Monday, November 19, 2007


Hey all of you grammar enthusiasts! Welcome back to another lesson on some problems we hear quite a bit with our language.

Today's topic deals with a problem suggested by two special readers, and one that, I think, will be very easy to clear up. Just hang with me and I'll try to make this short and simple.

Have you ever wondered about the differences between WEARY, LEERY, and WARY? We probably have more confusion between WEARY and WARY, but because WEARY sounds so much like LEERY, sometimes even it gets thrown into this confusing muddle.

Let's begin with WEARY. This word, according to Webster's, is an adjective and means "...exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness." Think of it also describing someone's patience, tolerance, or even pleasure being depleted.

Here's an example sentence:

I'm so WEARY of political commercials that I cut the TV off every time one comes on.

Here, WEARY means that the speaker is exhausted from watching so many commercials--his patience, tolerance, and/or pleasure is gone from doing so.

Next, let's move right along to WARY. This word, also an adjective, simply means "...marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchful prudence, especially detecting and escaping danger."

Here's how WARY could be used in an example sentence:

Bobby's cat kept a WARY look at the fox lurking behind the fence.

With this sentence, the implication is that the cat senses danger and is watchful in order to escape from the fox's clutches, if necessary. Pretty easy, so far, huh?

The final word is LEERY (sometimes spelled LEARY, but the former is preferred.) LEERY is another adjective and means "...suspicious, wary." WHOA! Did you notice that? WARY is a synonym (means the same) of LEERY. Now, we see one of the reasons why these three words get confused.

Here's a good way to keep this straight:

WEARY means exhausted or worn-out...while...

both LEERY and WARY mean about the same thing: suspicious or watchful.

Try your hand at these sentences:

1. Mike was (leery, weary) of hearing, "It's so dry around here the trees are bribing the dogs."

2. Kathy became (wary, weary) of the telemarketer when he told her to send a $5,000 check to cover the expense of shipping the big prize she had just won.

3. Ava became (leery, weary) of the meal her mom fixed for her after she saw something green on her plate.

How did you do? These are some simple rules to remember, so I hope you did well.

Here are the answers:

1. WEARY is correct because it means Mike is "tired" or "worn-out" about hearing this so much.

2. WARY is correct because it means Kathy is "suspicious" at hearing about such a large demand of money.

3. LEERY is correct because it means that Ava is "suspicious" since she probably doesn't want anything green on her plate.

Okay, Everyone. Did you make 100 again? See how easy most of these little problems are if you'll just think them through and remember the rules for each?

Well, it's about time to sign off. Thanks for reading this info. again, and have a wonderful week! I love hearing from you with your suggestions for another topic. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, November 11, 2007

29. More Mispronunciation Madness - Part II

Hello, Everybody! I hope you're all finer than frog hair and spending lots of time with those you love most.

Today, we're going to take a look at two commonly mispronounced words around these parts. Actually, I don't think we Southerners are the only ones hoein' this row, but you can bet we kill that skunk...a lot.

The first word is

INCENTIVE, a noun which means, according to Webster's, "...something that incites...determination or action...motivates..."

A common way we use this words is to say something such as,

One of the best INCENTIVES used by employers to encourage employees to work longer and harder hours is to pay them higher wages.

The problem occurs when the speaker pronounces the word INCENTIVE with four syllables, and not the correct three syllables. Thus, the word sounds something like this:

IN-CEN-I-TIVE (Please...horrors...I know none of you would pronounce it this way, would you?)

The word should be pronounced the following way:

IN-CEN-TIVE (Notice, please, there are only three syllables when you pronounce the word correctly...ahhhh, such music to my ears.)

The second word we're taking a look at today is PREVENTIVE, an adjective which means, again according to Webster's, "...undertaken to forestall hostile action..."

An example sentence using this word would be

PREVENTIVE steps against soil erosion were undertaken by the farmer to protect his corn crop.

As with INCENTIVE, many times folks give PREVENTIVE an extra syllable so that it, too, is pronounced with four syllables and not the correct three syllables. As a result, the word then sounds the following way:

PRE- VEN-TA-TIVE (Groan...This is enough to make a poor English teacher funeralize the English language...)

The word should be pronounced IN-CEN-TIVE! Three syllables only! (Help...Let's toss this pronunciation!)

Now before some of you get all fired up and tell me that PREVENTATIVE is in the dictionary, remember what I said in an earlier lesson. Many, many words have been included in the dictionary since the 1970's that are NOT Standard English. They are there because their use has become common. However, this doesn't mean that PREVENTIVE as PREVENTATIVE is correct! Besides, adding another syllable is completely unnecessary--in both words. If you'd like to impress your peers, professors, and everyone else around you, pronounce these words in the acceptable Standard English manner.

All right! There we have it for today. That's the last shingle off this barn. I hope this has been informative for you and that you'll be able to speak these words correctly from now on if you haven't been. Just practice, as usual, and you'll make a habit of it in no time.

Enjoy your week and thanks for reading. Drop me a line when you get a chance and let me know if you have any grammar pet peeves I haven't addressed yet. Peace and happiness to you all, GG

Sunday, November 4, 2007

28. The SIT - SET Snafu

Hey, Y'all! I hope you've been doing well and working hard on using your best grammar around your friends, family, and acquaintances. What a great way to make a good impression and to pass on to others the correct way of speaking and writing!

