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1  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / Choosing the right connectives for our ideas - 1 on: Today at 09:19:52 AM
In last week’s column, I emphasized the importance of the connectives as tools for helping readers or listeners navigate our thoughts—their linkages, their correlations, their jumps, their permutations, and their digressions. The three types of connectives, namely the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs, explicitly signal the logical relations between clauses, between sentences, and between or across sentences and paragraphs.

Precisely what do these connectives do in our writing or speech? In English, as I pointed out last week, they are the primary operators for the interplay of the six basic logical relationships in language, namely (1) the additive relationship, (2) the comparative relationship, (3) the temporal or time relationship, (4) the reason-result relationship, (5) the conditional relationship, and (6) the example relationship. The choice of connective depends mainly on two things: the logical relationship we want to establish, and the structure of the clauses that we want to connect.


We already know that coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs perform essentially the same function: to logically connect two independent and grammatically coequal clauses. In the following sentence, for instance, the coordinating conjunction “but” serves as the logical connective—a contrasting one—between the two independent clauses: “We achieved our sales targets, but we fell short of our profit expectations.” Likewise, the conjunctive adverb “however” can establish that logical relationship: “We achieved our sales targets; however, we fell short of our profit expectations.”

Although the logic of the two resulting compound sentences above is essentially the same, we can see that the conjunctive adverb “however” provides a more emphatic transition than the coordinating conjunction “that.” This more explicit and forceful transition is, in fact, what typically differentiates the conjunctive adverbs from the coordinating conjunctions. Indeed, we can very well say that the coordinating conjunctions provide a soft transition between two independent ideas, while the conjunctive adverbs provide a strong transition between them.

On the other hand, when we need to connect a subordinate clause to an independent clause, only a subordinating conjunction can do the linking job properly. This type of connective not only provides grammatical linkage but also enables the subordinate clause to draw meaning from the independent clause. Structurally, when a subordinating conjunction links a dependent clause to an independent clause, the result is a complex sentence: “We achieved our sales targets although we fell short of our profit expectations.” Typically, such sentences can also be constructed with the subordinate clause positioned ahead of the independent clause: “Although we fell short of our profit expectations, we achieved our sales targets.”

Since coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs function in much the same way, we can freely choose between them to establish the desired logical relationship. The choice will strongly determine the language register or tone of our writing or speech. For informal, everyday language, the coordinating conjunctions usually suffice; for formal language, however, we may need the conjunctive adverbs every now and then to create particular nuances for the logical relationship we want to establish.


Let’s now survey the connectives available to us for establishing the various logical relationships between ideas:

For the additive relationship: We can routinely use the coordinating conjunction “and”—the only one of its kind—or, for much stronger emphasis, the conjunctive adverbs “moreover,” “additionally,” “furthermore,” “in addition,” and “besides.”

For contrast or opposition:  To connect two independent, co-equal clauses, we can use the coordinating conjunctions “but” or “yet” or, for more forceful contrast, the conjunctive adverbs “however,” “nevertheless,” “nonetheless,” “conversely,” “in contrast,” “still,” and “otherwise.”

To establish contrast or opposition between subordinate clauses and independent clauses, however, we need the subordinating conjunctions “though,” “although,” “as though,” “even if,” “even though,” “than,” “rather than,” “where,” and “whereas.”

We will conclude this survey of connectives in next week’s column.

(Next: Choosing the right connectives for our ideas - 2)  June 1, 2017

This essay, 1041st of a series, appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of The Manila Times, May 25, 2017 issue (print edition only), © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
2  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / The emphatic forms and inverted sentences on: May 23, 2017, 08:12:43 PM
Every language develops modes not just to share information but to convey thoughts and ideas more forcefully. In English, verbs evolved two special forms—the emphatic tenses—to provide emphasis to the actions they describe. The present emphatic emphasizes actions or conditions happening in the present, and the past emphatic emphasizes those that occurred in the past. More commonly, however, the emphatic forms are used in two types of sentence constructions where emphasis is not intended: to work with the adverb “not” in negative sentences, and to form questions or the interrogative mode, in which the normal sentence construction is inverted. We must understand this distinction clearly to avoid mistakes in using the emphatic tenses.


The present emphatic tense of verbs is formed by putting the present-tense verb “do” or “does” ahead of their basic present form. Here are examples of the present emphatic tense used for emphasis: “I do like apples.” “She does think fast.” “They do act slowly.” The intent is to express the action or state more forcefully. In contrast, here are examples when emphasis is not intended: “The group does not agree.” (forming a negative sentence) “Does the jury have a verdict?” (forming a question).


The past emphatic tense of verbs is formed by putting the past-tense “did” ahead of their basic present form. Examples of the past emphatic tense used for emphasis: “I did write that letter.” “She did come as expected.” “They did pay on schedule.” Examples when emphasis is not intended: “He did not deliver as promised.” “Didn’t you finish the work last night?”

Sentences that use the emphatic tense for emphasis are either affirmative or negative responses to an apparently persistent question, whether stated or only implied. See what happens when this question is asked: “Did you really write that letter?” The emphatic answer would either be “I did write that letter” or “No, I didn’t write that letter.” This is the situational context for using the emphatic forms. It conveys the sense of the speaker either explicitly owning or denying an act, or claiming to be correct in his or her belief regarding the action of others.


Another device for emphasis in the English language, one that is often misunderstood and much maligned, is the inverted sentence. This grammatical form, in which the verb comes ahead the subject, does present agreement problems and possible confusion when used too often. Here’s an example from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “Away from light steals home my heavy son /And private in his chamber pens himself...”

Note that it is the verb “away” that starts the sentence, with the subject “son” far detached from it. The normal-order sentence would go as follows: “My heavy son steals home away from light...” A heightened emotional state can be felt in the first, a dry forthrightness in the second. That difference comes from the change in the form, order, and rhythm of the language itself.

