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Posted: January 8, 2012 12:00 a.m.

That sounds about wrong

It is an amazement to me that people seem to find columns about grammar interesting. I feel, every time I write one, that I am back teaching school and I can envision my readers falling asleep as they read a somewhat esoteric discussion about a grammar question.

Yet after each column about a grammar point, I get emails either asking me a question about grammar or requesting a column on another point of grammar.

A recent email asked about the use of well and good following the verb "feel." If someone says, "I feel well," he is referring to his health and well-being. There is nothing physically wrong with him. If he says, "I feel good," he is actually referring to the quality of his sense of touch. Give him something to touch, and he can probably identify it with his eyes closed because he has a good sense of touch. "Well" is usually an adverb, but in this context it is used as an adjective meaning in sound health. "Good" is an adjective referring to the sense of touch.

But just the opposite is true if he is not feeling well. If someone says, "I feel badly," he is referring to his sense of touch. Don't give him anything to recognize by the sense of touch; he can't. So you can actually feel bad and have it refer to your sense of well-being and health.

I know it is not logical. But as I am sure my students can remember my saying in class, "It's not what sounds right; it's what is right."

Another question dealt with the use of the word "myself." Theodore M. Bernstein in his book "Dos, Don'ts & Maybees of English Usage" suggests that the misuse of myself is "caused by a fear of the words ‘I' and ‘me.'" If the writer or speaker doesn't know which pronoun to use, he begs the question by using neither and substitutes the word "myself," avoiding one grammar error and creating another.

You can only use "myself" if you have already used I in the same sentence. I, myself, completed the grammar test correctly. I made that dress by myself. The same is true of any other pronoun added to self. My granddaughter is able to dress herself. (The herself refers to granddaughter.)

Incorrect would be, "Susan and myself went to the mall to shop." Or, "Susan, please give that plaque for using correct grammar to himself."

How about midnight and noon. Something either happens at noon or 12 p.m., not both; that is redundant. (You are saying it twice.) The same applies to midnight and 12 a.m. the funeral was at 12 p.m. noon. Wrong. It is either the funeral was at noon or the funeral was at 12 p.m.
And finally correlative conjunctions - either or, neither nor or not only but also. The grammatical construction that follows the first one has to follow the second one.

All these sentences are wrong. I like neither that television show nor do I like the music that accompanies it. He went not only to the party with his girlfriend but also he went to a restaurant with her afterwards. You should either complete reading the book before critiquing it or you should at least admit you have not finished it.

They should read as follows. I like neither that television show nor the music that accompanies it. (conjunction adjective, adjective noun) Not only did he go to the party with his girlfriend, but also he went to a restaurant with her afterwards. (subject, verb, prepositional phrase, prepositional phrase) Either you should complete reading the book before critiquing it or you should at least admit you have not finished reading it before the critique. (subject, verb, object, prepositional phrase) You should either complete reading the book before critiquing it or at least admit you have not finished reading it before the critique. (verb, object, prepositional phrase)

If you have more grammar questions or pet peeves, email me. If my brain holds out, I'll try to mention it in a column.


Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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