English Grammar (Scepticalscribe?)

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by yaxomoxay, Jul 29, 2016.

  1. yaxomoxay macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #1
    @Scepticalscribe and others.
    What is a good and not boring book on proper English grammar, both for the written form and the spoken word?
     
  2. JamesMike macrumors demi-god

    JamesMike

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    #2
    The St. Martin's Handbook is a good start.
     
  3. Scepticalscribe, Jul 29, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #3
    Lynn Truss wrote a wonderfully acerbic book - which was very funny in parts - called "Eats Shoots and Leaves" which I recommend.

    The title comes from a notice she saw once. When describing the diet of a panda, the sentence 'Eats Shoots And Leaves" makes total sense.

    However, a - perhaps ambiguously inserted - comma which causes the sentence to now read "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" gives us something of a completely different order while subtly suggesting those creaking swinging doors in a saloon in the wild west where a laconic character with spurs, a holster - and a gun, naturally - and a wide brimmed hat, strolls out, eyes narrowed as he squints into the western sun...
     
  4. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    #4
    I loved that book -- really a delightful read!
     
  5. willmtaylor, Jul 29, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016

    willmtaylor macrumors G3

    willmtaylor

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    #5
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves is good.

    Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English is also informative and entertaining.

    I also like English for the Natives: Discover the Grammar You Don't Know You Know. This is a book about the descriptive nature of modern grammar use (versus prescriptive grammar--a teacher's telling students what is right/wrong).

    I've also read good things about The Elements of Eloquence: How Yo Turn the Perfect English Phrase, though I haven't actually read it myself.
     
  6. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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  7. Micky Do, Jul 29, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016

    Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

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    #7
    Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, published by Oxford University Press…...

    It proved useful to me when I started teaching English as a second language, and still does so occasionally. As a native speaker there are many things I just take for granted, for which it provides enlightenment, without being too dogmatic.

    Something I have learned over the years is to not get too bogged down in "proper grammar", or proper English for that matter. It is a mongrel language that has developed over the years, and is still doing so. Unlike many, if not most, other languages it does not really have a culture associated with it. Nowadays it is the first or second language of many different cultures and ethnic groups, all of whom have contributed to its development.

    Beyond a few basics, there are numerous variations and forms. There are times when it is important to stay with a standard form, for more formal documents and the like, but be aware that there are variations, such as the difference between UK English and US English, for instance.

    The Story of English; how the English language conquered the world (by Philip Gooden, published by Quercus), is an interesting read on how the language came to be, and is still developing.
     
  8. willmtaylor macrumors G3

    willmtaylor

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    #8
    Yes, the gold standard, but not exactly enthralling. More like a quick reference or grammar encyclopedia.
     
  9. yaxomoxay thread starter macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #9
    Thank you guys for your suggestions! I will definitely check 'em out
     
  10. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #10
    I've found the The Chicago Manual of Style to be a great reference.
     
  11. willmtaylor macrumors G3

    willmtaylor

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    #11
    Agreed that Turabian is a good reference in a pinch, not unlike Swan's work, but not exactly what the OP was asking for.
     
  12. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #12
    Sure, seemed relevant, anyway.
     
  13. rhett7660 macrumors G4

    rhett7660

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    #13
    I picked up the Gregg Reference Manual, based on an English class I took. The Chicago Manual was also mentioned, ala at the end of the class though... grrr.
     
  14. Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

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    #14
    Why not let the OP be the arbiter of that?
     
  15. yaxomoxay thread starter macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #15
    I reserved all of them through my public library, although I will get them at separate times.
    For now I got Woe Is I that (*) is an interesting and quick book so far.
    Next one will be Eats Shoots and Leaves.


    (*)
    if I read the "rule" correctly, I have to use that instead of which because I can't drop the clause.
     
  16. mrex macrumors 68020

    mrex

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    #16
    Off topic

    Get something that shows all exeptions. That is the grammar you will need :D

    /off topic
     
  17. Mousse, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016

    Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #17
  18. Gregg2 macrumors 603

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    #18
    Sounds like the best one so far! ;)
     
  19. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #19
    Good grammar is important. The fundamental purpose of grammar is to ensure that the meaning the author intends to convey is successfully transmitted to the reader. (Hence the humor in "Eats, shoots, and leaves").

    But perfect grammar is not necessarily the objective. The New York Times has a column specifically devoted to the niceties of grammar and usage, and not infrequent errors, in recent Times articles. For example:

    Can you spot the error in that? For the purists:

    You could spend an awful lot of time on a quest for perfection, without really adding much to either your understanding of the issue at hand, or your effectiveness as a communicator.

    Yes: Strive to keep to the basic rules of English grammar. Agreements in case, between subject and verb. Pay some attention to the hazards of homophones ("their"; "they're"; "there"). I cannot tell you how many times calling someone a "looser" has caused private guffaws among readers.

    But don't obsess over it.

    Personally, I think a short volume on the general principles of short essay writing, such as the classic The Lively Art of Writing; with its emphasis on the structure and composition of effective and enjoyable writing may be a good investment of the student's time.
     
