Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Simply to Get the Ball Rolling  (Read 30932 times)
Joe Carillo
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Karma: +52/-2
Posts: 3253


View Profile Email
« on: March 25, 2009, 10:40:03 PM »

To get the ball rolling for this forum, let me share with you my answers to six questions posed to me by readers of “English Plain and Simple,” my weekly column that comes out Saturdays in both the print and online editions of The Manila Times.

Question #1: Is “not unless” a redundant phrase?

Mr. Joseph P.S. wrote:

I wanted to ask if the phrase “not unless” is redundant. Isn’t the correct form only the single word “unless,” or are they both correct? My instructor told me about this, but I read a couple of books where “not unless” is used. I find this very confusing. (February 22, 2003)

My reply to Joseph:

The usage of “not unless” is acceptable and not necessarily redundant, as in the following question-and-answer sequence: “Can I use copyrighted material for my book?” “Not unless you have permission from the author or publisher.” In the answer, the phrase “not unless you have permission” is the positive equivalent of the double-negative “not if you don’t have permission.” In other words, “not unless” is functioning here as a negated preposition that means “not if you don’t,” yielding for the question-and-answer sequence this equivalent meaning: “Can I use copyrighted material for my book?” “Yes, but you need to have permission from the author or publisher.” (March 5, 2009)

Question #2:Is the phrase “most often than not” correct usage?

Dr. Tony B., M.D., wrote:

I have heard some toastmasters, meaning those who are members of Toastmasters International (some are even English teachers), saying, “...most often than not...” I cringe when I hear that, aware that it should be “more often than not.” “Most often” should and could stand on its own. Could you enlighten me on this?

My reply to Dr. Tony:

You’re absolutely right! The phrase “most often than not” is bad grammar. The correct usage is “most often” and, as you say, it can very well stand on its own without the comparative “than not.” When “most” is used with an adjective or adverb to form the superlative, as in the case of “most often,” it makes no semantic or logical sense to diminish the superlative aspect through further modification. Only with comparatives below the superlative, as in the case of “more often,” can further modification be made to indicate greater or lower degree (as in “more often than not,” “more often than expected,” and “more often than usual”).

You can tell your fellow Toastmasters and colleagues that this is why the phrase “more often than not” is semantically and logically correct, while “most often than not” is excruciatingly bad grammar and usage. (February 5, 2009)

Question #3: Which is correct, “on behalf”? or “in behalf”? “With regards to” or “in regards to”?

Ms. Anita T. wrote from Canada:

Will you please clarify the use of “on behalf” and “in behalf” in these sentences? “On behalf of my family, I extend my best wishes to you all.” “In behalf of my family, I extend my best wishes to you all.” I’d say “On behalf of my [whatever].” Isn’t that right?

Another thing: Between “with regards to” and “in regards to,” which one is right?” 

My reply to Anita:

“On behalf” and “in behalf” are both correct usage, and today they tend to be used interchangeably, particularly in American English. But The American Heritage Book of English Usage cites this traditional rule: use “on behalf of” to mean “as agent of, on the part of,” and use “in behalf” to mean “for the benefit of.” Examples: “Robert accepted the ‘Best Performer’ trophy on behalf of his sister Angela, who was on a European singing tour.” “The Class of ’92 held a benefit concert in behalf of the flood victims.” The two phrases are actually very close in meaning. In my case, I prefer “on behalf of” and will not worry about my choice at all.

As to “with regards to” and “in regards to,” both are unacceptable usage.  In fact, the Columbia Guide to Standard American English considers “with regards to” Nonstandard English. However, an idiomatic use close to that phrase—but definitely not the same phrase—is standard in complimentary closes to letters: “With my best regards...” “With my regards to your family...” Otherwise, ban “with regards to” completely from your writing and conversations.

The better connective expressions to draw a listener’s attention to something are “regarding” and “with regard to.” They are synonymous with “in relation to” and “with respect to,” both of which sound less stiff and more relaxed. There are, of course, two other acceptable variations of the “regard” phrases: “as regards,” and “in regard to.” The use of “as regards,” however, results in stiff business English, as in this sentence: “As regards your proposal to hire another typist, I regret to say that it was disapproved.” Using “in regard to” is even stiffer, more officious, almost standoffish—as if the speaker were looking down on you from a high pedestal: “In regard to your proposal to hire another typist, I regret to say that it was disapproved.” It is much better to say this: “Regarding your proposal to hire another typist, I regret to say that it was disapproved.” Or this: “With regard to your proposal to hire another typist, I regret to say that it was disapproved.” (March 7, 2003)

Question #4: When do you use “would” and when do you use “will”?

