Chapter Four Grammar

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1 Chapter Four Grammar Judges, colleagues, and clients expect to see correct grammar in all lawyers written work. Grammatical errors mar legal writing, even if it is eloquent, clearly reasoned, or brilliant. Mistakes in grammar can change a sentence s meaning, and sloppy usage may confuse the reader. If a writer ignores grammatical rules, readers may wonder whether the substance of a paper is correct. Use this chapter as a reference to help you identify and fill gaps in your grammar background. You can review the elements of sentence structure, techniques for combining clauses, and lawyers most common grammatical errors. These include pronoun usage, subject-verb agreement, dangling modifiers, and use of the subjunctive. 4.1 Clauses A clause is a group of related words that contains both a subject and a predicate. Clauses may be independent or subordinate Independent Clauses A main clause is a grammatically independent unit that can stand alone as a sentence: 1. On April 30, City Council approved A-1 zoning status for Pinebrook Apartments. 2. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act sets aside rivers for preservation. 3. Tele-Value has installed underground cable, cable television hook-ups, and other related equipment on the property. In a compound sentence, two main clauses are linked by a coordinating conjunction such as and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet. Add a comma before the conjunction: 4. Dr. Lucas performed arthroscopic surgery on Ms. Brown s left shoulder, but she was noncompliant with recommended physical therapy. 5. Ms. Belton s videotapes constitute opinion work product, so they are not discoverable. Use a semicolon to join main clauses without a coordinating conjunction. The clauses should be short and closely related in meaning: 6. Mr. Hoover withheld facts from the government; he also made an obvious effort to obscure those facts. 132

2 Legal Writing: Form and Function Main clauses also can be linked by a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb, which expresses the relationship between the two clauses: 7. The trial court ruled against the purchaser; however, the court of appeals reversed that decision. Exercise Identify the main clauses in these sentences. A. No document or consent agreement by American National exists, and no consent was given. B. The revolving credit terminates automatically in the case of a default. C. If the joint clients are an insurer and insured, a conflict of interest may arise during the course of the joint representation. D. Claims of conflict of interest and failure to disclose conflicts usually are not raised until the underlying suit against the insured has been settled or brought to judgment. Answers A. Main clauses: No document or consent agreement by American National exists and no consent was given B. The entire sentence is an independent clause. C. Main clause: A conflict of interest may arise during the course of the joint representation D. Main clause: Claims of conflict of interest and failure to disclose conflicts usually are not raised Relative Clauses Relative clauses are dependent on the main clause. These subordinate structures serve as adjectives, i.e., they describe a noun or pronoun. Adjective clauses begin with a relative pronoun, e.g., who, whom, whose, which, or that. 133

3 Jane N. Richmond, Ph.D. When an adjective clause modifies an inanimate noun, use which or that to introduce the clause. Nonrestrictive clauses begin with which and add information in a by-the-way fashion about a precisely identified noun. In sentence 1, the adjective clause is nonrestrictive: 1. The partner based her argument on Tex. Tax Code Ann , which deal exclusively with the forfeiture of corporate privileges. The pronoun serves as subject of the dependent clause, which modifies Tex. Tax Code Ann , the object of a preposition. Restrictive clauses identify the modified noun by creating a subcategory. Begin these clauses with that : 2. Pharmi-Co manufactured an anti-cholesterol drug that caused harmful side effects. The restrictive clause modifies the object of the verb; the relative pronoun that functions as subject of the dependent clause. Use who, whose, and whom at the beginning of adjective clauses that describe human nouns. If the relative pronoun serves as the subject of the subordinate clause, who is the correct form. In sentence 3, who is the subject of the verb purchased : 3. The class members who purchased individual units in the building sued the seller for breach of contract. This adjective clause modifies the class members, a noun phrase that functions as subject of the independent clause. When the relative pronoun represents the direct object or object of a preposition in the adjective clause, use whom : 4. The witness whom Axco wants to interview was a CEO at Porter when the dispute took place. In this dependent clause, whom is the object of the verb phrase wants to interview. The clause modifies witness, the subject of the independent clause. Use whose, the possessive form of the relative pronoun, to show ownership in an adjective clause. Sentence 5 contains a subordinate clause that modifies the direct object in the main sentence: 5. The defendant will compensate plaintiffs whose rights have been violated. Some adverbs introduce adjective clauses. Examples include jurisdictions where..., reasons why..., and times when.... Exercise In these sentences, identify each adjective clause, the relative pronoun, its function in the clause, and the modified noun. 134

4 Legal Writing: Form and Function A. Mr. Mead is a shareholder of Pacific Connections, Inc., which was a qualifying S Corporation throughout its last fiscal year. B. Plaintiff, whom Atco Motors hired as an hourly employee, was fired for falsifying company records. C. Fager, who is Decedent s legal surviving spouse, will receive 90 percent of his wife s estate. D. The court limited the total amount of punitive damages that could be imposed upon an individual defendant. Answers A. 1. Adjective clause: which was a qualifying S Corporation throughout its last fiscal year 2. Relative pronoun: which 4. Modified noun: Pacific Connections, Inc. B. 1. Adjective clause: whom Atco Motors hired as an hourly employee 2. Relative pronoun: whom 3. Function: direct object of hired 4. Modified noun: Plaintiff C. 1. Adjective clause: who is Decedent s legal surviving spouse 2. Relative pronoun: who 4. Modified noun: Fager D. 1. Adjective clause: that could be imposed upon an individual defendant 2. Relative pronoun: that 4. Modified noun: damages Adverbial Clauses 135

5 Jane N. Richmond, Ph.D. An adverbial clause is a subordinate clause that functions as an adverb. These clauses modify a verb, an adjective, an adverb, or the rest of the sentence. Subordinating conjunctions introduce adverbial clauses. Clauses of this type explain time, location, condition, cause, concession, comparison, purpose, or result Time When an adverbial clause indicates time, begin the clause with a conjunction such as after, as, before, once, since, until, when, as soon as, now that, or while. In each sentence below, the underlined clause modifies the verb and explains when the action expressed by the verb takes place: 1. Before Lowell Co. purchased 60,000 shares of stock, Mr. Horton s family owned 10 percent of the company. 2. After the discovery period expired, Mr. Little s attorneys filed the Motion to Compel. 3. When money damages serve as an adequate remedy at law, equity will not intervene Condition Some adverbial clauses explain conditions that govern the action in the main clause. Subordinating conjunctions such as if, even if, unless, and provided (that) introduce conditional clauses. Each of the conditional clauses below modifies the verb in the main sentence: 1. Even if the bill of sale were unenforceable, the sale of Alice Cooper s interest violated her contract with Apex Company. 2. According to the agreement, Axco must pay extra charges if Plimpton does not receive payment by February Concession Concession adverbial clauses begin with though, although, or even though. These clauses contain an acknowledgment or admission by the writer: 1. Although Mr. Simon acknowledges that Ms. Reese was entitled to these documents, he did not show her the bill of sale until April Even though Dr. Little testified that she exercised her option to purchase stock on June 1, no corporate records reflect the alleged stock transfer. Like temporal and conditional clauses, concession clauses modify the main verb. 136

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