English Usage & Grammar Notes

May 28, 2006

Which or That

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:12 am

Is there any rule regarding the use of 'which' vs 'that'?

The answer is yes, but it is not set in stone. There are some exceptions, of
course.

The rule(s):

We use 'that' for restrictive clauses, and 'which' for nonrestrictive ones.
In other words, if a sentence cannot be understood without a given clause,
use that, and if it can be understood just fine, thus without the clause,
use which:

Examples:

Martha broke the vase that I just gave her. (You don't know which vase
without the that- clause.)
Marha  broke her vase, which I just gave her. (The first part of the
sentence could stand alone, but you add the second part because you're angry
about it.)
However, as I just said, the rule about nonrestrictive clauses isn't really
that strictly imposed upon us, mortals.
The mix-ups start because which and that are both relative pronouns – words
that stand for a noun, and relate information in a clause back to the
subject of a sentence. Of these pronouns (that, which, what, who, whom, and
whose), that is the oldest (early Middle English), and it used to be used in
any context, restrictive or nonrestrictive. After which entered the language
(14th century), it was used pretty much interchangeably with that, and both
were used instead of who as well – think of all the "He thats" and the "Our
father, which art in heaven" of the King James Bible (1611).
In modern English (beginning of the 20th century)  the restrictive-only use
of that was fixed. Which, however, does get used for restrictive clauses as
well, more often in Britain than in the U.S. For instance, the U.S
lexicographers I worked with in Boston would define a leaflet for a
learner's dictionary as 'a piece of paper which gives information about
something', rather than using '…that gives information.'
The choice of which or that in restrictive clauses is more a matter of
style –what you think is clearer, what sounds more dulcet. Sometimes,
however, the choice is pretty darned obvious: The line "That which does
not kill me makes me stronger" would be ludicrous as "That that."

Note:
Set in stone/Carved in stone: unchangeable; fixed.

HKEOL
Learning and Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

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May 21, 2006

Some Synonyms

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 3:11 am

b. Synonyms for Many and Much
In questions and negative statements, the adjectives many and much are commonly used in both formal and informal English.
e.g. Question: How many museums have you visited?
      Negative Statement: He does not have much confidence.

In affirmative statements, the adjectives many and much are commonly used in combination with words such as as, so and too.
e.g. I have read twice as many books as you have.
      He has so much money he can buy whatever he likes.
      There are too many possibilities to consider.

However, in affirmative statements not containing words such as as, so and too, the adjective much is rarely used in either formal or informal English, and the adjective many is rarely used in informal English. Instead, synonyms are used.

The phrases a great deal of, a lot of, and lots of are used as synonyms for much. The phrase a great deal of may be used in formal English, and the phrases a lot of and lots of may be used in informal English. The phrase lots of is more informal than the phrase a lot of.
e.g. Formal: He has a great deal of confidence.
      Informal: He has a lot of confidence.
      More Informal: He has lots of confidence.

In informal English, the phrases a lot of and lots of are used as synonyms for many. The phrase lots of is more informal than the phrase a lot of.
e.g. Formal: There are many possibilities.
      Informal: There are a lot of possibilities.
      More Informal: There are lots of possibilities.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon- Hong Kong

2799 4728

dwjo@netvigator.com

May 14, 2006

The Use of Some and Any

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 3:15 am

The determiners some and any have slightly different meanings. The use of the wordsome generally implies a belief in the existence of the object or objects under consideration, whereas the use of the word any may imply a doubt about the existenceof the object or objects under consideration.

The words some, somebody, someone, something and somewhere are used in affirmative statements, as well as in polite questions and questions expecting an affirmative reply.
e.g. Affirmative Statement: I saw some birds in the park.
      Polite Question: Would you like some tea?
      Affirmative Reply Expected: You seem worried. Is something wrong?

In contrast, the words any, anybody, anyone, anything and anywhere are used in questions and negative statements, as well as in affirmative statements referring in an indefinite way to a type of object, without specifying a particular object.
e.g. Question: Did you see any birds in the park?
      Negative Statement: I do not know anyone here.
      Indefinite Reference: Any drug store can supply you with aspirin.

