Common Usage Problems Areas where you may have trouble. . . Affect vs. Effect Affect is commonly used as a verb, meaning “To influence.” • Did that movie affect you? Effect is commonly used as a noun, meaning “the result of some action” and sometimes a verb, meaning “to accomplish.” • What effect did the rain have on the garden? • New glasses effected a remarkable change in his vision. Agreement: Pronoun/Antecedent Pronouns must agree with the antecedent (noun it replaces) in gender and number. Did Alice remember her assignment? The words: each, either, neither, one, everyone, everybody, no one, nobody, anyone, anybody, someone, somebody, are referred to by a SINGLE pronoun. Each of the students should take out his/her homework. Note: The use of a phrase after the antecedent does not change the number of the antecedent! Two or more antecedents joined by or or nor take a singular pronoun. Either Laura or Yvonne will join her class after lunch. Two or more antecedents joined by and should take a plural pronoun. Laura and Yvonne will join their class after lunch. Agreement: Subject/Verb The subject of a sentence or clause must agree in number with the verb of the sentence or clause. The subject of a sentence is never in a prepositional phrase or appositive phrase. If Either. . .or, Neither. . . Nor, or, or nor join a singular subject and plural subject, the verb agrees with the nearer subject. Singular subjects joined by or or nor take a singular verb. Compound subjects joined by “and” take a plural verb. Other Rules The pronouns some, all, any, most and none can be either singular or plural depending on the meaning of the sentence. Collective nouns can either take a plural OR singular verb. “Every” and “many a” followed by a series of words take a singular verb. When the subject follows the verb, as in sentences beginning with “there” and “here,” anticipate the subject and make sure the verb agrees with it. Other rules. . . Phrases such as together with, as well as, and along with are not the same as and. The phrase introduced by as well as or along with will modify the earlier word (mayor in this case), but it does not compound the subjects (as the word and would do). And still others. . . Fractional expressions such as half of, a part of, a percentage of, a majority of are sometimes singular and sometimes plural, depending on the meaning. (The same is true, of course, when all, any, more, most and some act as subjects.) Sums and products of mathematical processes are expressed as singular and require singular verbs. The expression "more than one" (oddly enough) takes a singular verb: "More than one student has tried this." Pronoun Case - Why get on my case?! Some pronouns have three different forms (cases): Nominative - used as subject of a verb OR the predicate noun after a linking verb. I will go with you. It is I, Hamlet the Dane! Objective - used as object of a preposition or verb. Larry helped ME do the math problem. Between you and ME, I feel the novel by HER was excellent. Possessive - used to show possession of something. She was washing her convertible. Some problems of case: 1. In compound structures, where there are two pronouns or a noun and a pronoun, drop the other noun for a moment. Then you can see which case you want. NOT: Bob and me travel a good deal. (Would you say, "me travel"?)NOT: He gave the flowers to Jane and I. (Would you say, "he gave the flowers to I"?) NOT: Us men like the coach. (Would you say, "us like the coach"?) 2. In comparisons. Comparisons usually follow than or as:He is taller than I (am tall).This helps you as much as (it helps) me.She is as noisy as I (am). Comparisons are really shorthand sentences which usually omit words, such as those in the parentheses in the sentences above. If you complete the comparison in your head, you can choose the correct case for the pronoun. 3. In formal and semiformal writing: Use the subjective form after a form of the verb to be. FORMAL: It is I. INFORMAL: It is me. Use whom in the objective case. FORMAL: To whom am I talking? INFORMAL: Who am I talking to? Dangling and Misplaced Elements. . . A phrase or a modifier that does not clearly and sensibly modify (describe) a word in the sentence is a DANGLING MODIFIER/ELEMENT Sitting in the back row of the theatre, the actors could hardly be heard. SHOULD READ: Sitting in the back row of the theatre, I could hardly hear the actors on stage. Misplaced Element or Modifier Did you see a person on the bus with a brown cap? SHOULD READ Did you see a person with a brown cap sitting on the bus? Parallelism Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause level. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or." Parallelism Continued. . . Words and Phrases • With the -ing form (gerund) of words: Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling. • With infinitive phrases: Parallel: Mary likes to hike, to swim, and to ride a bicycle.ORMary likes to hike, swim, and ride a bicycle. Parallelism continued. . . 2. Clauses A parallel structure that begins with clauses must keep on with clauses. Changing to another pattern or changing the voice of the verb (from active to passive or vice versa) will break the parallelism. Not Parallel: The coach told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and to do some warm-up exercises before the game. Parallel: The coach told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and that they should do some warm-up exercises before the game. And Finally. . . Lists after a colon. Be sure to keep all the elements in a list in the same form. Not Parallel: The dictionary can be used for these purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings, and looking up irregular verbs. Parallel: The dictionary can be used for these purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings, and irregular verbs. Feeling a little tense? Verb tenses. . . Present - used to express action that is occurring now, at the present time. Past - used to express action that has happened but did not continue into the present. Future - used to express action which will occur at some time in the future. So far, so good? Perfect! Present perfect - used to express action which occurred at no definite time in the past. She has spoken often of this before. Past perfect - used to express action completed in the past before some other past action or event. After she had stayed for two weeks, she moved on. Where have you seen this before? Future perfect - used to express action which will be completed in the future before some other future action or event. By the time I finish this test, I will have used up three sheets of paper. BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR TENSES CONSISTENT! DO NOT SHIFT IN THE MIDDLE OF A PAPER OR PARAGRAPH. Who and Whom Who is the nominative case and Whom is the objective case. John was with whom? Who spoke to the assembly last night? The use of who and who in a subordinate clause is determined by the pronoun’s function in the clause. Mae was the reporter who wrote the story. Mae was the reporter whom the critics praised. (Whom is often omitted in a subordinate clause). Some practice Problem: Peter is the boy (who, whom) discovered the fire. Solution: 1. The subordinate clause is (who, whom) discovered the fire. 2. The pronoun is the subject of the clause. 3. Since it acts as the subject, it must be the nominative case (who). Problem: That is my friend Carol (who, whom) I met at camp. Solution: 1. The subordinate clause is (who, whom) I met at camp. 2. The pronoun is the object of the verb met. 3. Since it acts as the subject, it must be the Objective case (whom).