Mr. Napoleon C. wrote:

I’m not so sure which of these two sentences is grammatically right: “I hope that you would get well soon!” “I hope you will get well soon!”

Please tell me.

My reply to Nap:

The first one is the grammatically correct sentence: “I hope that you would get well soon!” Relative noun clauses that follow verbs like “hope,” “wish,” “expect,” and “dream” normally require the modal “would” for the verb rather than the future tense form “will.” This is to indicate that the action is just a wished-for thing and is not sure to happen or take place.

For the verbs “wish,” “expect,” and “dream,” therefore, we should similarly use the modal “would”: “I wish that you would get well soon!” “I expect that you would get well soon!” “I dream that you would get well soon!”

In contrast, when certainty is expressed that an action will occur, the future tense “will + verb” should be used: “I am sure that you will get well soon!” “I am positive that you will get well soon!” “I am certain that you will get well soon!”

The sentence “I hope you will get well soon!” is actually an elliptical form of the sentence “I hope that you will get well soon!” In this form of elliptical sentences, the conjunction “that” is dropped for brevity and ease of articulation. Nevertheless, the dropping of the conjunction “that” in such constructions doesn’t mean that the modal character of the expected action is changed to outright certainty. Thus, the elliptical sentence still requires the modal “would” to indicate that uncertainty: “I hope you would get well soon!”

Similarly, for the verbs “wish,” “expect,” and “dream,” we should use the modal “would” if we choose to make the sentences elliptical: “I wish you would get well soon!” “I expect you would get well soon!” “I dream you would get well soon!” (June 7, 2008)

Question #5: Do you say “Best wishes!” to an ailing person?

Ms. Donna S. wrote from India:

I would like to know: At the end of the letter, when you want to wish a person to get well soon, is it appropriate to say “Best wishes”? Or would that imply something else?

My reply to Donna:

No, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say “Best wishes!” at the tail end of a get-well letter. That reminds me of an anecdote told to me by one of my staff. She recalled that during the wake of her late father, one of the family’s female acquaintances gently hugged her and whispered, “Happy condolences!” The remark was so shockingly inappropriate that my staff says she simply didn’t know how to react.

The much better way to end a get-well letter, I think, is to simply say “Do get well soon!” and close. (December 3, 2004)
« Last Edit: April 10, 2009, 09:48:08 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

Neysa Custodio
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 4


eileenneysa@yahoo.com
View Profile WWW Email
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2009, 03:21:52 PM »

Hi, Mr. Carillo!

I'm happy you invited me to your Forum. Now I have another place to run to in case my students have any questions I couldn't answer.

Anyway, as I was browsing through the sample questions, the last one caught my attention. It concerns your reply to the last inquiry. One of your sentences went: That reminds me of an anecdote told to me by one of my staff.

Isn't it when using the word tell it must be followed by a direct personal object?

I went to several English grammar websites to make sure they all said the same thing, and they did. So your sentence should be: That reminds me of an anecdote one of my staff told me.

I could be wrong, though.  Smiley

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv12.shtml
http://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/cw-say-tell.htm
http://faculty.washington.edu/marynell/grammar/tellsay.html
Logged

English Specialist
The American Institute for English Proficiency
227 Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City
8931566
www.aiepro.org
Joe Carillo
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Karma: +52/-2
Posts: 3253


View Profile Email
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2009, 01:48:31 AM »

The form “an anecdote told to me by…” is a common English expression that’s grammatically and structurally correct in every way (there are at this moment 745 entries in Google making this particular usage), in the same way as the more common “a story told to me by…” (16,900 entries).

Remember also the common attribution for feature articles or books written by another person for the supposed author? It goes as follows:My Life as a Recluse by John Doe as told to Jane Doe.”

This clearly shows that the verb “tell” need not be followed by a direct personal object. Indeed, in the form “an anecdote told to me by…”, “told” is actually an intransitive verb in the passive past form acting on the object of the preposition “to,” and that object is, of course, the pronoun “me.” In fact, it's generally only to an object of the preposition that intransitive verbs can “transmit” its action; otherwise, intransitive verbs can’t have a direct object or act on a direct object at all.

The rule you invoked—that the verb “tell” must be followed by a direct personal object—actually applies only to “tell” as a transitive verb, in which case “tell” would absolutely require a direct object to receive its action. This is the case in your proposed version of the form in question: “That reminds me of an anecdote one of my staff told me.” Here, “told” is transitive so it needs the direct object “me” to receive the action; without that direct object, in fact, the sentence collapses and just won’t work. (Work that out in your mind and see what happens.)

