Issue For December 4, 2006
As our semester here at Purdue is quickly wrapping up, this will be the last edition of the Purdue OWL news until the week of January 8th, 2007. We wish everyone a happy holiday season. See you next year!
Writing Question of the Week
This is usually a question submitted by an OWL user to the OWL Tutors. If you have a question you need answered quickly, ask one of our OWL Tutors or call the Writing Lab's Grammar Hotline at 765-494-3723. And remember, both services are free for everyone!
I have the following questions about English grammar: 1. I am not sure of the correct usage of "them" and "it" in the sentence below. "The company needs to make pens and distribute "it" to others." I am not sure whether I should use "distribute them" or "distribute it" because pens are pural and it seems "them" is more suitable for the plural words.
2. There are some phrases like "sense of humor", "sense of belonging" etc. I don't know if I should add the article "a" in front of those words, i.e. "a sense of humor".
Thank you and I look forward to your reply,
Thank you for your inquiry. Here are the answers to your questions:
1. You need to use "them" because "pens" is plural.
2. Yes, you need to put "a" in front of the phrases.
Please contact us again if you have more questions.
The OWL Help Nest
Each week we publish Purdue OWL News readers' requests for advice or information and the responses from other Purdue OWL News readers.
In a song : "Horse with no name" by America, we can hear this : I thought it was not possible to add "to" after "for." Can you explain it to me? Thanks in advance! --Michelle Henry, School in France
In a song : "Horse with no name" by America, we can hear this :
I thought it was not possible to add "to" after "for." Can you explain it to me? Thanks in advance!
--Michelle Henry, School in France
This is known as "poetic license", and is perfectly acceptable in writings of most kinds, but particularly in poetry or songs. It would be considered very incorrect in formal writing, but acceptable in this song.
--Robert E. Hancock, Western Kentucky University
Well... it's pretty easy to find incorrect grammar in popular songwriting. :)
This example actually has at least three problems. First, it uses the word "ain't," which is nonstandard English (should be "isn't"). Second, it uses a double negative (ain't no one). While French uses two words to make a negative (ne...pas, ne...jamais, etc.) English uses only one. The first part of the sentence would be "There isn't anyone..." in standard written English. And the third negative at the end of the sentence ("no pain") should be corrected as well.
Now, to your actual question. You're right that both "for" and "to" are not needed here. I would drop "for," making the sentence "There isn't anyone to give you any pain" or, even more concisely, "There isn't anyone to give you pain."
Regarding using "to" after "for": you're right--I can't think of any examples that use "for" and "to" together. But keep in mind that the word "to" has two different uses in English: as a preposition ("I ran to the well") and as part of an infinitive verb form ("She tried to run faster").
Why did the songwriter use nonstandard English? We can guess based on context. The band that recorded this song (America) was influenced by folksingers, and both the word "ain't" and the double negative are often used in informal, rural American speech. The songwriter probably wanted to sound "folksy." He probably included the word "to" because the phrase "for to give you no pain" makes a good trochaic rhythm (alternating stressed and unstressed syllables: FOR to GIVE you NO pain).
--Aaron Minnick, Columbus, OH
As a registered nurse, I read many professional journals in which the writer of the article states: "In this article I will . . . " or "In this article we will show you . . ." ; however, as an English major, I was taught never to use "I" in what should be the thesis of the paper. In other words, keep the paper in the objective rather that subjective voice. Is this still correct? --Jane, Oklahoma City, OK
I am having a similar problem in an AP course that I teach. I am using Robert Harris's Writing with Clarity and Style. The book presents many classical rhetorical devices, some of which are couched in the first person. Metabasis is an excellent device for use in research papers. For example "In the previous paragraphs, I have offered my analysis of the causes of this growing discontent. At this point, I would like to take up the subject of what might be done to remedy it." Students ask if they can use such a device because of the first person. It seems to me that the convolutions into which we are forced by avoiding the first person are often counterproductive. But I am still not certain what I should tell my students.
--Jerry Boyle, Chaminade College Prep, St. Louis, MO
First-year college writing/composition instructors often stress the use of third-person voice in formal arguments, yet we usually allow the first-person "I find the author arguing ..." or "I understand that the author means ..." when we teach critical reading (of sources to later be used in the formal research arguments) because it is the student researchers' perceptions that are important as they make knowledge in their research's rhetorical situations. While the students are encouraged to make research reports show knowledge that they have learned with respect to their own subjective criteria, we encourage the third-person objectivity because the students usually are not invested experts in the field and are encouraged to be fair to all sides of the issue under investigation.
This latter first-person discussion is similar when scientists publish study reports, writing "In this article, I will ..." to introduce their study methods, gathered data, conclusions, and need for further research. It's different than freshman-level research reports that are mostly just very basic literature reviews. On that note, the lit review sections of scientific study reports are usually more formal and don't include the first-person focus, right?
--Deborah Coffman Foster, MATC, Old DOminion University, Virginia
Next Week's Questions
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What's Happening on the OWL at Purdue
- OWL Eye On...[headline text]. Updates and expansions to our professional writing and job search writing sections continue. Our Email Etiquette handout has been revised and updated (see the new handout here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/636/01/); we have new information on the Paramedic method: A Lesson in Writing Concisely: (see the handout here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/635/01/) and have some new examples resumes in our resumes section (see the section here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/564/01/).
What's Happening in the Writing Lab
- OWL Eye On...[headline text]. The Purdue Writing Lab will close for the semester on December 8th, 2006. We will resume tutoring and providing in-lab tours for classes on January 8th, 2007. See you next semester!
This week's OWL News was edited by Dana Lynn Driscoll.