Grammar III. Punctuation and Syntax. Bradius V. Maurus III

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1 Grammar III Punctuation and Syntax Bradius V. Maurus III Posnaniae 2006 by the author

2 The Phrase and the Clause A phrase is a group of words. For example, prepositional phrases, participial phrases, infinitive phrases, and phrasal verbs. A clause is a syntagma (sentence element) including a subject and a finite verb. (Note that although a clause is a group of words and therefore is in a sense a phrase, in fact it is always contrasted with a phrase and not normally regarded as a kind of phrase.) (Note on page 60 of Objective CAE reference is made to participle clauses! This is a clear error a phrase consisting of a particple (a verbal, not a verb) and no subject cannot be called a clause in any normal system of English grammar. The proper term here is participial phrase.) Clauses can be further divided into independent clauses (which could make good and complete independent sentences without modification) and dependent or subordinate clauses (which cannot be used alone as complete sentences). A clause is made dependent by adding a subordinator to it, e.g. when, if, because, although, for, before, after or while. If you have made a clause subordinate, you must in general not use it alone in writing. To do so will cause it to me marked Sentence Fragment (FRAG!), a serious syntactic error. In everyday conversation it is perfectly natural to say, for example, Because it was too hard, but in writing it becomes an error. He is a teacher is an independent clause and could be a complete independent sentence. If he is a teacher, Although he is a teacher, etc. are subordinate clauses, dependent on being joined with an independent clause (then often called a main clause ) to make part of a complete sentence. Here are some rules about using commas between combinations of syntagmata (sentence elements): (P = phrase, IC = independent clause, DC = dependent clause) 1. P + IC: comma optional 2. IC + P: comma normally absent 3. DC + IC: comma absolutely required 4. IC + DC: comma normally absent 5. IC + IC: comma absolutely inadequate! Use a conjunction! (and, or) 6. IC + IC + IC: A comma may be used between the first and second ICs. but there must be a conjunction or comma plus conjuction between the last two. Number 5 supra is a very serious syntactic error called the comma splice. It is a particular case of the general rules in English about series: A and B (right) A or B (right) A, B (wrong!) A and B and C (right) A, B and C (right)

3 A, B, and C (right) If there are exactly three elements the presence or absence of a comma before the conjunction is optional. A, B or C (right) A, B, or C (usually wrong!) The combination comma or is usually not used except for special purposes. A, B, C, and D (right) A, B, C and D (wrong!) If there are four or more elements, the last two should be separated with comma and, not just and. It in general does not matter what elements are in a series or where they are in a sentence. E.g., Tom, Ted and Mary are going on a trip. I have some apples, oranges and pears. It is stupid, obtuse, and dumb! He plays that game on the bus, during meals, and even in bed! Playing with tigers, engaging in bungee jumping, and jumping out of airplanes without a parachute are all activities which do not appeal to me. However, there is one important exception: if there are two or more attributive adjectives before a noun, it is allowable not to have any conjunction, e.g.: A strong, tall, athletic man like you has no fear of a little twenty-mile hike, right? But in the predicate position this is not true; we must say, He is a strong, tall and athletic man. Also note: a semicolon may separate two independent clauses: He studied the assignment; he did not understand it. This is not a comma splice, but may be clumsy. A semicolon is stronger than a comma, so it can be used when there are multi-level lists: John loves drinking orange juice, vodka, beer, and milk; eating pizzas, baked yams and eggs; and sleeping in the night, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. A general golden rule about commas: In addition to the standard structure-based rules about commas, always feel free to use them wherever they will help the reader understand the sentence correctly on the first reading and to phrase it correctly in his mind or reading aloud. Remember that a comma usually represents a short (or even long) pause in natural speaking. Proper use of punctuation is related to natural phrasing in speech. A comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence, and should not be thought of as trivial! For example: John did not come because he loved Mary. John did not come, because he loved Mary. The first sentence implies that John indeed came, but his motivation was not love for Mary. The second sentence states that

4 John did not come and that his motivation for not coming was his love for Mary. An Additional Rule for Comma Use If there are introductory words at the beginning of a sentence before the subject which clarify the relationship to previous sentences, then it is normal to put a comma after them: Therefore, we should not do it that way. However, that was difficult. The next day, we went to walk on the beach. So, we gave up. A little later, he tried again. Syntactic Types of Sentences Sentences are often classified by what kinds of syntagmata they contain. For your reference, here is a list: 1. A sentence with one independent clause and no special phrases is a simple sentence. 2. A sentence in which there are two or more subjects or two or more different verbs is a compound sentence. 3. A sentence in which there is at lest one independent clause and one dependent clause is a complex sentence. 4. A sentence in which the conditions for both compound and complex sentences exist at once are compund-complex sentences. Note that compund sentences are difficult to define simply and adequately. Most people might say that the following sentences are such John knows Latin and Mary likes Greek. John and Mary speak Hebrew. (compound subject) John speaks Chinese and Japanese. (compound predicate) But how about: John studies German on Saturdays and on Sundays. This could be unpacked to give John studies German on Saturdays and John studies German on Sundays. From a grammatical point of view we might say that the two preposition phrases of time are just modifying the same verb, whereas from a logical point of view we might see two different propositions here. We shall not try to deal with these subtleties here. It is desirable from the standpoint of naturalness and good style to use a variety of these sentence types in speaking and in composition. How to Format Titles and Citations A title in English is indicated by capitalisation. The two-fold rule is: 1. Capitalise the first and last words. 2. Capitalise the important words in between. (Usually nouns, but not articles, pronouns, conjunctions or prepositions.

5 Adjectives, adverbs and verbs vary according to semantic considerations.) On the title of a given work (including student compositions) there is no use of quotation marks or italics. Note that English also avoids using quotation marks in the names of companies, hotels, restaurants, etc., unlike Polish. Also notice that if a proper noun includes a common noun, the common noun is capitalised too: Oak Street, Grand Avenue, The Atlantic Ocean, the Ohio River, The Hilton Hotel, The Episcopal Church, the Rocky M ountains Other works are cited in English texts according to their form. A. Books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopaediae, scholarly journals, motion pictures: type in italics, or if handwriting, underline: Brave New World, The New York Times, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Lingua Posnaniensis B. Articles in longer works or anthologies or chapters: place between double quotation marks: New York Times, Three Killed in Midtown Fire (name of article) Note that sometimes books, etc. have their titles printed on them in all capital letters. This is for graphic reasons (aesthetics), not orthographic reasons. When you quote the title of a work in a text or bibliography, you should always convert them to standard capitalisation for titles. Also note that sometimes specific teachers, organisations and publications have their own special standards for citation formatting. Follow them when they are provided, but otherwise you will always be safe using these standard guidelines. You may see exceptions such as titles embedded in italic text being printed in normal letters for contrast, and some newspapers which once upon a time did not have italic fonts still preferring to print titles of works cited in boldface instead of italics. If you cite a book title in the title of your own work, it looks like this: Huxley's Brave New World: a Nightmare in Waiting? (Note that in English titles and subtitles are separated by colons, not periods or commas. If a subtitle is indicated only by smaller letters in a book, you should add the appropriate colon in citing it.) Summary The main points to take away from this information booklet are: 1. Know the difference between a phrase and a clause, and everything that implies. 2. Avoid comma splices and sentence fragments. 3. Remember that the last two members of a series almost always require a conjunction between them. 4. Never use quotation marks in names.

6 5. Cite books with italics (unless you are handwriting, in which case use underlining). Finis

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