The words some, somebody, someone, something and somewhere usually cannot be used in a negative statement. If it is desired to change a clause beginning with the word some so that it expresses a negative meaning, some may be changed to no or none, depending on whether an adjective or pronoun is required.

In the following example, some is used as an adjective modifying the noun books. In order to change the sentence to express a negative meaning, some is replaced by the adjective no.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Some books were left on the shelf.
      Negative Meaning: No books were left on the shelf.

In the following example, some is used as a pronoun. In order to change the sentence to express a negative meaning, some is replaced by the pronoun none.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Some of the visitors arrived late.
      Negative Meaning: None of the visitors arrived late.

Similarly, if it is desired to change a clause beginning with somebody, someone, something or somewhere so that it expresses a negative meaning, these words may be replaced by nobody, no one, nothing and nowhere, respectively.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Someone left a message.
      Negative Meaning: No one left a message.

      Affirmative Meaning: Something has happened.
      Negative Meaning: Nothing has happened.

A sentence containing the word some, in which some does not occur at the beginning of a clause, can be changed to express a negative meaning by changing the sentence to a negative statement using not, and by changing some to any.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: I bought some potatoes.
      Negative Meaning: I did not buy any potatoes.

      Affirmative Meaning: We will copy some of the recipes.
      Negative Meaning: We will not copy any of the recipes.

It is possible to use no or none in such sentences instead of the construction with not … any.
e.g. I bought no potatoes.
      We will copy none of the recipes.
However, in modern English, the construction with not … any is more often used than the construction with no or none.

Similarly, a sentence containing the word somebody, someone, something or somewhere, in which the word beginning with some does not occur at the beginning of a clause, can be changed to express a negative meaning by changing the sentence to a negative statement using not, and by changing the word beginning with some to the corresponding word beginning with any.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: I met someone I used to know.
      Negative Meaning: I did not meet anyone I used to know.

      Affirmative Meaning: We will buy something.
      Negative Meaning: We will not buy anything.

In such sentences, nobody, no one, nothing or nowhere may be used instead of a negative statement with not and the word anybody, anyone, anything or anywhere.
e.g. I met no one I used to know.
      We will buy nothing.
However, the construction with not is more often used.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowlooon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

2799 4728

May 7, 2006

Using the articles A, An, and The

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:21 am

The Cantonese language doesn't use any 'articles' and that is the reason that many Hong Kong people omit them so often in speech and writing. Here are some pointers for their correct use.

The Rules

"A" is used before singular words beginning with a consonant or a word beginning in "h" where the letter is pronounced; "an" is used before singular words beginning in a vowel or with a "silent h":

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." "A historian gave us a hand for an hour when we were planting an heirloom rose bush in a hothouse. It was an honorable thing to do, so we sang a hymn of praise."

  • "A" or "an" precede words that refer to general things; "the" comes before words referring to specific things. Imagine two policemen having a conversation:

"Are you sure this is the man who stole the car?" "No. A witness saw a man, but the man we arrested is not the one." "Well, he confessed to stealing a car." "That's true, but was it the car we picked up on Plum Street?"


Exceptions:

  • Sometimes these straightforward rules can get confusing. Consider these examples:

"That is a book you borrowed last month." "That is the book you borrowed last month."

Note that both are correct! In the first example, the second speaker implies that the other person may have borrowed more than one book last month. In the second example, there is no doubt: last month the first person borrowed one book from the second person.

  • Some general words take no article at all.

Plural words:

"Maybe he steals cars for a living." "Maybe he wears disguises; thieves can do that."

Words signifying things that cannot be counted easily. Words such as "sand, milk, fruit" and other things that are measured in quantity can be preceded by a measurement (eight cans, a gallon, a pound):

"We found sand in the car." ("the sand" if it was some specific sand that was being discussed). "Where was the sand? In the trunk or on the carpet? Did you find anything else?" "We found beer in the trunk." "How much beer?" "Eight cans of beer."

Words signifying abstract concepts, ideas, or subjects:

"I'm studying biology this year." "What are you doing in philosophy?" "We're studying the history of knowledge." (a specific type of history, but not "the knowledge"–knowledge is a general concept).

