Grammar Challenge #3

Question

Which is the best way to improve the following sentence? 

Jimmy cleaned his room quickly, carefully, and in a thorough manner.

A. . . . quickly, carefully, and thoroughly.

B. . . . in a quick, careful, and thorough manner.

C. either of the above

D. none of the above--the sentence is fine as it is

 

Answer and Explanation

The correct answer is C.

This is an issue of parallel syntax or parallelism. It's hard to argue that a lack of parallelism is strictly an error, grammatically speaking. Many would argue it is a simply matter of style. But just about everyone agrees that keeping lists in parallel grammatical form is preferable.

The list at the end of the sentence modifying the infinitive to clean includes two simple adverbs -- quickly and carefully -- and an adverbial prepositional phrase -- in a thorough manner. The sentence would be improved by the simple conversion of the phrase to the parallel adverb, thoroughly, as in answer A.

That's my preference, but there would be nothing wrong with making it parallel by using a list of adjectives within a prepositional phrase as in answer B.

Either of them works, and the difference between them is only a matter of preference.

On a side note, if you object to the use of a serial, or Oxford, comma in these sentences, we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one. We'll address that issue in a later Challenge!

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Grammar Challenge #2

Neither of your grandfathers ___ typical hobbies.

A. has

B. have

C. either of the above

 

Answer and Explanation

This is another subject-verb agreement question, and another of those tricky ones where it's hard to spot the verb's subject. This is important because in order to make the verb agree with its subject, you have to know what the subect is, right? 

Well, it's not grandfathers, because grandfathers is the object of the preposition of  (a noun can't function as an object and a subject at the same time). That means the subject is the pronoun neither. And neither, like either, is always singular and requires the singular verb, has.

Don't be fooled by hobbies either. That's the object of the verb, and objects don't effect the verb's number. 

The correct answer is A.

You're the Superhero.

 

Let us be your sidekick.

We all have different super powers. Ours is teaching writing. If our powers can help you do battle against the forces of evil in your homeschool, visit WriteAtHome today!

Grammar Challenge #1

Question:

There ___ been more than a dozen incidents of spontaneous human combustion in my classroom this year.

A. has

B. have

C. either of the above

 

Answer and Explanation

This is a question of subject/verb agreement. Has is a singular verb; have is the plural form. Verbs should agree in number with their subjects. 

So the question is, what is the subject of the verb in this sentence? And that's where it gets a little tricky.

The sentence is inverted, meaning the subject comes after the verb instead of the other way around. Sentences that begin with here and there are often inverted this way. And if you aren't careful, it's easy to misidentify the subject. Is it more, dozen, incidents, combustion, classroom

Well, simply. It's incidents. More than a dozen is an adjective phrase that modifies incidents (How many incidents? More than a dozen.)  Combustion is the object of the prepositional phrase of human combustion and classroom is the object of the prepositional phrase in my classroom. 

And since incidents is plural, you need the plural verb have

B is the right answer.