Sunday, September 30, 2007

25. The SAW / SEEN Spin

Hey, all of you Grammar Stars! It's good to have you back again and ready for a new lesson. I hope you've all been as busy as bees on a watermelon rind, enjoying yourself and being happy.

Today's lesson is another special request and I am eager to address it since I think this one is especially peculiar to our Southeastern North Carolina area -- and maybe throughout most of the South. Let me know. At least I haven't seen this one addressed in any grammar books (as a separate problem) that I've seen recently or even in the past. This one belongs to us!

So what is it?

This hindersome and annoying mistake is heard just about everywhere around Columbus County N. C.-- the irritating misuse of SEEN for SAW. If you live around here, I know you've probably heard it dozens of times, so I'm now going to see if we can clear up the cobwebs on this one now and forever!

First, though, here's a quick review of verb tenses. All English verbs have six tenses and I'll use examples from today's subject lesson to go through them.

PRESENT - I see, you see, he/she/it sees, we see, you see, they see

PAST - I saw, you saw, he/she/it saw, we saw, you saw, they saw

FUTURE - I shall see, you will see, he/she/it will see, we shall see, you will see, they will see

PRESENT PERFECT- I have seen, you have seen, he/she/it has seen, we have seen, you have seen, they have seen

PAST PERFECT - I had seen, you had seen, he/she/it had seen, we had seen, you had seen, they had seen

FUTURE PERFECT - I shall have seen, you will have seen, he/she/it will have seen, we shall have seen, you will have seen, they will have seen

Now, don't worry about all of this technical language just now. There ARE things you need to know about all of these tenses, including what they mean and when they are used, but for right now, we're concentrating on just SAW and SEEN.

Okay. So this is the kind of thing we hear way too much:

I SEEN (instead of SAW) that movie last week at the Cinema... or...

Betty SEEN (instead of SAW) her second cousin at the Harvest Festival in Whiteville last November...or...

Did you know we SEEN (instead of SAW) some good talent at the Columbus County Fair last night?

Groan...Hearing this mistake makes me about as crazy as a lost dog in a meat market. PUH - LEEZE! Spare me!

Just remember this and you'll get it right every time:

Use SAW ONLY when you are speaking or writing in the PAST TENSE and when HAS, HAVE, or HAD is NOT a part of the verb.


I SAW the football game last night at Legion Stadium.

Here, the football game happened obviously in the past (last night), and HAS, HAVE, or HAD is not a part of the verb.

Use SEEN only when you are using HAS, HAVE, or HAD as part of the verb.


Louise HAD SEEN that TV program several times by the time Kenwood saw it.

Here, SEEN is correct because Had is part of the verb.

There is one little thing you should keep in mind: If the subject and verb are separated from each other, the broken apart verb still remains the verb of the clause you are working with. This happens most frequently in sentences that ask questions. For example:

Have you SEEN my little brother?

In this sentence, the subject is YOU and the verb is HAVE SEEN, even though HAVE SEEN is not together. I'm not sure we have much trouble saying something such as, "Have you SAW my little brother?", but this has been known to happen, so if this has been troublesome for you, just remember, once again, that using HAVE in a sentence such as the preceding requires us to use SEEN -- not SAW.

Try a few on your own.

(1) Ricky (saw, seen) his flat bed trailer being used in the parade.

(2) I never (saw, seen) such a big sweet potato!

(3) Have you (saw,seen) the oysters being served at Dale's Seafood this week?

(4) Greg (saw, seen) his sister's pocketbook hanging on the back of the chair.

(5) Mrs. White had (saw, seen) many apples disappear from her kitchen until she decided to catch the culprit.

I hope you see how very easy these sentences are. Here are the correct answers:

(1) SAW...because there is no "H" word part of the verb (HAS, HAVE, HAD) , and past tense is obviously required.

(2) SAW...same as (1)

(3) SEEN...HAVE is part of the verb

(4) SAW...same as (1) and (2)

(5) SEEN...HAD is part of the verb

All right! Isn't that easy? Just watch out for the "H" words as a part of the verb, and you'll never have trouble with SEEN again!

