English Grammar & Logic Discussion

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Gryffindorian, Mar 13, 2014.

  1. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I have just concluded a two-day business writing seminar at work, and it was great to be reoriented with my all-time favorite field of study in school: English grammar! I am by no means an expert, and although English is my second language, I have a pretty good grasp of the parts of speech, grammar and mechanics, sentence structures, and spelling.

    So let's have a fun little discussion on an otherwise dreaded subject.

    Consider the following.

    1. One of my sisters' friends is an actress.
    2. One of my sister's friends is an actress.
    3. One of my sister's friend is an actress.
    I'm willing to say that Sentences 1 and 2 are both correct in the use of possessives and apostrophes, but I have an issue with the third sentence. In the first sentence, the plural noun sisters has an apostrophe at the end, indicating that all of them have a common friend, i.e., their friend. Sentence 2 refers to only one sister having a friend, i.e., her friend.

    From my perspective, the third statement has an awkward sound and poor construction although it carries the same message as Number 2, which is "I have a sister who has a friend who is an actress." BUT it looks grammatically incorrect.

    Here's why. First, the phrase "one of," although singular in number, denotes one of many. Thus the object of the preposition of is plural in number (one of five, one of the computers, etc.). Second, in the given example Sentence 2, the phrase "one of" is linked to friends, which is the object of the preposition of. Whereas in the third example, "one of" points to sister's, which is a modifier of the noun friends.

    Yet I often hear this awkward construction from daily conversations or even read such format in print.

    One of my neighbors' cat is missing.​

    What say you??? :confused:

    EDIT: My gramma taught me grammar. :p Sorry about the typo in the thread title.

    Mods, thanks for the correction. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014
  2. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    Re: English Gramma & Logic Discussion

    I thought this thread was going to be about dementia in the elderly of Britain.

    But seriously, for your stated reason, no. 3 is improperly phrased. Any example of it you find is just poor grammar.
     
  3. auntiehill

    auntiehill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: English Gramma & Logic Discussion

    Sentence one says, "I have a sister and one of her friends (she has more than one friend) is an actress." OK, fine.

    Sentence two says, "I have more than one sister, but one of my sisters has a friend (she has more than one friend) who is an actress." OK, fine.

    Sentence three is illogical. "One of" indicates one of a group of friends. What that sentence says is akin to "One in the group of things she has, of which she has only one( so it's one of the group, but there is no group), does that job." That makes no sense at all. It doesn't just look grammatically incorrect; it IS grammatically incorrect. We can figure out what the person is trying to say, because we have gotten used to people making these kind of moronic mistakes, so we automatically fill in the correct information for them. That doesn't make the person saying it sound less moronic, however.
     
  4. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: English Gramma & Logic Discussion

    Did you mean the opposite for Sentences 1 and 2?

    My fourth sentence (shown after having done some edits) is similar to my third example:
    One of my neighbors' cat is missing.

    In other words, "I have many neighbors, and one of those neighbors has a cat that disappeared." Although most people may understand the logic, it still sounds awkward. One doesn't say "one of my cat"; it should be "one of my cats." So the rewrite should read, "One of my neighbors' cats is missing," but I can understand the speaker may be referring to a single specific neighbor, named Derek. In this case, the speaker should just say or write, "My neighbor Derek's cat is missing."
     
  5. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    ^You and auntiehill have both given plausible interpretations for sentence 1, either a)you have multiple sisters who share a common friend who is an actress (your interpretation) or b)you have multiple sisters and one of your sisters has a friends who is an actress (auntie's interpretation). I read the sentence the way auntie interpreted it, and I would guess that most native English speakers would do the same, though technically your interpretation also makes sense. If I wanted to convey that my sisters had a common friend who was an actress, I would have to be more explicit: "A friend of my sisters' is an actress."
     
  6. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: English Gramma & Logic Discussion

    How about "One of our aircraft is missing"? ;)

    (Yes, I know that's correct because "aircraft" can be either singular or plural.)


    One thing that gets my knickers in a twist is when people forget whether the subject of a sentence is plural or singular, just because there are words separating the subject and verb. For example:

    "Any language that is used for conversations are dynamic and change constantly."

    Of course, the correct sentence is: "Any language that is used for conversations is dynamic and changes constantly."

    We used to diagram sentences in school to help us understand sentence construction and to avoid this kind of error. I don't suppose they teach kids to do that anymore.
     
  7. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    ^I think the most common example of that would be the classic "There's eggs in the fridge."
     
