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 1 
 on: Today at 09:37:16 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Playlist Update (March 18-25, 2017) for the Forum Gateway on Facebook


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 FOR MARCH 18 - 25, 2017:
(Latest down to earlier postings)

1. “A puzzling peculiarity of grammatical objects in English (March 24)



2. “Avoiding sexism in our English” (March 23)


 
3. “A rule of thumb for the absurdly bloated genre of memoir writing” (March 23)



4. “My misgivings when people wish me more power” (March 22)


Image: MorePowerToYou-image-4.jpg
      
5. “The grammar of antecedents in English” (March 22)



6. “The correct, judicious forms of address in a bureaucracy” (March 21)



7. “Sol Stein shows the way to strong, memorable, and marketable writing” (March 20)



8. “Is it true that we’re just an impurity in an otherwise beautiful universe?” (March 20)



9. “Why it’s easier to speak fluently in English than to write well in English” (March 19)



10. “English Plain and Simple” has new slot and sked in The Manila Times (March 18)




CLASSIC FORUM POSTINGS:

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



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



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



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



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



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



Click this link to earlier Playdate features!

 2 
 on: Today at 02:57:17 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Sometime ago a Russian who writes well in English joined Jose Carillo’s English Forum and, for starters, asked me to clarify a puzzling peculiarity of English grammatical objects.

Ivan Ivanov—that was his username—was sure that in “She gave me the report,” the pronoun “me” is the indirect object while the noun “report” is the direct object. But then he wondered what kind of object “me” is in “She gave it to me” and “She did it for me.” He asked: “Can we call it a prepositional object or, if that’s a wrong term, would it be better to say that ‘to me’ and ‘for me’ are just prepositional phrases?”

I suggested that we do a quick review of the three kinds of English objects first to clearly see how each of them works.

To begin with, an object is a noun or pronoun that denotes the goal or result of the verb’s action. It is of three kinds: direct object, indirect object, and object of the preposition.


A direct object receives the verb’s action or shows the result of that action. In “The mechanic fixed the car,” for example, the noun “car” is the direct object because it’s the entity acted upon by the verb “fixed.”

An indirect object receives the direct object of the verb. It’s the secondary goal of the verb’s action—an intermediary or “pass-on” receiver. In “Alex gave me a ride,” “me” is an indirect object because it’s only a “pass-on” receiver of the noun “ride,” which is the direct object.

An object of the preposition is a noun or pronoun introduced by a preposition to complete the meaning of a phrase that modifies a sentence. This modifying phrase is what’s known as a prepositional phrase. For example, in “The unsavory revelations against the politician placed his integrity under a cloud of doubt,” the noun phrase “a cloud of doubt” is the object of the preposition “under.”

 
VERB WITH DIRECT OBJECT AND INDIRECT OBJECT

VERB WITH OBJECT OF THE PREPOSITION


VERB WITH DIRECT OBJECT, MODIFYING PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE,
INDIRECT OBJECT, AND OBJECT OF THE PREPOSITION

Now let’s figure out why Ivan found it tough to categorize the objects in these sentences that he presented at the outset: “She gave it to me.” “She did it for me.”

Their syntax looks pretty normal. The pronoun “it” as direct object comes right after the verb “gave” and “did,” respectively, while the pronoun “me” as indirect object takes the tail end.

However, an unusual thing happens when the direct object isn’t “it” but a noun like, say, “laptop” or “favor.” In “She gave me the laptop” and “She did me a favor,” for instance, “me” has moved from the tail end to a position right after the verb. This question then comes to mind: Did “me” change status from indirect object to direct object in the process?

Then something even more unusual happens when “laptop” and “favor” are reverted to the pronoun “it,” their original form. This produces these awkward, bad-sounding, and fuzzy constructions: “She gave me it.” “She did me it.” Clearly, a sentence becomes dysfunctional when it lumps the verb with a direct object and indirect object that are both pronouns, for it seriously blurs the distinction between direct object and indirect object.