It is, of course, not only in poetry where inverted sentences find excellent use. They can give prose much-welcome variety and punch when used judiciously in a sea of normal-order sentences. Feel the emotional difference between the following normal-order sentences and their corresponding inverted sentences: (1) “Her behavior could be explained in no other way.” “In no other way could her behavior be explained.” (2) “I saw only then the possibilities of the new business.” “Only then did I see the possibilities of the new business.” (3) “She didn’t realize that he had deceived her till she got the letter from a total stranger.” “Not until she got the letter from a total stranger did she realize that he had deceived her.”


THE LONE RED UMBRELLA GETS EMPHASIS IN A SEA OF BLACK UMBRELLAS

When using inverted sentences, however, we must make an extra effort to double-check agreement of the verb with the subject. This subject always follows the number of the verb and not of the nouns or pronouns that come before it: “In the grassy plains lives the last antelope.” It would seem that the singular verb “lives” should be the plural “live” instead to agree with “grassy plains,” but this proves to be not the case; the true subject is not “the grassy plains” but the singular “the last antelope.” See also what happens if the sentence were written another way: “In the grassy plain live the last antelopes.” In this case, the subject “the last antelopes” is plural, so the verb must also take the plural form “live” to agree with it.

Take note, too, that sentences beginning with “there” or “here” are actually in the inverted form: “There is a can of corned beef in the cupboard.” “Here comes the parade.” “There” and “here” are, of course, not the subjects. It is “corned beef” in the first, and “parade” in the second. The two sentences are actually emphatic forms of the normal-order “A can of corned beef is in the cupboard” and “The parade comes.” (circa 2003-2004)

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 33 in the Usage and Style section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © 2008 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
3  Open Forum / Students’ Sounding Board / Re: Another Question about Subject-Verb Agreement on: May 22, 2017, 05:59:12 PM
Sorry, Justine, it must be due to the oppressive heat in my room at mid-morning today (the aircon was just starting up, you see). In Item 2 of my response to you, the statement "Subjunctive using the infinitive phrase 'to demand that...' as direct object of the verb 'wrote'" should have correctly read "Subjunctive using the gerund phrase 'demanding that...' as direct object of the verb 'wrote'." I copy-pasted the statement from Item 1 but overlooked changing "infinitive phrase" to "gerund phrase." My apologies. (I am correcting the post right after this to avoid confusing others.)

Now as to this post that you came across in Facebook: "When everything seems wrong, look and be with nature's perfect GOD creations to make everything feels right." You got the wrong impression that the use of the linking verb "feels" is in the singular form because the sentence is in the subjunctive form. Actually, the verb "feels" is not a linking verb in that construction, and nor is the sentence where it appears in the subjective mood. In fact, "feels" should be corrected to "feel" but not for subject-verb agreement but for an entirely different purpose.

In the corrected verb phrase "to make everything feel right," the verb form "make" is what's known as a causative verb, which is a special kind of verb that carries out an action that causes another action, state, or condition to happen. Specifically in this case, "make" is the causative verb that causes the condition "feel right" to happen.

For a much better understanding of how causative verbs work, check out the two essays that I have posted in the Forum, "Using causative and factitive verbs," and "How the causatives enable intransitive verbs to overcome their intransitivity." I'm sure that those two essays will throw an entirely new light to some strange grammatical constructions that must have intrigued you in your readings.
4  English Grammar and Usage Problems / Badly Written, Badly Spoken / Re: Confusing question? on: May 22, 2017, 12:12:25 PM
No, solid9, I don't think that the phrase "what you do" was meant to ask you what you do as a person. It's a grammatical glitz created by the repeated but needless use of "what" in that sentence. See how the problem disappears when that extra "what" is knocked off:

"What do you like and don't like about the city?" or "What is it that you like and don't like about the city?"

I hope this helps.
5  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / Transitioning from academic to business English on: May 22, 2017, 08:45:20 AM
Let’s face it. People making the transition from academe to the business world usually don’t realize soon enough the need to change from academic to business prose. Many college graduates entering the workforce think that the difference in content, style, and voice is simply cosmetic, one that can eventually be smoothened out by just fully immersing themselves in their jobs. But the unfortunate thing is that most of them never outgrow their academic English. A great many, in fact, do not learn business English at all in their entire careers. Without a clear understanding of the differences between the two writing disciplines, they brew their own heady mix of academic-oriented business prose that befuddles instead of clarifies. Some remain clueless even up to their retirement about what they are doing with their English prose, leaving in their wake so many forms of confused, strange, and often bewildering business communication.


Perhaps it will help those who have not yet made the transition from academic to business writing if we attempted to formally differentiate the two. As most of us had learned with blood, sweat, and tears in college, academic writing is essentially building up an argument about a subject that often does not even matter personally to us, formally expressing a largely arbitrary point of view about it, and marshalling evidence from a wide range of academic sources to support that point of view. As one academic had put it, academic writing is writing done by scholars for other scholars. It showcases the quality of mind of its writer rather than the usefulness of his ideas. This is as it should be, for academic writing seeks not to foster unity of mind and purpose but precisely to foment dissent and intellectual ferment. Its end as well as its means is, in fact, knowledge itself.

Business writing, in contrast, is a much less ambitious but much more pragmatic enterprise in prose. Selfish not from the writer’s personal point of view but from that of the company or institution he or she represents, it is meant to promote unanimity in thinking and unity in action. As such, it shuns and discourages the natural propensity of individuals to seek or engage in arguments. On the contrary, it is primarily designed to minimize if not completely eliminate them so that the organization can move as one towards one set goal: to satisfy the demands, wants, and desires of its customers or constituencies. In sum, business writing is the language of people who have already resolved most of their individual differences in favor of the organization, and who will only be too happy to smoothen out the rest of those differences so they can be as single-minded as possible in pursuing an objective.

