Sunday, August 26, 2007

20. Subject - Verb Agreement - Part III (Compound Subjects)

Hello, all of you Grammar Stars. I hope you've had a great week and are now ready to tackle some more problems we have with Subject - Verb Agreement.

As stated in the first two lessons we did on this topic, it is very important that you know what the subject of a sentence is if you are trying to figure out which verb is correct. In those lessons, however, we only discussed SINGULAR subjects requiring SINGULAR verbs and PLURAL subjects requiring PLURAL verbs. Today we'll take a look at COMPOUND subjects and discuss how they can require either SINGULAR or PLURAL VERBS.

Quick Review:

Remember that the subject of a sentence is simply what or who the sentence is about and it (or they) will be a noun (s) or pronoun(s). Verbs simply tell something about the subject, show action, or indicate a state of being.

Now in our earlier examples, we tried to determine which verbs were correct in sentences such as these:

1. Johnny (love, loves) pig pickings more than anybody in Whiteville, I believe.

In this sentence, JOHNNY is who the sentence is about and it's a noun, so it's the subject. JOHNNY is also one person, so the subject is SINGULAR, which means that the verb must also be SINGULAR. Therefore, since LOVES is singular, LOVES is the correct verb to use.

2. The football players (is, are) hot when they practice outside in August.

Here, PLAYERS is who the sentence is about, and it's a noun, so it is, therefore, the subject. PLAYERS is also more than one person, so the subject is PLURAL this time, requiring a PLURAL verb. As a result, ARE is the correct verb since it is PLURAL.

Okay. So now let's add another facet of Subject - Verb Agreement.

What happens when the subject of a sentence is compound? Now I'm sure you know that the word COMPOUND means MORE THAN ONE. So... here we are referring to sentences that have two or more subjects joined by the little conjunction AND.

Here are some examples:

1. Oil AND natural gas ARE are the most common heating fuels in the United States.

The subjects of this sentence are the COMPOUND words OIL and GAS. Because we are speaking of two things joined by AND, we need to use the PLURAL form of the verb which is ARE, not IS.

2. Butch, Mack, and Paul SWIM in Lake Waccamaw every time they get a chance.

The subjects of this sentence are the COMPOUND words BUTCH, MACK, and PAUL, and since all three names joined by AND make up the subject and also make it PLURAL, the verb must also be PLURAL. Therefore, SWIM is the correct verb form because it is also PLURAL.

But what happens when COMPOUND subjects are joined not by AND, but by OR or NOR (often seen as NEITHER...NOR or EITHER...OR)? In this case, the verb agrees with the subject NEARER the verb.

Notice these examples:

3. Neither the son nor his parents SPEAK highly of their next door neighbor.

The COMPOUND subjects are SON or his PARENTS, but the first subject is singular (SON) and the second subject(PARENTS) is plural, What to do? Because the SECOND subject is PLURAL, the verb must also be PLURAL. Hence, (SPEAK, not SPEAKS, is correct.)

4. Either the Senators or the Governor usually ATTENDS official events in Raleigh.

This time we have the opposite example. The COMPOUND subjects are SENATORS or the GOVERNOR, but here the second subject(GOVERNOR)is SINGULAR. Even though the first subject is PLURAL (SENATORS), the correct verb is the SINGULAR verb ATTENDS because it must agree with the second subject, GOVERNOR.

For our final look at Compound Subjects, we'll discuss two little words and a word phrase that you should become very familiar with:

EACH...EVERY...and MANY A...

This rule is pretty straightforward, but lots of folks have trouble with it. Here's what you should remember:

Use a SINGULAR verb with any subject that is preceded by EACH, EVERY and MANY A. Just keep in mind one very important thing. No matter how many people, places, or things your subject is about, don't use a PLURAL verb if EACH, EVERY, or MANY A comes in front of the subject.

Here are some examples:

5. Each county in North Carolina HAS its own local government.

Yes, there are 100 counties in North Carolina, but because EACH precedes COUNTY (the subject), the SINGULAR verb must be used (HAS), not the PLURAL verb HAVE.

6. Many a person TRIES to dance, but not all enjoy it.

There may be millions of people who try this, but because MANY A precedes PERSON (the subject), the SINGULAR verb must be used (TRIES), not the PLURAL verb (TRY).

7. Every student in our school HOPES to graduate with his class.

There may be hundreds of students in this school, but because EVERY precedes STUDENT (the subject), the SINGULAR verb must be used (HOPES), not HOPE.

Well, there you have it! I hope all of this makes sense to you and that you're using the very best English you can. Drop me a line sometime and have a wonderful week. Peace and happiness, GG

Saturday, August 18, 2007

19. Mispronounciation Madness- Part I (UNDOUBTEDLY and MRS.)

Hey, all of you Grammar guys and gals once again! I hope you're all enjoying yourself and becoming better speakers and users of the Southern version of the language of our ancestors every day. Keep practicing on those rules that have given you trouble and soon you'll be impressing all of your friends.

Today, we'll take a look at a few words commonly heard around Columbus County that are mispronounced much TOO MUCH! If you've never heard them mispronounced, I'm going to guess you're new to our area. Never fear, the first time will come. Let's see if we can clear up the problems with just a little effort. These are easy.

1. The first one of these words is the word "UNDOUBTEDLY".

Now as you can see, the word ends with "...eDly", not "...eBly".

Here's a common way this word is used:

"Buster undoubteBly felt sick after eating five cat head biscuits with butter and molasses."

Obviously, you can see (and I hope hear) that the word is NOT undoubteBly, but undoubteDly.

