140. Words with Unexpected Grammar 2

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Many grammar errors occur with words that do not follow the same rule as words like them in meaning

THE MEANING OF “UNEXPECTED GRAMMAR”

This post provides further examples of a kind of word first presented within this blog under the heading 10. Words with Unexpected Grammar 1. The words have “narrow” grammar that differs from that of various words with similar meaning in the same grammatical class, and causes grammar errors as a result. The narrow grammar of the verb ENJOY, for example, differs unexpectedly from that of related verbs like LIKE, LOVE, PREFER and WANT in requiring any following verb to have -ing, not to.

My means of highlighting common errors caused by unexpected grammar is an “odd-one-out” exercise. For each error a list of similar words is presented along with a sentence where they are all grammatically correct except one, which has to be identified. This word is the particular one with unexpected grammar that is being highlighted. My prediction is that many readers will not correctly identify all of the problem words. Answers are given and explained later.

Be warned that “grammatically correct” is not the same as “logical”. Some of the words in the exercise express rather unexpected meanings, but are still grammatically correct and hence not the “odd-one-out”. An explanation of “grammatically correct” is in the Guinlist post 100. What is a Grammar Error?.

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EXERCISE IDENTIFYING WORDS WITH UNEXPECTED GRAMMAR

Which one of the words in each list below cannot grammatically replace the underlined one in the neighbouring sentence?

(a) Successful firms can give their employees more money.

AWARD, GRANT, HAND, LEAVE, PAY, PROVIDE, SEND

 

(b)Parents need to teach children how to speak politely.

EXPLAIN, INFORM, SHOW, TELL.

 

(c) Innovative companies expect to have a golden future.

AIM, APPEAR, DESIRE, INTEND, LOOK FORWARD, MEAN, PLAN, SEEM, WANT.

 

(d) Political speeches like to highlight successes.

ACCENTUATE, EMPHASISE, FOCUS, STRESS, UNDERLINE.

 

(e) Young children have a need to communicate.

AN ABILITY, A CHANCE, A DESIRE, A DUTY, A POSSIBILITY, A POTENTIAL, A TENDENCY, AN URGE, A WISH.

 

(f) Proceed carefully when the road is empty.

CLEAR, DESCEND, FREE, LEVEL, NARROW, NEAR, OPEN, SLOW.

 

(g) In British English, sidewalks are known as pavement.

ALLUDED TO, EXPRESSED, NAMED, REFERRED TO, SPOKEN OF.

 

(h) Free trade leads goods to be cheaper.

ALLOWS, CAUSES, COMPELS, ENABLES, FORCES, INDUCES, MAKES, OBLIGES, PERMITS

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ANSWERS AND EXPLANATIONS

Here are the above sentences with the incorrect words inserted:

(a) *Successful firms can provide their employees more money.

This sentence has two nouns after the underlined verb (their employees and more money), neither of them preceded by a preposition. Some verbs can be used like this, but not PROVIDE, which needs a preposition to be added before one of the nouns.

There are two different kinds of verb that can go before two nouns without either of them needing a preposition. One kind – not relevant here – needs both of the nouns to refer to the same thing. The second noun is then said to be an “object complement”. More can be read about verbs of this kind in the post 92. Complement-Showing “as”.

The other kind of verb, illustrated by all of the ones listed earlier for (a) except PROVIDE, needs the first of the two nouns without a preposition to be a beneficiary or recipient of the action or state being expressed. Nouns like this are commonly called “indirect objects”, and can be read about in detail in the post 126. Verbs with an Indirect Object. The problem with PROVIDE, of course, is that it too can accompany two nouns, one a beneficiary or recipient, but unexpectedly it must always have a preposition before one of the nouns.

There are actually two ways to correct the error above: you can add either with before more money or for before their employees (placed at the end). PROVIDE is one of the verbs considered within this blog in the post 123. Prepositional Verbs Containing a Noun).

 

(b) *Parents need to explain children how to speak politely.