Another major difference between academic and business prose is the mental state required of the writer when in the act of doing it. Academic writing is the overt act of an individual in the act of thinking; he wants the world to know precisely what his agenda is and what is going on inside his head in pursuing that agenda. He does not hide the fact that he wants to convince a jury of academic superiors and peers that he is capable of the art of thinking and intellectual judgment. The point of view is therefore unabashedly that of the first person “I,” even if the writer avails himself of all the tricks in grammar to hide that fact. This is the reason why it is common for entry-level marketing staff in a company to write like this: “If it is our avowed goal to be supremely competitive in the AB market sector and to also penetrate the CD sector in the medium term, I believe that Marketing should make a concerted effort to give the appropriate customer-oriented attributes to both the product itself as well as to its packaging.” That is not the language of business at all. Business writing is strongly groupthink, and a company is a place where one has to ruthlessly sublimate one’s personal point of view for the larger organizational good. Given the same writing task, therefore, the experienced business writer will be much more straightforward: “The product must have AB and CD product and packaging attributes to penetrate both market segments in the medium term.”

All of these differences account not only for the great divide between academic and business writing but also for the big difference in their lengths. Since the aim of academic writing is primarily to argue and to prove a point, it not only tolerates but actually encourages overly long sentences, as in this hypothetical academic statement: “In consideration of the fact that the works of the Nobel-Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez reach us only in the English translations of their Spanish-language originals, notably by Gregory Rabassa who did the masterful translation of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, I find it not inconceivable at all that the concerns of some Pan-American scholars over the fidelity of these translations to the Hispanic cultural nuances of their originals may not be altogether unwarranted particularly in the context of unfortunate experiences in the literary genre with respect to Pan-American writers of comparable stature to Marquez, including Pablo Neruda and Pablo Coelho.”

The business-oriented writer, on the other hand, conscious of the perils of longwinded writing, would routinely chop up the 102-word semantic giant above into bite-size sentences: “Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel-Prize-winning novelist, wrote in Spanish. His novels thus reach us only in their English translations, notably by Gregory Rabassa who did the masterful translation of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. For this reason, some Pan-American scholars are concerned that these translations may not be thoroughly faithful to the Hispanic cultural nuances of the original. These concerns may have some basis in fact. There have been unfortunate experiences in the genre with respect to the translations of such Pan-American writers Pablo Neruda and Pablo Coelho, whose statures are comparable to that of Marquez.”

There is a whole world of difference between the two passages. The shift from academic to business prose is therefore often painfully difficult, but it will be worth the time and effort for those who dream of truly making their mark in business.

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 8 in the Afterthoughts section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © 2008 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
6  Open Forum / Students’ Sounding Board / Re: Another Question about Subject-Verb Agreement on: May 21, 2017, 09:05:00 AM
Sorry for this relayed reply, Justine. I overlooked this posting of yours.

The first sentence, "Convinced by (the) nun's story, the AMRPS wrote Oliveros demand that he apologize to traumatized nun," doesn't have a subject-disagreement problem. It only seems to have that problem because of a grammatical error in phrasing. It would actually be a correct sentence in the subjunctive mood if phrased in either of these two ways:

1. Subjunctive using the the infinitive phrase "to demand..." as direct object of the verb "wrote":: "Convinced by (the) nun's story, the AMRPS wrote Oliveros to demand that he apologize to traumatized nun."

2. Subjunctive using the the gerund phrase "demanding that..." as direct object of the verb "wrote": "Convinced by (the) nun's story, the AMRPS wrote Oliveros demanding that he apologize to traumatized nun."

As to the second sentence, I find no problem with it nor see any subject-verb disagreement in its structure.

For an exhaustive discussion of the subjunctive mood, including the seemingly wrong usage of the "that he apologize" form instead of "that he apologizes," review my four-part posting on "Some recurrent misuses of the English subjunctive."
7  The Latest Buzz! / Site Announcements / Playlist Update (May 13 - 20, 2017) for the Forum Gateway on Facebook on: May 20, 2017, 12:12:58 PM


To My Facebook Friends and Fans,

For quick access to the Forum’s featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories, simply click their indicated web links below:


Playlist Update (May 13 - 20, 2017) for the Forum Gateway on Facebook
(Latest down to earlier postings)


1. “The Perils of Missing Periods or Forgetting Commas” (May 19)



2. “Mastery of the connectives can make us write much better” (May 18)



3. “The age-old debate over ‘It’s not you, it’s (me, I)’ flares up again” (May 18)



4. “‘Which,’ ‘that,’ ‘who’ and other grammar pitfalls” (May 17)



5. “Don’t be hoodwinked by numbers, for they may carry big untruths” (May 16)



6. “Unsettling violations of the subject-verb agreement rule” (May 16)


7. “The immense power of the right habits to transform one’s life” (May 15)



8. “When an English teacher prescribes an awful subject-agreement blunder” (May 15)



9. “Rx for strays, danglers, and squinter” (May 14)





CLASSIC FORUM POSTINGS (8 postings):

1. Two magnificent performances of “The Prayer,” spaced 10 years apart
     (Originally posted January 22, 2017)



2. “The Lovely Clichés Worth Keeping”[/size]
     (Originally posted circa 2002   Reposted December 16, 2016)

   

3. Conversations (4): “The real score about Valentine’s Day”
    (Originally posted February 10, 2010   Reposted February 1, 2014)



4. “Did Rizal ever speak and write in English?”
    (Originally posted January 28, 2010, latest update December 30, 2016)



5. “Conversations (2): A serious bad-grammar syndrome”
   (Reposted January 18, 2017)



6. “Anatomy of media stories that Filipina women have the world’s smallest breasts”
    (Posted July 11, 2016)



7. “Lost in Translation” - 1 and 2
    (Posted December 30, 2016)



8. “Indignities in American minor”
    (Posted October 27, 2016)




Click this link to earlier Playdate features!
8  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / Mastery of the connectives can make us write much better on: May 18, 2017, 08:05:48 PM
I’ll share a secret with everyone who aspires to write or speak better.

As a professional editor for quite a long time, I have come to the conclusion that most people who don’t write or speak well can’t do so mainly because they have poor mastery of the connectives. By connectives, I mean the tools of the English language that can help readers or listeners navigate the sense and logic of what’s being written or spoken about. A writer or speaker may have acquired an impressive vocabulary and an admirable grasp of many English idioms, but if they don’t have a clear grasp of how the connectives can properly link their sentences, they would likely sound or give the impression that they are scatterbrains. They would fare so badly when making an effort to share their ideas with other people. In short, they would be bad communicators.


