Friday, April 30, 2004

A, an and the in use (What the writer assumes the reader knows).

Examples: I got an A on the test.

More than one A was given, or at least the writer thinks so, and the writer got one of them. The writer assumes the reader knows which test.

I got the A on the test.

Only one A was given on the test, and the writer got it. The writer assumes the reader knows which test.

The car is in the parking lot.

Both reader and writer know which car and which parking lot.

A person could be in danger here.

Both reader and writer do not know the specific person.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Articles a/an and the

The articles can cause some problems.
I am going to discuss some examples in today. I will use elementary school as an the example phrase.

The paragraph:

Elementary school was difficult for me. I attended an elementary school in Chicago. It was a very big school with many students. I never really felt comfortable with all of those students around. The school had many very good teachers who I still remember fondly. However, the classes they taught were sometimes very hard for me.

I attended an elementary school in Chicago.

– there are several elementary schools in Chicago but I am not identifying the specific school.

The elementary school had many good teachers.

The – Here the is used because the elementary school is now definite because it has been referred to before.

Elementary school was difficult for me.

__ - Elementary school here is a generalization and refers to the experience of attending elementary school.

Since school is a countable noun, there are three different possibilities.
No article when the noun is a generalization.
A or An when the noun is not specific in its reference. In other words, the reader and the writer do not share the same idea of the specific item referred to.
The is used when the noun is specific either because it has been mentioned before or the writer is using a noun that the reader already knows about.

This is a good place to start.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I find that my previous posting on the country is not accurate. The country can be used when the nation is the meaning. To revise my statement about the country, I would say that when the verb live is used.

I have lived in the country for five years. (First meaning is a rural area unless there is a previous reference to nation).
People in the country want a more social type of government. (Out of context, the country is ambiguous.)
The Belgian civilians remained in the country. (Here, the country probably means in the nation, but context might change the meaning.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Just a little note about using the articles a and the with country.

When a writer uses a with country, the writer is using the meaning of nation.

He comes from a country in South America.

However, when a writer uses the with country, the meaning of country is a rural area.

My cousin, Sarah, lives in the country.

This can change when a writer uses more specificity about the country. In other words, the writer adds information to help the reader know that the nation meaning of country is being used instead of the rural area meaning.

My cousin just came from the country that is near Colombia.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

There are a few verbs that belong to the class known as causative verbs. Causative verbs are verbs that "cause" their objects to do something. The four most common causative verbs are: have, make, let, and get.

These verbs make, have, and let are used in this type of construction:

Causative Verb + Object + Verb

The police officer made me walk a straight line.
The doctor has his nurse call the hospital.
My brother lets me use his car.

Get is used in a different construction.

Causative Verb Get + Object+ to + Verb

I get my son to answer the phone in the evenings.

On the Verb page of Guide to Grammar and Writing, there is a list of several causative verbs.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Here are a few more points about none.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the pronoun meaning of none as not any, not one, nobody. With these several meanings, it is possible that none takes on both singular and plural meanings. However, if we use not one or nobody, these are both singular.

Not one of the boys is aware of the monster approaching.
Nobody comes when I call.

The explanation for none does note that there are some sentence structures where none must be plural in agreement.

Almost none of the students were finished with the assignment.
None but the players on his team supported him.

None is used with noncount nouns .

None of the milk is in the glass because it is all on the table.
None of the furniture was damaged in the storm.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Someone asked about the use of none in phrases with of as is none of the days, none of the people. Is the subject none singular or plural? The answer seems to be both.

I found examples of the writers writing a sentence like None of the boats is in the water. But I also found another writer using a sentence like None of the papers have my signature.

In Keys for Writers by Ann Raimes (2nd edition, published by Houghton Mifflin), she says that both forms are historically acceptable with count nouns.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Here is the table with some words that commonly follow either make or take.
Other words may be used, but it is rare when one of the words in the make column is used after take or word in the take column is used after make.

a choice
a difference
a change
a living
a point

a report
a sound
a start
an effort

an impression
a mistake
a promise
a decision
a bite
a break
care of
a chance
a drink
a gamble
a look
a picture
a photograph
a seat
a trip
it easy
it from here
an opportunity

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The first thing I want to discuss is the words that partner with make and take. These word partners like make a mistake are usually used together. There are several, so I will post a table soon that shows some common word partners with these words.