One other thought about your version: it’s actually an elliptical form of this construction: “That reminds me of an anecdote that one of my staff told me.” Formally, then, your sentence needs the relative pronoun “that” to work grammatically and to be structurally correct. In informal usage, however, “that” is often dropped from this sentence for brevity and ease of articulation, and the sentence remains semantically correct.

For this reason, Neysa, your version is actually more vulnerable to being grammatically challenged than the version you want to replace. But don’t get me wrong—I’m actually as comfortable with your version as I am with mine. But just you wait until some hidebound classical grammar teacher pounces on your version for its grammatical and structural defect of not having the relative pronoun “that”! I’m sure you’d have to scramble to put up a convincing defense!

« Last Edit: May 04, 2009, 01:50:46 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

tonybau
Jr. Member
**

Karma: +1/-0
Posts: 38


View Profile Email
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2009, 04:31:45 PM »

Dear Mr. Carillo,

Thanks for the invitation and for posting my question on the use of "most often than not".

I promised to get hold of your books. Unfortunately, it seems National Bookstore ran out of copies. They seem to be selling like hotcakes.

On a recent trip going back to Baguio, I ran across a book sold at Razon's along the NL Expressway, I got a book purporting to teach English, thinking it might be yours. Old Al (Alzheimer) reared its head, and I could not recall the title of your book nor your name. I bought it anyway.

As luck would have it, I now have this forum to ask a few questions about grammar used in that book.

Soon,

Dr. Tony


Logged
Joe Carillo
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Karma: +52/-2
Posts: 3253


View Profile Email
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2009, 09:07:13 AM »

We'd be glad to receive your English-usage questions anytime. Just post them here and you should be able to get the answers you need--either from me or from any of the English grammar-savvy people who have already registered in the forum.

Yes, English Plain and Simple (EPS) is currently sold out in practically all bookstores, and only a few copies of The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors (MAGE) are still available in some outlets. But the good news is that my publisher is releasing a new printing of EPS in a week or so. Copies of it should be available in Metro Manila bookstores by then.

If you want a copy of either EPS or MAGE now, though, you can order it through this forum's "Bookshop," which still has several copies in stock.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2009, 01:29:54 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

aurorariel
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 12


View Profile
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2009, 10:18:46 PM »

Hi, Mr. Carillo,

Thank you for inviting me to this forum. 

I agree with and truly like your responses.  In regard to "told me" (with an indirect object) and "told to me" (with an object of the preposition), my desire to vary the expressions (with your correction), stems from the importance of knowing the seriousness of the message and the extent that the message had been subjected to translations and paraphrasing, before it reached me.  "Told to me" suggests a personal and purposeful communication more than "told me" in passing.  "Told the truth" is where we have a direct object.

Many problems in usage that I have seen suggest a need for the speaker to decide what to say more than grammar and usage.  I like your distinction between on behalf (agency) and in behalf (recipient of benefits).  I like your "putting in context" the selected expressions before presenting your suggestions.



 
Logged
silverlokk
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 12


View Profile
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2009, 01:24:45 AM »

Regarding "in regard to" and "as regards" (now that sounds meta-  Smiley ) -- I would rewrite my sentence to avoid them because they sound, as you said, stand-offish. Thus instead of As regards your project proposal, I regret to inform you that the board decided it wasn't feasible., I'd write Unfortunately, the board decided that your project wasn't feasible. I'd have to find a really good reason to use "as regards" or its kin.
Logged
Joe Carillo
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Karma: +52/-2
Posts: 3253


View Profile Email
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2009, 07:44:47 AM »

Your version is actually one of the best ways of saying it. It gets rid of one of the most dismaying and useless expressions in office and academic communication. Indeed, the simpler and more concise, the better and more communicative the statement becomes.

If you work in a corporate office, though, you'd find that a lot of people use "as regards" or "with regards" with flourish not only in their inter-office memos and reports but also verbally. It's as if everybody wanted to sound like a lawyer to give more weight to what he or she is saying. The effect, of course, is the opposite--they sound more like they are talking to paper (when writing) and to the wall (when speaking) than to people.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 10:39:39 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

madgirl09
Full Member
***

Karma: +1/-0
Posts: 124


View Profile
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2009, 05:34:32 PM »

Hm, when can we use "regarding" and "with regard_ to" as these ones are good expressions if used correctly. "Regards" can have many meanings, as well as "regard", right? Could you give more examples of their differences? I used to use all these expressions, but now, can't remember how.
Logged
Joe Carillo
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Karma: +52/-2
Posts: 3253


View Profile Email
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2009, 09:56:03 PM »

Hm, when can we use "regarding" and "with regard_ to" as these ones are good expressions if used correctly. "Regards" can have many meanings, as well as "regard", right? Could you give more examples of their differences? I used to use all these expressions, but now, can't remember how.