Well, it's about time to let you go, and since we've moved that ox out of the ditch, let me wish you a great week with lots of happy things for you and yours. Next time we'll continue with some of the special requests I've been receiving. Keep your ideas for lessons coming! Much peace and time to relax. Warmest regards, GG

Sunday, September 23, 2007

24. Different FROM or Different THAN

Hey, Friends! How has your week been? Have you been trying out your grammar expertise on your friends and family? Go right ahead! Let's see if we can spread good grammar everywhere we go and make everyone as smart as a tree full of owls. :-)

Today's lesson comes as a special request--something I love to hear -- since YOU hear as many mistakes as I do and I want to give you a voice.

Now... how many of you have found yourself trying to figure out what you should say when it comes to using ...different FROM... or ...different THAN? Thank goodness, this is one of the easiest and shortest rules to know (most of the time), so if you HAVE found yourself in this dilemma, you shouldn't have any more difficulties after this lesson.

Here's all there is to it:

RULE #1:

Use ...different FROM...almost all the time. Technically, ...different FROM... simply precedes a noun or pronoun. How easy is that?

Here are a few examples:

1. Jack is so different FROM Tom, his brother -- Tom's about as bright as a burned - out light bulb! (Here, FROM precedes TOM, a noun, so, of course, FROM is correct, not THAN.)

2. These cloud formations are different FROM THOSE. (Same thing, different words. FROM precedes THOSE, although THOSE is not a noun, but a pronoun. Remember the rule? Pronouns work as well as nouns. THAN is wrong.)

3. Thad proved that ice skating is different FROM roller skating. (Once again, FROM precedes roller skating, a noun, so FROM is the only thing we can use. Again, THAN is wrong.)

Got it? I am going to assume that you're as sharp as a brier and do. Therefore, we'll move on to the other phrase, ...different THAN..., and see how to use it correctly.

Oh, yes. There IS a time when we CAN use ...different THAN... although I'll have to be honest and tell you that some grammarians would say not even to mention this part of the rule. However, because some of you scholars out there might wonder why I didn't include the next section, I figured I would at least give it a brief acknowledgment.

RULE # 2:

Use... different THAN...right in front of a clause ( a group of words with with its own subject and verb. Many times you will see several different clauses in one sentence. Nevertheless, you only want to focus on the clause that follows ...different THAN...)

Before I say more on this topic, I think it might be helpful to review CLAUSES with you.

All clauses in sentences have at least one subject and verb. Some clauses are called Subordinate (or Nonessential) Clauses, and others are called Independent (or Essential clauses.) We won't worry about this part of clauses until a little later, though. For now, let's just think about clauses being little groups of words with a subject and verb. Here are some examples:

1. The job was quite different THAN what I imagined.

In this sentence, there are two different clauses: "The job was quite different..." is one clause and the subject is JOB and the verb is WAS. However,
that's not the only clause. The second clause is "...what I imagined." Here, I is the subject and IMAGINED is the verb. Yes, this is a pretty short one,
but it's still a clause.

Now, are you putting all of this together? Do you see how THAN can be used correctly? It's correct because THAN is followed by the clause, "..what I
imagined." and NOT by a noun or pronoun which requires us to use FROM, not THAN, as seen in RULE #1.

2. Mary's performance was much different THAN she wished it had been.

Here, we have, not two, but three different clauses. "Mary's performance was much different..." is one clause. Another separate clause is "...she
wished...", and the third clause is " had been."

Don't let a number of clauses throw you. Yes, there are three clauses in this sentence, but the only one we are concerned with is the one that follows
THAN. We can prove that THAN is correct because the subject ("she") and verb ("wished") follow it.

