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English- Sentence Correction (06-08-2015)

The fluency of a language can be gauged by the ability to find mistakes and correct them. For this, one should be very clear with grammatical rules. We will be discussing sentence correction under the following heads:

  1. Subject-Verb Agreement
  2. Modifiers
  3. Pronoun Agreement
  4. Comparisons


Subject Verb Agreement.
 The verb and the subject must always agree in Number as well as in Person.

Two or more singular subjects when joined by ‘and’ require a plural verb.

  • He and I were studying in the same school.
  • Violet and red are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Two or more singular subjects when joined by ‘or’or ‘nor’ require a singular verb.

  • Neither tea nor coffee was available in the cafeteria.
  • Fear or desire is simply a self-made channelization of thoughts.

Two or more nouns when qualified by ‘each’ and ‘every’ require a singular verb.

  • Every boy and every girl of the troupe was given an individual room.
  • Each and every student was given a volunteering certificate.

Words which are joined to a singular subject by ‘with’, ‘as well’ etc. require a singular verb.

  • The cupboard, with its beautiful teak drawers, was an elegant piece of craftsmanship.
  • The ship, with its crew was lost.

A collective noun takes a singular verb when the collection is taken as a singular entity. A plural verb is used when they are taken as a collection of a number of entities.

  • The committee has published its report.
  • The committee are divided on one minor point.

‘Either’, ‘neither’ must be followed by a singular verb.

  • Neither of the applicants was found to be eligible for the job.

Some nouns which are plural in form but singular in meaning require a singular verb.

  • There is some good news.
  • Politics is a mix of greed and viciousness.

When a singular subject is separated from other subjects by a comma, it requires a singular verb.

  • The teacher, along with his students, was going to the museum.

Given below is an exercise to elucidate these rules. Correct the underlined words.

  1. Each of these languages are spoken in India.
  2. Either he or I are mistaken.
  3. A good man and honest citizen have passed away.
  4. A good man and an honest citizen have passed away.
  5. Sixty Rupees are too much for this bag.
  6. Gulliver’s Travels are written by Swift.
  7. The jury were divided in their opinion.
  8. Three parts of the business are left for me to do.
  9. The jury were satisfied after giving the verdict.
  10. No news are good news.

Answers

  1. Is
  2. Am
  3. Has
  4. No Correction
  5. Is
  6. Was
  7. No Correction
  8. Is/was
  9. Was
  10. Is

___________________

We now go onto sentence corrections related to modifiers.

Modifiers are of two types

  • Adjectives- words which describe nouns

She is a sweet girl. ( Sweet is the adjective)

  • Adverbs- words which describe verbs

The birds chirp sweetly in the springtime. ( Sweetly is the adverb, it describes how the birds chirp)

In most cases we can make the adverb by adding ‘-ly’ to the adjective. There are some exceptions to this rule

  • Good- adjective, well- adverb. There is no such word as ‘goodly’.

There are some cases where the adjective and the adverb are the same word:

  • Early
  • Fast

Examples

  • She is a good dancer. (Adjective)
  • She dances very well. (Adverb)
  • He came to the fort early. (Adverb)
  • It is an early decision. (Adjective)
  • He is a fast runner. (Adjective)
  • He ran very fast. (Adverb)
  • After the accident, he began to lisp very badly. ( Since lisp is a word we need to use an adverb)

There are some verbs, mainly the verbs of sense which are described by adjectives and not adverbs. These verbs of sense include the following

  • Look
  • Be
  • Seem
  • Feel
  • Smell
  • Taste

It would therefore be wrong to say that something tastes ‘deliciously’, the correct sentence would be

The lemon meringue tastes delicious.( Though tastes is a verb we are using an adjective to describe it)

She looked very good after returning from a holiday in the Alps.

The main point to be kept in mind is that the usage of adverbs and adjectives should not be confused. We can go through his exercise to understand the concept better. Correct the following sentences.

  1. The flowers smell sweetly.
  2. We feel warm on the subject.
  3. The kitchen smells well.
  4. She is a real good artist.
  5. He is so intelligent.

Answers

  1. Sweet will replace sweetly
  2. Warmly will replace warm
  3. Good will replace well
  4. Really will replace real
  5. Very will replace so

Pronoun Agreement

The pronoun being used depends on whether it is being used as the subject or the object of the sentence.