The problem here is very similar to that in (a): a verb that cannot have an indirect object (EXPLAIN) has been given one because it is so similar to typical indirect-object verbs. The correction is to add to before children. EXPLAIN is best treated, like PROVIDE, as a prepositional verb containing a noun. Another verb like it is DEMONSTRATE.

The two “nouns” in (b) are children and how to speak politely. The latter is an unusual kind of noun-like phrase – it actually contains no noun. However it is classified as noun-like because it has to occupy typical positions of nouns and pronouns in a sentence (for a list of these, see 77. Apposition).

 

(c) *Innovative companies look forward to enjoy a golden future.

LOOK FORWARD TO is an example of a “phrasal-prepositional” verb (see 139. Phrasal Verbs). In other words, it expresses a single meaning (“anticipate happily”) in three words, including an adverb (forward) and a preposition (to). The fact that to is a preposition explains why look forward to cannot fit into (c): prepositions need any following verb to have -ing (see 70. Gerunds), but enjoy is a verb without this ending.

The reason why enjoy is correct after the other verbs listed for this sentence is that the to accompanying them is not a preposition, but is the to that helps to make verbs in the infinitive form (which lack an ending). The use of to as a preposition with a verb is quite rare. Other examples of it are listed in the post 35. “To Do” versus “To Doing”. The preposition with LOOK FORWARD TO is not its only problem; for another see 132. Tricky Word Contrasts 4 (#5).

 

(d) *Political speeches like to focus successes.

The correction here, of course, is to add on after focus. It is true that FOCUS can be used both with and without on, but the meanings are different: “highlight” (the meaning here) when on is present, and “bring together” otherwise (for other verbs like this, see 44. Troublesome Prepositional Verbs).

Perhaps more problematic than FOCUS is EMPHASISE. It cannot ever have on, but is often incorrectly given this preposition. One reason is probably the use of on with FOCUS (and CONCENTRATE). Another is perhaps the use of the similarly-spelt noun emphasis with on (see 42. Unnecessary Prepositions).

 

(e) *Young children have a possibility to communicate.

This error is discussed at length in the post 78. Infinitive versus Preposition after Nouns. After possibility, naming it needs of + -ing, not to + VERB. It is easy to think that the latter is right – not just because similar-meaning nouns do allow a to verb, but also because the related adjective possible has it. Moreover, the equivalent of a to verb is needed in various other languages with their word for possibility.

 

(f) *Proceed carefully when the road is descend.

The correct word here is descending or descended (or descends without is). The rule is simple enough: verbs after BE need an ending (either -ing making the active form of a continuous tense, or -ed making the passive form of a simple tense).

The reason why all of the other words listed for this sentence are correct is that they can be adjectives as well as verbs (see 66. Types of Passive Verb Meaning), and adjectives do not need an ending after BE. The fact that some verb spellings also represent adjectives seems a very probable reason for confusion about endings after BE (see also 133. Confusions of Similar Structures, #8 and 142. Reasons for Passive Verb Errors).

 

(g) *In British English, sidewalks are named as pavement.

The correction here is to remove as. The word it precedes, pavement, is a “complement” of the verb are named (for details of complements, see 113. Verbs that cannot be Passive). Some complements need as, some allow a free choice, and some cannot have it at all. Everything depends on the verb being used; NAME is of the last kind. Guidelines on the need for as are in the post 92. Complement-Showing “As”.

 

(h) *Free trade makes GOODS to be CHEAPER.

This sentence has an object (goods) and an object complement (cheaper). Such complements can be either nouns or adjectives; cheaper is the latter – its complement status confirmed by its position after the noun it describes rather than before (see 109. Placing an Adjective after its Noun). The need for to be before an object complement is variable, depending on the verb being used. The verb here, MAKE, does not allow to be: it needs an adjective complement to follow the object directly.

The same is often true when MAKE has a noun complement, but sometimes into has to be added (… makes goods into ambassadors). For details of when, see 141. Ways of Using MAKE.

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