Complements and Copulatives

‘The exception to the subject-verb-object rule concerns – guess what – the verb to be. It doesn’t take an object, it takes a complement. To be, and verbs used in a similar way, such as to become, to seem, to taste are called copulative verbs (honestly, they are – look it up in the dictionary if you don’t believe us) – they express a state rather than performing an action. So in sentences such as:

I am a Londoner
You became an artist
He seems respectable enough
The chocolates tasted of arsenic

the words after the verb are the complement, and they may be nouns, pronouns, adjectives or adverbs, or phrases serving the same purpose (e.g. in the above example, of arsenic is an adverbial phrase qualifying the verb tasted).’

– Taggart. C., Wines. J.A. 2008. My Grammar And I (or should that be ‘me’?) London, Great Britain: Michael O’Mara (2011) p. 125

Definitely Indefinite

‘An Historical Note

‘He was sojourning at an hotel in Bond Street.’
Anthony Trollope

Here’s a hypothesis – or rather four separate but vaguely related hypotheses – on words beginning with h and an unstressed syllable (or why some people say an history, an hotel and an hypothesis):

  1. Once upon a time all educated people spoke French and so pronounced history, such as the French word histoire, with a silent h. Appropriately they gave it the article an.
  2. Some – less well-educated and therefore non-French-speaking – people spoke badly, were lazy about pronouncing their aitches, and so got into the habit of saying an ‘istory.
  3. Educated people disliked dropping aitches, so began to pronounce them in French words that traditionally used the article an: an history.
  4. People spoke too quickly, running together the words a and history, so that it became pronounced anistory. When they paused for breath, and separated things out a bit, they thought the word must be an history.

Note the inherent snobbishness of these hypotheses. It crops up a lot in the study of language.

But whatever the origins of the practice may be, the rule is: if the h is pronounced (as in history, hotel and hypothesis), the correct article is a; if it is not pronounced (as in honour and hour), use an.’

– Taggart. C., Wines. J.A. 2008. My Grammar And I (or should that be ‘me’?) London, Great Britain: Michael O’Mara (2011) p. 42-43

Mistakes to avoid

‘Grammar Rules (to avoid)

1. Verbs has got to agree with their nous.
2. Remember to never split an infinitive.
3. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
4. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
5. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others elude to them.
6. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
7. Eliminate unnecessary references. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘I hate quotations’.
8. Who needs rhetorical questions?
9. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
10. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.’

– Taggart. C., Wines. J.A. 2008. My Grammar And I (or should that be ‘me’?) London, Great Britain: Michael O’Mara (2011) p. 12