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 Discussion about English grammar

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Otterfan
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:41 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

My first degree was in English Language & Linguistics, and this thread is making my baby Jesus cry.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:45 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I've got an English Grammar....and an English Grandpa...

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Josh
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:51 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Nice one IWM. Laughing I do wonder whether this thread will eventually spur us all to improve our grammar and punctuation.

Here's some food for thought for the use of apostrophes (which I've been incorrectly spelling as apostraphe Embarassed ):

Quote:
1. To show OMISSION

What's a nice kid like me doing in a place like this?

We started with two words, what and is, but because this is informal writing, we want to express it informally, so we omit a letter from the word is. Because we're well brought up little Vegemites (remember?), we let people know what we've done.

I could've danced all night ... (could have, not could 'of')

It's time for breakfast (It is time ...)

It's been raining all day. (It has been raining ...)

So, in future whenever you see an apostrophe, make a conscious effort to work out what the original word was before the letter was omitted. Sometimes, as in the case of could've and would've, more than one letter has been omitted.

This will establish good habits and alert you to the role of the apostrophe.

2. To show POSSESSION

We went to Marmaduke's restaurant for dinner. (Marmaduke owns the restaurant; it is the restaurant of Marmaduke.)

Notice how the apostrophe comes at the end of the noun (Marmaduke) and is accompanied by the letter 's' - a bit like a chaperone.

We knew whom to blame for the missing pie; there was cream all over the dog's whiskers!

We're only referring to one dog and it owns the whiskers (and the pie and a very satisfied smile, no doubt).

Some words sound awkward when an apostrophe 's' is added:

Jesus's disciples.

The accepted form here is to just use the 's' apostrophe:

Jesus' disciples.

N.B. This only applies to names of Biblical or historical significance e.g. Jesus, Moses, Zeus, Demosthenes, Ramses ... the rest of us whack in the apostrophe and add an 's.'

Moses' followers, Zeus' priests, Demosthenes' teachings, Ramses' pyramid

Others don't have the same clumsy sound:

The princess's chair.

The important thing is to be consistent in your use of the form - nothing is writ in stone!

Confusion arises when the apostrophe is used with a plural noun.

At the zoo, the children were most interested in seeing the lions' den.

More than one lion owns the den, so we add the apostrophe after the 's' (this is the den of the lions).

So, the general rule is:
if there's one owner - add an apostrophe and then 's'
if there are two or more owners - add 's' then an apostrophe.

However, (and of course you're not surprised to hear this, are you?), there are exceptions to this rule.

For words which form their plural by changing internal letters (instead of adding 's'), the apostrophe comes before the 's'.

It was the children's turn to wash up.

Children is already a plural word, so we don't need to make it doubly plural by adding 's' apostrophe; however, we do need to indicate the idea of ownership, so we use apostrophe 's'.

Some other words which follow this rule are: men, women, people.

When you have 'double possession' - when two or more people (or subjects) own one item and both (or all) of their names are mentioned, the apostrophe is applied only to the second (or last) name.

We had coffee at Ermintrude and Marmaduke's mansion.

When you're using names that end in -S, you follow the same rules as with any other name and add apostrophe S:

Chris's car, Bridget Jones's Diary.



Plural names also follow the same rules:

Bill Thomas's car; the Thomases' new house (add -es to names that end in S to indicate plural form).

The apostrophe is also used with many expressions of time (to show that the time period owns the other noun):

an hour's time; a year's holiday

BUT notice that we do not use the apostrophe with possessive pronouns (remember, these are the little guys who step in and lend a paw to nouns).

After dinner at Marmaduke's restaurant, we went back to his place for coffee.

The bird's feathers were ruffled. (The bird owns the feathers.)

The bird ruffled its feathers. (The bird owns the feathers, but the pronoun its is being used instead of the noun, so there is NO apostrophe.

You'll see it's and its used incorrectly nearly every single day and in places where it should never happen. An easy way to make sure you never confuse the two is to ask yourself (do this quietly, you don't want to alarm those around you), if the words it is can be substituted in the sentence- if the answer is yes, then whack in the old apostrophe.

If the answer is no, then sit on your hands so you won't be tempted.

The bird ruffled its (it is?) feathers. (NO)

It's (it is?) a lovely day. (YES)

To summarise, here is a good way to check if you need an apostrophe - for future reference:

If you can substitute the use of "of" then you use the apostrophe.

e.g. This is Marmaduke's house ... it is the house of Marmaduke.

The children's mother phoned ... the mother of the children phoned.

Three months' work ... the work of three months.


If the mods think I should just link to the article then feel free to let me know and I'll change it.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:52 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Josh wrote:
... I do wonder whether this thread will eventually spur us all to improve our grammar and punctuation. ...


