Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wall

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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby skullturf » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:59 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:I can't think of anything specific that really bothers me, but I know my mother freaks out when she hears people using the word 'less' to talk about a reduction in the number of some discrete entities. It should always be 'fewer' unless the subject quantity is continuous.


I'm aware of that rule, but the existence of the rule bugs me.

We use the word "more" for discrete quantities and for continuous quantities. More cows, more milk.

"Less milk" is fine. I probably wouldn't say or write "less cows" in formal contexts; I know that it sounds wrong to many people, and I'll admit that it sounds slightly "off" to me as well.

But since we use "more" for both discrete and continuous quantities, it's not as though logic "demands" that we maintain the "less"/"fewer" distinction. There's no inherent reason that "less" and "fewer" have to be two separate words; I can't see how it isn't anything more than a historical accident.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Anglish » Sun Oct 30, 2011 12:11 am UTC

Thank you, especially gmalivuk, for that explanation. I suspected that was the case. I suppose it bothers me for the same reason as does ending a sentence with a preposition; that is, it's not necessarily incorrect, it's a rule which I prefer. I think it just makes more sense and makes things clearer, and that it seems odd to end a sentence with a joining-word, however, I'm not sure how to explain why this is in great detail. Two examples of why I prefer "which/whom" over "that" and to not end sentences with prepositions are: "To whom is this going?" as opposed to, "Who is this going to?", or; "There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby goofy » Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:59 am UTC

skullturf wrote:
Adacore wrote:I can't think of anything specific that really bothers me, but I know my mother freaks out when she hears people using the word 'less' to talk about a reduction in the number of some discrete entities. It should always be 'fewer' unless the subject quantity is continuous.


I'm aware of that rule, but the existence of the rule bugs me.


The rule doesn't exist. We've been using less with count nouns for a thousand years. Here is the entry from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage..
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Derek » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:38 am UTC

Anglish wrote:"There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."

I just have to butt in and say that the second version sounds much better to me. The first sounds very stilted.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Makri » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:02 am UTC

As a non-native speaker of a language that really grammatically does not allow prepositions at the end of the sentence the way English has them, I, too, have to say that the relative clause with "that" and a final preposition often sounds more normal, and it's my impression that they're easier to process. (Surely someone has tested that experimentally, but I don't know the results.)
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby eSOANEM » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:55 am UTC

skullturf wrote:
Adacore wrote:I can't think of anything specific that really bothers me, but I know my mother freaks out when she hears people using the word 'less' to talk about a reduction in the number of some discrete entities. It should always be 'fewer' unless the subject quantity is continuous.


I'm aware of that rule, but the existence of the rule bugs me.

We use the word "more" for discrete quantities and for continuous quantities. More cows, more milk.

"Less milk" is fine. I probably wouldn't say or write "less cows" in formal contexts; I know that it sounds wrong to many people, and I'll admit that it sounds slightly "off" to me as well.

But since we use "more" for both discrete and continuous quantities, it's not as though logic "demands" that we maintain the "less"/"fewer" distinction. There's no inherent reason that "less" and "fewer" have to be two separate words; I can't see how it isn't anything more than a historical accident.


I agree that the "rule" is ridiculous and completely unnecessary (and has been violated throughout history so cannot meaningfully be said to exist) however, for some reason (I think that it really bugs my mum), it still really bugs me.

Anglish wrote:I think it just makes more sense and makes things clearer, and that it seems odd to end a sentence with a joining-word,


What's your opinion on phrasal verbs such as "to wake up", "to shut up" etc.? Would you be ok ending a sentence with them and if not, how would construct the sentence "John woke up"?

Derek wrote:
Anglish wrote:"There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."

I just have to butt in and say that the second version sounds much better to me. The first sounds very stilted.


Likewise.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Anglish » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:15 am UTC

eSOANEM wrote:
Anglish wrote:I think it just makes more sense and makes things clearer, and that it seems odd to end a sentence with a joining-word,


What's your opinion on phrasal verbs such as "to wake up", "to shut up" etc.? Would you be ok ending a sentence with them and if not, how would construct the sentence "John woke up"?


That's a good question. There's not much which can be done in the case of some idioms and phrasal verbs. In the case of, "to wake up", the obvious alternate is "to awake". In the case of "to shut up", depending on the context it could alternatively be, "Shut your mouth.", or, "I shut my mouth." In writing I might make a conscious effort to avoid such phrasal verbs, though, orally I would just speak naturally with whatever idiom or phrasal verb suits the context.

In regards to Derek's statement, "I just have to butt in and say that the second version sounds much better to me. The first sounds very stilted." and your agreement, I agree that at first it was somewhat jarring for me to accept and learn this style, however, it now feels so much more natural to me than the alternative; what I find odd is when I hear or read the alternative.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:04 pm UTC

Anglish wrote:In writing I might make a conscious effort to avoid such phrasal verbs
Why? Those aren't even prepositions any more, when they're part of a phrasal verb.
Treatid basically wrote:widdout elephants deh be no starting points. deh be no ZFC.