Okay. Now I need to add a little thought that, I hope, won't confuse you. Once again, our complicated language has all kinds of exceptions and variations to major rules, and if you keep this in mind, you'll understand, I think, why it was necessary for us to take a look at ...different we just did. However...

you can actually use EITHER ONE of these phrases SOMETIMES, depending on the wording of a sentence, but ONLY if a clause follows the phrase and if the use of ...different FROM...produces awkwardness. Notice this example:

1. Music is much different today (from, than) what it was 100 years ago.

In a sentence like this, take your choice. Either FROM or THAN would be correct because a clause follows the phrase in question and we don't see any awkwardness with FROM in the sentence. a sentence like the following, we can see what happens sometimes when FROM doesn't work:

2. Neal's new home was much smaller (from, than) he wanted it to be.

Here, FROM doesn't make any sense. Surely you wouldn't say, "Neal's new home was much smaller FROM he wanted it to be." (You could, of course, add the word "what" after "smaller" and everything would change.) :-)

Okay, so this begs the question: What's the easiest way to keep all of this straight?

Answer: Just avoid using THAN. Use FROM and for all practical purposes, you'll be right nearly all the time. Anytime you have doubts, think of the suggestions offered here and use some good ole common sense when using FROM if it sounds awkward -- just use THAN if it comes before a clause (only).

Well, I hope this has been a help and, since it's about time to close up shop, let me wish y'all a wonderful week. Study your grammar rules,and keep the great ideas coming in. They will be the subjects of future lessons. Peace and Happiness, GG

Sunday, September 16, 2007

23. Pronouns as Indirect Objects

Hey, Y'all! I hope you've had a wonderful week and are as happy as a toad frog under the drip of a house. Around here in Columbus County, we finally got a little bit of rain, although it was NOT a fence lifter...more like a dry weather shower. Maybe soon...

Now back to some more lessons to help you with grammar problems. Today's focus is the third on pronouns used in the objective case, INDIRECT OBJECTS. Our first lesson discussed pronouns used as OBJECTS of PREPOSITIONS and last week's lesson discussed pronouns used as DIRECT OBJECTS.

But first, a quick review:

I hope you all now remember that objective case pronouns look like this:



I...HE...SHE...WE...THEY...WHO...and WHOEVER. These are called nominative case pronouns and we will look at them a little more closely soon.

Now, though, let's concentrate on objective pronouns since we have such a tough time with them.

In our last two lessons, we first reviewed pronouns used as OBJECTS OF PREPOSITIONS. Remember that the object of a preposition is part of a prepositional phrase. In the often mentioned sentence, "The airplane went _________ the cloud," many of the words that would fit into the blank are prepositions and all prepositions have an object. In this sentence, the object is "cloud". Hence, "_______the cloud" is the prepositional phrase. What we were concentrating on here, though, was NOT an object of a preposition as a NOUN, but one used as a PRONOUN. Here are some examples of prepositional phrases with pronouns as the objects:

...for ME (not I)...through Sherwood and HIM (not he) Becky and HER (not she), ...around the team and US (not we)...over the pitcher and THEM (not they)...

...and I can scarcely bear to mention this killer of English teacher sanity...between you and ME ( NOT I)..aargh...puh-leeze...NOT...!!!

Secondly, we also reviewed pronouns used as DIRECT OBJECTS. Direct objects answer "What?"or "Whom?" to the subject and verb and are nouns or pronouns. Here are some examples:

George threw the ball. George threw WHAT? "ball" is the answer, so "ball" is the direct object. Now this sentence uses a NOUN as the direct object, and this type of use is not difficult at all. It's when the PRONOUN is needed for a direct object... boy, oh, boy, do we have a problem! Here are some examples for you to peruse. Read on...

Martha joined Andrea and (I, me) at the crash up derby. Martha joined... WHOM? Andrea and ME (NOT I), because we must use the objective form of the pronoun when the word in question is used as a direct object, and that's exactly what it's doing here. Here's another:

We watched Kevin and (he, him) in the music video. We watched ...WHOM? Kevin and HIM (NOT he), because, again, we must use the objective form of the pronoun when the word in question is used as a direct object, and that's what we have here.

...So, now, all of this brings us to today's lesson. You will see just how important what you've already learned is when we begin this one, since it's imperative that you understand what a DIRECT OBJECT is in order to determine what an INDIRECT OBJECT is.

