Grammar and Mechanics Part Two: Phrases and Pronouns Analytical and Rhetorical Writing Matt Barton
Phrases • Unlike a clause, a phrase does not contain a subjectanda predicate. • Phrases are used as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns. • Some types of phrases are • Prepositional • Participial • Infinitive • Gerund • Appositive
Prepositional Phrase • A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition: • The book on the table was written by a distinguished member of faculty. • Of the four choices on the menu, the pelican burger is my personal favorite. • Please place the rabid squirrel into this cage.
Participial Phrases • Participial phrases begin with a past or present participle and serve as adjectives. • Recommended by four out of five charlatans, Sugar Gum is great for your teeth. • Wonder Woman, flying in her invisible jet, spotted her nemesis. • Zebras, bestknown for their unusual stripes, are the subject of today’s lecture.
Infinitive Phrases • Infinitive phrases begin with an infinitive (the to form of a verb.) • To act ornot to starve, that is the question. • My goal has always been to get rich selling solar powered flashlights. • She likes to fly in luxury airliners, but her husband prefers to take a bus.
Gerund Phrases • A gerund is a noun form of a verb ending in –ing. Gerund phrases are used as subjects or objects in a sentence: • Saltwater fishing off the coast of Mexico is my idea of a good time. • This gerund phrase is the subject. • You might enjoy eating at Piccadilly Cafeteria. • This gerund phrase is the object of the verb “eating.”
Appositive Phrases • Appositive phrases rename or provide more information about a noun. • Salvador Dali, a truly interesting artist, was known for his unusual subjects. • Your computer, a Commodore 64, is still a fine machine. • Kraftwerk, a German electronic band, pioneered techno music.
Phrases and Commas • Always put a comma after an introductory phrase, no matter how short it is. • Yesterday, my troubles seemed so far away. • Everyday, teachers should find new ways to appeal to their students. • Determining the exact location of an electron, Dr. Goeberdingle did not notice Super Snail quietly oozing by.
Phrases and Commas • Phrases that require commas are called non-restrictive. Otherwise, they are called restrictive. • If the phase or element is necessary for the reader to distinguish or define the subject, it is restrictive. • If the phrase or element is “extra information” that only describes the subject, it is non-restrictive.
Restrictive Elements • The plays by Shakespeare are the subject of our discussion today. • The phrases define or restrict the meaning of their subjects. We’re not talking about all plays but rather Shakespeare’s plays. • The book that I need for this course was not available in the bookstore. • Again, these elements restrict the meaning of their subjects.
Non-Restrictive • My oldest brother, Luke, entered college this semester. • This element is “extra.” I only have one oldest brother, so the name is extra information. • The dog, which you may recognize from previous dog shows, may appear on a television commercial.
Tips • To tell if an element needs commas, just ask yourself: • Does it provide extra information about its subject, or does it restrict it? • Does it begin with that or which? • That usually indicates a restrictive element (no comma) • Which usually indicates a non-restrictive element (commas) • Elements that contradict or negate another element are always non-restrictive: • I asked for pancakes, not waffles.
Modifier Placement • Ensure that your modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) designate the part of the sentence you want them to modify. • Sometimes writers leave out the words a modifier is supposed to describe. This is called a dangling modifier. • Sometimes writers put a modifier in the wrong place; this is called a misplaced modifier.
Dangling Modifiers • Looking through the binoculars, the duck skated across the lake. • A duck with binoculars? • Looking through the binoculars, I saw the duck skating across the lake.
Misplaced Modifiers • Loudly ringing, we didn’t hear the phone. • We didn’t hear the loudly ringingphone. • Sipping margaritas, the ducks swam past us. • Sipping margaritas, we watched the ducks swim past us.
Modifier Tips • Put modifiers right next to the words they modify. • If a modifier seems confusing, just rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem. • Short adverbs like “only,” “barely,” and “often” are especially troublesome. Make sure they are in front of the words they are supposed to modify.
Pronouns • Pronouns require an antecedent. • Antecedents are the word or words the pronoun represents. • The boy likes fish. He especially likes fish sticks. • The students have finished their assignment. Theywill now begin the next chapter.
