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Author Topic: Question for grammar kings/queens...
paigereader
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When a word ends in s(last name Thomas for example) and you want to show possesion, is it Thomas' or Thomas's? Isn't the rule for singular vs plural not the spelling of the word?
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ketchupqueen
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Actually, I was taught that either is acceptable. If it was plural you could say "The Thomases'..." Concievably anyway.
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Philosofickle
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I usually circumvent the problem in speech and writing by saying "That belongs to Thomas." On the surface it looks like passive voice, but it really isn't. Plus passive voice isn't the crime that everyone seems to think it is.
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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by paigereader:
When a word ends in s(last name Thomas for example) and you want to show possesion, is it Thomas' or Thomas's? Isn't the rule for singular vs plural not the spelling of the word?

This is debated. You'll find legitimate authorities on three sides of the possessive-singular-proper-noun-ending-in-s issue:
  • Some would include the final "s" in almost all such cases. (They would grant a handful of exceptions.)
  • Some would omit the final "s" in all such cases.
  • Some would include the final "s" in cases -- such as this one -- where the possessive is pronounced /iz/, but leave it out where it's left unvocalized.
In a highly atypical move, the Chicago Manual of Style allows for all three of these approaches (CMS15, 7.18-7.23). The important thing is to pick one and be consistent in any given work.

(I personally favor the third of those.)

[Edited to qualify the first camp.]

[ June 18, 2009, 06:31 PM: Message edited by: Shmuel ]

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Herblay
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My book editor told me to use 's --- "Thomas's" --- in all instances. She said that either is correct, but that eliminating the "s" is generally awkward and can confuse the reader. The reader is rarely confused if the "s" is included.

Constructing grammer to omit the instance is probably generally preferable, however.

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Eaquae Legit
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quote:
Originally posted by Philosofickle:
I usually circumvent the problem in speech and writing by saying "That belongs to Thomas." On the surface it looks like passive voice, but it really isn't. Plus passive voice isn't the crime that everyone seems to think it is.

It is absolutely not a passive voice. Not even close. (And I am glad you know this.)
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Brinestone
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My rule of thumb, and the one used by the Chicago Manual of Style is to write the extra s when it is pronounced. I would say "Thomas's" but not "Moses's," so I would spell them "Thomas's" and "Moses'."
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Sala
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Another question, if it isn't too bold to come in on this thread. Is "It is I" correct? Or should it be "It is me."
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Dobbie
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"It is I."
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Brinestone
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Sala, the answer is, "It depends." If you're ringing the bell to let your friend know you're at the door to his apartment building and want to come in, and he says, "Who is it?" it would be inappropriate to say, "It is I." But perhaps in a more formal situation, you'd sound sloppy to say "It's me." On the phone? I'd use "me" since everyone else does and thus it's more appropriate to the situation.
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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Philosofickle:
I usually circumvent the problem in speech and writing by saying "That belongs to Thomas." On the surface it looks like passive voice, but it really isn't.]

*blink*

No offense, but that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the passive voice. The passive voice is a construction that reverses the subject and object, generally using a form of be and a past participle. There's nothing at all like that in that example.

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Belle
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quote:
The passive voice is a construction that reverses the subject and object, generally using a form of be and a past participle.
Jon Boy you say "generally" - are there cases of passive voice where you don't have BE + past part.? That's how I was taught to identify it...so I'm curious if I'm missing something.
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Vadon
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I think that some would mistake Thomas as the subject. But yes, that's not passive. To make it passive you would say, "That is owned by Thomas." Then Thomas would be the subject.

All that said, I'm not a grammar king, so I'd imagine there're quite a few errors in this post alone. [Smile]

ETA:
I'm in the second camp. I'd go with Thomas' or James' for possession.

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Dobbie
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"That" is the subject.
"Thomas" is the object of the preposition "by".

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Dante
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quote:
are there cases of passive voice where you don't have BE + past part.?
I done got bit by a 'possum.
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Dobbie
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You could have BE + present part.
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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
Jon Boy you say "generally" - are there cases of passive voice where you don't have BE + past part.? That's how I was taught to identify it...so I'm curious if I'm missing something.

Yup. For some examples and explanation, check out this post at Language Log, particularly Geoffrey K. Pullum's addition to this comment. In short, most passives have be and a past participle, some have get or some other auxiliary instead of be, some omit the auxiliary, and some don't even have a past participle.
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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
You could have BE + present part.