Before anything else, however, let us first make it crystal clear what the connectives are supposed to do and why they are so important to language. They are our primary tools for helping readers or listeners navigate our thoughts—their linkages, their correlations, their jumps, their permutations, and their digressions. They are words or word groupings that explicitly signal the logical relations between clauses, between sentences, and between or across sentences and paragraphs. Indeed, they are the overt logical operators for conveying our thoughts and ideas.

It might come as a surprise to many of us who have not formally studied linguistics, but no matter how wide its interplay of ideas, all writing or speech deals with only six basic logical relationships. They are (1) the additive relationship, (2) the comparative relationship, (3) the temporal or time relationship, (4) the reason-result relationship, (5) the conditional relationship, and (6) the example relationship. To establish these relationships, the primary logical operators in the English language are what I have already discussed in my preceding three columns: the coordinating conjunctions, the subordinating conjunctions, and the conjunctive adverbs.

 

Let’s take a look at what each of these six basic logical relationships does in both written or spoken language:

Additive relationship. It clarifies ideas by adding information similar to what the writer or speaker has already mentioned. The addition can be done between ideas within a sentence, between sentences, and between paragraphs.

Comparative relationship. It clarifies an idea by either (a) presenting another idea dissimilar it, or (b) contrasting two things or ideas by highlighting the difference rather than the similarity between them.

Temporal or time relationship. It establishes the sequence, duration, or perceived immediacy of two or more events as they happen in time.

Causal or reason-result relationship. It shows that certain effects, outcomes, or consequences are the results of certain causes or reasons.

Conditional relationship. It establishes either (a) that the truth or correctness of an idea is dependent on a certain condition or set of conditions, or (b) that a certain outcome can be expected as a result of another condition or even; and

Example relationship. It clarifies ideas by giving concrete examples of what is being talked about.


We have already made a quick review of how the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs work to establish these logical relationships. We saw that these connectives actually offer us several grammatical and structural options depending on the type of composition or utterance we are doing , our intent or purpose for doing it, and the tone or voice we want to achieve.

But then we come to a very important question: When there’s a choice, which of the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs do we use to link particular ideas? We will take up the dynamics of choosing the most appropriate connectives or conjunctions next week.

(Next: Choosing the right connectives for our ideas - 1)  May 25, 2017

This essay, 1040th of a series, appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of The Manila Times, May 18, 2017 issue (print edition only), © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
9  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / “Which,” “that,” and other grammar pitfalls on: May 17, 2017, 11:57:19 AM
In any language, simplicity is a virtue. In the English language, in particular, the brief, concise, and unembellished sentence is preferable to the long and complex sentence that packs in so many ideas. This is obviously because short sentences are much easier to understand than long ones. But pursuing sentence brevity for its own sake does not necessarily mean good writing. It often leads to oversimplified, choppy, dull, and deadening prose. Stronger, clearer, and more elegant writing can, in fact, be produced by judiciously combining sentences or by adding modifying clauses to them.

Consider this passage: “The Philippines is a republic in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It is to be found between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. It comprises more than 7,100 islands. It has islands that range in size from small rock formations to the 41,845-sq.mi. Luzon Island. This island is the biggest. Only 730 of the islands are inhabited. Eleven of the islands account for most of the total land area. These islands also account for most of the population.”

Oversimplifying prose this way, of course, either turns away readers or lulls them to sleep. Now see how much forceful and emphatic it becomes when the sentences are judiciously combined: “The Philippines, a republic consisting of 7,100 islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, lies between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. The islands range in size from small rock formations to the 41,845-sq.m. Luzon Island, which is the biggest. Only 730 of the islands are inhabited, and 11 of these account for most of the total land area and most of the population.” The text in italics shows the sentences or clauses that have been combined or joined for a clearer, more smooth-flowing exposition.


One purpose of combining or joining sentences is to supply them with additional information that can enrich their content and texture. When the added information or words are clauses that will modify nouns and pronouns in the sentence, they are called adjective clauses. The relative pronoun “who” and the conjunctions “which” and “that” are used to introduce these adjective clauses. “Who” is used when the antecedent noun or pronoun is a person; “which” or “that” when it is a thing or place.  

We are all familiar, of course, with the use of  “who” in adding an adjective clause to a sentence. Take these two sentences: “Albert Einstein was a German-born Swiss-American theoretical physicist. He developed the Theory of Relativity.” To add the second sentence to the first so it can modify “physicist,” we simply replace the pronoun “he” with the relative pronoun “who” and combine the two sentences: “Albert Einstein was the German-born Swiss-American theoretical physicist who developed the Theory of Relativity.” On the other hand, we use “that” when the antecedent noun is a thing or place. Take these two sentences: “The kids caught the mouse. That mouse had eaten the cheese.” We combine them as follows: “The kids caught the mouse that had eaten the cheese.” (British English usage combines with “which” instead of “that”: “The kids caught the mouse which had eaten the cheese.”)


We must take note, however, that in the two American English examples above that use “who” and “that” as combiners, the added clauses are necessary to the meaning of the combined sentences. They are called restrictive clauses. Without them, the sentences will mean something else. In some combined sentences, however, the added clauses are not absolutely necessary to their meaning. They are called non-restrictive clauses. They merely give additional information, and maybe taken out without altering the basic idea of the sentence. In such instances, the clause to be combined with “who” or “which” (“that” cannot be used in this case) should be set off with commas to indicate its non-restrictive character: “The kids, who are classmates on vacation, caught the mouse that had eaten the cheese.” “The kids caught the mouse, which had eaten the cheese.” “The mouse, which had eaten the cheese, was caught.”

Another example: “The mouse deer is indigenous to Balabac, Palawan. It has the scientific name Tragulus aquaticus.” Since the clause “has the scientific name Tragulus aquaticus” is optional information when combined with the first sentence, we must set it off with commas as follows: “The mouse deer, which has the scientific name Tragulus aquaticus, is indigenous to the Philippines.”