Pronoun Agreement • An error in pronoun agreement can cause confusion for the reader. • The pronoun must agree with the antecedent in number, case, and gender. • Since subject/verb agreement is usually connected to errors in pronoun agreement, we’ll cover that, too!
Pronoun Agreement • Pronouns must agree in number. • The four boyshave left theirsnacks behind. • The boy has left his popcorn in the microwave. • The mutant camel is spitting its radioactive acid at the space marine. • Note how the verbs also agree with their subjects.
Pronoun Agreement • Pronouns must agree in case. • The two cases are subjective and objective. • Subjective means that the pronoun is serving as the subject of a verb. • Objective means that the pronoun is serving as the object of a verb.
Subjective Case • Theydemonstrated the concept. • They is the subject of the verb demonstrated. • Who left this wiener on the counter? • Who is the subject of the verb left. • My friend and I enjoy playing Donkey Kong Country. • If you have trouble choosing between I and me in this example, take out “my friend.” Would you say “Me enjoy playing?”
Objective Case • The reporter watchedthem closely. • What was being watched? Them. • Towhom was your comment directed, sir? • Whom is the object of the preposition to. • I enjoy playing videogames withhim and her. • Again, we have objects of a pronoun. • I saw my friend and her crossing the plateau. • Her is an object of the verb saw.
Pronoun Agreement: Caveats • If a sentence has the word or, the pronoun should agree with the closest antecedent: • The geese orthe duckhas left its travel plans here on the desk. • If the word and is used instead, the pronoun must be plural. • The duck andthe geesehave left their travel plans here on the desk.
Caveats with Case • If the verb in the sentence is a copula (being verb), all pronouns should be in the subjective case. • It is I. • This is he. • Also, be on the lookout for “elliptical” or omitted elements. • You are taller than I. (am) • You speak more loudly than he. (does)
Indefinite Pronouns • Indefinite pronouns are words like somebody, anybody, someone, everything, and so on. • Memorizethe indefinite pronouns that require singular or plural forms. Some change depending on the context. • Indefinite pronouns can be very tricky!
Indefinite Pronouns • If the word ends in –one, -body ,or –thing, it is singular. • Each and none are also singular. • Everybodyisbringinghis or her Spock ears to the convention. • Each of the iPods comes with its own selection of opera selections. • Think—would you say “Everybody arecoming to town?” No way! So why do you say their? Use his or herand avoid this problem!
Indefinite Pronouns • Both, few, many, others, several are always plural: • Several of the Slinkies were left in their original packaging. • Well, I’m out, but the others still want to present their papers at the conference. • Would you say “Both people is here!” No, way! So, don’t say his or her or its with both!
Indefinite Pronouns • All, any, more, most, none, some can be singular OR plural depending on how they’re used: • Allof the Twinkiesare past their expiration date. • All of the Twinkiehas been eaten; it was yummy!
Its/It’s • Its (no apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun: • Smoking cigars has lost its charm for me. • It’s (apostrophe) is a contraction meaning it is. • It’s amazing that you didn’t learn this already.
Pronoun Agreement Errors • Here are some errors from actual papers: • Any good student makes time for the things they want to do aside from the things they have to do. • This should read: • Any good student makes time for the things he or she wants to do aside from the things he or she has to do.
Pronoun Errors • Incorrect! • When one is taking this class, they will be required to learn how to read notes, keep a beat, or maybe do both at the same time. • Ah, much better: • When one is taking this class, heor she will be required to learn how to read notes, keep a beat, or maybe do both at the same time.
He or She • The construction “He or she,” while more politically sensitive than just “he,” may get tiring after awhile. • Rewrite sentences so you can properly use “they” and avoid the problem: • In every class he or she takes, the good student brings his or her textbook and always does his or her homework. • In every class they take, good students bring their textbooks and always do their homework.
Wrap Up • In these two lectures, you have learned about • Comma Splices • Sentence Fragments • Run-on or Fused Sentences • Commas with Compound Sentences • Phrases • Restrictive/Non-restrictive Elements • Modifier Placement • Pronoun Agreement • Subject/Verb Agreement
Congratulations! • You’re now well on your way to becoming a grammarian!