In its simplest definition, an INDIRECT OBJECT answers the question "to whom?" or "for whom?" to the subject and verb or "to what?" or "for what?" after an action verb. Only sentences with DIRECT OBJECTS can have an INDIRECT OBJECT. (However, interestingly enough, DIRECT OBJECTS don't require INDIRECT OBJECTS.) INDIRECT OBJECTS are usually nouns and pronouns and will ALWAYS come between the verb and the DIRECT OBJECT and NEVER after a preposition. Let's look at some examples:

Steve bought Judy and (I,me) some lunch.

Okay, how do we figure this one out? First, choose the subject and verb. Here, the subject is STEVE and the verb is BOUGHT. Next, check to see if there's a DIRECT OBJECT in the sentence by asking yourself the DIRECT OBJECT questions :

Steve bought...WHAT? or WHOM? Is there an answer? Yes, indeed...and that thing or person is LUNCH, which makes LUNCH the DIRECT OBJECT, and, which, by the way, is also a noun. (Incidentally, if you thought that the WHOM? question was answered by the compound JUDY AND ME, look at the sense of the sentence. How could Steve "buy" two people. Come on, Y'all, I don't think people are for sale! What he paid money for was LUNCH. He wasn't buying two people.)

Now, how do INDIRECT OBJECTS fit in? First, say the subject, verb, and DIRECT OBJECT to yourself and then ask the "to whom?'',"for whom?", "to what?", or "for what?" questions.

Steve (subject)...bought (verb)... WHAT? or WHOM?... lunch..TO WHOM? or FOR WHOM? etc. ...and, of course, you see that you have an answer.

Steve bought lunch FOR WHOM? The compound Judy and ME answers the question so ME becomes the INDIRECT OBJECT. Judy and I is wrong, wrong, wrong!!! Since the pronoun must be in objective case, ME must be used, NOT I. Remember that ME is objective case and I is nominative case.

Try a few on your own.

1. Engineers gave many students and (we, us) enough awards to fill a banquet hall.

2. Trish gives little Larry and (he, him) her full attention.

3. Stuart brought Polly and (she, her) a delicious piece of pig pickin' cake from the party.

4. Uncle Bill offered Walter and (I, me) another piece of watermelon.

5. Our church granted Lucas and (I, me) permission to use the Fellowship Hall Monday evening to organize a Scout meeting.

So, were these easy? I surely hope so. Here are the answers and why they are:

1. Engineers (subject) gave (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...awards...TO WHOM? FOR WHOM? (etc.)...students and US (NOT WE).

2. Trish (subject) gives (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?... attention...TO WHOM? FOR WHOM? (etc.) ...Larry and HIM (NOT HE).

3. Stuart (subject)... brought (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...cake...TO WHOM?...FOR WHOM? (etc.)...Polly and HER (NOT SHE).

4. Uncle Bill (subject)...offered (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...watermelon...TO WHOM?...FOR WHOM? (etc.) Walter and ME (NOT I).

5. (subject)...granted (verb)...WHAT? or WHOM?...permission...TO WHOM?...FOR WHOM? (etc.) Lucas and ME (NOT I).

Just remember that an INDIRECT OBJECT must have a DIRECT OBJECT to be in a sentence. If you'll ask the questions to determine both DIRECT and INDIRECT OBJECTS, choosing the correct pronoun will make you happier than a clam at high tide, because you'll know what to say--correctly!

Well, that's it for today, Everybody. Thanks for visiting and to many of you for passing on some good ideas for future lessons. There are lots of you out there greatly bothered by some of these grammar errors, and I'll do my best to address them all! Have a wonderful week and much happiness to you all, GG

Monday, September 10, 2007

22. Prounouns as Direct Objects

Hey, Everbody! I hope you're all having a great week and that you're impressing your friends and family with your grammar know-how. Welcome back to a new lesson.

Today we will continue looking at the objective use of pronouns. Last time we discussed another very common mistake--using the wrong pronoun when the pronoun in question is the OBJECT of a PREPOSITION.

Today, we'll be taking a look at pronouns as something different, DIRECT OBJECTS.

First, however, let's review what a DIRECT OBJECT is. As we discussed in an earlier lesson, DIRECT OBJECTS are always nouns or pronouns and simply answer " What?" or "Whom?" to the subject and verb of a sentence.

