See Singular and Plural Nouns, page 66. 19. A is the unambiguous sentence because it makes clear that he talked to the captain and the manager – two people. B is unclear and could confuse, because he could have talked to the captain/ manager – one person. 20. B is consistent and correct. The pronouns in sentence A lack concord: it begins with one's but then moves on to you and your. It would be correct if it were written as ‘ . . . one must learn to mind one's own business.' Grammar Test Scorecard Check your answers to the Grammar Test on pages 20-22 with the correct versions and explanations and enter the results on the scorecard below. Award the appropriate points for every correct answer. 18
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» Scores The total score for all correct is 50. If you score in the 25-50 range, you are among those who take considerable care over their speech and writing. Because you're aware of the pleasure and power that the effective use of the language can impart, you will almost certainly wish to continue to develop your knowledge of grammar and to renew acquaintance with its logic, its complexity, its beauty and its genius for contrariness. If you score 20-25 you are certainly in the ‘above average' category, which means that, grammatically speaking, you are halfway to becoming an extremely proficient writer and speaker. For those of you who scored less than 20 – and please don't feel you are alone or part of a sub- literate minority – what follows in this book should be of special interest and value to you. You will never regret taking a few hours to polish your native know-how (even if it is a bit sparse or rusty) of English and its workings. 19
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» Sentences or not? Spot the 100% correct, genuine, copper-bottomed sentences from the fakes and pseudo- sentences. 1 The girl next door withauburn hair. 2 Michelangelo was a great artist. 3 A really heavy snowfall and freezing conditions. 4 Veronica and Mary, with Harriet and Judith. (2 is the only proper sentence) 20
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» Let's Look at Sentences Every time we speak we use sentences. They are the easiest of all grammatical units to recognise, so it seems sensible to begin with them. Easy to recognise, yes, but hard to define. In his Dictionary of Modern English Usage, H W Fowler gives ten definitions by various grammarians, including: A group of words which makes sense. A word or set of words followed by a pause and revealing an intelligible purpose. A combination of words that contains at least one subject and one predicate. A combination of words that completes a thought. None of these, however, exactly fills the bill, although it is difficult not to agree with the Collins English Dictionary's definition: ‘A sequence of words capable of standing alone to make an assertion, ask a question, or give a command, usually consisting of a subject and predicate containing a finite verb.' More important is what sentences are for: To make statements To ask questions To request or demand action To express emotion From a practical standpoint, a sentence should express a single idea, or thoughts related to that idea. It should say something. A popular rule of thumb is that a sentence should be complete in thought and complete in construction. And, from a practical point of view, you will soon find that certain rules must be observed if your sentences are to be clear, unambiguous, logical and interesting to the listener or reader. That said, you still have plenty of scope to fashion sentences of almost any size and shape. Here is a sentence: the opening sentence of Daniel Defoe's The Life and Strange and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719). I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull: he got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznoer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always call me. Very few novelists today would have the nerve or the skill to begin a novel with a long sentence like that; for apart from its length it is also a skilfully wrought passage: clear, supple, flowing and ultimately riveting. If it were written today it would most likely appear as a paragraph of several sentences: I was born in York in 1632, of a good family. My father came from Bremen and first settled at Hull, acquired his estate by trading merchandise, and then moved to York. There he met and married my mother, from a well established family in that county named Robinson. I was consequently named Robinson Kreutznoer, but in time my own name and that of our family was anglicised to Crusoe. That's what we're now called, that's how we write our name, and that's what my friends have always called me. Defoe's original is a fairly long sentence by any standards. Now try this sentence for size: ‘But ––– !' 21
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» This one appears to defy everything we think we know about sentences, but it is a valid sentence just the same, as you will see when it is placed in its correct context: Jane turned abruptly from the window and faced him with blazing eyes. ‘Well, you've finally done it! You realise we're all ruined, don't you? Don't you!' ‘But –––!' Harry was squirming. Speechless. He stepped back in an attempt to evade the next onslaught. It never came. Instead, weeping uncontrollably, Jane collapsed on to the settee. You can see that ‘But ––– ! ', short though it is, quite adequately expresses a response and an action in the context of the middle paragraph (a paragraph can consist of one or more sentences with a common theme). Despite its seeming incompleteness, it is nevertheless a sentence of a kind, although some grammarians would label it a sentence fragment. Here are some more: Her expression conveyed everything. Disaster. Ruin. Utter ruin. Three of the four sentences here are sentence fragments. They're perfectly legitimate, but use them for emphasis only, and with care. 22