Today's lesson is another one suggested by a friend and former student, and is one that we hear folks struggle with many times. Have you ever been confused about using SIT or SET? These two verbs plague many folks but there are actually some very simple things to know about them that should solve the problem. You will probably notice that the rules for this verb are very similar to the rules for LIE and LAY, so let's take a look at them and see if we can get that rubber-nosed woodpecker in the Petrified Forest look off your face... for now and evermore.

First, let's look at what each word means and then each word's principal parts.

SIT means "to occupy a seat" and it usually does NOT take a direct object. (We've already discussed direct objects several times, but I'll briefly remind you that direct objects answer "What?" or "Whom?" to the subject and verb.)

The principal parts of SIT are

Present - sit

Present Participle - sitting

Past - sat

Past Participle - (have,has, had) sat

Remember that when verbs are conjugated they change into these forms.

Now, here are a couple of examples of the correct use of SIT:

1. Some airline passengers refuse to SIT (not SET) in row 13.

Notice that this sentence means the passengers are refusing to "occupy a seat," and if you tried the direct object test to be sure SIT is correct, you would read the subject and verb to yourself, saying, "...passengers SIT... What? or Whom?" There is, of course, no answer--this makes no sense, so SIT is correct.

2. Queen Elizabeth II SAT (not SET) on the Stone of Scone at her coronation.

In this example, SAT, the past tense of SIT, is correct. Again, the sentence is speaking of the Queen "occupying a seat." In addition, when you try the direct object test and ask "What?" or "Whom?" after the subject and verb ("Queen Elizabeth II SAT"...What? or Whom?"), you can certainly see that there is no answer to the question. Once more, this make no sense, so SAT is correct.

Okay. Now that we've reviewed SIT, we need to mention a little exception before going on to SET. As I've said many times before, exceptions to the general rule do occasionally present themselves, so here we go with one using the verb SIT.

SIT can sometimes, but not often, have a direct object. Here's an example.

SIT the patient carefully in that chair.

The meaning--"occupying a seat"--still is correct, but when you try the direct object question... ah ha! There's an answer! "(You) SIT What? or Whom? "...patient..." answers the question Whom? As a result, SIT, here, is correct.

Yes, yes, I know. It's maddening to have these exceptions, but there it is and we just have to accept another example of our very diverse and complicated language.

So...let's move right along with the verb SET.

SET simply means "to place" and DOES have a direct object most of the time.

The principal parts of SET are

Present - set

Present Participle - setting

Past - set

Past Participle - (have, has, had) set

Notice the following examples of the correct use of SET:

1. The Archbishop of Canterbury SET (not SAT) the royal crown on the new queen's head.

In this sentence, SET is used to mean "place". Now, try the direct object test. "The Archbishop of Canterbury SET..." What? or Whom? Yes, now, we have an answer: "" answers What was being "placed", so SET is correct.

2. Many sci-fi writers have SET (not SAT) the action of their stories on distant planets.

Here, again, SET is used to mean "place." Once more, try the direct object test. "...writers have SET...What? "...action..." is the answer, so SET is the correct answer.

I hope you're doing well and following these explanations. They're really very simple if you'll just practice them a little.

Now I have to tell you about another exception to a rule involving SET and all of its principal parts.

In this exception to the general SET rules, notice that this rule involves only the direct object part of the rule, much like the SIT rule above.

In certain situations, SET and all of its parts will NOT have a direct object. Here are a couple of examples:

1. The sun SETS early in the winter. (The sun SETS... What?...Whom? There's no answer, but SETS is still correct. Just stretch your thoughts and think of the sun being "placed".)

2. Some types of cement SET faster than other types. (The sun SETS...What?...Whom? Again, there's no answer, but SET is still correct. Think of the cement being "placed.")

Okay...Now it's your turn. Try the following sentences to see if you can make a grade of 100.

1. In the early days of photography, people (set, sat) motionlessly in front of a camera for long periods.

2. The police officer (set, sat) the explosive device carefully into a box lined with lead.

3. There is only one remaining bowling alley in town where Bobby (sets, sits) up the pins by hand.

4. From where we were (setting, sitting), it looked like a home run.

5. Martin had (set, sat) out his corn long before the first peep of day.

So...How was it? I hope nice and easy! Here are the correct answers and why:

1. SAT...past tense of SIT, means "occupying a seat," and there's no direct object.

2. SET...past tense of SET, means "places", and there is a direct object--device.

3. SETS...present tense of SET, means "places,"and there is a direct object--pins.

4. SITTING...present participle of SIT, means "occupying a seat," and there's no direct object.

5. SET...past participle of SET, means "placed", and there's a direct object--corn.

All right! I hope this is a Whoo Hooo moment for you! If not, just read back over the rules again and see if you can discover something you missed before. I'm also available to answer any questions anytime, so let me hear from you if there's something you're not quite sure about. I love hearing from you.

Well...since it's about dinner-gettin' time, I'm signing off. Have the best week ever and enjoy those you love the most. Peace and happiness, GG