Your question is one that I’m asked very often, so allow me to just post here a column that I wrote discussing it. It appeared in the February 2, 2007 issue of The Manila Times. I hope it clarifies the problematic usage for you and others who might be baffled by it.

With regard to ‘with regards to’

A few days ago, a reader who described her job as drafting letters and taking the minutes of meetings sent me e-mail about an all-too-familiar English usage predicament: “May I request you to write a column on the usage of ‘regard’, ‘regards’, and ‘regarding’? Is it correct to use ‘as regards to the…’ or ‘with regards to the…’? You see, every time I use ‘with regard to…’, my superior always adds ‘s’ to it and I can’t explain to him why the word ‘regard’ in that usage shouldn’t have an ‘s’.”

Here’s my open reply to that reader:

Many years ago, I encountered a similar predicament about the expression “with regards to…” One of my superiors in the company where I used to work had the imperious habit of using “with regards to…”—with “s” always affixed to the word “regard”—every time he wrote a memo: “With regards to your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” The usage sounded so stiff to me, and I thought that “regarding,” “concerning,” or “about” would have done a more natural-sounding job: “Regarding your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” “Concerning your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” “About your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…”

Indeed, when I checked, I found out that “with regards to…” (along with its other dubious variant, “in regards to”) is actually nonstandard usage—what one language authority (The Columbia Guide to Standard American English) called a “shibboleth,” or a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group. In other words, it isn’t generally accepted usage; the standard usage is “with regard to…”: “With regard to your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” As in your case, however, I knew my place in the scheme of things and made no attempt to correct my superior. (After all, you shouldn’t lose your job for having English grammar that’s better than that of your boss.)

So I imagine that until today, that boss of mine still blissfully foists “with regards to…” on superiors and subordinates alike in his memos wherever he’s working now. You see, people who acquire such questionable usage often need the hammer-and-anvil of experience—perhaps a strong-minded superior who knows his or her English usage better—to finally correct themselves.

Other than “regarding,” of course, two other “regard” idioms are considered standard usage: “as regards…” and “in regard to…”: “As regards your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” “In regard to your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” As an advocate of plain and simple English, however, I would advise against their use. Even if many lawyers, bureaucrats, and corporate types find them useful for giving an officious edge to their memos, I think our memos would sound much more pleasant and engaging—and get better results—if they used just plain “regarding,” “concerning,” or “about” instead: “Regarding your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” “Concerning your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” “About your request for transfer, please furnish us with…”

Now, if “with regards to…” and “in regards to” are indeed substandard usage, why is it that people fall into the often-intractable habit of using them? I think it’s because there are actually three similar-sounding “regards” idioms that are standard usage: “give my regards,” “extend my regards,” and “with my regards.” These idioms, however, are not in the same semantic league as “with regards to…” and “in regards to.” Instead, they are expressions of good wishes, the stuff of conventional closings for letters and for other situations that require parting words, as in these expressions: “Give my regards to your wife and children.” “Please extend my regards to the staff.”

And I’ll now use the third such “regards” expression to close this open letter of mine: 

With my best regards,
Joe Carillo

Logged

toprngr
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 5


View Profile
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2010, 04:49:39 PM »

The English language can be confusing at times. And when it comes to grammar, it is getting all over me. Writing, talking, or using the language in any sorts of manner that is possible wouldn’t be a problem for me or for others out there. But when it comes to grammar exercises, it is hard to distinguish which correct and which is not. In fact, that is the worst case that I am encountering with the language.
Logged

tuvpnvpnserver
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 1


View Profile WWW Email
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2011, 02:19:21 AM »

Many problems in usage that I have seen suggest a need for the speaker to decide what to say more than grammar and usage
Logged

jamesblack
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 1

chungkshin@yahoo.com jamesblack jamesblack
View Profile Email
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2011, 04:04:01 PM »

I am too struggling with the grammar for making improvisation in the language, will take some time but hopefully will get it correct one day.
Logged

dogboarding01
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 1


View Profile
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2012, 02:13:20 PM »

get through the thread a couple of time but i am still a little confused
Logged

venture16
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 1


View Profile
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2012, 04:52:22 PM »

Interesting discussion. I really enjoy your post.
Logged

Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to: