Sunday, January 6, 2008

31. To Clarify ALUMNI...

Hello Everyone!

Have you ever been confused about which word is correct when you are referring to "graduates"? When should you use ALUMNA, ALUMNAE, ALUMNUS, and ALUMNI? The misuse of these words is fairly common, but if you'll pay attention, I'll try to show you how to use them correctly so you'll never be confused again.

Here are some examples of common mistakes with this problem:

I am an ALUMNI of Whiteville High School...or...All of the ladies in our Sunday School class are ALUMNI of The University of North Carolina at Wilmington...or Butch is an ALUMNI of NC State University in Raleigh.

Notice how the word ALUMNI is getting a good workout in the above sentences. It seems that we tend to use ALUMNI much more frequently than any of the other three words we should be using.

So what's going on here and what should we remember?

Okay...Here are some simple definitions to help you keep them straight:

ALUMNA is singular and simply means one female graduate. (Diane is an ALUMNA of Appalachian State University.)

ALUMNAE is plural and means two or more female graduates. (Heather, Alice, and Tiffany are ALUMNAE of South Columbus High School.)

ALUMNUS is singular and means one male graduate. (John is an ALUMNUS of Wake Forest University.)

...and finally...

ALUMNI is plural and means two or more male graduates. (Bill, Fred, Harry, and James are ALUMNI of South Columbus High School.)

Now... here's an additional use of ALUMNI that does not apply to the other three words:

ALUMNI (still plural) can ALSO be used when referring to both males AND females. ( All ALUMNI of the East Columbus High School Class of 1998 are invited to a class reunion on Saturday night at the Vineland Station Depot in downtown Whiteville.)

How about that? Pretty easy, I hope. Let's try a little practice to see how well you do:

1. All the (alumni, alumnae) of the Girls' Dance Team performed perfectly for the guests.

2. Because the (alumni, alumnus) of the Boys' Fishing School caught plenty of fish, everyone was happy.

3. Being an new (alumnae, alumnus) of East Carolina University made Steve's face light up like a new saloon.

4. Is it true that all your brothers and sisters are (alumni, alumnae) of Pembroke University?

5. Mrs. Baldwin told us that she was an (alumna, alumnus) of Queens University in Charlotte.

...And now, here are the answers:

1. Alumnae is correct because the reference is to more than one female graduate.
2. Alumni is correct because the reference is to more than one male graduate
3. Alumnus is correct because the reference is to one male graduate.
4. Alumni is correct because the reference is to both male and female graduates.
5. Alumna is correct because the reference is to one female graduate.

So there's another grammar lesson and I hope you've learned how to differentiate between these four words. Have a wonderful week and until next time, be happy. Peace and many regards to you all! GG

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you. Having gone to a women's college, I'm forever seeing alumnae and am never sure the correct conjugation. Now I know. Also, I note you use a lot of Columbus, Indiana references. I attended Columbus North but now live in the DC area- what a small world!

Anonymous said...

awesome! i got it now and I feel THAT much smarter!
Thanks! Appreciate!

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spikeless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spikeless said...

The answer to your practice test question 2 seems to only be partially correct.
Should not the answer be BOTH alumni AND alumnus? There is no basis to determine if the subject is singular or plural. There may have been either one fisherman or more than one fisherman.

spikeless said...

The answer to your practice test question 2 seems to only be partially correct.
Should not the answer be BOTH alumni AND alumnus? There is no basis to determine if the subject is singular or plural. There may have been either one fisherman or more than one fisherman.

spikeless said...

Your answer to practice test question 2 seems only partially correct.
Should not the answer be both alumni AND alumnus, in that the subject cannot be identified to be clearly singular or plural. There may have be one one more than one graduate fishing.

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