Apr 16, 2010

Grammar 101 - Part 3 Prepositions

We’ve all heard the rule, don’t end a sentence with a preposition. But rarely does anyone delineate what a preposition is. So what is a preposition?

A preposition is a word that links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. They indicate location.

**** AN EXEPTION****

Sometimes, a word that looks like a preposition is actually a part of a verb and is called a particle. (Side note: I hate the word particle.)

Here’s an example: “Miguel turned up the radio.”

Up is a preposition, but in this case it is actually a particle. It is part(icle) of the verb “Turned up”. If you’re not sure if it’s a particle or a preposition, try this test: place the word that you are unsure of at the beginning of the sentence.

Up the radio Miguel turned. This sentence makes no sense, and thus you know that “Up” is a particle in the sentence.


Here are examples of prepositions (this is not a complete list, there are about 150 prepositions in the English language):

About • above •according to • across • after • against • along • along with • among • apart from • around • as • as for • at • because of • before • behind • below • beneath • beside • between • beyond • but • by • by means of • concerning • despite • down • during • except • except for • excepting • for • from • in • in addition to • in back of • in case of • in front of• in place of • inside • in spite of • instead of • into • like • near • next • of • off • on • onto • on top of • out • out of • outside • over • past • regarding • round • since • through • throughout • till • to • toward • under •underneath • unlike • until • up • upon •up to • with • within • without

If you’ll notice, “to” is listed in that big-ol-block of text. Yesterday in Who/Whom. I told you the correct way to ask the question was, “Whom does this jacket belong to?” but in reality, the “correct” way to ask this question is, “To whom does this jacket belong?” Because “to” is a preposition and therefore we should never end a sentence with it.

As with who and whom, sometimes using the correct grammar sounds stuffy, in the case of finding out who owns the jacket, it can get even stuffier when two rules are combined! Does that mean that we should ignore these rules? NO! If your grandmother was a stuffy old bag, you wouldn’t ignore her would you? I don’t care that prepositions don’t give you sweets, it is no reason to ignore them!

Often times, a sentence needs to be reworded completely in order to make sense AND follow grammatical law. For instance:

"That is nonsense up with which I shall not put." –W. Churchill.
That doesn’t work at all!

Apr 15, 2010

Grammar 101: Part 2 - Who & Whom

Who is this you might ask? Who, he is, indeed. Dr. Who to be precise. *le-sigh*

Who and Whom- Oh what a fun little subject. (This is going to be fairly long, so if you want to skip ahead to the part where I actually impart some wisdom on you, please, do skip ahead to the heavily asterisked heading.)

Don’t you just love pronouns like this? Interrogative Pronouns to be precise. Why can’t they just be nice pronouns like the subjective pronouns be they first person (he, she, it, etc.) or second (you) or even inclusive (we). No these little buggars had to be pesky and annoy school age children through to adult hood.

I must amend my statement, I don’t hate all interrogative pronouns. What and which are perfectly fine. I have no problem with you, you may go if you don’t want to hear the rest of this, save your poor little ears the trouble.

Who does Whom think it is! I mean when you use it correctly it sounds so stuffy! Who does it think it is! To Whom does it think it’s speaking? I often feel silly when I use it in a sentence, even when I know I’ve used it correctly.

The English language is a jungle full of pitfalls and scarry monstrous rules that threaten to swallow you up unless you have some understanding of them.

*** When to use Who and Whom ***

First things first. Who is used in reference to the subject of a clause. Whom is used when referring to the object of a clause. Have I lost you yet? (Or “Whom have I lost?”)

Ok as a refresher, the subject is the person performing the action and the object is the person having an action done to them. In the case of “whom have I lost”, “I” is the subject and “Whom” is identifying the object.

I enjoy this example: If I say, "I love you," you are the object of my affection.

I’m sure most of us are more concerned with “whom” than we are with “who”. I know I for one rarely find myself inserting “whom” when I’m unsure of which to use

Here’s how I determine the right use of these two words (and frankly I’ve found a lot of other sites suggest you do the same):

I found a useful tool in using the “he/him” method. By this method, you find the correct format for your question in its answer.

For instance.

If the question is: Who/Whom wrote this book?

We answer the question, “He wrote that book. Obviously we do not say “him wrote that book. Therefore, the correct question is “Who wrote this book?”

If the question is: Who/Whom does this Jacket belong to?

We answer the question, “It belongs to him.” Unless of course you’re really batty and then you answer with “That Jacket belongs to the great Ulysses S. Grant!” but you’re not batty and you want to do it right, so it is correct to use Whom. “Whom does this jacket belong to?”

*** End of the “Real Information”***

I hope that’s left you with a better understanding of how to use Who and Whom, hopefully Whom’s feelings weren’t hurt too badly by my scathing remarks… but there are always casualties in the battle of grammar. Hopefully you won’t be one of them!

As a disclaimer I would like to say that I am in no way a grammar goddess. I make lots of mistakes - as I'm sure some grammar nazi's reading this will note.

Apr 14, 2010

Grammar 101: Part 1 - An Introduction & Its/It’s

I’ve decided to do these because my biggest fan asked me about tomorrow’s topic in an email and I figured, what better way for me to bone up on my grammar (which I’ll admit isn’t often the greatest) by teaching others – it is the best way to learn something, at least that’s what dear ol’ dad says.

In these I'll always let you know when I stop rambling and the real info starts.

As this won’t be a full “lesson” (*giggles incessantly at the idea of someone learning from me in a classroom environment*) I figured I’d start out with something silly, but that tends to trip me up occasionally still.

*** Begin Relevant Information***

“It’s” the shortened version (aka the conjunction) of “it is” or it has. The “i” or “ha” is replaced with an apostrophe and it becomes one word. Not that hard right?

I’ve had issue with this before and I do occasionally find myself writing the wrong thing… its bad, I know. I’m willing to admit that it’s purely an issue of carelessness and not paying attention on my part. I’m still mortified that one will slip through and an agent will look at my manuscript and think… “This girl doesn’t even know how to use ‘its/it’s’ properly!”

I know the reason I place the wrong one in the wrong place is because in my head I’m still at the point where I’m putting the apostrophe in for the possessive. If the dog has a leash, it’s the dog’s leash.

It’s Andrea’s sister’s dog. It pooped on their brother’s bed. Andrea’s cat Mitsy got blamed for it, thrown out of the house and some nice old lady has adopted her and is now keeping her from Andrea! So now Mitsy is the old lady’s cat. (This instance was made up purely as an example.)

Possessive adjectives baby! You have to think of “its” like you think of “yours” or “theirs”. There is no need for the “_’s”

When you’re talking in possessive, “Its” is the way to go! No apostrophe. The apostrophe indicates the conjunction “It is” that is when you use “It’s”.

*** End of all matter relevant to the topic of “Its/It’s”.

Bonus: Complimentary/Complementary

When something is complimentary (with an “i”) it means it is either complimenting you – i.e. saying you look good (and you really do *winks*) or it means that it is free, or done as a courtesy (those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner in hotel bathrooms are generally* complimentary).

*I say generally because people are beginning to charge for everything these days.

When something is Complementary (with an “e”) it means something goes well with something else. If you’ve seen the commercials for… golly I can’t remember who… with Chevy Chase in them, you’ll remember the snooty concierge making a comment to this effect. “It complements the room, it isn’t free.”

I hope I haven’t confused you more than you were before. Tomorrow: Who/Whom!