Here's an example sentence:

Alvin watched the ship come in to shore.

In this sentence, ALVIN is the subject, and WATCHED is the verb. Next, all you need to do is ask the questions "What?" or "Whom?" If there is an answer, that noun or pronoun becomes the DIRECT OBJECT.

ALVIN WATCHED "What?" or "Whom?"... Ah, ha! There's NOT an answer to "Whom?", but there IS to "What?" and that answer is SHIP. It's also a noun, making SHIP the DIRECT OBJECT.

Let's try another:

Jan helped Mary Anne clear the table.

In this sentence, JAN is the subject, and HELPED is the verb. Now ask the "What?" or "Whom?" questions again. Once more, an answer will make the word a DIRECT OBJECT.

JAN WATCHED "What?" or "Whom?" ...Yes, indeed! MARY ANNE answers the question "Whom?" here and it's also a noun. Therefore, MARY ANNE becomes the DIRECT OBJECT.

Pretty easy, huh? I'm going to assume you are eagerly nodding "yes". However, in these two sentences, both of the DIRECT OBJECTS are NOUNS--not PRONOUNS...and this is where the problem comes in. Way too many times, we want to use the wrong case of pronouns, especially when a DIRECT OBJECT is compound in a sentence.

First, remember this: These are the objective case pronouns: ME...HIM...HER...US...THEM...WHOM...and WHOMEVER.

The subjective case pronouns that we often confuse with the objective case pronouns are these: I..HE...HER...WE...THEY...WHO...and WHOEVER. We'll study more about the subjective pronouns later. Just remember that, for now, we're concentrating on objective pronouns.

Here's, unfortunately, what we see and hear too much:

Bill joined Butch and I at the dinner table....Aargh! This use is dead wrong! Please notice why.

Pick out the subject and verb. BILL is the subject and JOINED is the verb. Now ask the DIRECT OBJECT questions.

BILL joined "What?" There's no answer.

Bill joined "Whom?" All right! Now we have an answer...the pronoun should be the answer (but is it I or ME?)

All you have to do now is remember that if the "What?"or "Whom?" question has an answer, use the objective form--ME, not I.

Of course, you can, once again, as stated last time, try the trick for leaving out the compound part. That is, read the sentence to yourself and leave out the "...and Butch" part. I surely hope you wouldn't say, "Bill joined I at the dinner table." Please make my day and say you would say, "Bill joined ME at the dinner table."

Now, try a few on your own.

1. The principal told Louise and (we, us) about the new attendance policy.

2. Our seniors nominated Martin and (I, me) for class treasurer.

3. Joe warned Stuart and (he,him) that playing hookey from school was about as dumb as trying to sneak daylight past a rooster.

4. Tom's tennis serve challenged Martin and (she, her).

5. Sandra likes Mary and (I,me) very much.

How did you do? In all of these sentences, the objective forms of the pronouns should be used, because all of them are used as DIRECT OBJECTS.

1. ...principal told...What? or Whom? US

2. ...seniors nominated...What? or Whom? ME
3. Joe warned...What? or Whom? HIM

4. ...serve challenged...What? or Whom? HER

5. Sandra likes...What? or Whom? ME

Okay, Everybody. I hope this has helped some. If you read the last lesson, I'm sure you're beginning to see a pattern with these objective forms. If so, that's great! This will help you apply your knowledge to other examples that may puzzle you.

Next time, we'll take a look at the final of three types of problems with objective case.

Thanks for visiting, and remember that I'd love to hear from you with suggestions for future topics. Have a great week. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, September 2, 2007

21. Pronouns as Objects of Prepositions

Hello, again, Friends, and welcome back to the Grammar Guide. Once again, I have heard another one of my colleagues mention a problem that bothers her, and one that is very annoying to me, as well. As a matter of fact, just this past week, I heard a TV commercial with the voice - over announcer saying, "This cereal is the very best for you and I." GRRRRR. What's going on here? Whatever happened to learning the little rule about omitting the "you and" and THEN reading the sentence to yourself? With this technique, you will naturally hear what the right answer should be!