English avoids such unsightly collocations with this expedient: positioning the direct object “it” right after the verb and moving the indirect object “me” to the tail end. There, “me” becomes what Ivan correctly called a prepositional object.

In the process, the first sentence that baffled him becomes the clearer, better-sounding “She gave it to me,” where “me” is now the object of the preposition “to”; the second sentence becomes “She did it for me,” where “me” is now the object of the preposition “for.” In both constructions, however, “me” retains its function as the verb’s indirect object.

This is one neat way English fixes the syntax of objects that become awkward bedfellows.

This essay, 1034th in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of the March 23, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 3 
 on: Today at 09:13:12 AM 
Started by Kal - Last post by Kal
Hello Jose,

I was watching Jeopardy and I found out that the US had once occupied the Philippines up until 1948 becoming an independent country. That would explain why American English is the dominant second language dialect spoken over British English. I was always wondering that and I was trying to figure that out. I had assumed that American English was the preferred dialect because the american media is pervasive around the world. Now, I know that it is not the case. However, I do have a vague memory from years ago that the Philippines were under the rule of the Americans. It is good to know that fact and I intend on getting more information about it. Well, that is what I want to share. Have at it.


 4 
 on: March 23, 2017, 09:04:48 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
A new member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum who uses the username Miss Mae asked me this very interesting question a few days ago:

“I just would like to know your opinion about using both ‘he’ and ‘she’ as pronouns for a third-person subject. Some media outfits still use only ‘he’ when the third-person subject is unknown, and I’m still getting you-must-be-a-feminist stare whenever I decide to just use ‘she’ in some of my writings. What should I keep in mind?”

Here’s my reply to Miss Mae:

The English language indeed has an inherent gender bias, particularly in the conventional use of the male pronouns “he,” “him,” and “his” when the antecedent is a noun of indefinite gender, as in “A trustworthy lawyer is he who respects confidences,” or an indefinite pronoun like “everyone” or “everybody,” as in “Everyone is entitled to his opinion.” The easy way out is, of course, to use the “he or she” form, as in “A trustworthy lawyer is he or she who respects confidences,” or the “his or her” form, as in “Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.” This is fine if you’ll use the “he or she” form or “his or her” form only once or at most twice in a typical page of written work, but it could grate on the reader’s nerves when repeated several times.



I must tell you frankly, though, that you would be gender-biased yourself in favor of women—and deserve to get that you-must-be-a-feminist stare—if you habitually use the “she” or “her” form when referring to antecedents of indefinite gender, as in “A trustworthy lawyer is she who respects confidences” and “Everyone is entitled to her opinion.” Both forms do look and sound like you’re rubbing it in against men, so I’d suggest that you confine such usage only when you’re in the company of an all-female group like, say, the Women Lawyers League.

A much better and more politic way of dealing with gender bias is to avoid it in your writing and speech as best you can. For the same situations in the sentences taken up above, you can do the following:

1. Use “one” instead of “he” or “she”: “A trustworthy lawyer is one who respects confidences.” Or pluralize the antecedent noun to avoid making a gender choice: “Trustworthy lawyers are they who respect confidences.”

2. Pluralize the antecedent indefinite pronoun to avoid making a gender choice:All are entitled to their opinion.”  

One more thing: You need to be extra-sensitive to the need to avoid gender bias even in less obviously gender-skewed sentence constructions. For example, you need to cultivate the art of avoiding writing or saying, “Everybody is enjoined to bring his wife to the club picnic this weekend.” The gender-bias-free construction for that sentence is, of course, “All are enjoined to bring their spouses to the club picnic this weekend.” (2010)

TEST YOURSELF ON ANOTHER GRAMMAR MATTER:  Another member of the English Forum—computer chair is his or her user name—sent me the item below from an English-proficiency test and asked me to analyze the answer choices. See if you can figure out the correct answer and explain why it’s correct and the others, wrong.