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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Anglish » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:32 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Anglish wrote:In writing I might make a conscious effort to avoid such phrasal verbs
Why? Those aren't even prepositions any more, when they're part of a phrasal verb.


It's linguistically arbitrary, I know, but it appears to be a preposition, so it's simply for aesthetic reasons.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Monika » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:48 pm UTC

But you know that idiotic "rule" was written down by the same morons who told English-speaking people they must not split infintives? And both for the same reason, too - because this is not done (cannot be done) in Latin, the language considered the coolest during that past time.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Anonymously Famous » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:50 pm UTC

Anglish wrote:"There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."

In this case, if you want to avoid a preposition at the end and not sound "off," you could just choose to use a different verb: "There's something that I need to discuss with you."
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Anglish » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:18 am UTC

Monika wrote:But you know that idiotic "rule" was written down by the same morons who told English-speaking people they must not split infintives? And both for the same reason, too - because this is not done (cannot be done) in Latin, the language considered the coolest during that past time.


Yes I'm aware. I don't mean to be condescending because I know it's not any more correct. It's just a style I prefer and wanted to get some responses to see whether people agree with it or just find it obnoxious.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby caisara » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:28 am UTC

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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:46 am UTC

No, "which" is acceptable in both cases.
Treatid basically wrote:widdout elephants deh be no starting points. deh be no ZFC.


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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby eSOANEM » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

caisara wrote:
Anglish wrote:
Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wall


My brain always tries to correct "that" in the preceding context to "which", so that it would read as, "Little editing/grammar mistakes which drive you up the wall." Is this in any way more correct, less correct, or are both equally acceptable?


"Commas, which cut out the fat, go with 'which,' but never with 'that.'" (Patricia T. O'Connor, Woe Is I)

You should use "which" if you can drop a clause and understand the point of a sentence. However, you should use "that" if the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. So it was correct with "that."


The title of her book (assuming it is not tongue in cheek) shows you that this woman is not to be taken seriously on any matter of grammar.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby caisara » Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:10 pm UTC

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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby eSOANEM » Tue Nov 01, 2011 5:09 pm UTC

caisara wrote: that being grammatically correct in that instance is silly.


Being grammatically correct is never silly. What is silly is insisting that "woe is I" is more correct than "woe is me" (whih is idiomatic anyway), people who object to "me" being used with "to be" are, as is so often case, simply copying a rule from latin which doesn't apply (because English pronouns have oblique forms not accusative ones). That said, I was being deliberately facetious.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Lazar » Tue Nov 01, 2011 7:34 pm UTC

To be clear though, "woe is me" is correct even if we prohibit complementary "me", because the "me" here not a complement, but rather an idiomatic dative usage. This can be seen in the German equivalent "Weh ist mir" (known to many of us in its Yiddish form, "oy, vey iz mir").
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby skullturf » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:24 pm UTC

One possible opinion, partly echoing remarks given above, would be something like:

"Woe is I" is technically correct, but we should probably say "Woe is me", because that sounds more natural to most speakers.

However, if "Woe is me" sounds more natural to most speakers, that very fact is a big part of an argument that in fact, "woe is me" is more correct!

The idea that something can be "technically correct", even if it strikes a clear majority of speakers as unnatural, is an idea to be regarded with suspicion.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby eSOANEM » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:45 pm UTC

skullturf wrote:The idea that something can be "technically correct", even if it strikes a clear majority of speakers as unnatural, is an idea to be regarded with suspicion.


Exactly, and "woe is I" certainly seems not only unnatural to me, but ungrammatical as it (at least appears to) contain a predicative "I".
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Lazar » Tue Nov 01, 2011 11:20 pm UTC

skullturf wrote:"Woe is I" is technically correct,

No it's not. As I explained in the previous post, it's a dative usage meaning "woe is [unto] me". "Woe is I" would be ungrammatical even to the strictest prescriptivist.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby skullturf » Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:52 am UTC

Lazar wrote:
skullturf wrote:"Woe is I" is technically correct,

No it's not. As I explained in the previous post, it's a dative usage meaning "woe is [unto] me". "Woe is I" would be ungrammatical even to the strictest prescriptivist.


Personally, I agree. I think we're on the same page here. See the line I wrote just before what you quoted.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Aiwendil » Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:57 am UTC

No, I don't think you are on the same page. Lazar is saying that 'Woe is I' is incorrect not (merely) because it contradicts popular usage but because the 'me' is not a predicate nominative but a dative. So even if one insists on such things as 'It is I' or 'What would you do if you were I?' one could not (reasonably) insist on 'Woe is I'. Thus, it is not technically correct, in any sense.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby goofy » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:36 am UTC

Lazar wrote:To be clear though, "woe is me" is correct even if we prohibit complementary "me", because the "me" here not a complement, but rather an idiomatic dative usage.