Could you give some examples? I can't think of a way that would work.
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Dobbie
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No. I was wrong.
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Philosofickle
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quote:
It is absolutely not a passive voice. Not even close. (And I am glad you know this.)
Forgive me, I'm used to working with the high school students that I tutor. Many times in the sentence "That belongs to Thomas." They see the proper noun Thomas and assume that it's the direct object rather than the relative pronoun "that." Thus making "that" the indirect object, and the sentence passive.
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Belle
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Interesting. I haven't read Language Log in a while...since my last linguistics course, in fact. [Smile]

Fascinating stuff.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Vadon:
ETA:
I'm in the second camp. I'd go with Thomas' or James' for possession.

Ditto.

IT'S LOIS'!!!

(*cough* Sorry. That argument was 5+ years ago. And on another forum.)

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CaySedai
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AP style (off the top of my head)

Names ending in a single s just get an apostrophe: Thomas'.
Nouns ending in a double s get an apostrophe s: waitress's - unless the next word begins with an s.

When talking about a group of people with the same last name, ie. Jones, it becomes plural with an es: Joneses. (This comes up at work frequently - when we have an anniversary announcement and the couple's name is in the headline we use es: Joneses celebrate 50th.) If the plural was also possessive, it would be the Joneses' (name of item).

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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by CaySedai:
AP style (off the top of my head)

Names ending in a single s just get an apostrophe: Thomas'.
Nouns ending in a double s get an apostrophe s: waitress's - unless the next word begins with an s.

When talking about a group of people with the same last name, ie. Jones, it becomes plural with an es: Joneses. (This comes up at work frequently - when we have an anniversary announcement and the couple's name is in the headline we use es: Joneses celebrate 50th.) If the plural was also possessive, it would be the Joneses' (name of item).

Yes, sort of, and yes, respectively.

That is, in current AP style, singular proper names ending in "s" take only an apostrophe (Dickens' novels, Socrates' life), with rare exception ("St. James's Palace" is specified as such).

For singular common nouns, AP style makes no distinction in principle between those ending with "s" or "ss". In both cases, it calls for using an apostrophe and an s for the possessive, except when the next word starts with s, in which case only an apostrophe is used. Thus "the witness's answer" vs. "the witness' story". With that said, I can't think of any singular common nouns that end with only one "s" offhand, so this may be a moot point. [Smile]

In any event, AP would omit the "s" in, say, "Christopher Cross' records."

Personally, I find AP's style on this to be the weirdest option of all, but if you're working in newspapers, it's the standard.

(AP Stylebook, 2007 ed., p. 192 and 323)

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Sala
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Dobbie and Brinestone: THANKS!
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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by Sala:
Another question, if it isn't too bold to come in on this thread. Is "It is I" correct? Or should it be "It is me."

I'd say this is a question of register, rather than grammar. In normal spoken English, "it is me" is most definitely preferred. In very formal contexts, academic papers, or what I affectionately call the Pretentious Pedant dialect of English, go with "it is I." (See also the summary in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1994), under "it's me". [Link goes to Google Books; tinyurl used due to limitations in UBB code.])

In general, I side with Evans and Evans (1957) on this:
quote:
In natural, well-bred English, me and not I is the form of pronoun used after any verb, even the verb to be. When Mayor Cermak of Chicago was shot by a bullet intended for Franklin Roosevelt, he said: "I'm glad it was me instead of you." A local newspaper thought they could improve the dying man's words and quoted him as saying, "I'm glad it was I."

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rivka
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Shmuel, "species".
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:
quote:
Originally posted by Philosofickle:
I usually circumvent the problem in speech and writing by saying "That belongs to Thomas." On the surface it looks like passive voice, but it really isn't.]

*blink*

No offense, but that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the passive voice. The passive voice is a construction that reverses the subject and object, generally using a form of be and a past participle. There's nothing at all like that in that example.

I question that but solely because I haven't found any way to define 'belong to' that does not use passive voice (i.e. is possesed by, is owned by, is connected with') 'That is owned by Thomas' is unquestionably passive voice so its easy for me to see reason to argue that the extremely similar sentence 'That belongs to Thomas' is also passive voice. Wouldn't it be reasonable to consider 'belong to' one of the passive constructs that doesn't use a to be verb.
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Dobbie
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"Belong" is an intransitive verb. The passive voice requires a transitive verb.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
My book editor told me to use 's --- "Thomas's" --- in all instances. She said that either is correct, but that eliminating the "s" is generally awkward and can confuse the reader. The reader is rarely confused if the "s" is included.

Constructing grammer to omit the instance is probably generally preferable, however.

I like your book editor. As far as I'm concerned, the only good reason for having a grammar is to improve clarity. A grammar rule that does not improve clarity is just pretensious elitism.
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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
Shmuel, "species".

