Lie is called an intransitive verb, because it doesn?t transmit the action to an object: He lies; he lies down. Lay is called a transitive verb, because an object takes the action of the verb: She lays it on the bed.

~ Expression: A laying hen lays her eggs in her nest, so this fits the rule.

~ (Mature Audiences Only) Yes, to lay, to lay with, to get laid takes a person as the object of the verb?s intimate action.

Burst and Busted:

* Only use ?busted? in speech; it?s casual, not formal writing like a narrative. Technically, it?s ?burst? for the past tense. Yes, I know, it?s being picky.

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Only....

This seems to be my biggest torment to my editor and to myself. How and when do you know the placement?

For instance....

If I had only known....

If only I had known....

Now I figure the first is correct, but for some reason, as I write, I seem to place 'only' in the wrong place.

I am sure it drives my editor up the wall (well he tells me it does so I know for fact that it works his nerves)

Is there a simple way of knowing when and where to place the abstract word 'only'?

----

Simile and Metaphor

How do you know which to use......

For instance...

The pyre lit his face like the flashes of a 4th of July celebration.

Flashes of color painted his face as fiery tongues stretched toward the sky.

Now I wager either can be used, but I wonder which is actually appropriate or proper.

It's these little things that drive me insane as I write.... any help would be appreciated.

Thanks!

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See my interjections below.

Colin :icon_geek:

Only....

This seems to be my biggest torment to my editor and to myself. How and when do you know the placement?

For instance....

If I had only known.... Allows for others to already know or be included as had only's

If only I had known.... Implies that others already know and that is (or might be) a problem

Try substituting a person's name for the 'I' and it might be clearer:

If Colin had only known....

If only Samantha had known....

IMO, they really mean different things.

Now I figure the first is correct, but for some reason, as I write, I seem to place 'only' in the wrong place.

I am sure it drives my editor up the wall (well he tells me it does so I know for fact that it works his nerves)

Is there a simple way of knowing when and where to place the abstract word 'only'?

----

Simile and Metaphor

How do you know which to use......

For instance...

The pyre lit his face like the flashes of a 4th of July celebration.

Flashes of color painted his face as fiery tongues stretched toward the sky.

Now I wager either can be used, but I wonder which is actually appropriate or proper.

IMO they're both fine. It depends on which one you prefer and the feeling you get from each of them and want to convey to your readers.

It's these little things that drive me insane as I write.... any help would be appreciated.

Thanks!

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I'm going to jump in here and make a comlete ass of myself. Usually, I have a good feel for these things, and in this case I seem to have none at all. But that won't stop me! As I say, here's where I make an ass of myself.

I think, the way they are used, 'If only I had known' and 'If I had only known' mean exactly the same thing and are interchangeable. I also believe they're idiomatic. If you look for a literal meaning of 'If only I had known,' it means if you and only you had known something; it excludes all other people from that knowledge. Yet, that isn't the way it's used or what it means. The 'only' in that usage is for emphasis, and so the usase is idiomatic, meaning the phrase has developed meaning over time that is different from the literal meaning of the words in the phrase.

That makes perfect sense to me, but might be entirely wrong.

Of the two usages, 'If only I had known' and 'If I had only known', either, by itself, sounds correct, and I'd have a difficult time saying I preferred one over the other. I think, if you held my feet to the fire, I'd use the first rather than the second because you're not spliting the verbs that way with the problematic 'only.'

I'm sure this doesn't help anyone at all, but I don't always have such a great vehicle to show my ignorance.

C

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I'm going to jump in here and make a comlete ass of myself. Usually, I have a good feel for these things, and in this case I seem to have none at all. But that won't stop me! As I say, here's where I make an ass of myself.

I think, the way they are used, 'If only I had known' and 'If I had only known' mean exactly the same thing and are interchangeable. I also believe they're idiomatic. If you look for a literal meaning of 'If only I had known,' it means if you and only you had known something; it excludes all other people from that knowledge. Yet, that isn't the way it's used or what it means. The 'only' in that usage is for emphasis, and so the usase is idiomatic, meaning the phrase has developed meaning over time that is different from the literal meaning of the words in the phrase.