That's what it is etymologically, but is that what it is synchronically? Are there any other similar and productive dative usages? I think the "me" in "woe is me" has been reinterpreted as a straightforward accusative.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Lazar » Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:24 am UTC

goofy wrote:That's what it is etymologically, but is that what it is synchronically? Are there any other similar and productive dative usages? I think the "me" in "woe is me" has been reinterpreted as a straightforward accusative.

I think the idiom is pretty well fossilized, and the formula that produced it extinct, so yeah, most people probably aren't even aware of its being a dative.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby PM 2Ring » Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:43 am UTC

Lazar wrote:I think the idiom is pretty well fossilized, and the formula that produced it extinct, so yeah, most people probably aren't even aware of its being a dative.

Be that as it may, I can't see how anyone would conceive of the pronoun in this utterance as being nominative, so what's the rationalization for using "I" here? Is it just a matter of drawing a parallel between this construction and those constructions despised by hard-core prescriptivist grammar teachers where there is nominative / accusative confusion?
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Jimmy_kaine » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:32 pm UTC

YOUR
YOU'RE

THEIR
THERE
THEY'RE

TOO
TO
TWO

TO NO END. THIS CRAP FOLLOWS ME EVERYWHERE.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:48 pm UTC

Which crap? Those words being different, or other people using the wrong one, or what?
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Grop » Wed Nov 16, 2011 5:04 pm UTC

Maybe people writing all caps?
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby goofy » Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:04 am UTC

Lazar wrote:
goofy wrote:That's what it is etymologically, but is that what it is synchronically? Are there any other similar and productive dative usages? I think the "me" in "woe is me" has been reinterpreted as a straightforward accusative.

I think the idiom is pretty well fossilized, and the formula that produced it extinct, so yeah, most people probably aren't even aware of its being a dative.


My point is I don't think it is a dative any more.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby eSOANEM » Thu Nov 17, 2011 5:18 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
Lazar wrote:
goofy wrote:That's what it is etymologically, but is that what it is synchronically? Are there any other similar and productive dative usages? I think the "me" in "woe is me" has been reinterpreted as a straightforward accusative.

I think the idiom is pretty well fossilized, and the formula that produced it extinct, so yeah, most people probably aren't even aware of its being a dative.


My point is I don't think it is a dative any more.


I'd argue that the entire phrase was ungrammatical under current grammar and would be best treated as a single lexeme.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Darryl » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:13 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:I like "I could care less" as a form of understatement similar to "I'm not a huge fan" meaning "I don't like that at all."

How do you figure it's an understatement? Its intended meaning is the exact opposite of its literal meaning. It's not an understatement, it's a lie. By saying you could care less, you're saying that you do in fact care at least a little bit, so there's room to be able to care less about it. If you do not care at all, then you couldn't care less. It's impossible to be at a level of caring below "not caring at all", so you couldn't care less.

But whatever, carry on butchering this wonderful language of ours. I could care less.

Because there's certainly not this thing called sarcasm, which relies on saying the opposite of what you mean. And there's absolutely no chance that "I could care less" is an example of this alleged mode of communication.

(Note: The above was sarcastic not to be rude, but to provide an example of sarcasm, because I felt it brought the point of the phrase being a sarcastic one across better.)
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:55 pm UTC

Darryl wrote:And there's absolutely no chance that "I could care less" is an example of this alleged mode of communication.
To be fair, while I definitely find myself saying "I could care less" purely out of spite for the people who whine about it, it isn't pronounced the way we'd expect for actual sarcasm. It is also, I think, too understated and uncertain to be sarcastic. (Compare it to your own post, where it was precisely the use of words like "certainly" and "absolutely" and the bolding emphasis of "no" that made the sarcasm clear.)

Though your point is still a good one against that particularly shitty argument against "I could care less", wherein the arguers conveniently forget the hundreds or thousands of sentences they themselves have probably uttered in their lives, where the intended meaning is explicitly designed to be the opposite of the explicit logical meaning of the words they used.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Darryl » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:19 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Darryl wrote:And there's absolutely no chance that "I could care less" is an example of this alleged mode of communication.
To be fair, while I definitely find myself saying "I could care less" purely out of spite for the people who whine about it, it isn't pronounced the way we'd expect for actual sarcasm. It is also, I think, too understated and uncertain to be sarcastic. (Compare it to your own post, where it was precisely the use of words like "certainly" and "absolutely" and the bolding emphasis of "no" that made the sarcasm clear.)