  8. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    We were dining with some Polish people last month. One of the other couples were Hungarian. Their kids were all speaking English even although the Hungarians had only been in country for about 8 months, because, as the Hungarian wife (who was a biology teacher at a local school) pointed out; "English is much easier than our languages".

    I don't think people should labour grammar too much when the magic of English is its universality. Of course it's important, not least for long and fun arguments, but it's not as important as pedants think it is.
     
  9. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    I think, as with any language, native speakers are much harsher on other native speakers when it comes to grammar.
     
  10. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    I do agree with that. I think the structure of language is interesting, and I like the rules and technicalities because they're fun to play with (why I love puns), but I'm not too bothered by imperfect usage. Too much pedantry takes away the fun!

    I like this:

    [yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7E-aoXLZGY[/yt]
     
  11. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    "SOUND-SEX."
     
  12. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    I prefer the audio podcast without all that dreadful prezi or whatever it is. Not criticizing you, TSQ, natch.
     
  13. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    ^I just like the speech. In three senses of the word. :)
     
  14. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Re: English Gramma & Logic Discussion

    I have to agree with you here. Sentence 3 is flat out wrong.

    "One of my neighbors' cats..." or "My neighbor's cat..." would be correct, but the way it's currently worded just sounds awkward.

    The word your talking about is "cats," not "neighbors." Neighbors is simply an adjective in this sentence. "One of" implies that there are multiple cats, regardless of who they belong to.
     
  15. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Right, but just to nitpick:

    Example 1 is one of my sisters' friends (which is equivalent to "one of their friends," plural sisters).

    Example 2 shows one of my sister's friends (which is equivalent to "one of her friends," singular sister).

    Another one of my pet peeves is the misuse of reflexive pronouns (e.g., myself, yourself, ourselves, themselves). Oftentimes I see or hear people use them as the subject of a sentence or the object, and it makes me want to scream! :scream:

    • Mike and myself are going to have a few drinks at the bar.
    • You can just give the form to Erica or myself.
    Reflexive pronouns should be used only to emphasize a point or to denote an action that reflects back to the subject.

    • I myself couldn't believe what just happened. (Emphasis)
    • Is Gryffindorian talking to himself again? (Action that refers back to the subject)
    EDIT:


    OK, I see what TSQ and auntiehill meant in the very first example (One of my sisters' friends is an actress). There are two different interpretations.
    • The "one of" phrase in One of my sisters' is often referred to as a single unit that acts as the possessive for what's following, which in the example is friends. (Jackie is one of my sisters; she has an actress friend, i.e., Jackie's friend.)
    • My interpretation is that when I first see "one of," I treat one as the subject of the sentence in the given example. (One of my [four] sisters' friends is an actress; they may have a common friend who happens to be an actress, or maybe only one of them has an actress buddy.)
    In any case, both are grammatically correct but need clarity.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014
  16. auntiehill

    auntiehill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yes and sentences 3 and 4 are wrong, and always will be wrong. Period.
     
  17. Bisz

    Bisz Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think The Oatmeal has an answer to just about everything in life, including this;

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe


    Based on that, this is my understanding:

    1. One of my sisters' friends is an actress.

    You have multiple sisters, at least one of them possesses several friends, one of those friends is an actress.

    2. One of my sister's friends is an actress.

    You have a sister who possesses friends, one of those friends is an actress.


    The distinction is that in example one you have more than one sister, in example two you only have one.
     
  18. urbandefault

    urbandefault Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's easier to say, "My sister's friend is an actress."

    How many sisters do you have? Does it matter? How many friends does she have? Which friend?

    You could always say, "My sister Betty's friend is an actress." Or, "My sister Betty's friend Sarah is an actress."

    Most anything is fine with me, except for the common mistake of using I instead of me. "My sister went to the play with Betty and I." That makes me cringe.
     
  19. propita

    propita Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Don’t you just love it when people use “I” because they sure it must be correct--when “me” is the correct word?

    1) My sister went to the play with Betty. My sister went to the play with me.
    2) My sister went to the play with Betty. My sister went to the play with I.

    I’ve used examples as clear as this to explain the concept to people. I can (figuratively) see the light bulb come on.
     
  20. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's called "hypercorrection." A classic example is the phrase "a girl like I," spoken by Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

    The same thing happens when the pronoun "whom" is used in an effort to be correct -- but it's used incorrectly. For example, "Whom shall I say is calling?"

    If people would just think in terms of subject and object . . . but they don't. :sigh:
     

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