  20. jerwin macrumors 65816

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    #20
    The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed isn't boring.

    [​IMG]
     
  21. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #21
    In that construction I'd probably use which, along with a preceding comma. I don't think "is an interesting and quick book so far" is a restrictive clause. Therefore, it should use which. However, I could be wrong, or it could just be one of those disputable things with cogent arguments on both sides.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_relative_clauses#That_or_which_for_non-human_antecedents
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restrictiveness
    Restrictive modifiers are also called defining, identifying, essential, or necessary; non-restrictive ones are also called non-defining, non-identifying, descriptive, or unnecessary (though this last term can be misleading).​

    It could also be written as two sentences:
    For now I got Woe Is I. It's an interesting and quick book so far.

    On the general question, are you a native English speaker or not?
     
  22. yaxomoxay, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016

    yaxomoxay thread starter macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #22
    mmm re-reading the rule it seems that I've found one of those strange cases...

    From Writer's digest ( http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/which-vs-that ):
    Now according to your wiki link:

    My original sentence is:
    Now, is the second part (bolded) necessary?
    It is not necessary to tell you that I got the book, but it is necessary to convey the meaning I want to convey (that is, that specific book is interesting).
    --- Post Merged, Aug 2, 2016 ---
    Thank you for the suggestion. Another one in the list.
    as for homophones... I am lucky. Being ESL it's pretty easy for me to spell words, and I (very) rarely confuse their/they're/there its/it's...
    On the other hand who/whom, me/I catch me off guard quite often
    --- Post Merged, Aug 2, 2016 ---
    Nope, I learned English about 13 years ago, at 23. I had some rudimentary knowledge, but nothing more. Unfortunately I'll never get rid of my accent...
     
  23. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #23
    Yes, it's necessary for conveying the idea you want to express, but it's not necessary for qualifying which book you're referring to. All that's necessary to identify the book is its title.

    To be more specific, "is an interesting and quick book so far" is a descriptive phrase. One way to tell this is so is that when I separated your original into two sentences, both sentences made sense, were unambiguous, and didn't change in meaning. If the phrase were restrictive, then the result wouldn't have made sense, or it would be ambiguous, or it would have changed meaning.

    So I'm still of the opinion that your earlier sentence is using a non-restrictive phrase, specifically a descriptive phrase, so which is preferred over that.

    Another way of expressing the original idea would be:
    Woe Is I is an interesting and quick book so far.​

    It's not necessary to say you got the book, because that can be inferred from the statement that you're reading it. You could also use "and":
    For now I got Woe Is I, and it's an interesting and quick book so far.​

    This uses "and" to connect the two sentences from above into a single sentence. The comma before the "and" could probably be omitted.
     
  24. yaxomoxay thread starter macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #24
    Oh, here's the mistake I was making. Thanks!
    --- Post Merged, Aug 2, 2016 ---
    I think that one of the good things of the English language is that it is very easy to learn its basic grammar.
    If I tell you "Me thinks going restroom" you understand what I am trying to say. The basic vocabulary is also pretty easy to learn.
    Now, writing in correct English is quite a challenge. There are so many exceptions that it makes grammar a real science. For example, plurals. Potatos is wrong, or "two fish" to describe 2 of the same species, while "two fishes" to describe 2 species, and so on. Or as we have discussed that/which, me/I, who/whom etc.
    I also feel sorry for my kids, they have to memorize how to spell many words... I am lucky because in my head I pronounce words as I would write them in my native language (ok, I know it's weird...) so I can spell 96% of them correctly even the first time I hear them.
    Pronunciation is the true problem for me. The freaking "th" sound is almost impossible for me while I talk. If I try saying "the, the, the" I can do it. If I put it into a sentence, I mess it up. The "r" is another issue, yet much less problematic.
     
  25. vrDrew, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016

    vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #25
    Don't feel bad about that. "Who" and "Whom" continue to challenge people who've spoken English since infancy; and more than a few people who actually teach English at the University level.

    I will note that, for all its popularity as a de facto universal language, English can be an extremely complicated and often baffling language. Even for the native speaker. English is one of very few languages where you can have crossword puzzles that depend on a person's understanding and knowledge of a word's multiple meanings. For instance a recent NYT Crossword clue: "Figure in a dark suit", and its correct answer: "Spade" depend on the solver knowing that one of the many meanings of the word "Suit" (in addition to a set of clothing; a verb meaning to agree with or be appropriate to; and a legal action) - is that of a subset of a deck of playing cards. And that "Spade" - in addition to referring to a digging tool can also refer to a type of playing card.

    How non-native English speakers deal with this, I don't know. I can tell you that German and French crosswords are, by comparison, relatively tame affairs, more on the lines of trivia quizzes.

    On the other hand, English is a language that dispenses, almost entirely, with the baffling gendering of nouns that makes a German Mädchen (girl) neuter or a French wardrobe (garde-robe) feminine.

    I applaud anyone who works to improve their English grammar.
     

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