A very common pitfall when using “which” as a combiner is doing away with the commas: “The mouse deer which has the scientific name Tragulus aquaticus is indigenous to the Philippines.” This is, from an American English standpoint, grammatically wrong. Only “who” or “that” can be used as restrictive combiners and when used as such, they never use commas to set the adjective clause off: “The mouse deer that has the scientific name Tragulus aquaticus is indigenous to the Philippines.” “The man who discovered the mouse deer named it Tragulus aquaticus.”

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 43 in the Usage and Style section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © 2008 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
10  English Grammar and Usage Problems / Use and Misuse / Unsettling violations of the subject-verb agreement rule on: May 16, 2017, 08:59:26 AM
Last week, as I was finishing my column that reviewed the subject-verb agreement rule, I thought I could already comfortably leave the subject for good. I was wrong. I soon found out that the misuse of the rule is much more serious and pervasive than I thought. And I saw much more clearly that the problem is due not only to a faulty understanding of that rule but also to certain quirks of the English language itself.

I began to entertain this idea when, shortly before sending that column to press, I saw on cable TV another statement that flagrantly violated the subject-verb agreement rule: “The fans has spoken.” (The correct construction is, of course, “The fans have spoken.”) And that very same evening, while browsing a popular job-posting web site, I came across a want ad by an offshore leasing services firm that violated the rule even more flagrantly.   

The want ad for a senior writer ran as follows:

“Responsibilities:
“The person have to write simple articles on business plan…
“The writer have to be creative with the subject…”

(Instead of “have,” “has” should have been used, the nouns “person” and “writer” being both singular.)

And then, just two days ago, I was confronted by this peculiar e-mail from a reader:

“I have a problem... I saw a sign... ‘DEAD: D - Drugs… E - Ends… A - All Your… D - Dreams.’
 
“Is it ‘ends’ or ‘end’?”

(The answer, of course, is “end” because the subject, “drugs,” is plural.)


Clearly, then, not a few people who write in English don’t have a clear grasp of how the subject-verb agreement rule really works in practice.

This may come as a surprise because the rule looks very simple: for a singular subject, the verb must also be singular; for a plural subject, that verb must also be plural.

For nouns and regular verbs in the present tense, applying this rule is easy. To make a noun plural, we simply add an “s” to its singular form, and to make a verb plural, we take out the “s” from its singular form: “The girl dances.” “The girls dance.” The rule is even easier to apply in the past tense because whether the noun is singular or plural, its operative verb takes only one form—with a “-d” or “-ed” affixed to it: “The girl danced.” “The girls danced.”

For personal pronouns, however, applying the subject-verb agreement rule isn’t that simple. To avoid complications at this point, let’s just look into the usage of the subjective forms of the personal pronouns—first person: “I” (singular), “we” (plural); second person: “you” (singular), “you” (plural); and third person: “he,” “she,” and “it” (singular), “they” (plural).”

As subjects of regular verbs, all of these personal pronouns except “I” and “you” follow the subject-verb agreement rule: “We dance.” “We danced.” “He [she] dances.” He [she] danced.” “It dances.” “It danced.” “They dance.” “They danced.”

The problem is with “I” and the singular “you” in the present tense. They behave irregularly and don’t follow the subject-verb agreement rule. Although both singular in form, they require plural forms of verbs: “I want a sandwich.” “You want a sandwich.” (Not, as might be expected, “I wants a sandwich” and “You wants a sandwich.”)

The situation gets even more confusing when “I” and the singular “you” are used with the irregular verbs “be” or “have” in the present tense. See how eccentric their behavior is: “I am happy.” “I have enough money.” “You are happy.” “You have enough money.” “He [she] is happy.” “He [she] has enough money.” Nothing in the subject-verb agreement rule prepares us for these irregular grammar behaviors. They can really get the uninitiated all mixed up in figuring their singulars and plurals.

It is no wonder that we keep on seeing all those disastrous applications of the subject-verb agreement rule. (2006)

This essay, 496th in the series, first appeared on August 6, 2006 in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, © 2006 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
11  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / Rx for strays, danglers, and squinters on: May 14, 2017, 09:44:01 AM
Our first line of defense against misplaced modifiers or strays is to make it a habit to place single-word modifiers beside or nearest to the words they modify. Look at this sentence: “Bert has nearly annoyed every girl he has courted with his boorish ways.” In this case, we have a nonsensical situation because the adverb “nearly” wrongly modifies the adjective “annoyed” instead of the phrase “every girl he has courted.” We get the correct sense when we move the adverb to its proper place: “Bert has annoyed nearly every girl he has courted with his boorish ways.”


For greater precision in your English, be cautious as well in placing such other limiting modifiers as “almost,” “hardly,” “nearly,” “just,” “only,” and “merely.” That way, you will never catch yourself ever saying “My family almost ate all the food in the dinner table on Christmas Eve,” which can mark you as a grammar-challenged person. Instead, this smooth, non-intriguing version will come naturally to you: “My family ate almost all the food in the dinner table on Christmas Eve.”

You can apply the same rule to modifying phrases and clauses: put them closest to the word or phrases they modify so they don’t do any mischief. Consider this sentence: “With malice, the hoodlum jabbed the pedestrian with his walking stick in the ears.” By misplacing the modifier “in the ears,” a jumbled picture comes to mind. But when “in the ears” is placed right after “pedestrian,” the problem disappears like magic: “With malice, the hoodlum jabbed the pedestrian in the ears with his walking stick.” This corrective technique works as well for squinting modifiers; simply make sure the modifying phrase or clause is in a place where it cannot do a two-timing job.


The trickiest forms of misplaced modifiers are the danglers, which usually occur in participial phrases, infinitive phrases, and elliptical adverb clauses. Here’s a dangling participial phrase: “Lugging my suitcase to the hotel van, my left foot slipped into a manhole.” (Corrected: “While I was lugging my suitcase to the hotel van, my left foot slipped into a manhole.” The true doer of the action is the first person “I,” not “my left foot.”) Here’s a dangling infinitive phrase: “To solve the problem, the correct approach should be adopted.” (Corrected: “To solve the problem, you should adopt the correct approach.” The first sentence has no doer of the action; we use the second-person “you” to make the second sentence work.) And here’s a dangling elliptical adverb clause: “As a grade schooler, my mother forced me to memorize Tagalog poems.” (Corrected: “When I was a grade schooler, my mother forced me to memorize Tagalog poems.” The first sentence seems to float in a time warp, with the mother—instead of the child—appearing to be the grade schooler.)


