Archive for June, 2006

Celebrity English

June 29, 2006

Celebrity Grammar has a new home!

Please visit the new site: Celebrity English | Grammar Examples.

Learn both grammar and vocabulary from the stars at Celebrity English!

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Usher and an Error in Subject/Verb Agreement

June 15, 2006

Usher, together with dozens of volunteers, have joined an effort to clean up the grounds of a school in New Orleans that suffered grave damage from Hurricane Katrina.

This sentence contains an error in subject/verb agreement. The subject, "Usher," is singular, and the verb, "have joined," is plural.

The phrase set off by commas, "together with dozens of volunteers," is not part of the subject. When determining agreement between a subject and a verb, ignore words that come between them. Consider crossing off these words to isolate the subject and the verb.

This is the corrected sentence with this trick employed:

Usher, together with dozens of volunteers, has joined an effort to clean up the grounds of a school in New Orleans that suffered grave damage from Hurricane Katrina.

The White Stripes and an Error in Diction: “very unique”

June 13, 2006

A producer who claims to have played a crucial role in the development of the White Stripes' very unique sound is suing the band for a share of its royalties.

This sentence contains an error in diction. "Unique" is an absolute adjective, which means that it cannot be modified in a comparative manner. "Unique" means "unlike anything else; having no equal." Someone or something is either unique or not unique. Someone or something cannot be very unique or more unique than others, just as someone or something cannot be very dead or more dead than others.

A new meaning of "unique" has developed: the definition of this word has come to include "unusual," which is not absolute and can be modified in a comparative manner. However, standardized examinations test knowledge of standard written English, and this meaning of "unique" is not presently standard. You should be aware of this usage so that you can identify the error on an examination, and you should avoid using a comparatively modified form of "unique" in your writing.

Correct the sentence by removing the comparative modifier "very."

A producer who claims to have played a crucial role in the development of the White Stripes' unique sound is suing the band for a share of its royalties.

Britney Spears and Two Agreement Errors

June 12, 2006

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood have taken their toll on her good spirits.

This sentence contains two errors: one in subject/verb agreement and one in pronoun/antecedent agreement. When correlative conjunctions, such as "neither" and "nor," are used in a sentence, the subject closer to the verb and the referent pronoun determines the number of those words. Crossing off everything from "neither" to "nor" may help in identifying the subject:

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood have taken their toll on her good spirits.

Now that the first part of the subject has been crossed off, it is clear that the subject of the clause is "motherhood," which is singular, and that the verb ("have taken") and the referent pronoun ("their") are plural. Change the number of the verb and the referent pronoun so that they are in agreement with the subject of the clause.

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood has taken its toll on her good spirits.

Matt and a Dangling Participle

June 12, 2006

Born on June 10, 2006, Matt Damon and his wife announced the arrival of their daughter, Isabella.

This sentence contains a dangling participle. The participial phrase is "Born on June 10, 2006" and the subject is "Matt Damon and his wife." A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence should logically modify the subject. Matt and his wife were not born on June 10, 2006. Their daughter was, and the sentence should be structured such that the participial phrase modifies the correct word. Restructure the sentence to make the modifier describe Isabella.

Matt Damon and his wife announced the arrival of their daughter, Isabella, born on June 10, 2006.

Angelina, Brad, and an Error in Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

June 12, 2006

A Namibian official announced that Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and their children have left Africa. Their destination remains an enigma to reporters seeking to follow the family wherever they may go.

The second sentence contains an error in pronoun/antecedent agreement. The antecedent "family" is a collective noun that is singular in this context because the family is going as a single unit. The referent pronoun "they" is plural. Change the referent pronoun's number to singular to correct the error.

A Namibian official announced that Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and their children have left Africa. Their destination remains an enigma to reporters seeking to follow the family wherever it may go.

Carmen and a Misplaced Modifier

June 10, 2006

Carmen Electra hosted a Celebrity Poker Tournament in Las Vegas to raise money for the Head to Hollywood charity. Carmen founded the organization after her mother died from brain cancer, which brings patients and their families to Hollywood for a celebrity experience.

The second sentence contains a misplaced modifier. The adjective clause that begins with "which brings patients" should describe the organization, but it is closer to "brain cancer" and therefore appears to modify the disease. Brain cancer does not bring people to Hollywood for a celebrity experience. Head to Hollywood does. To correct the sentence, move the modifier closer to the word it modifies.

Carmen Electra hosted a Celebrity Poker Tournament in Las Vegas to raise money for the Head to Hollywood charity. Carmen founded the organization, which brings brain cancer patients and their families to Hollywood for a celebrity experience, after her mother died from the disease.

The clause now modifies "organization." Notice the change in syntax that moves "brain cancer" to modify "patients" so that the type of disease that the organization raises money for comes earlier in the sentence. This word order strengthens the clarity of the sentence.

Britney and an Error in Diction: liable/likely

June 8, 2006

Britney Spears is liable to develop a line of clothing bearing her son's namesake, for she recently filed a trademark application for the words "SEAN PRESTON."

This sentence contains an error in diction: "liable" has been used in place of "likely."

"Liable" means "responsible," as in "Parents are liable for their children's behavior." It can also mean "probable," but only when it precedes an infinitive that would cause a negative outcome for the subject, as in "You are liable to fall if you walk on a wet floor" or "If he does not study, he will be liable to fail."

In this sentence, the infinitive is "to develop." While her endeavor may possibly fail, developing a line of clothing is not a negative outcome. It would be something that Britney planned and desired. A better word to use in this sentence is "likely," which means "probable" but without the negative connotations of "liable."

The sentence should be written as follows:

Britney Spears is likely to develop a line of clothing bearing her son's namesake, for she recently filed a trademark application for the words "SEAN PRESTON."

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, and a Faulty Comparison

June 8, 2006

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released a song that sounds remarkably like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. A radio station played the Chili Peppers' “Dani California” at the same time as Tom Petty's “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” to demonstrate the songs' strikingly similar chord progressions and rhythms.

While the comparison between the two songs may not be faulty, the first sentence contains a grammatical faulty comparison. It is not logical to compare a song to a band. Songs should be compared to songs.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released a song that sounds remarkably like one by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. A radio station played the Chili Peppers' “Dani California” at the same time as Tom Petty's “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” to demonstrate the songs' strikingly similar chord progressions and rhythms.

The sentence compares "a song" to "one by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers." This comparison is logical. The sentence is correct.

Mischa and a Comma Splice

June 6, 2006

Mischa Barton's bad luck continues, she was killed off The O.C. for reportedly being too hard to work with, now her boyfriend has left her.

This run-on sentence contains two comma splices. Three independent clauses are separated by two commas. A comma cannot separate independent clauses in a sentence. Only a semicolon or a conjunction can separate independent clauses in a sentence.

One way of correcting this error is to isolate one of the clauses as its own sentence and join the two remaining clauses properly.

Mischa Barton's bad luck continues. She was killed off The O.C. for reportedly being too hard to work with, and now her boyfriend has left her.

  • There are other ways to correct the error. See if you can come up with one and post it in the comments.