That makes perfect sense to me, but might be entirely wrong.

Of the two usages, 'If only I had known' and 'If I had only known', either, by itself, sounds correct, and I'd have a difficult time saying I preferred one over the other. I think, if you held my feet to the fire, I'd use the first rather than the second because you're not spliting the verbs that way with the problematic 'only.'

I'm sure this doesn't help anyone at all, but I don't always have such a great vehicle to show my ignorance.

C

It really doesn't make much difference which one is used in which context. It's almost in the category of jargon, and most readers will take it to mean what the context implies. Only English teachers, and a tiny minority thereof, would take sufficient umbrage to bother complaining about it.

And that's all I have to say about this subject. :wave:

Colin :icon_geek:

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Differences are slight but do exist in inference for me. So I will join Cole and make an ass of myself too.

"If only I had known," has a connotation of regret anf guilt for not knowing something that would have affected an result in the past.

"If I had only known," has an expectation that results would have been different with less implication of guilt, but still some regret.

"If only I, had known," has a implication of excuse (for others), dependent on me being the only one that knew.

"If I, only had known," is an admittance of ignorance, with hindsight admitting a change of results might have been possible if I had known.

There are more examples, but that should do, to show how it is possible to construe such a phrase.

There is more than one way of interpreting any of these combinations and may well depend on local word usage. How each of them is used in a story may well mean that they are to some degree interchangeable.

From an author point of view, I might try to avoid them all, as being hackneyed phrases, unless it was fitting for the character to fall for such cliched statements.

On the other hand, using all of them in a moment of thoughtful contemplation by a character, would certainly add an insight into the character's thinking processes, if not the opportunity for a little mirth. (Think of an actor trying all the different ways of saying, "If only I had known." with varying emphasis on the words.

Unlike the actor, the author has the luxury of playing with the order of the words.)

I have found logical analysis of a phrase, as well as simply "feeling" for what the intent of the phrase can be, is helpful in determining the structure of the sentence or phrase. Sometimes these conflict and as a result a new way of expressing the thought becomes obvious.

Multiple meanings often add richness to a work; often with an ironic outcome that reveals more than even the author thought possible until he too reads it.

With experience from both reading and writing, the order of words becomes easier to discern, even though it is sometimes only obvious, after it has been posted.

:icon_geek:

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I agree with Des in this case. To my ear, "If only I had known" has a more plaintive quality to it, whereas "If I had only known" is more declarative and could even be used in an accusatory manner. The use of one over the other would depend on what mood or context one wishes to project with its use. While the two phrases mean approximately the same, the emotional content is quite different and that difference should determine which is used. Using the wrong version will probably not destroy what you wrote, but using the right one will add to the picture you are painting with your words.

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I agree with Des in this case. To my ear, "If only I had known" has a more plaintive quality to it, whereas "If I had only known" is more declarative and could even be used in an accusatory manner. The use of one over the other would depend on what mood or context one wishes to project with its use. While the two phrases mean approximately the same, the emotional content is quite different and that difference should determine which is used. Using the wrong version will probably not destroy what you wrote, but using the right one will add to the picture you are painting with your words.

Nicely put Fritz, Thanks. :icon_geek:

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Thanks all! I thought this might be he place to ask and I'm glad there are so many willing to help. I like the idea of placing a person's name in place of the pronoun. It seems to help me when I read it aloud so that I can inflect whatever emotion that applies in the context of the writing.

Much appreciated!

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With experience from both reading and writing, the order of words becomes easier to discern, even though it is sometimes only obvious, after it has been posted.

:icon_geek:

You quite obviously meant: With experience from both reading and writing, the order of words becomes easier to discern, even though it is sometimes obvious only after it has been posted.

:wave: indeed!

C

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