The strategies for revising dangling modifiers should be apparent by now:

(1) Make the logical doer of the action the subject of the main clause. Dangler from a sports story in a Manila newspaper: “Only two legs after its launching, the green light has been given for the Samsung Amateur Tour to go truly nationwide next year with at least three more additional legs in the Visayas and Mindanao.” The phrase “Only two legs after its launching” wrongly modifies “the green light,” which is closest to it. Green lights, of course, are more often lit than launched, and they rarely have two legs to stand on. In fact, the phrase was really meant to modify “the Samsung Amateur Tour,” as in this version: “Only two legs after its launching, the Samsung Amateur Tour got the green light to go truly nationwide next year with at least three more additional legs for the Visayas and Mindanao.”

(2) Convert the dangling phrase into a complete introductory clause by naming the doer of the action in that clause. Dangler from the business section of the same newspaper: “To arrive at a reliable account of mission-critical performance of Clark Development Corp., it is useful to understand the mechanics of investments and opportunities.” The infinitive phrase dangles because there is no doer of the action; “it” does not qualify as one so it’s better to supply another. Solution: “For one to arrive at a reliable account of the mission-critical performance of Clark Development Corp., it is useful to understand the mechanics of investments and opportunities.” The third-person “one” takes out the dangle.

(3) Combine the dangling phrase and main clause into one. Dangler from a real estate article in the same newspaper: “In describing the contour of a lot to build one’s home, there are three classifications, namely a flat lot, a depressed lot, or an elevated lot.” Nobody does anything in the sentence; things just back up into a dangle. Solution: “There are three ways to describe the contours of a housing lot: flat, depressed, or elevated.” Now we have a simple declarative sentence where everything falls neatly into place, with no danglers in sight.

It takes some doing, but if you can keep your strays, danglers, and squinters securely confined to quarters, your English should be much clearer, smoother, and more readable from now on.

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 39 in the Usage and Style section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © 2008 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
12  The Latest Buzz! / Site Announcements / Playlist Update (May 7 - 13, 2017) for the Forum Gateway on Facebook on: May 13, 2017, 01:47:12 PM


To My Facebook Friends and Fans,

For quick access to the Forum’s featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories, simply click their indicated web links below:


Playlist Update (May 7 - 13, 2017) for the Forum Gateway on Facebook
(Latest down to earlier postings)

1. “Should you let your prepositions dangle?” (May 13)



2. “High-flier classroom teachers make big difference in world’s poor schools” (May 12)



3. “Getting reacquainted with the subordinating conjunctions” (May 12)



4. “Verbs to tie up loose ends” (May 10)



5. “The Problem with ‘Hello!’ and ‘Whatever!’”  (May 9)



6. “U.S. students not interested in their professors as thinkers and mentors” (May 8 )



7. “Gobbledygook na Inggles at Tagalog” (“Inday ng Buhay Natin”) (May 7)



8. “Dealing wisely with negatives” (May 6)





CLASSIC FORUM POSTINGS (8 postings):

1. Two magnificent performances of “The Prayer,” spaced 10 years apart
     (Originally posted January 22, 2017)



2. “The Lovely Clichés Worth Keeping”[/size]
     (Originally posted circa 2002   Reposted December 16, 2016)

   

3. Conversations (4): “The real score about Valentine’s Day”
    (Originally posted February 10, 2010   Reposted February 1, 2014)



4. “Did Rizal ever speak and write in English?”
    (Originally posted January 28, 2010, latest update December 30, 2016)



5. “Conversations (2): A serious bad-grammar syndrome”
   (Reposted January 18, 2017)



6. “Anatomy of media stories that Filipina women have the world’s smallest breasts”
    (Posted July 11, 2016)



7. “Lost in Translation” - 1 and 2
    (Posted December 30, 2016)



8. “Indignities in American minor”
    (Posted October 27, 2016)




Click this link to earlier Playdate features!
13  English Grammar and Usage Problems / Use and Misuse / Should you let your prepositions dangle? on: May 13, 2017, 12:05:36 PM
Whether prepositions should be allowed to end a clause instead of preceding it, or allowed to dangle at the end of the sentence, is still a hotly debated aspect of English grammar. There are those who staunchly cling to the old dictum that a preposition should always immediately follow the clause it modifies, wherever that clause occurs in the sentence, as the “of” in this example: “The approach of which she is thinking is appealing to our stockholders.” This convoluted expression is supposedly grammatically superior to the following more natural, spontaneously sounding sentence: “The approach she is thinking of is appealing to our stockholders.” (Note that “of” falls neatly at the end of the prepositional phrase “she is thinking of,” instead of right after the clause “The approach” which it modifies). Another supposedly grammatically preferable expression is this: “This is conduct with which I absolutely cannot deal.” And yet it is obvious even to the untrained eye and ear that the following sentence, where the preposition dangles at the end of the sentence, is superior to it: “This is conduct I absolutely cannot deal with.”


LET THAT PREPOSITION DANGLE OR NOT?

So what happened to this protracted war between the non-danglers and the danglers? Nothing definitive, really. In fact, the debate over it had gone on far too long and far too heated that the British statesman Winston Churchill, a masterful user of the English language himself, got so peeved by purists who insisted that he undangle his prepositions. His classic retort: “That is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.” This pretzel of a sentence is, of course, what the purists favor over the more elegant, straightforward sentence where the preposition “with” is allowed to dangle freely: “That is the sort of nonsense I will not put up with.” Of course, one would have thought that Churchill’s rant would settle the issue, but it didn’t. Many English-language teachers all over the world still swear to an English totally without dangling prepositions, and will readily (some say wickedly) flunk any English-language student who dares defy the dictum.