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

2799 4728

dwjo@netvigator.com

April 26, 2006

Subject – Verb Agreement

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:07 am

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT


The subject and verb must agree in number:

 

– Both must be singular, or both must be plural.

 

– Problems occur in the present tense because one must add an -s or -es at the end of the verb when the subjects or the entity performing the action is a singular third person: he, she, it, or words for which these pronouns could substitute.

 

Notice the difference between singular and plural forms in the following examples:

 

Singular Plural
The student sings. (He or she sings) Your children sing. (They sing)
The bird does migrate. (It does) Those birds do migrate. (They do)

In order to find out if your subject and verb agree, you need to be able to identify the subject of your sentence. Here are some helpful hints that will help you to decipher where your subject is and where it is not.


Where is my subject?

Most likely, your verb will agree with the first noun to the left of the verb:

 

The Supreme Court judge decides the appropriate penalty.
Subject: judge Verb: decides

The committee members were satisfied with the resolution.
Subject: members Verb: were

Occasionally, a sentence has the subject after the verb instead of before it. This strategy is often used for poetic effect.

Over the ripples glides a small canoe.

Subject: a small canoe Verb: glides

There was a well-known writer at the meeting.
Subject: a well-knowwriter

Verb: was

You will not find the subject in a modifying phrase (MP), a phrase that starts with a preposition, a gerund, or a relative pronoun and that modifies the meaning of the noun or subject under discussion.

 

The group of students is going on a field trip.
Subject: the group MP: of students Verb: is

The survey covering seven colleges reveals a growth in enrollment.
Subject: the survey MP: covering seven colleges Verb: reveals

The speaker whom you saw at the lecture is one of the state senators from

Minnesota.
Subject: the speaker MP: whom you saw at the lecture Verb: is

If subjects are joined by and, they are considered plural.

 

The quarterback and the coach are having a conference.
Subject: the quarterback and the coach Verb: are having

If subjects are joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the closer subject.

 

Either the actors or the director is at fault.
Subjects: actors, director Verb: is

Either the director or the actors are at fault.
Subjects: director, actors Verb: are

The relative pronouns (who, whom, which, and that) are either singular or plural, depending on the words they refer to.

 

The sales manager is a good researcher who spends a great amount of time surfing the Web for information.
Subject: the sales manager Verbs: is, spends

Sales managers are good researchers who spend a great amount of time surfing the Web for information.
Subject: sales managers Verbs: are, spend

Indefinite pronouns (someone, somebody, each, either one, everyone, or anyone) are considered singular and need singular verbs although they convey plural meaning.

 

Anyone who wants to pursue higher education has to pass entrance exams.
Subject: anyone Verbs: wants, has

Everyone on the committee is welcome to express his/her ideas.

A few nouns can be either plural or singular, depending on whether they mean a group or separate individuals. These words are rarely used as plurals in modern writing.

 

The jury is sequestered.
Subject: jury Verb: is

The jury are having an argument.
Subject: jury Verb: are having

A few subjects look plural but are really singular or vice versa.

 

The news of the discovery is spreading.
Subject: news Verb: is

The mass media have publicized the facts.
Subject: mass media Verb: have publicized

The data amaze everyone.
Subject: data Verb: amaze

HKEOL

Learning & Publication
Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong
dwjo@netvigator.com

April 18, 2006

Who or Whom

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:10 am

Who or Whom

 Correct usage of the who/whom pronouns presents difficulties for many writers. The following guidelines and examples may help you determine which one to use.

  • If a pronoun (he, she, it, they) could serve as the subject of the who/whom clause, use who or whoever.
John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in November of 1963, was the youngest president elected in the United States.
  • In the example sentence, who is part of a clause that modifies the subject of the sentence, JFK. If who were replaced with he or JFK, the clause would make sense and reinforce the idea that who not only refers to the subject of the sentence but could also replace it.


  • When a pronoun functions as the object of a clause, use whom or whomever.
John F. Kennedy, whom people respected for his political savvy, was assassinated in November of 1963.
  • In this example sentence, the whom clause modifies the subject of the sentence. It differs from the first example, however, in that whom functions as the object of the clause in which it exists. People is the subject in the clause, while whom (referring to JFK) is the object the verb respected refers to.


