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The Official Grammar Thread

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
There have been questions of grammar here and there on the forum, but I thought it would be good to put it all in one place. I remember when I first took college English and wrote my first paper it came back to me bleeding with red ink. Ultimately, the professor thought what I said was good, but I had horrible grammar. I feel that I have learned a little bit since that time, however my grammar still bugs me quite a bit. I think about different tidbits often and I know there are some writers here and people who seem to have much better diction and prose than myself that might be able to help me out.

I will kick off the thread with the word "that". Does it change meaning, or is it more or less formal to use when not a noun? For example, the first sentence in, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf reads, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." Ok, this is fine, however my first thought while reading this is that I would have included "that" so it would read, "Mrs. Dalloway said that she would buy the flowers herself."

Does this change the meaning?
post #2 of 12
no, not really, the lack of 'that' is a reflection of time period more than anything else
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teger View Post

no, not really, the lack of 'that' is a reflection of time period more than anything else

Hmm, interesting.
post #4 of 12
if you want to see something really interesting, try to read handwriting from the 1800s
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I know it.
post #6 of 12
The "that" is a relative pronoun. In English, it can be omitted without changing the sense. "The tie I bought" = "the tie that I bought." The relative pronoun "whom" works the same way: "he is the man to whom I gave the money" = "he is the man I gave the money to." Including the relative pronoun marks the usage as somewhat more formal. (In some languages, you can't omit the relative pronoun. For example, in French you'd say "l'homme que j'aime." You can't say "l'homme j'aime.")
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by L'Incandescent View Post

The "that" is a relative pronoun. In English, it can be omitted without changing the sense. "The tie I bought" = "the tie that I bought." The relative pronoun "whom" works the same way: "he is the man to whom I gave the money" = "he is the man I gave the money to." Including the relative pronoun marks the usage as somewhat more formal. (In some languages, you can't omit the relative pronoun. For example, in French you'd say "l'homme que j'aime." You can't say "l'homme j'aime.")

I was always taught that "whom" should be used when a proposition is introduced. "To whom it may concern", or as you put, "he is the man, to whom I gave the money."
post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post

I was always taught that "whom" should be used when a proposition is introduced. "To whom it may concern", or as you put, "he is the man, to whom I gave the money."

Do you mean preposition? "Whom" is the object form of "who." In other words, whenever the person being referred to is in the object position--direct object, indirect object, object of preposition, etc--then you say "whom." If in the subject position, you say "who." So that's what explains the rule about prepositions: if the person being referred to is coming after a preposition, it's an object and therefore a "whom." (There are some exceptions to this. It works just like "he" and "him" in that way.) In many cases you can avoid the issue by dropping the pronoun: "He is the man I gave the money to." But sometimes not: you don't want to say "To the person it concerns!"
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Accident. I usually say, "an accident", but I frequently hear people not use the "an". Which is correct? "By accident" sounds wrong to me, "by an accident" sounds correct. confused.gif
post #10 of 12
I've never heard nor read "by an accident" before, at least not when a "by accident" can be used.

Let's assume you mixed up some keys. Now what does "I mixed up the keys by an accident" say? It seems to imply that because of an accident, you mixed up the keys. In case you say "I mixed up the keys by accident", it suggests that the accident itself was the mixing up of the keys.
To be honest though, to me, "I mixed up the keys by an accident." sounds wrong and I doubt it is correct English. I was just trying to analyze it assuming that it was correct. I'd rather say "I mixed up the keys due to an accident", if in fact the mixing up was caused by a specific accident. If the mixing up was the "accident", or misfortunate happening,--like I said before--then I would go with "I mixed up the keys by accident/unintentionally".
Edited by b1os - 3/8/13 at 5:57pm
post #11 of 12
I have noticed that younger people say "on accident." That sounds odd to my ears. Plus, the preposition "on" doesn't make a lot of sense in that context.

I've never heard anyone say "by an accident." I think "by accident" is much more common. Plus it makes sense.
post #12 of 12
A funny new error I'm seeing in the papers I'm grading: "even know" for "even though."
Edited by L'Incandescent - 3/10/13 at 9:11pm
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