Though your point is still a good one against that particularly shitty argument against "I could care less", wherein the arguers conveniently forget the hundreds or thousands of sentences they themselves have probably uttered in their lives, where the intended meaning is explicitly designed to be the opposite of the explicit logical meaning of the words they used.

Yeah, when I do use it, it's usually "I could really care less", since the use of the intensifying "really" aids the sarcasm. And of course, I love sarcasm. It's my family's native language (you should see some of the stuff I can say to my own father because of how our family works).

ETA: Also, I was going all out on the emphasis on the sarcasm due to this being text rather than speech, and thus harder to decode sarcasm without that aid.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Judah » Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:17 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
Anglish wrote:"There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."

I just have to butt in and say that the second version sounds much better to me. The first sounds very stilted.
Allow me to point out that this is a false dichotomy. Both versions can be avoided if one follows that other recommendation of the stylists: "Avoid the passive voice!"

"I need to talk to you about something" sounds perfectly natural and is more direct than either of the above, to boot (notice that the other versions need to refer to the "something" twice [as "something" and then as "that"/"which"] in the course of one short sentence).
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Monika » Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:47 pm UTC

Judah wrote:
"There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."

Allow me to point out that this is a false dichotomy. Both versions can be avoided if one follows that other recommendation of the stylists: "Avoid the passive voice!"

There is no passive voice in the sentence. You know, passive voice, this mode that is formed with a form of to be + the past participle in English?
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Judah » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:00 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Darryl wrote:And there's absolutely no chance that "I could care less" is an example of this alleged mode of communication.
To be fair, while I definitely find myself saying "I could care less" purely out of spite for the people who whine about it, it isn't pronounced the way we'd expect for actual sarcasm. It is also, I think, too understated and uncertain to be sarcastic. (Compare it to your own post, where it was precisely the use of words like "certainly" and "absolutely" and the bolding emphasis of "no" that made the sarcasm clear.)
I agree with both of these points--both the (typical) inflection and the wording of "I could care less" point against its being a case of sarcasm--which is why I don't understand why your second paragraph calls the argument against it "shitty". Seems to me that it's a pretty good argument against it, and it's the apologists whose argument is rather weak.

The most I'd be willing to concede is that perhaps the phrase descends from something similar but more clearly intended as sarcasm. Once something's become an idiom, though, both origins and logic become largely irrelevant.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby Judah » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:09 pm UTC

Monika wrote:
Judah wrote:
"There's something about which I need to talk to you." as opposed to, "There's something that I need to talk to you about."

Allow me to point out that this is a false dichotomy. Both versions can be avoided if one follows that other recommendation of the stylists: "Avoid the passive voice!"

There is no passive voice in the sentence. You know, passive voice, this mode that is formed with a form of to be + the past participle in English?
I'm sorry if my terminology was incorrect, and I'll be happy to be informed about the proper way to refer to sentences like these. The substance of what I was trying to say stands, though: Wikipedia's definition of "passive voice", e.g., is "a grammatical construction (a "voice") in which the subject of a sentence or clause denotes the recipient of the action (the patient) rather than the performer (the agent)."

In the sentence I was referring to, the agent is "I", and "something" is one of the things that he's acting on, yet the sentence is casting "something" as the subject. Even if I was wrong to apply the term "passive voice" to this case, in essence it's an example of the same sort of the thing. The people who proscribe passive voice would surely proscribe sentences like these as well.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby goofy » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:32 pm UTC

"There's something that I need to talk to you about."


Judah wrote:I'm sorry if my terminology was incorrect, and I'll be happy to be informed about the proper way to refer to sentences like these. The substance of what I was trying to say stands, though: Wikipedia's definition of "passive voice", e.g., is "a grammatical construction (a "voice") in which the subject of a sentence or clause denotes the recipient of the action (the patient) rather than the performer (the agent)."

In the sentence I was referring to, the agent is "I", and "something" is one of the things that he's acting on, yet the sentence is casting "something" as the subject. Even if I was wrong to apply the term "passive voice" to this case, in essence it's an example of the same sort of the thing. The people who proscribe passive voice would surely proscribe sentences like these as well.


But something isn't the subject. The subject is there. And the subject of the embedded clause is I. Although you might be right that the people who proscribe the passive might proscribe this sentence as well, because so many people who proscribe the passive don't actually understand what it is.
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Re: Little editing/grammar mistakes that drive you up the wa

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:49 pm UTC

Judah wrote:I don't understand why your second paragraph calls the argument against it "shitty". Seems to me that it's a pretty good argument against it
It's a shitty argument because "that literally means the opposite of the intended meaning" is overbroad. It would also deem all examples of true sarcasm incorrect. So, at the very least, whiners should specify that it's a nonsarcastic expression whose literal meaning is the opposite of its intended meaning.
Treatid basically wrote:widdout elephants deh be no starting points. deh be no ZFC.


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