All right. So let's give this frequently seen problem a look and see if we can clear up the confusion.

Technically, grammar rules tell us that the objective form of a pronoun is used as the object of a preposition. Now, the only problem with this is that if you don't remember what objective pronouns are or what the object of a preposition is, reading a rule like this is about as useful as a trap door on a rowboat.

So, first, let's take a look at objective pronouns. You will notice that there are only six of them that change form, depending on whether you need nominative
or objective case. YOU and IT don't change. (We'll get to nominative case later.)

ME..........HIM.........HER.........US.........THEM........ WHOM....... and...WHOMEVER.

These are the pronouns to use when the word in question is either a direct object, indirect object, or object of a preposition. (Notice how the word OBJECT is a part of each phrase.) Our focus today, however, is NOT on the direct object use or on the indirect object use, but only on the OBJECT of a PREPOSITION use since this one seems to give us the most trouble.

Now for those of you who have been regularly visiting the Grammar Guide, you may remember that we had a discussion already about prepositions in the second lesson, "Behind the Preposition AT". For a quick review, I'll just mention that old standard example sentence,

The airplane flew ____________ the cloud.

Many, many words that fit into the blank above are prepositions: over, between, under, in, through, around, at, to, toward, against, beside, etc. Simply put, prepositions show a relationship between words.

Now, what about prepositional PHRASES? One interesting thing to remember is that prepositions don't stand alone . (If you ever see a word such as those listed above standing alone, the word is NOT a preposition anymore--it has changed into an adverb. Example:

Come NEAR. Your perfume smells delicious! (NEAR is simply an adverb, telling WHERE, something adverbs do.)

This kind of use, however, doesn't happen nearly as much as one like this:

Come NEAR the STOVE and see how the butter beans taste. (Here, NEAR becomes the preposition and STOVE is the object. The entire phrase is called the prepositional phrase.)

Now that you know what prepositions and their phrases are, we'll move on to today's problem.

How do we determine which object of the preposition is correct when the objects are COMPOUND PRONOUNS? Example:

The note tacked on the door was for Kate and (I, me).

Notice that FOR precedes the compound parts: ... Kate and (I, me). This should be a clear signal to you that the correct answer is being used as the object of a preposition. That means we must use the objective case pronoun, so ME is the correct answer. (Remember the list above with the six correct objective pronouns?) Try another:

A terrible argument broke out BETWEEN Kim and (he, him). Again, BETWEEN is a preposition, so there's your signal that the correct word must be in objective case since the word in question is the object of the preposition. Hence, HIM is correct.

Try a few on your own:

1. The baseball flew over the head of the pitcher and (they, them).

2. Chicken bog is one of the best meals available according to our friends and (we, us).

3. For Pat, Elsie, and (she, her), this was a first at gigging frogs.

In sentence 1, OF is the signal word alerting you that you have a prepositional phrase with THEY or THEM as the object. The correct answer must, of course, be THEM since it is the objective form of the pronoun.

In sentence 2, ACCORDING TO is called a compound preposition, and works the same way a one- word preposition does, but if you notice the little word TO , you also have another signal that we have a prepositional phrase, requiring the objective form of the pronoun, US.

In sentence 3, FOR is the signal word alerting you that you have a prepositional phrase and its object is either SHE or HER. Since objects of prepositions can only be in objective case, HER is correct.

Finally, if all else fails, just do what I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson: Read the sentence to yourself (or silently think it through), saying each of the given possible answers alone without the compound part. For example:

The baseball flew over the head of THEM. (Leave out "...the pitcher and...") See how this sounds right?

Chicken bog is one of the best meals available according to US. (Leave out "... our friends and...")

For HER, this was her first time gigging frogs. (Leave out "...Pat, Elsie, and...)

While it is VERY true that we can't always listen to what SOUNDS right, this is one time when we can. Woo, Woo! Be thankful for small blessings :-)

So, that about does it for today. I hope this is all nice and clear to you and that you will never use the wrong pronoun again. Have a good week and many happy days to you. Peace and happiness. GG