Are You a Catastrophe with an Apostrophe?; (or to Put It in Plain English, How's Your Grammar?)

By Rees, Nigel | Daily Mail (London), May 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Are You a Catastrophe with an Apostrophe?; (or to Put It in Plain English, How's Your Grammar?)


Rees, Nigel, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: NIGEL REES

THIS week, a retired newspaper sub-editor from Lincolnshire, John Richards, 75, became so irritated by the use of bad grammar in the English language that he set up the Apostrophe Protection Society to point out whenever anyone in his home town of Boston puts an apostrophe in the wrong place. Here, with Richards's mission in mind, NIGEL REES, wordsmith of television's Countdown, has set a special quiz . . . to see if you would fall foul of this self-appointed guardian of the English language.

APOSTROPHES

a) Buying a ticket for Bridget Jones' Diary will make you lose pounds.

b) I strongly object to Ronnie Biggs's old age being at the taxpayers' expense.

c) 'Its been worth every dollar,' declared space tourist Dennis Tito as he came down to earth.

b) is correct. a) is incorrect because 's' followed by an apostrophe is plural and there is only one Bridget Jones. c) is incorrect because 'its' is missing an apostrophe - it should be 'it's', short for 'it is'.

SPLIT INFINITIVES

a) For Pope John Paul II courageously to visit Syria at his age was unexpected to say the least.

b) 'Its five-year mission, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.' c) Carol Vorderman is able cleverly to make it all add up.

a) and c) are correct because the infinitive is not split. b) is incorrect - it should be 'to go boldly', although arguments rage about this rule.

YOU, I AND ME

a) Between you and I, Chris Evans and Billie Piper were always going to tie the knot.

b) The relationship between she and her friends was a wonder to behold.

c) 'It is I,' said her husband over the mobile phone.

c) is correct because the verb 'to be' takes the nominative case, I. a) is incorrect - it should be 'between you and me' because 'between' is a preposition which takes the accusative case, 'me'. b) is incorrect for the same reason - it should be 'between her and her friends'.

TO LAY OR LIE?

a) 'Now I lay me down to sleep', sang the congregation.

b) I always lay down to sleep after a big meal.

c) 'Lie down, I think I love you,' said the lover bold.

a) and c) are correct but b) is incorrect because it should be 'lie down' (you don't lay down, you lay eggs).

WHO OR WHOM?

a) 'Who do you think you're kidding, Mr Hitler?', as the song in Dad's Army had it.

b) William Hague is the person whom I think is not going to win the election.

c) On the contrary, he is the person for whom we are not voting.

c) is correct because 'whom' is the object of the verb. a) is incorrect - it should actually be 'whom do you think'. b) is incorrect because you don't say 'whom is not going to win', it should be the nominative 'who'.

ONLY THE LONELY

a) All next Saturday evening I will only watch the Eurovision Song Contest onTV.

b) All next Saturday evening I will watch only the Eurovision Song Contest onTV.

c) All next Saturday evening I will watch the Eurovision Song Contest only onTV.

b) is correct because the 'only' refers specifically to the Eurovision Song Contest whereas a) and c) are incorrect because it is not clear to what the 'only' refers.

OFF AND OF

a) 'Go away from out of my house,' said the husband to the milkman.

b) 'Hey you get off of my cloud' as they sang in the Sixties.

c) 'It's not the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in.'

c) is correct but a) is incorrect because it can be either 'from', or 'out of', but not both. …

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