Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Spot The Mistakes

Can you spot the errors in these extracts, both from the Straits Times Digital Life supplement?

(A)
Example A
Let’s start with this one: If you think you’re smart, there are 10,000 people just as smart — or smarter — than you are.

The writer tries to be clever and straight-talking, but he/she is not very smart either. Here we have parenthetical matter, enclosed within dashes: we should be able to remove this without affecting the rest of the sentence.

But if we do so, we end up with the bizarre *There are 10,000 people just as smart than you are.

Hence we need to rewrite it as If you think you’re smart, there are 10,000 people just as smart as — or smarter than — you are. In this properly constructed version, we can remove the parenthetical bit and be left with the perfectly grammatical If you think you’re smart, there are 10,000 people just as smart as you are.

(B)

Example B
Now let’s look at this one: We’re also looking for people whom we think would fit well into the Google culture.
The qualification we think is a parenthetical thought: again, we ought to be able to remove it without affecting the rest of the sentence.
But if we do, we end up with *We’re also looking for people whom would fit well into the Google culture. Sounds strange? Yes, because who is the relative pronoun subject of would fit — hence we need the subjective pronoun who, not the objective whom.

2 comments:

Ally Yong said...

As an educator too, you know more abt grammar than I do. I enjoy reading your blogs. They are very interesting and I have used some of the examples that you mentioned to teach my students. Thank you

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks so much -- more coming up! There's still a lot I don't know about English grammar, but I do try to find out more and avoid making the very obvious errors that the Straits Times regularly makes.