Ooh, good one. Except I didn't mention one other rule: when the singular and plural forms of a word are spelled the same way, the word is treated as a plural. (In cases where this leads to ambiguity, recast to use "of" instead.) So:
politics' true meaning
one corps' location
this species' first record (but "the first record of this species" is preferred)

(CMS15, 7.19; AP 2007, p. 192 "possessives")

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rivka
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Drat! [Wink]
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CaySedai
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Two reasons I don't attempt to completely memorize the AP Stylebook:

1) It would completely consume all my brain cells, leaving room for nothing else and
2) They make arbitrary changes on a yearly basis, apparently so people will have to buy new ones frequently.

I do look things up enough to remember a lot of things, but not everything perfectly.

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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by CaySedai:
Two reasons I don't attempt to completely memorize the AP Stylebook:

Oh, I don't think anybody does. [Smile] I just keep the latest copy within reach.

quote:
Originally posted by CaySedai:
2) They make arbitrary changes on a yearly basis, apparently so people will have to buy new ones frequently.

Well... in fairness, the entire purpose of a style guide is to make arbitrary decisions from the plethora of acceptable options... and as with other kinds of style, they're subject to changing fashions. I don't think new editions are motivated by lucre so much as a desire to keep up with the language.
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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Philosofickle:
Forgive me, I'm used to working with the high school students that I tutor. Many times in the sentence "That belongs to Thomas." They see the proper noun Thomas and assume that it's the direct object rather than the relative pronoun "that." Thus making "that" the indirect object, and the sentence passive.

That sentence is intransitive, and as such it has neither direct nor indirect objects and cannot be passive. The demonstrative pronoun "that" (not a relative pronoun, because it does not introduce a relative clause) is the subject. "Thomas" is simply the object of a preposition.
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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I question that but solely because I haven't found any way to define 'belong to' that does not use passive voice (i.e. is possesed by, is owned by, is connected with') 'That is owned by Thomas' is unquestionably passive voice so its easy for me to see reason to argue that the extremely similar sentence 'That belongs to Thomas' is also passive voice. Wouldn't it be reasonable to consider 'belong to' one of the passive constructs that doesn't use a to be verb.

Just because a synonymous sentence uses a passive construction does not mean the other construction is also passive. "The boy kicked the ball" and "The ball was kicked by the boy" are synonymous, but one is active and the other is passive. The passive voice is simply a group of constructions that take the recipient of an action and make it into the subject. Also, all passives should have active counterparts, and "That belongs to Thomas" does not.
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Belle
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Oh, I love grammar. My most recent interview was for a literature position...and I think I will be sad I don't teach any grammar.

I enjoy the intricacies of grammar and love figuring out sentences.

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
As far as I'm concerned, the only good reason for having a grammar is to improve clarity. A grammar rule that does not improve clarity is just pretensious elitism.

Only if you're talking about grammar in the prescriptive sense. There are countless descriptive rules that don't necessarily contribute to clarity in the way you're talking about, but they're rules nonetheless, like the fact that articles and adjectives come before nouns or that objects come after verbs, which come after subjects. Of course, nobody but linguists talk about those rules because they're never an issue.
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CaySedai
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British government spells end of "i before e" rule
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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by CaySedai:
British government spells end of "i before e" rule

About time. There are so many conditions and exceptions to that mnemonic, it's more confusing than helpful.

(I have a homemade T-shirt that reads "I BEFORE E EXCEPT AFTER C... WHAT A WEIRD SOCIETY!")

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Belle
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I agree. I never found it all that helpful either.
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Jon Boy
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Language Log is already on top of it.
quote:
They are saying that teaching the list of "-cei-" words directly is a better strategy than teaching the rule: it is not sufficiently general to pay its way. It was the moronic press reports and radio discussions that made it sound as if rules were being abandoned and (one was invited to infer) standards lowered.

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Shmuel
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From that Language Log page:
quote:
The rule is always taught, by anyone who knows what they are doing, as "i before e except after c when the sound is "ee".
That's a new one to me. I was taught it as "I before E except after C, or when sounded like A as in nEIghbor and wEIgh."

But even going with that rule, using the link I added shortly after posting...
quote:
For those people who insist the rule apply only to words where the digraph has the /i:/ ("ee") sound, and excluding words ending in "cies", here is a list of words that have at least one accepted pronunciation with the /i:/ sound:

caffeine, casein, codeine, deil (Scots, devil), disseize, either, geisha, inveigle, keister (slang, buttocks), leisure, monteith, neither, obeisance, phenolphthalein, phthalein, protein, seize, seizin, sheik, sheila (Australian slang for "girl", not capitalized), specie, species, teiid

Anyway, yes. Nobody's advocating that spellings ought to be changed, or that they don't matter. The only question is how best to teach and remember such spellings.
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Jon Boy
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Yeah, I'd never heard that version of the rule, either—only the one that you give, Shmuel.
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