Don't hold your breath waiting. Confused
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Otterfan
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:00 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Quote:
BUT notice that we do not use the apostrophe with possessive pronouns


"One should never forget to brush one's teeth."

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Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:05 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Are you disproving the rule Otter? I wouldn't know a possessive pronoun if it whacked me in the head... although I probably know how to use one almost perfectly.

The joys of being a native speaker.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:07 am Reply with quoteBack to top

my, your, his, hers, its, our, their

>>> whack <<< Wink

"One" is an impersonal pronoun.
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Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:11 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Thanks for clearing that up KD. (Ouch my head).

I guess this part of the rule is the cause of the whole it's/its issue, which is the most frequently messed up part of the apostrophe rule.

Edit: What do I need to do to get "Elite Baiter" replaced with "Apostrophe Police"?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:16 am Reply with quoteBack to top

With "it," it's easy to distinguish between uses: just imagine the apostrophe as a dot on the missing i. It is --> it's. If you don't want that extra i, as in "everything has its own time," don't use that "dot."

Josh wrote:
... What do I need to do to get "Elite Baiter" replaced with "Apostrophe Police"?


Bribe a mod. We're not cheap. (Please note the correct apostrophe in "We're.")


Last edited by kleindoofy on Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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Otterfan
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:18 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Josh wrote:
Are you disproving the rule Otter?


I certainly am!

The "rule" quoted applies to these possessive pronouns:
    my
    mine
    your
    yours
    his
    her
    hers
    its
    our
    ours
    their
    theirs

for historical reasons, stretching back into Old English (pre-12th century English) and some smatterings of Middle English (used between, roughly 1150 and 1450 or thereabouts). For incredibly tedious reasons.

The quote about "pronouns" is a bit of a simplification, as it's taking "pronoun" to be a rather smaller class of words than most linguists would consider to be covered by the same term (= a proform of the full projection of a noun phrase).

EDIT: Missed this little guy off the list, the relative possessive pronoun "whose".

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Last edited by Otterfan on Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:30 am; edited 1 time in total
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Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:19 am Reply with quoteBack to top

That's quite a good trick KD. My mum's an English teacher so I've always been pretty sweet with things like that.

I came up with a tricky one the other day though:

OK, the company called McDonald's has an apostrophe because it was the company owned by a Mr McDonald originally. Now what if someone (a poor sucker really) works for that company.

Are they a McDonald's' employee? Or a McDonald's's employee? Or just a McDonald's employee?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:25 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^^ Is somebody who works for the government a "government's employee"?

Does that answer your question? Wink
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Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:34 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I constructed the sentence slightly wrong....

How about "the McDonald's employees?" Like you would say "the government's employees".

I know that there aren't extra apostrohpes, it just seem like there perhaps should be.

Anyway, enough on apostrophes they're doing my head in. Now what was TSnerd saying about semi-colons?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:39 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Did any native English speakers here do what we called 'parsing' during English lessons at school? We would deconstruct texts to learn about about subjects, objects and predicates. The use of semi-colons, colons and apostrophes, etc as well as verbs, nouns, adjectives and tenses. I even recall something about spondees and dipthongs.

This was a UK state grammar school BTW (back in the days when they existed), not some fusty old private institution staffed by fossils teaching an ancient and obsolete curriculum.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:40 am Reply with quoteBack to top

@Josh

Semi-colons are half-ass. Cool


Last edited by kleindoofy on Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:41 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:40 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Josh wrote:
Now what was TSnerd saying about semi-colons?


I think he was saying that you need some kind of bag attached when that happens to you.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:42 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Nothing of the sort Gnasher here in New Zealand. I'm only just figuring out the difference between a verb and an adverb.

And I have a Masters of Arts degree Embarassed

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:43 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Josh wrote:
... only just ...


Repetitive. Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:45 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^ OMG no way! Now you're just picking on me. Crying or Very sad Laughing

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:47 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^
You forgot to put a period at the end of your sentence. Wink

[Edit] Ah, now my post no longer makes sense. Laughing

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:48 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Josh wrote:
OMG no way!


Commata my dear boy, commata.

"OMG, no way!" Laughing
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:49 am Reply with quoteBack to top

*Runs and hides from the grammar geeks* . <<---- note full stop.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:51 am Reply with quoteBack to top

kleindoofy wrote:
Commata my dear boy, commata.


Intentional irony?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:52 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^^ No. The initial comma behind the first word is optional, so I left it out.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:59 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Optional? Are you sure about that?
Most style manuals and usage guides will say that a vocative noun phrase is set off completely with commas. I'd like to see which set of rules considers it optional, as I've never encountered such.

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