In each of the following sentences, part of the sentence or the entire sentence is underlined. Beneath each sentence you will find five ways of phrasing the underlined part. Choose the best answer.

“Outsourcing jobs to a consulting firm in another country is more cost-effective than paying employees locally, but overwhelmingly negative are its effects on customer satisfaction.”

(A) overwhelmingly negative are its effects on customer satisfaction
(B) it has overwhelmingly negative customer satisfaction effects
(C) in its customer satisfaction effects it is overwhelmingly negative
(D) there are the overwhelmingly negative effects in customer satisfaction
(E) its effects on customer satisfaction are overwhelmingly negative

I invite you to share your analysis of that sentence and your best answer by posting it on my Facebook Gateway or directly in the Forum discussion board that follows this essay.
----------------------------
This essay, 696th of the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the June 26, 2010 issue of The Manila Times, © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 5 
 on: March 22, 2017, 12:12:30 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Do you have a clear idea of what an antecedent in English grammar is?

Recall now that an antecedent is the noun, noun phrase, or noun clause that a pronoun refers to in a sentence. It’s normally found in a sentence before a pronoun, but it can sometimes also come after that pronoun. In any case, the grammar rule is that any pronoun that refers to this antecedent must agree with it in person (whether first, second, or third person), case (whether nominative or subjective, objective, or possessive), and number (whether singular or plural). For example, the noun “Roberto” is the antecedent of the pronoun “he” in this sentence: “Roberto finally found the book he had been looking for.”


An antecedent need not be a noun; it can also be a noun phrase, as in this sentence: “The basic computer course that Ana wants to take is currently offered by the school, but it costs twice her budget for it.” Here, the antecedent is the entire noun phrase “the basic computer course that Ana wants to take,” and the pronoun “it” refers to that antecedent.

And an antecedent can also be a noun clause, as in this sentence: “What transpired during his long meeting with his boss disturbed Armando, and it gave him bad dreams for several nights.” Here, the noun clause “what transpired during his long meeting with his boss” is the antecedent of “it” in that sentence. In the noun clause, the noun “Armando” is the antecedent of the possessive pronoun “his,” which modifies the nouns “long meeting” and “boss.”

When the antecedent is in plural form or is a compound—meaning two or more nouns—the pronoun that refers to that antecedent must also be in plural form, as in this sentence: “His manager and his wife are demanding quality time from Steve, and they both won’t accept compromises.” Here, “his manager and his wife” is a compound antecedent, so the pronoun referring to it is the plural-form “they.” Note that the noun “Steve” is itself the antecedent of the possessive pronoun “his,” which is used twice in the noun phrase.

Now test your understanding of antecedents by answering the test question below in a practice test for the SAT Reasoning Test, the standardized college admissions test in the United States. The item was sent to me recently by a member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum, who asked for an explanation of the correct answer and the grammar behind that answer.

“__________ the orchestra for six concerts, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was scheduled.”

(A) After conducting
(B) After his conducting
(C) While conducting
(D) Although he had conducted
(E) After he had conducted

Which answer is correct?

Here’s my analysis of the answer choices:  

It couldn’t be B because the pronoun “his” in the subordinate phrase “after his conducting the orchestra for six concerts” doesn’t have a proper antecedent noun or pronoun that, logically, should denote a musical conductor. “Beethoven’s” couldn’t be that antecedent because it’s in the possessive case, and neither could it be “Ninth Symphony,” being an inanimate object.

Neither could A and C be correct because both don’t have an antecedent noun doing the action; for the same reason as in B above, “Beethoven’s” and “Ninth Symphony” couldn’t be that antecedent noun. D couldn’t be correct either, for its subordinating conjunction, “although,” makes the statement illogical.

