Archive for February, 2011

Nouns: Possessives

By on February 24, 2011

Possessive nouns are nouns that show ownership. To make most proper and common nouns possessive nouns we need only add an apostrophe and then an “s” like this:
Sam’s dog has fleas.
Sam’s dog’s fleas are brown.

Possessives ending in s still require an apostrophe and another “s.” Even if a singular noun ends in “s” such as in names like “Gus” or common nouns like “class.”
The class’s field trip was cancelled.
Mrs. Glass’s house is near Gus’s office.

Plurals and possessives are a little different. Plural words that are also possessive are usually formed by just adding an apostrophe like this.
The dogs’ leashes are kept in the drawer.
The girls’ basketball team won the game.

If a noun is simply plural and doesn’t show ownership it does not require an apostrophe. For example none of these words as used in the sentences below require an apostrophe because they are only plural not possessive.
The dogs will go for a walk.
The girls play basketball.

Making an irregular plural noun possessive when it does not end in “s” is very simple. Add an apostrophe then the “s” just as if it were a singular noun like this.
The children’s book is lost.
The fox’s den is in the woods.

Various situations in possessives grammar call for a few seemingly tricky rules. Showing possession when two nouns are joined together and possession is shared is different from indicating possession when two nouns are joined together and ownership is separate. When two people are listed as owning one thing together the possession is shown on the second noun only. Add an apostrophe “s” to the second noun, and leave the first one as it is. For example:
John and Susan’s house is a fun place to visit.
Sally and Tom’s game was left on the floor.

If the two nouns have separate ownership of two separate objects, each noun needs an apostrophe and an “s” added to them. For Example:
Susan’s and Tom’s dinner plates are still on the table.
The dog’s and cat’s water bowls are on the floor.

Popularity: 100% [?]

Misplaced Modifiers

By on February 17, 2011

Modifiers are of course adjectives, adverbs and their various clauses and phrases. Adjectives and adverbs modify or describe other words. Misplaced modifiers are modifiers placed too far from the word it modifies, so that they seem more associated with another word. This can change the meaning of a sentence. For example, do you say, “I found the lady’s red purse,” or “I found the red lady’s purse.” The first sentence is correct, because the purse is red, not the lady.

Adjectives, adverbs, phrases and clauses can all be misplaced to change the meaning of a sentence in an unwanted way. To make sure modifiers are associated with the correct word, make sure the words are placed together in a sentence. Here are more examples of misplaced modifiers and how to fix them.

A misplaced adjective: The stolen lady’s handbag was found.
Fixed: The lady’s stolen handbag was found.

A misplaced adverb: The students used the crayons they were given excitedly.
Fixed: The students excitedly used the crayons they were given.

A misplaced phrase: The dogs are walked in the park with leather collars.
Fixed: The dogs with leather collars are walked in the park.

A misplaced Clause: Someone took the apples from the basket that were ripe.
Fixed: Someone took all the apples that were ripe from the basket.

Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers are two completely different problems. With a misplaced modifier, the modifier appears to modify the wrong word. With a dangling modifier the modifier doesn’t seem to modify any part of the sentence. Dangling modifiers often occur at the beginning of a sentence.

Here is an example of a dangling modifier. “While studying geography, the book fell off the table.” Nothing mentioned in the sentence was actually studying geography. Logically, neither the book nor the table studied. In order to correct the sentence we have to invent a person to study geography. We can either fix the modifier, “While John was studying Geography, the book fell off the table.” or we can fix the rest of the sentence like this. “While studying Geography, John dropped the book.”

Popularity: 13% [?]

The Most Common Idioms

By on February 10, 2011

There are so many idioms, it may just be impossible to list them all. The meaning of idioms is as follows: a natural way of speaking to someone who is fluent in that language. Idioms in English writing seem to be used almost subconsciously. It seems that we just expect people to know these phrases and idioms and the meaning of them. Below is an idioms list.

A blessing in disguise: something that is not initially recognized as good, but is in all actuality, good.
A dime a dozen: something that is easy to find and may even be in abundance
A piece of cake: something that is easy to achieve, a task that is not hard
A slap on the wrist: a consequence that is not harsh
Back to the drawing board: To start over
Beating around the bush: To avoid the point of the subject, to avoid details one may not want to just come out and say
Break a leg: To wish someone luck
Close but no cigar: Coming close to accomplishing a goal but failing in the end
Cracking up: To laugh or find something humorous
Cry wolf: embellishing on something alarming, perhaps even lying about it
Cut to the chase or get to the point: to leave out unnecessary detail and simply tell someone the main idea you are trying to communicate.
Drive someone up a wall: to be irritated or annoyed
Every cloud has a silver lining: trying to see the good in all situations even if it seems bad.
Finger lickin’ good: something that tastes great
Get over it: to decide that something will not bother you any more
Go the extra mile: to give a task more attention than you normally would
Kick the bucket: to pass away
Mumbo jumbo: speech that is poor or does not make sense
Nest egg: a separate savings set away for later years
On pins and needles: someone who is anxious or nervous
Out of the blue: when something occurs that you did not anticipate
Scott free: to escape with no consequences

Popularity: 6% [?]

Count and Non Count Nouns

By on February 3, 2011

Some nouns name a specific item, such as a “chair,” “table” or “desk.” One can say how many desks are in a room, therefore desks can be counted. Other nouns like “furniture” can mean an unspecified amount of chairs tables and desks. Only one chair is described as furniture, and six thousand chairs are also furniture.

Words like Furniture are called mass nouns. Mass nouns are non count nouns. They cannot be expressed as a plural. No matter how many there are they are still expressed without an “s.” Other examples of mass nouns are poultry, cattle, wildlife, electricity and livestock. Even though these words are used to describe a quantity of something one cannot count these non count nouns.

Abstract nouns are also non count nouns. Abstract nouns are nouns that cannot be seen or touched, yet they have meaning. They are the opposite of concrete nouns such as chair, table and lamp. Examples of abstract nouns are love, peace, courage, knowledge, wisdom, education and justice. One cannot take a count of wisdom or peace, nor can we see them so they are both abstract and non count nouns.

Sometimes a non count noun can be used as a count noun, and expressed as a plural. Nouns that can be both count and non count nouns are called exceptions. One exception is in the category of food. Words like food, cheese, wine, water, fruit, meat, and bread are all non count nouns. Yet when speaking of several different types of food, people sometimes say foods, as in, “the frozen foods section of the grocery store.” The same is true of wine, cheese, fruit, meat, and bread.

It is incorrect to use the word “cheeses” to describe a pack of American singles because they are all alike, but one only says cheeses when referring to an array of different kinds of cheese. There are abstract noun exceptions such as using the word justices, when speaking of high level judges. Most of these examples for using abstract nouns as count nouns, involve other definitions for those nouns.

Popularity: 5% [?]