  • When a preposition (in, of, on, without, at, from) precedes the pronoun, use whom or whomever.
The anonymous donor, of whom we speak, graciously gave ten million dollars to the flood-relief fund.
  • In this example, whom functions as the object of the preposition instead of as the object of a clause.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon- Hong Kong

2799 4728

dwjo@netvigator.com  

April 12, 2006

Verb Tenses (3)

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 12:52 am

Perfect Forms

Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense describes an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past or that began in the past and continues in the present.This tense is formed by using has/have with the past participle of the verb. Most past participles end in -ed. Irregular verbs have special past participles that must be memorized.

Example Meaning
The researchers have traveled to many countries in order to collect more significant data. At an indefinite time
Women have voted in presidential elections since 1921. Continues in the present

Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense describes an action that took place in the past before another past action. This tense is formed by using had with the past participle of the verb.

By the time the troops arrived, the war had ended.

Future Perfect Tense

Future perfect tense describes an action that will occur in the future before some other action. This tense is formed by using will have with the past participle of the verb.

By the time the troops arrive, the combat group will have spent several weeks waiting.


Use of No and Not

No

  • No answers a yes/no question.
    "No, the president wasn't surprised by the results of the election."
  • No precedes a noun that has no article.
    The company had no worthy rivals in the industry.
  • No can be used before a noun that is preceded by an adjective, as in the preceding example, but it is not used before any, much, many, or enough.
    Jim has no argument with which to continue the discussion.
    The manager had no reason to support his request for a raise.

Not

  • Not precedes a noun that has an article.
    The virus is not the source of the outbreak.
  • Not precedes any, much, many, or enough.
    Not many amateur astronomers can afford the equipment necessary to study the nova.
    There is not much budget left for another trial.
  • Not makes a verb negative.
    They do not want to proceed with the experimental study.

Note: No and not are never used in the same sentence.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

April 5, 2006

Verb Tenses (2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:05 am

Progressive Forms

Present Progressive Tense

Present progressive tense describes an ongoing action that is happening at the same time the statement is written. This tense is formed by using am/is/are with the verb form ending in -ing.

The sociologist is examining the effects that racial discrimination has on society.

Past Progressive Tense

Past progressive tense describes a past action which was happening when another action occurred. This tense is formed by using was/were with the verb form ending in -ing.

The explorer was explaining the lastest discovery in Egypt when protests began on the streets.

Future Progressive Tense

Future progressive tense describes an ongoing or continuous action that will take place in the future. This tense is formed by using will be or shall be with the verb form ending in -ing.

Dr. Jones will be presenting ongoing research on sexist language next week.

(more…)

March 31, 2006

Verb Tenses (1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 1:13 am

In English, there are three basic tenses: present, past, and future. Each has a perfect form, indicating completed action; each has a progressive form, indicating ongoing action; and each has a perfect progressive form, indicating ongoing action that will be completed at some definite time. Here is a list of examples of these tenses and their definitions:

Simple Forms Progressive Forms Perfect Forms Perfect Progressive Forms
Present take/s am/is/are taking have/has taken have/has been taking
Past took was/were taking had taken had been taking
Future will/shall take will be taking will have taken will have been taking


Simple Forms

Present Tense

Present tense expresses an unchanging, repeated, or reoccurring action or situation that exists only now. It can also represent a widespread truth.

Example Meaning
The mountains are tall and white. Unchanging action
Every year, the school council elects new members. Recurring action
Pb is the chemical symbol for lead. Widespread truth

Past Tense

Past tense expresses an action or situation that was started and finished in the past. Most past tense verbs end in -ed. The irregular verbs have special past tense forms which must be memorized.

Example Form
W.W.II ended in 1945. Regular -ed past
Ernest Hemmingway wrote "The Old Man and the Sea." Irregular form

Future Tense

Future tense expresses an action or situation that will occur in the future. This tense is formed by using will/shall with the simple form of the verb.

The speaker of the House will finish her term in May of 1998.

The future tense can also be expressed by using am, is, or are with going to.

The surgeon is going to perform the first bypass in Minnesota.

We can also use the present tense form with an adverb or adverbial phrase to show future time.

The president speaks tomorrow. (Tomorrow is a future time adverb.)

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

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