Being not a doctrinaire grammarian, however, I look at the dangling prepositions issue in the same way I look at the split infinitives: use them when they make your English more graceful or more emphatic in the precise manner that you intended, and shun them when they make your sentences stilted and wooden. I often dangle my prepositions without guilt when the situation calls for it. Thus, both in writing and in my day-to-day speaking, I absolutely have no qualms saying this: “That is the scene in the movie that I got so excited about.” You will never ever catch me saying it the way the grammar purists decreed: “That is the scene in the movie about which I got so excited.” Again, if I wanted to know what it is that makes you jittery, I will simply ask: “What are you afraid of?” or “What are you fearful about?” I will not play the role of a contortionist and ask: “Of what are you afraid?” or “About what are you fearful?”


There are, of course, many grammatical situations where the purists do have a point. Anyone who has heard the song “Do you know where you are going to?”, which was popularized by Diana Ross in the early 1980s, might well have wondered if there is something grammatically wrong with the question. Well, there is: the demands of lyrical expression aside, there is actually no grammatical need for the preposition “to” in the question. It is superfluous; you could simply ask “Do you know where you are going?”  without raising any eyebrows. Another great step toward clarity and simplicity would be doing away altogether with the preposition “to,” rather than trying to relocate it elsewhere in the sentence, as in the terribly awkward “To where do you know you are going?”  And then we should also be wary of the habitual needless addition of dangling prepositions in our spoken English, as in the following: “Where’s Antonio at?” (Better: “Where’s Antonio?”) “There’s no reason for you to roam around here for.” (Better: “There’s no reason for you to roam around here.” “Where can I get the application forms from?” (Better: “Where can I get the application forms?”)

It is another matter, however, when your English teacher intimidates you into being foolishly awkward simply to avoid a dangling preposition: “There are three aspects of your choice of which you should be certain.” How much easier on the tongue and on the ears it would be to say it this other way, even if the preposition “of” dangled: “There are three aspects of your choice you should be certain of.” However, if your teachers have totally banned dangling prepositions, don’t fight the former! After all, it is their prerogative as defenders of good grammar. But you can avoid being miserable by taking another tack: recast the sentence so it will not need the disputed preposition at all, as in this version: “You should be certain of three aspects of your choice.” That should make both sides of the dangling preposition antagonists happy.

Some situations, of course, will give you a tough choice between dangling a preposition and avoiding it. Take this example: “I hate the things that woman has been ridiculously raving about.” Wouldn’t the sentence be better with “about” undangled? “I hate the things about which that woman has been ridiculously raving.” And what about this next sentence? “The witness personally knew the intruders she was speaking about.” Will it be worth the effort undangling the preposition “about”? Consider, say, “The witness personally knew the intruders about whom she was speaking.” Ticklish!

Just a suggestion then: If you are formally putting the statement in writing, as in a school essay, thesis, or dissertation, place the dangling preposition inside the sentence where they won’t give you any trouble, or else make it disappear if possible. But if you are giving a lecture, speech, or sermon, let the prepositions dangle for whatever they are worth. You will sound much more natural, engaging, and convincing that way!

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 29 in the English Grammar Revisited section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © 2008 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
14  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / Getting reacquainted with the subordinating conjunctions* on: May 11, 2017, 06:33:55 PM
As taken up in our review last week, the basic coordinating conjunctions “and,” “but,” “yet,” “or,” “nor,” “so,” and “for” are used to combine two independent clauses of equal grammatical rank. The choice will depend on the logical relationship to be established for the ideas in the two independent clauses. The resulting construction is what’s known in English grammar as a compound sentence, as in “We wanted to fly to Hong Kong, but all the airlines were fully booked.”

When we need to combine a dependent clause with an independent clause, however, a coordinating conjunction can no longer establish a logical relationship between them. Take the clauses “he won’t quit” and “the general manager demanded his resignation,” in that order. Try as we may, none of the seven coordinating conjunctions can logically connect the two clauses.

First failed try: “He won’t quit and the general manager demanded his resignation.” Second failed try: “He won’t quit but the general manager demanded his resignation.” Third failed try: “He won’t quit yet the general manager demanded his resignation.” (Do this mentally with the other four coordinating conjunctions.)

But the word “until” can do it: “He won’t quit until the general manager himself demanded his resignation.” And so can the word “unless”: “He won’t quit unless the general manager himself demand his resignation.” The words “until” and “unless” are able to logically connect the two clauses by making one of them—“the general manager himself demand(ed) his resignation”—dependent on or subordinate to the other. They are examples of what are known as subordinating conjunctions.



The subordinating conjunctions fall into four groups based on the logical relationship they convey: (1) the time conjunctions “after,” “before,” “until,” “till,” and “while”; (2) the cause-and-effect conjunctions “as,” “as if,” “since,” “because,” “inasmuch as,” “lest,” “now that,” “once,” “that,” “so that,” “when,” and “whenever”; (3) the opposition and contrast conjunctions “though,” “although,” “as though,” “even if,” “even though,” “than,” “rather than,” “where,” and “whereas”; and (4) the conditional conjunctions “if,” “if only,” “as long as,” “in order that,” “unless,” and “wherever.”

These 32 subordinating conjunctions can functionally link a dependent idea to an independent or main idea, enabling a dependent clause to draw meaning from the main clause. This, for example, is what “once” does in this sentence: “The meek woman became notoriously domineering once she obtained her law degree.” Typically, the independent clause can also precede the dependent clause:  “Once she obtained her law degree, the meek woman became notoriously domineering.” Either way, such constructions form what’s known as a complex sentence—one where a subordinate clause draws meaning from an independent clause.


Grammatically, a subordinate clause formed by most of the subordinating conjunctions functions adverbially and modifies the verb in the independent clause, as in “The rogue senator continued to attack the government although he was already behind bars for a drug-related offense.” Here, the subordinate clause “although he was already behind bars for a drug-related offense” functions as an adverbial clause modifying the verb “continued” in the main clause.

