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Author Topic: A letter from a purchaser of my English-usage books six years ago (2)  (Read 337 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: December 31, 2016, 06:04:33 AM »

Last week, I presented an appreciative letter from a young software engineer who bought my English-usage books six years ago and this time requested two things from me: to critique the English of her letter to find out if she had actually been learning from my books, and to clarify certain grammar terms and usage.

I assured Nina O. that her letter showed she has a very good grasp of English, with grammatically correct and well-written sentences needing only minor restructuring for better, more free-flowing continuity.

Now let’s proceed to the first of her four grammar questions: What’s the difference between a verb phrase and a phrasal verb? Are they one and the same thing?

No, they are actually different. A verb phrase is one that consists of a main verb and any auxiliaries but excludes whatever modifiers, objects, or complements are used. A verb phrase can be the predicate of the sentence, as in “The missing treasure has been found intact in the farmhouse.” Here, the verb phrase consists of the main verb “found” and the auxiliaries “has” and “been”; together, these three grammar elements form the present perfect tense of the verb “find.”

A verb phrase can also function as an adjective phrase, as in “They found him writhing in pain from a bad fall,” where the adjective phrase “writhing in pain from a bad fall” modifies the object “him”; and as an adverbial phrase, as in “The woman was eager to meet her Facebook friend in person,” where the prepositional phrase “to meet her Facebook friend in person” serves as an adverbial complement of the verb phrase “was eager.”

On the other hand, a phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and an adverb or a verb and a preposition, or both, that yields a meaning different from those of the component words considered separately; in short, a phrasal verb is idiomatic or figurative. For example, the phrasal verb “make up for” means to do something to make a bad situation better, as in “She attended remedial classes to make up for her absences”; and the phrasal verb “face up to” means to accept and try to deal with a problem, as in “The company finally faced up to the fact that its technology had become passé.”

About the statement “I look forward to hearing from you” (gerund version) as opposed to “I look forward to hear from you” (infinitive version): The latter may sound good to the ears as well, but the former is the widely accepted idiomatic way of saying it. Because the difference is almost imperceptible, there’s really not much sense to argue to death whether to use the gerund version or the infinitive version.

As to the choice between “I intend to see you” and “I intend to seeing you,” go tell those TV newscasters and news anchors that it’s bad form and bad sounding to say the latter. There’s actually a rule that says use the infinitive form as complement for single action, as in “I plan to visit you,” and not to use the gerund, which is for ongoing action, as in “We find resting called for at this point.” In the same token, tell them never, never to say “They met together to sharing their expertise” and to simply say “They met together to share their expertise.”

The same rule above—the infinitive form for single action, the gerund form for ongoing action—applies to the choice between “I would be very happy to hear from you again” and “I would be very happy to hearing from you again.” It’s grammatically elegant and—as in your experience—it sounds much better to say “I would be very happy to hear from you again.”

***
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all!

This essay appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times in its December 31, 2016 issue, © 2016 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.
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