The only answer that’s both grammatically and logically correct is E. With E as subordinate phrase to the main clause, the nominative pronoun “he” is properly supplied as doer of the action of conducting the orchestra, and the past participle “had conducted” is the correct tense for the repeated action in the indefinite past. With E, the sentence works properly because both the main clause and the subordinate phrase are properly constructed, then logically linked by the subordinating conjunction “after.” (2010)  

This essay, 543rd in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the June 19, 2010 issue of The Manila Times, © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 6 
 on: March 19, 2017, 11:43:35 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Question by Marie Anne Santos Fernandez through the Forum’s Facebook Gateway (March 19, 2017):

Hello Sir!

Is the sentence “Listening to music while eating my fave finger food GIVES me such a relief and relaxation,” correct?

I’m a bit confused with the use of singular and plural verb in that statement.

My reply to Mary Anne:

The sentence “Listening to music while eating my fave finger food gives me such a relief and relaxation” is grammatically correct. The use of the adverb “while” to indicate simultaneity of the two progressive actions “listening to music” and “eating my fave finger food” makes them one contiguous action, thus requiring the singular form “gives” instead of the plural form “gives.” It would have been different if those two actions were linked by the additive conjunction “and”; in that case, the sense would be plural and the verb’s plural form “give” would be called for: “Listening to music and eating my fave finger food give me such a relief and relaxation.”

Incidentally, the verb phrases “listening to music” and “eating my fave finger food” may also be viewed as gerund phrases that become one contiguous gerund phrase when linked by “with,” thus needing the verb’s singular form ”gives,” and become two distinct additive phrases when linked by “and,” thus needing the verb’s plural form ”give.” The result is the same as discussed in the paragraph above, with the verb taking the singular form "gives" when the linking conjunction is "while" and taking the plural form "give" when the linking conjunction is "and."

 7 
 on: March 19, 2017, 09:19:47 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
My “English Plain and Simple” column in The Manila Times has moved from the paper’s Op-Ed section to its new Education Section (print edition only) effective February 16, 2017. It now comes out Thursdays instead of Saturdays. To access the columns online, simply click this link to the Forum: http://tinyurl.com/lx4fpzs


 8 
 on: March 19, 2017, 07:40:33 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Who hasn’t stumbled grammatically when comparing things in English, like saying “Less professors than expected have applied for the vacancy in that once-reputable college of law” or “The public is now showing fewer tolerance for the arrogance of that fallen public official”? Usually, the speaker becomes conscious of the embarrassing error only a few seconds later, but the damage to his or her self-esteem is irreparable. For there’s really no way to justify why those simple comparatives weren’t said correctly off the cuff, the first as “Fewer professors than expected have applied for the vacancy in that once-reputable college of law,” and the second as “The public is now showing less tolerance for the arrogance of that fallen public official.”

Sizing up and comparing things is one of humankind’s strongest instincts, so it’s really no surprise that every language evolves a well-defined grammar for comparatives. As we all should know by now, English does this in either of two ways: (a) by adding the suffix “-er” to the positive form of an adjective (or adverb), as in “deeper” for “deep,” or (b) by putting the modifiers “more” or “less” ahead of a polysyllabic adjective derived from a foreign language, as in “more expensive” and “less appetizing.”

To complete the comparative form, English places the subordinating conjunction “than” between the two elements being compared: “The condominium units here are more expensive than those situated in the commercial district.” “This restaurant’s cooking is more (less) appetizing than that of the restaurant in front.” In these comparative constructions, the first element is a clause that expresses the difference (as in “the condominium units here are more expensive”), and the second element is introduced by the subordinating conjunction “than” (“than those situated in the commercial district”).

Always keep in mind though that in two-clause sentences, the following two-part subordinating conjunctions are used instead of “than”: (a) “as/not as…as,” as in “Our Davao apartelles are as (not as) big as our Tagaytay apartelles”; (b) “not so/not as…as,” as in “Her second starring role is not so (not as) sensual as her first”; (c) “the same…as,” as in “The weight of his luggage was the same as that in his previous flight”; and (d) “less/more…than,” as in “Their wedding reception cost more (less) than they anticipated.”

Most English speakers quickly get adept at using these comparative forms, but as stated in the outset, the choice between using the comparatives “fewer” and “less” does present some conceptual difficulty. It requires clearly knowing beforehand whether the noun to be modified by them is countable or noncountable.

Something is countable, of course, when we can figure out without difficulty how many of it there are; we then use “number” as an indefinite measure for it, as in “the number of houses” and the “a number of guests.” On the other hand, something is noncountable if it’s in bulk form and counting its constituent units would be insufferably difficult or impossible; we then use “amount” as a measure for it, as in “the amount of water” and “a great amount of exertion.”

For plural count nouns, or things that use “number” as measure, the comparative “fewer” is used, as in “There are fewer viewers of her provocative blogs now than last week.” However, for singular mass nouns or things that use “amount” as measure,  the comparative “less” is used, as in “Our truck fleet consumed less diesel fuel this week than last week.” We should also take note that when a plural count noun is thought of as an aggregate, “amount” is more appropriate than “number” as a measure for it, as in “You can ship to us any amount of Hawaiian pineapples you can produce.”

With this, we should be better off in avoiding stumbles when using comparatives from now on.

This essay, 1032nd in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of  the March 16, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 9 
 on: March 19, 2017, 07:20:15 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
I can’t help but wince—sometimes even groan audibly—when an impressive speaker ruins a perfectly fluent speech in English with a hesitant, obviously uncomfortable delivery of a sentence like “Everybody must give his share to this noble undertaking.” Such stumbles show a less than full grasp of the grammar of the indefinite pronouns, which as we are taught early in English should always agree with the number of their antecedent nouns as well as with their gender.

This subject-verb disagreement problem frequently arises when an indefinite pronoun is used as doer or receiver of the action in a sentence with no specific antecedent noun. It’s easy to figure out if an indefinite pronoun is singular or plural, of course, but there’s often no way of knowing beforehand what gender to use for its possessive form. Consider the indefinite pronouns “all” and “somebody” in this sentence, for instance: “All of us [is, are] agreed that this mission must be accomplished, but somebody who has [his, her] personal interests foremost in [his, her] mind must inhibit [himself, herself] from joining it.”

That the verb “are” for the pronoun “all” is clear, of course, but whether to use “his” or “her” as the possessive of the pronoun “somebody,” and whether to use “himself” or “herself” as its reflexive pronoun, are very thorny choices indeed! This ambiguity has given rise to certain conventions—some self-evident and some rather arbitrary—to make sure that the grammar of the indefinite pronouns remains beyond reproach.

Before discussing these conventions, though, we need to review the indefinite pronouns to be doubly sure which are notionally singular, plural, or which can be either singular or plural depending on how they are used.

The definitely singular indefinite pronouns: “another,” “anybody,” “anyone,” “anything,” “each,” “either,” “everybody,” “everyone,” “everything,” “little,” “much,” “neither,” “nobody,” “no one,” “nothing,” “one,” “other,” “somebody,” “someone,” and “something.” Except for three, they take singular possessive pronouns and singular reflexive pronouns; the only problem is that their gender is indeterminate. (The exceptions are “little,” “much,” and “other,” which can be used in more limited ways: “Little is done by people who only talk.” “Much is accomplished through hard work.” “Other than him, who is to blame?”)

The definitely plural indefinite pronouns: “both,” “few,” “many,” “others,” and “several.” All five are no-brainers as to their number: they are plural through and through. Each can take the plural possessive pronoun “their” and the reflexive “themselves,” and we don’t even have to think about gender at all when using them.

The indefinite pronouns that are either singular or plural: “all,” “any,” “more,” “most,” “none,” and “some.” They are singular or plural depending on what they refer to. Singular: “All of that book is pure, unmitigated thrash.” Plural: “The singers are at the studio; all are rehearsing their songs.”

We still have the recurrent dilemma of what gender to use for the singular indefinite possessives. The default usage, of course, is the possessive pronoun “his” when no information is available about the antecedent noun’s gender: “Everybody must give his share to this noble undertaking.” Only in one instance, when the statement refers to a known all-female group, is this default ignored: “Everybody in this women’s league must give her share to this noble undertaking.”