If you've ever fallen into the trap of mispronouncing this one, PUH -- LEEZE say you won't ever do it again! If a poor English teacher hears it, he or she might have a major ear shut down.

2. The second of today's commonly mispronounced words is "MRS."

Lots of folks have no problem correctly pronouncing this, which should sound like this: "MIZ - IZ", or even "MIZ" as we Southerners like to shorten it. Both are correct. Really! Some, though, pronounce "MRS." as follows:

"MIZ - RIZ."

Oh, the horror! Please remember that the "R" is silent in this word, so MIZ-RIZ is NEVER correct!!

We hear this a lot. Here's a typical sentence where this error might appear:

"George was so ugly Mrs. Jones had to borrow a baby to take to church."

We just need to remember that we are not speaking of MIZ-RIZ Jones, but MIZ - IZ Jones.

Ok, Everyone -- and I hope this is all nice and cleared up. You won't make these errors again now, will you?

Have a wonderful week and much peace and happiness to you all. I'd love to hear from you! GG

Sunday, August 12, 2007

18. The Irregardless Imposter

Hey Y'all! I hope all of you are doing well and practicing becoming Grammar Stars.

Today's lesson will be nice and short! Some of the earlier ones I've done have been pretty lengthy but couldn't be helped, so I'm going to try to focus on some other rules that aren't so long. (Hey, I want you to come back!) We'll cover some of the ones needing more explanation eventually, but now for something brief... :-)

Have you ever heard anyone say something like this:

"Grace takes her orange pocketbook with her everywhere, IRREGARDLESS of the color of her clothes" ?

Whoa! This sentence is using a word that is not in our language--IRREGARDLESS.

The prefix IR and the suffix LESS are both negatives, so to use both of them in one word is to make the word a double negative. Remember when an earlier lesson discussed double negatives? At that time, you learned that using double negatives in a sentence is incorrect. We discussed the error in writing or saying such things as, "I don't have no reason to go outside when it's 105 degrees in the shade." In this sentence, using both DON'T and NO in the same sentence constitutes using double negatives, so, of course, this is an incorrect usage.

Now, while it's true that in the example sentence, IRREGARDLESS is not a SENTENCE with double negatives, but a WORD with double negatives, the rule still stands. Double negatives just aren't acceptable unless you mean to make the sentence or word positive, and I don't believe the first sentence means that Grace takes her orange pocketbook with her everywhere because she DOES care whether her clothes match her orange pocketbook. Likewise, the speaker in the second sentence surely doesn't actually mean that he DOES have a good reason to go outside when it's 105 degrees in the shade! Just think about what makes sense and you'll be fine.

Therefore, NEVER use the word IRREGARDLESS! There's just no such word in English!

Your sentences should sound (and look) like this:

REGARDLESS of the rain, Bobby jogs from the courthouse to the depot every morning... or...

Mrs. White sang louder and more off-key than anyone else in the church choir, REGARDLESS of the pained expressions on the faces of the congregation... or ...

REGARDLESS of being hungry enough to eat the south end of a north bound skunk, Henry waited on his sister to come to the table.

So, there you have it. Just never say or use IRREGARDLESS. Today's lesson is a shorty. How great it would be if all of our English rules could be this easy!
Have a great week and be happy. Peace, GG

Sunday, August 5, 2007

17. The Annoying A Words--A LOT, ALL RIGHT, ASK

Hello Grammar Bloggers once again! I hope you've had a great week and that you're continuing to work on improving any little grammar problems you may have had that we have covered. Practice and you'll soon be the grammar expert in your circle of friends. :-)

Because my last blog was pretty long (and couldn't be helped since LIE and LAY can be complicated), you're going to be able to enjoy a nice short lesson today. Nevertheless, "short" doesn't mean "unimportant". Mercifully, we do have some fairly short and to the point rules and today we'll take a look at three of them:

Three of the most common usage errors we often see deal with the words A LOT (not alot), ALL RIGHT (not alright), and the mispronunciation of ASK.

(1) Simply, there is no such word in our language as ALOT! Never! This error is a nonstandard form and should be avoided always. We do, however, see many, many people write A LOT as one word (alot) , but now you know that doing this is a major boo boo. When you mean a great number of things, use A LOT-- two separate words. Actually, A LOT is overused quite a bit and should be replaced with more specific information whenever possible.

Here's an example:
Ronald has helped his friends A LOT. (You're not seeing the two words together--separate them!)

However, the better sentence would be
Ronald has often helped his friends by sharing his tomatoes with them.

(2) Again, as with ALOT, the word ALRIGHT is a nonstandard form of English and should be deleted from your writing. This problem is seen everywhere-- in published books, newspapers, pamplets, and just about anywhere we see the written word . What are the editors of these publications thinking?

When you mean "everything is correct", use the two words separately--ALL RIGHT (not alright). Here are some examples:

We kids were ALL RIGHT. (Not alright)
Is it ALL RIGHT with you if we come directly? (Not alright)
I'm ALL RIGHT with watching that TV program. (Not alright)

(3) The final mistake has become increasingly common, although this one is strictly a pronunciation error -- saying AX/AXE for ASK.

Just turn on your TV or listen to people all over the place and you'll hear things such as

"Libby AXED him if he would lend her a pencil..." or

" Let me AXE her where she's going..."

Granted, it's probably easier to say AXE than ASK, but that doesn't mean you should do it. If we keep on AXING people the way we're doing it now, we're all going to end up a bunch of murderers on death row.

Well, that's it for today, Y'all! I hope you'll jump on this lesson like a hawk on a bitty. Enjoy your week and do let me hear from you when you need a grammar question answered. Peace and happiness to you all, GG