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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Subject and Verb Agreement

Picking Proper Pronouns: Part II

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Last week we began our review of using pronouns that help guide rather than trip our written eloquence. We started with pronouns as clause subjects, for objects, before assertive or attributive expressions, and after than or as.  Today we’ll look at pronouns before a gerund, for an infinitive, and for complements of forms of the …

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Gender Pronouns: Singular They

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Thank you to the many readers who commented thoughtfully on both How Did They Get in Here? (July 3, 2019) and How Can They Be Singular? (July 31, 2019). Today we'll wind up our discussion of the singular they, including modern arguments for its use. When we ran this series in 2015, we received little …

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How Can They Be Singular?

Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at 11:00 pm

The title of our first article this month was How Did They Get In Here? That article looked at careless mismatches of the normally plural pronoun they with a singular antecedent. We suggested simple fixes. But there is more depth to this topic, and in today's article we'll explore the singular they a little further. In two weeks we'll wind up, at least …

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Drawing the Subject Out of Hiding

Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, at 11:00 pm

We typically know what a sentence subject is and where to find it: Mary baked the cake. The train left on time. Baseball games are long. Those with a keen eye—as well as those who have read our rules on subject-verb agreement—will also spot the subjects in the following sentences (and understand why the verbs …

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How Did They Get In Here?

Posted on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Writers today have problems keeping their sentences internally consistent. This is especially true of print journalists. Because of staff cutbacks at financially challenged newspapers, many articles are proofread hastily, if at all. Combine that with the shocking decline in Americans’ English language skills over the last fifty years or so and you get sentences unworthy …

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Declining or Just Changing?

Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 11:00 pm

If you think you know your English, Ammon Shea’s Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation might make you question your most cherished notions. The book has a lot to offer grammar sticklers with open minds, but it will challenge—and enrage—most traditionalists. People who care about language tend to deplore the slovenly habits of their …

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Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structures: Part Two

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Understanding sentence structures helps us shape the art of good writing. In Part One of our discussion, we identified the four foundational sentence constructions and reviewed the first two, simple and compound sentences. We’ll next look at complex and compound-complex sentences. Complex Sentence A complex sentence has one independent main clause and at least one dependent clause, …

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What Does vs. What Do

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 3:10 pm

Should we say, "What does Gloria and I have in common?" or "What do Gloria and I have in common?" If you turn the question around to place the subjects first, you would say, "Gloria and I does/do have what in common." Gloria and I are the subjects so we need a plural verb. Which …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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Clarifying the Conditional Tense

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at 11:00 pm

The conditional tense—also sometimes referred to as the conditional mood—communicates what happens, will happen, might have happened, or would have happened if we do, will do, or did do something. The situation described can be real or imaginary; in either case, an action relies on something else (a condition). For that reason, most English sentences …

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