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Profile: Can top
User Name: Can top
Forum Rank: Advanced Member
Gender: None Specified
Joined: Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Last Visit: Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:42:37 PM
Number of Posts: 35
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  Last 10 Posts
Topic: Pet Peeves
Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:38:06 PM
JPK wrote:
Can top wrote:

- "I could care less."

Perfectly natural English idiom.

- sentences that begin with "There is," "It is," or "That is."

There is a ball on the table. It is cold. That is ice cream.

Hey there people,

This is a great forum!

Regarding the post I am quoting, I would have to say that:

1) The correct idiom would be "I couldn't care less", which means you don't care at all. If you could care less, it would mean you actually do care. Yes, it is a pet peeve of mine.

This is a fun place, isn't it, JPK?

It isn't a matter of 'correct versus incorrect'. An idiom is a group of words that hold a meaning different from the actual meaning of those words. The idiom, 'could care less' holds the same meaning as "couldn't care less".

No one thinks that a person who uses 'could care less' is staing that they care a great deal. No person who hears it directed towards their concern thinks that they are receiving sympathy.

2) I think sentences starting with "There is", "It is" and "That is" are grammatically correct, but I would personally phrase them differently:

A ball is (laying) on the table. The weather is (unbearably) cold. The bowl in front of me contains ice cream.

Actually, I don't really understand what that person was peeving about. You have to know the context before you can decide what is grammatical and/or natural.

However, the thing that drives me off the walls (which has already been mentioned) is people typing "should of" instead of "should have". It doesn't even make sense, people! (not directed to people on these forums)


It makes perfect sense as to why it happens. It's just a simple error in spelling. The sound for the contracted form ('ve)is the same as the sound of 'of'. It's not that these people who make this simple error are ignorant of the correct form for if they were to write it in its uncontracted form, everyone would use 'have'.

The same thing can happen and does happen with other words that have the same sound, eg. they're/their/there; your/you're

The usual idiom is "drive one up the wall". It's no big deal though that you've chosen a slightly different form.

Topic: grammarians.
Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:16:47 PM
grammargeek wrote:
But Mrs. Morini was by far the strictest of all of my English teachers. In fact, I'm fairly certain she would not like the fact that I just began my last sentence with a conjunction. There was no room for leniency under her tutelage! Pushing through her pedantic punctiliousness was not particularly a pleasant experience. It was, however, very effective. I was then able to place out of my first semester of freshman English at the University of Texas.

If you have a strict English teacher, GG, it's a safe bet that that teacher doesn't know what they're talking about vis a vis the grammar of English.
Topic: Verb agreement (quick help needed!)
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:34:25 PM
I think, not surprisingly, that there's some confusion here. We have to distinguish between what the convention is and what the reality is.

Though phrases like, 'Each and every one of us', 'everyone', 'each of us', 'each one' all take a singular verb, it is only because it's a convention we've reached. There's no need to try and dismiss the notion that it really is about more than one person for notionally, we know that it isn't simply about one person.

Each and every one of us has to bring [______] own sleeping bag.

What goes in the blank?
Topic: That The Town Soon Had It That
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:22:52 PM
Cathie8653 wrote:
it would have been clearer to understand if the author had inserted the word: 'understood' between soon and the second 'that', I suspect the author is trying to use 'had it' in place of 'understood'.Think

I think that it is completely understandable but I agree with you Cathie that 'had it' is another way to say 'understood/realized/came to believe'.

He used language so severe about the young man that the town soon understood/realized that Charley had borrowed a lot of money from Champ.

Now what does that make the 2nd 'that'?
Topic: It’s been wrong
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2009 1:07:33 AM
Romany wrote:
Can Top: -
"The present perfect of importance/current relevance is probably the hardest to get a handle on/understand because it's used quite differently for BrE and NaE."

Thank you. With that one sentence you have satisfactorily explained for me a subtle difference in speech patterns between my American friends/colleagues and others. While it is so easy to identify lexical differences, sometimes it is these small distinctions that give a difference to speech patterns that's hard to pin down. So there's another adequately flagged.

Glad I could help, Romany. Cheers.
Topic: It’s been wrong
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:40:49 PM
jagh55 wrote:
It's been wrong

I don't understand the sentence. If it was -It was wrong- then I'd understand. But it is written IT'S BEEN wrong and I'm totally confused. I am a french Canadian and I can't find an equivalent in french. Thanks for your help. It's a question about verbs so I thougt I'd put it on the english grammar forum.

Now let's look specifically at your example.

I think others have covered this and I may be repeating but...

"It was wrong" focuses on a single event. Imagine I punched a mutual friend and you tell me,

It was wrong to do that.