If the pronoun is the subject of the verb then ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘who’, ‘I’, ‘they’ and ‘we’ are used.

Example

Glen was dressed marvellously. Here, since ‘Glen’ is the subject of the verb ‘dressed’ , the pronoun used would be ‘she’.

If the pronoun is used as an object then ‘him’, ‘her’, ‘whom’, ‘them’ and ‘us’ are used.

Example

Wrong Usage: He took you and she out for dinner?

Correct Usage: He took you and her out for dinner

‘He’ is definitely the subject of the verb, whereas the other pronouns are objects.

A pronoun immediately after ‘than’ is usually in the objective case except when followed by a verb.

Examples

  • He is taller than me.
  • He is taller than I am.
  • He is smarter than her.
  • He works more than she does.
  • I am as tall as her.
  • I am as tall as she is.

Usage of ‘who’ and ‘whom’

If the pronoun is a subject then ‘who’ is used and if the pronoun is an object then ‘whom’ is used.

Examples

  • I have no idea whom the teacher meant when she spoke about violators of discipline norms. Here, the ‘whom’ is the object of the verb ‘meant’.
  • Who they were, I cannot really specify.
  • Who do you think she is?
  • He was the man who they were determined should be the next mayor.
  • People who respect others earn respect for themselves. (here, the people are the object)
  • The people whom others respect are always expected to remain humble. (here, the people are the subject)

It may be noted here that today, ‘who’ does replace ‘whom’ in spoken English, the differentiation being rigid only in formal English.

Possessive pronouns must agree in person and number

The following pronouns are singular in number:

anyone anything each
either everyone everything
neither no one nothing
what whatever whoever

These are plural:

both many several others few

Wrong Usage: Some of you will have to bring their own laptops.

Correct Usage: Some of you will have to bring your own laptops.

Examples

  • All members must show their identity cards at the reception desk.
  • Each of the girls gave her own perspective of child abuse.
  • I am one of those who reflect on everything they see.

The indefinite pronoun ‘one’ should be used throughout

Wrong Usage: One should not believe everything he hears.

Correct Usage: One should not believe everything one hears.

Examples

  • One must not boast of one’s own virtues.
  • One must use one’s talents in the best possible way if one wishes to be successful.

The objects of the verb ‘to be’ are in subjective form

Example

  • It must have been she who called.

Relative Pronouns

The word ‘which’ introduces non-essential clauses and ‘that’ introduces essential clauses. ‘Who’ refers to individuals; ‘that’ refers to a group of persons, class, type, or species.

Given below is an exercise to illustrate the usage of pronouns and their agreement with verbs. Correct the underlined words.

  1. Every man must carry their own luggage.
  2. He has given great trouble to my mother and I.
  3. One should eat what he likes.
  4. Everyone on the project have to come to office.
  5. We should seek the company of people who are optimistic.
  6. She was one of the greatest teachers that has ever lived.
  7. Each of the students have done well.
  8. If anyone comes over, take their name.
  9. Neither he nor his wife were there.
  10. This is between her and I.

Answers

  1. His
  2. Me
  3. One
  4. Has
  5. No Correction
  6. Have
  7. Has
  8. His
  9. Was
  10. Me

Comparisons

Comparisons here refer to those which can be logically made. We are not talking about comparing apples with oranges. Some key comparison words are

like as compared to
less than more than other
that of those of

Examples

Wrong Usage : The teacher questioned the diligence of the math students compared to students of humanities.

Correct Usage : The teacher questioned the diligence of the math students compared to the diligence of the students of humanities.

The comparison has to be logical and two similar things should be compared, like the quality can be compared but we cannot compare a quality with a bunch of students. Following the same principle we have another example

Wrong Usage : The newer model weighed twenty grams less than the older one.

Correct Usage : The newer model weighed twenty grams less than the older one did.

OR The weight of the newer model was twenty grams less than the older one.

Following the rules mentioned above, correcting grammatically wrong sentences will not be very difficult. We can use a three- pronged strategy

  • Read the sentence
  • Try to figure out which rule the question is testing, if any.
  • Eliminate answers

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