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» The long-winded sentence Another kind of sentence, and one to avoid, is seen rather too often. Typically, it is rambling and unclear, usually the result of having too many ideas and unrelated thoughts jammed into it, like this one: He said that the agreement would galvanise a new sense of opportunity and partnership between the countries and enable them to articulate the targets with regard to inflation, set by economically enlightened governments, which was always of great concern to every family in the European Union. Would you really bother to try to unravel that sentence? No, life is too short, and that sentence is most likely destined to remain unread, its author's voice deservedly unheard. That's the price you pay for writing bad sentences. To demonstrate how the inclusion of irrelevant matter can cloud the intent and meaning of a sentence, consider this example: Jonathan Yeats, whose family moved to the United States from Ireland in the late 1950s, and who later married a Mormon girl from Wisconsin, wrote the novel in less than three months. We are bound to ask, what has the novelist's family to do with his writing a book in record time? Did the Mormon girl help him? Did his marriage inspire him to write like a demon? If not, why mention these facts? By the time we've reached the important part of the sentence – the fact that he wrote the book in less than three months – our attention has been ambushed by two extraneous thoughts. American presidents are notorious for irrelevant rambling. The tradition began, apparently, with President Harding, of whom, when he died in 1923, a wit observed, ‘The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.' A sample: I have the good intention to write you a letter ever since you left, but the pressure of things has prevented, speeches to prepare and deliver, and seeing people, make a very exacting penalty of trying to be in politics. But we must not grieve over Harding when we have former US president George Bush gamely carrying the national flag of gobbledegook: I mean a child that doesn't have a parent to read to that child or that doesn't see that when the child is hurting to have a parent and help out or neither parent there enough to pick the kid up and dust him off and send him back into the game at school or whatever, that kid has a disadvantage. Well, enough of warnings. The point to remember is that although a sentence may be as long as a piece of string, long sentences may land you in trouble. A good sentence will be no longer than necessary, but this doesn't mean that you should chop all your sentences to a few words. That would be boring. To keep the reader alert and interested you need variety. If you examine this paragraph, for example, you'll find a sentence sequence that goes short/long/long/short/medium/long/medium. It's not meant to be a model, but it aims in the right direction. 23
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» When a sentence isn't a sentence Here are some constructions that aren't regarded as ‘proper' sentences: Are unable to fill any order within 21 days. Date for the closing of. Thinking it an excellent opportunity. Clearly, there's something wrong with these. What is wrong is that these examples do not make sense. Nor are they in any context that would help them to make sense. They are incomplete because they are ungrammatical and do not express a thought or an action or carry any recognisable information. It has nothing to do with length, either; the following examples are extremely short but are grammatical and convey the intended information in such a way as to be unambiguous: ‘Taxi!' ONE WAY Stop! Amount Due ‘Damn!' ‘Leaving already?' Sentences are so versatile they can be confusing, so this might be a good time to take a closer look at the inner workings of the sentence. Despite the demonstration that even single-word ‘sentences' can make sense, let's concentrate on what we might call a ‘classic' sentence. 24
G. King, Л. HarperCollins. «Collins Good Grammar» The inner workings of the classic sentence Try to think of a sentence as a combination of two units: The subject – What it is The predicate – what we're saying about it Here are some simple examples: SUBJECT PREDICATE My word! Your book is over there. Dr Smith will see you tomorrow. The subject of a sentence does not have to precede the predicate. Every day we'll read hundreds of sentences in which the predicate precedes the subject: PREDICATE SUBJECT It gradually became apparent that it was the odour of death. Over the horizon appeared an immense armada. Sometimes the subject of a sentence can be buried, or at least disguised. What are the subjects in these sentences? A How many more times must we do this long journey? B You should see how my friend Jeremy deals with pushy salesmen. C Take this load of rubbish to the shop for a refund. A is what is called an interrogative sentence which often transposes subject and predicate. If you think carefully about this example you'll probably conclude that the only possible candidate for the subject is we (We must do this journey how many more times?). If you flushed out the subject in A you should have little trouble with example B, which is a similar construction.