"It's been wrong" focuses on a length of time ending with the present moment, the "now" present in our discussion. I'm not suggesting that it has finished, it very well may continue on into the future - with this collocation, it seems that it is a continuing event. More later.
Topic: It’s been wrong
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:29:39 PM
jagh55 wrote:
It's been wrong

I don't understand the sentence. Pray If it was -It was wrong- then I'd understand. But it is written IT'S BEEN wrong and I'm totally confused. I am a french Canadian and I can't find an equivalent in french. Thanks for your help. It's a question about verbs so I thougt I'd put it on the english grammar forum.

You have to understand that the present perfect does a number of grammatical jobs in English, Jagh.

It's been = It has been

Using the present perfect means that there is always a connection to "now", "to the present", even when the present perfect denotes a finishes action, for example,

I have finished my homework = I've finished my homework = I finished my homework

The finishing of the homework may have been quite some time in the past, for example, a week ago. We use the present perfect to remark on such a "distant" past event to make that finished action important/current to "now". An example might help.

[Imagine that some students are given summer homework in June. Being students, many leave it to the last moment. So now it's August, and the students are talking about it.

A: Have you done your homework yet? Did you do your homework yet? [speaker choice, more on this later]

B: [who did his in early July] I've done my homework.

C: [homework not done] I haven't done mine yet.

D: I've never done any homework.

C is using the present perfect of continuation,--> the state of non-completion has extended from day 1 to the present.

B is using the present perfect of importance/current relevance. He could have used the simple past;

"I did my homework"

but, again, speaker choice, he has elected to make it seem more important I've done my homework" or he just is making note of the finished action's relevance to the situation being discussed.

D is using the present perfect of experience, stating that in his life he has never done any homework.

The present perfect of importance/current relevance is probably the hardest to get a handle on/understand because it's used quite differently for BrE and NaE. BrE uses the PP routinely for past events while in NaE, we have a choice, use it to highlight a past event or not, totally speaker choice. What one person may choose to highlight and use the PP, another may choose to not highlight and use the simple past.

If you've been thinking about this/If you thought about this and you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.
Topic: today is the 50th anniversary of a famous grammar guide book's publication.
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:03:03 PM
Can Top:I'm not at all sure why anyone would want this book.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice


April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won't be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won't be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte's Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk's death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.


Can Top: They've now made it a paying proposition to read the whole article.

grammargeek wrote:

Can top, I went to the article by Geoffrey Pullum but was only able to read a small portion without electing to subscribe to The Chronicle Review, as you mentioned. So I am a little bit confused about where in your post Pullum ends and Can top begins. If all that you posted above is from the article, then you were able to see more of it than I was. Nevertheless, because you seem to be very knowledgeable about English grammar, I'm just curious as to whether or not you are an English professor or author or just what your background might be. I look forward to your clarifications.

I hope that makes it clearer. My apologies, GG.

Being an English professor or an author doesn't help one understand how language works, GG. Witness both Strunk & White, one an English professor, the other, quite the author. See Brians Error for a good example of an English professor who knows little of language or the Darling Grammar site that is replete with errors.

To understand how language works you have to study, what else, how the language works. This entails seeing how people use language in different language situations. It involves looking at the prescriptions of old and actually assessing whether they have any validity when they are compared to the facts and historical realities.

My background is in the field of ESL/EFL and soon after I started teaching I noticed that ESL students who followed many of the "rules" produced unnatural language. That led to a long and deep study of language, helped along, of course by a large number of descriptivist linguists and grammarians.

Here's another short article from the same G Pullum on S&W and the affect it has on North American students' knowledge of grammar. Helped along as they have been by a couple of grammatical incompetents, aided by a host of others, Partridge, Lederer, Simon, Safire, ... , you can imagine that it's not a pretty picture.

Topic: Rules That Aren't
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:37:36 PM
prolixitysquared wrote:
NickN wrote:
Well your last one is a great example: ending a sentence with a preposition.

Why not?

Another peeve that causes shuddering-- ending a sentence with a preposition.

It sounds so incomplete and choppy to end sentences in prepositions, but then on the other hand, when you do speak correctly with the preposition in its proper place, that then comes off as as somewhat snobby and elitist. That may be an opinion, but I have a feeling most would agree with it.

I am full of anecdotes, I suppose. A few years ago, I was with friends on some rail car heading to a hotel in Portland, Oregon. We were about to attend an English convention. We were talking about this issue, and suddenly the man across from us joined in on the conversation. It turned out that he was an English professor attending the convention. He gave us the explanation that it's acceptable to end sentences in prepositions in common speech but not in formal writing. But really, is that only acceptance because it's the norm ? I guess there is a lot more about language that is ruled by 'the norm,' and I just haven't heard all instances yet.

The English professor was mistaken. Fronting the preposition is only a choice, one that make for a more formal demeanor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition.
Topic: It’s been wrong
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:31:42 PM
alvrez wrote:
"It's been wrong" or It has been wrong implies that the error is past. It may be correct now but it has been wrong. Adding "always" may change the intent of the phrase.

Adding any number of words can change the intent, so I don't quite understand how it can be said that it implies a past, a finished action/event.