Saturday, November 26, 2011

Exploring gerunds and gerund phrases

This is a rather detailed exploration of various aspects of gerunds (all the ones I can think of), illustrated with exercises. It includes:
  • A look at finite and non-finite verb forms
  • What exactly is a gerund?
  • Gerund phrases and their functions
  • Gerund phrase or participle clause?
  • Why do I say gerund phrase, but participle clause?
  • Verb patterns - gerund or infinitive after verbs?
  • Possessives with gerunds
  • Object complements
It is a companion piece to my post on participles and participle clauses.
Some of it, especially the section on possessives, can get a bit nerdy, not to mention (for me) a bit hairy - I'm on the edge of my comfort zone with some of this stuff. If grammar's not really your thing, skip those bits.
For interest's sake and the sake of completion, I also mention one or two terms you won't usually come across in EFL/ESL materials; there's no real need to learn these.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Subjunctive were revisited (again)

First Joan Osborne and now Ed Miliband.

What, you might ask, have the singer Joan Osborne and the leader of the British Labour Party, Ed Miliband, in common? The answer is that they've both been criticised for using was instead of were in unreal (aka counterfactual, non-factual) if statements:
  • If God was one of us - Joan Osborne
  • If I was prime minister - Ed Miliband
I've already written about Joan Osborne here. This discussion is mainly aimed at native speaker grammar fans, but as usual I've annotated more difficult words so that advanced learners can also follow along, if they feel so inclined

Friday, November 11, 2011

On (mis)identifying the passive and passive wars

Autumn Leaves
Autumn Leaves by geraldbrazell, on Flickr - some rights reserved
Here in Warsaw we are well into what is known here as the Polish Golden Autumn; everywhere you look 'there are a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground'.
That sentence about dead leaves is taken from a section on 'Use the active voice' in The Elements of Style, a book on English style by William Strunk, Jr first published in 1918, and revised by EB White in 1959, and universally known in the US as Strunk and White.
It is one of the key elements in what could be called the 'Passive wars'. For as we shall see, the passive has had somewhat of a 'bad press', especially in American writing schools.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Confusing words - between and among

You will sometimes be told that between is for two people or things, and among is for more than two people or things. But it is not quite as simple as that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The which-hunting season is upon us again.

A minor spat about the use of which and that in relative clauses

Which-hunting, a play on words on witch-hunting (see link below), is a term used by linguists to refer to the criticism by some of the use of which for things, in defining (aka restrictive or identifying) relative clauses.
To follow this discussion you need to know the difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses. If you need reminding, see my post here.