A few of the subordinating conjunctions form dependent clauses that function as an adjective clause or direct object instead. This is the case with the subordinating conjunction “that,” as in this example: “The negotiators ultimately worked out a peace treaty that was accepted by the warring countries.” Here, the dependent clause “that was accepted by the warring countries” works as an adjective modifying “peace treaty.”

Then here’s a sentence where the subordinator “that” introduces a dependent clause functioning as a direct object: “The arrested illegal-drug courier protested that she got a bum rap from the police.” Here, the dependent clause “that she got a bum rap from the police” works as the direct object of the verb “protested” in the main clause.

Next: Mastery of the connectives can make us write much better (May 18, 2017)

*This column is again being posted in the Forum as it appeared in the Education Section of The Manila Times (paper edition) today, May 11, 2017. It was earlier posted here online last April 17, 2017 as part of the series on English connectives.
15  Joe Carillo's Desk / Getting to Know English / Verbs to tie up loose ends on: May 10, 2017, 11:08:13 PM
One common reason why some foreigners sound funny or confusing when speaking in English is their missing linking verbs. For instance, even well-educated Japanese, Korean, or Chinese executives, impeccable in most other respects, make English remarks like the following without realizing that there is something wrong with them: “This really good product.” “Books very expensive.” “Mr. Alberto here now.” “She coming office today.” They don’t sound right, of course, because the linking verbs are missing—and often the articles and prepositions, too! This happens even if they think they are scrupulously following the regular English subject-verb-predicate routine: “Miss Reyes taking taxi airport.” “Travel agent sending Akira ticket.” “Driver getting car now.” Linking verbs are simply not part of the speakers’ mindset, so they unconsciously skip them and come up with incomplete English sentences without blushing.
 

This erroneous manner of English speech is understandable because the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese languages—and surely a great many other languages as well—do not need or provide for the use of linking verbs. They are configured such that their sentences can work perfectly without this form of grammar to prop them up. English, on the other hand, is greatly dependent on linking verbs. Otherwise known as copular verbs, linking verbs connect the subject to a complement, which you will remember is the word or group of words that complete the predicate. Linking verbs do not act on an object but simply make English sentences flow correctly and smoothly. Without them, in fact, English may still work but will be like a paraplegic dragging itself around a room.

There are two groups of linking verbs in the English language: current linking verbs, and resulting linking verbs. Current linking verbs indicate a state of the subject, while resulting linking verbs indicate that the verb complement’s role is a result of the process described in the verb. We will discuss these two groups in more detail in a little while, but first we need to understand one very important aspect of linking verbs: they must be followed by a complement to make the sentence complete. The complement may either be a subject complement, which follows the subject-verb-complement (SVC) sentence pattern, or an adverbial, which follows the subject-verb-adverbial (SVA) pattern.

Now let’s see how linking verbs function in these two sentence patterns. In the SVC pattern, the complement can be any of these: (1) a noun phrase or a noun clause, (2) an adjective, and (3) a noun phrase connected to another linking verb by “to be.”  What follows are examples of how the linking verb “be” works in its various forms.

When the complement is a noun phrase or a noun clause: “This is a perfect vacation getaway.” “Our conclusion is that the thief used the backdoor to enter the house.” “Jonathan became a vagabond.”

When the complement is an adjective: “Emma stayed unruffled.” “The painting looks very impressive.” “Danilo became very happy when he heard the news.”

When the complement is a noun phrase connected to another linking verb by “to be”:  “Everything seems to be in order here.” “That proved to be the last straw.” “The judge appears to be flustered.”

The use of “to be” is not absolutely needed in the preceding three sentences. “Everything seems in order here.” “That proved the last straw.” “The judge appears flustered.” but Standard English prefers an infinitive construction with “to be” rather than a stand-alone noun phrase. Also, American English is partial to constructions where the linking verb is followed by the adjective “like”: “It seems like Greg does not wish to be disturbed.” “They look like they are doing very well.” “It feels like it’s summer now.”

In the subject-verb-adverbial or SVA pattern, the verb “be” acts as the main linking verb between the subject and the adverbial, the most common of which are place and time adverbials. Examples:  “Your bedroom is in the basement.” “Their cousins are in Laguna.” “The reunion will be at 9:30 tomorrow.” Notice that this pattern is the normal, day-to-day way of describing the state or condition of things. You know, of course, that creative writers are under pressure to veer away from such passive usage and to use more active verbs, like “lies” instead of “is” in the first sentence (“Your bedroom lies in the basement.”), “live” instead of “are” in the second (“Their cousins live in Laguna.”), and “starts” instead of “will be” in the third (“The reunion starts at 9:30 tomorrow.”).

Now that we know how linking verbs work, we can now discuss current linking verbs and resulting linking verbs in more detail. As you may have already noticed, the verb “be” in all its forms is the unchallenged star of the linking verbs. It holds a special place in the English language because it is an all-around—some say overused—verb that can function as the main verb of the sentence, instead of just acting as an auxiliary verb. Look at the ways it works in the following sentences: “I am at home evenings from 6:30.” “This is a flawed contract.” “Her dresses were very flashy.” “The workers have been idle since mid-afternoon.” “The store inventory will be in the last day of March.”

It should also be clear by now that “be” is by no means the only linking verb in the English language, as mentioned in a previous chapter. There are 11 common current linking verbs in all, including “be,” and seven resulting linking verbs, for a total of 18. The current linking verbs are the following: appear, be, feel, lie, look, remain, seem, smell, sound, stay, and taste. The resulting linking verbs, on the other hand, are become, get, grow, fall, prove, run, and turn. You must already be very familiar with them, so we will only give a few examples of how they are used. Current linking verbs: “Their suggestion seems fishy.” “Adele appeared happy when she came out of the room.” Resulting linking verbs: “The toad became a prince.” “Justine fell in love in autumn.” “The strategy proved useful.”

As you can see, linking verbs are at your beck and call when you don’t need a hyperactive verb, or when you are more interested in describing an unfolding process rather than its consequences. Use them so there won’t be loose ends in your sentences.

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 7 in the Rediscovering the Verbs section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
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