Users of the indefinite possessive have come up with two more options to avoid the male bias in using “him” as default. The first option is to use “his or her,” as in “Everybody must give his or her share to this undertaking.” However, this becomes very awkward with repeated use, so that many writers and speakers take the much better option of reconstructing the entire sentence, using a plural antecedent indefinite pronoun instead do away with the need to establish gender: “All must give their share to this noble undertaking.”

This essay,1032nd in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of the March 9, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 10 
 on: March 19, 2017, 06:56:54 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
I don’t remember answering in this column this admittedly tough question asked by Forum member English Maiden some years back: “I’ve always wondered if this line in a well-known song is grammatically wrong: ‘All I hear is raindrops falling on the rooftop.’ That the noun ‘raindrops’ after the verb ‘is’ is plural makes me doubt the correctness of that line. Can we correct it by changing the singular verb ‘is’ to the plural ‘are,’ as in ‘All I hear are raindrops’?

“I also face the same issue with the pronoun ‘what.’ Oftentimes I’m unsure whether to use a singular or plural noun with it. Should I say, ‘What I enjoy watching most is horror movies’ or ‘What I enjoy watching most are horror movies’?”

This is the reply to English Maiden that I posted in my online English-usage forum:

Strictly speaking, there’s a subject-verb disagreement in that song lyric: “All I hear is raindrops falling on the rooftop.” The linking verb should take the plural form “are” because it refers to both the notionally plural pronoun “all” as subject and to the plural noun “raindrops” in the predicate.That sentence should then read as follows: “All I hear are raindrops falling on the rooftop.”

That this should be the case can easily be checked by putting the sentence in this inverted form: “Raindrops falling on the rooftop are all I hear.” In this form, it’s pretty obvious that the subject of the sentence is the noun phrase “raindrops falling on the rooftop,” where the head noun “raindrops” is doubtless plural, so the linking verb should be in the plural form “are.”

Having said that, I must acknowledge that the line in question comes from the lyrics of Canadian singer Tamia’s 2004 song “Officially Missing You” that goes this way:

All I hear is raindrops
Falling on the rooftop
Oh baby tell me why’d you have to go
Cause this pain I feel
It won’t go away
And today I’m officially missing you…

As we know, song lyric writers—like poets—sometimes need to take liberties with words and the language itself to achieve the tonality, cadence, and number of syllables they need for the lyrics of a song. For this purpose, they enjoy a literary license that allows them to take minor liberties with language for creativity’s sake, the better to make their creative works aesthetically enjoyable and entertaining. No point therefore in quibbling with the grammar violations they occasionally commit for the sake of creativity and euphony.

A few days afterwards, English Maiden sent me this postscript: “OK, thanks for your explanation, sir. I figured that out, too, and so I initially thought that the lyric was wrong. But then I realized that as a pronoun, ‘all’ can also mean ‘everything,’ as in ‘All is fine now.’ So, I'm thinking that if that’s the meaning intended by the writer of that song, then the line is grammatically correct because if we replace ‘all’ with ‘everything,’ then the verb ‘is’ perfectly agrees in number with the pronoun, as in that song: ‘Everything I hear is raindrops.’

English Maiden’s afterthought about this subject-verb agreement conundrum actually makes a lot of sense, but I don’t think it would be adequate to settle the matter. Much, much later, I came across a clearer, more practical way of resolving this subject-verb agreement peculiarity when sentences need to be inverted (http://tinyurl.com/j9b8afv). Here’s that rule of the thumb: When the subject and predicate of a sentence differs in number, the linking verb agrees with the number of the noun phrase to its left side. Thus, the normative “Raindrops falling on the rooftop are all I hear” inverts to “All I hear is raindrops falling on the rooftop.”

Isn’t that grammatical scheme neat? Try it on your “horror movies” sentence.

This essay, 1031st  in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of the March 2, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

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