Polymath A (mostly) technical weblog for Archivale.com

May 20, 2010

Errata for Grammar in Focus 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — piolenc @ 5:45 pm

Exercise 6, page 23 et seq., states that English has four genders. The “extra” gender, in addition to masculine, feminine and neuter, is the designation of common nouns, which “refer to either male or female.” This is bound to cause confusion, as a completely different meaning for the term common noun is given in Exercise 2, where it is used to distinguish them from proper nouns. I recommend that parents explain to their children that the meaning of “common noun” in Exercise 6 is completely different from its meaning in Exercise 2. This internal contradiction in grammatical terminology is unfortunately enshrined in English grammar texts dating back at least to the turn of the 20th century (see e.g. Kimball: English Grammar, c. 1912), so it will probably never be resolved.

Exercise 10, page 39 et seq. Like the corresponding portion of last year’s text, this exercise incorrectly identifies possessive articles (my, your, his…) as possessive pronouns. This is in conflict with the fundamental definition of the parts of speech—a pronoun replaces a noun, while an article tags a noun with certain attributes.

San Miguel is his favorite team (his: possessive article)
That pen is mine (mine: possessive pronoun replacing the noun phrase my pen)

A simple test is that if the alleged pronoun can be replaced by another pronoun or a noun phrase, and still yield a grammatical sentence, then it is in fact a pronoun. In the example above, you could write “That pen is my pen, ” and the sentence would be grammatically correct. If the word in question can be replaced by an article and still give a grammatically correct result, then it is an article, e.g. “San Miguel is the favorite team.”

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