July 28, 2014

Modal Auxiliaries

TOPICS: ,

We interrupt our regularly scheduled lineup of grammar myth-busting and other lighthearted stuff to bring you some hardcore grammar. "Can," "could," "may," "might," and some other verbs are called modal auxiliaries and have some interesting properties you may have never noticed. Here's more ...

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click player above to listen to the podcast

  • Share

Drive Safe vs Drive Safely: Another Flat Adverbs Question
Posted by June on July 28, 2014
LABELS: , ,

 

I’ve written a lot about flat adverbs in the past. But the subject still generates a lot of reader questions. So it's always worth revisiting. Here's an e-mail I got recently on the subject, followed by my reply.

Hi June,

Just read your column in the Burbank Leader and I have a question.  I've been telling our chauffeurs to always "Drive safely" while others tell them to "Drive safe".  As an instinctive grammarian, I feel comfortable saying safely, but am I right?

Thanks,

Gary

Here's how I replied to Gary:

"Drive safely" is more proper. You use an adverb because you're actually modifying the action -- describing how the driving is to be done. (In other words, "drive" is not a linking verb. It's a garden-variety action verb.)

HOWEVER, there exist things call "flat adverbs" -- adverbs without the ly tail -- that are also acceptable. So "Drive safe" is arguably okay. Though personally, I don't recommend it in formal contexts. A lot of people think it's an error and so it may not be worth the grief!

 

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

The Best Punctuation Book, Period

A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

The most comprehensive punctuation guide ever, “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” doesn’t just cover the basic rules. It delves into gray areas of punctuation left unclear by the other rule books, showing how the rules differ in four different editing styles. There's also an A to Z reference of commonly mispunctuated terms. more

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite

What do suicidal pandas, doped-up rock stars, and a naked Pamela Anderson have in common? They’re all a heck of a lot more interesting than reading about predicate nominatives and hyphens. June Casagrande knows this and has invented a whole new twist on the grammar book. more

Mortal Syntax

Mortal Syntax takes on the 101 most frequently attacked usage choices. Dedicating one short chapter to each, Casagrande brings her subject to life, teaching English usage through lively and amusing personal anecdotes. more

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

Your story may be brilliant. Your insights may be groundbreaking. Your characters may be so real you can almost touch them. But they're not worth a thing if you can't bring them to life in well-written sentences. more

  • Can you start a sentence with 'it'? Of course. Do you want to? Maybe not.

    June Khullak: There's nothing wrong with starting a sentence with "there is" or "there are." This is called the "existential there," in which "there" is sort of standing in for another noun. "Cars are in the street" vs. "There are cars in the street." Sometimes this is an inefficient way to make a point, which is how the rumor got started that this form is wrong. But in fact, this form is perfectly grammatical, if not always ideal.

  • When do you use a capital letter after a colon?

    June Cheats for Deer Hunter: According to AP style, you use a capital after a colon anytime the stuff the colon introduces is a complete sentence. Otherwise, lowercase. According to Chicago style, you use a capital after a colon anything the colon introduces TWO or more complete sentences. Both agree, though, that if it's not a complete sentence it should not start with a cap after a colon.

  • 'Here's' or 'There's' Before a Plural

    June Tony: Words like "few" are often treated as plural in meaning even though they're singular in form. Ditto that for "some." It's one of those situations where your first instinct is usually right.

  • How to Write Book and Movie Titles

    June Lou: You mean movie titles in citations, bibliographies, etc., right? There are no real grammar rules governing that. That's more a style thing, like the Modern Language Association style, etc. I'm no expert in such things, but I'm quite confident that there are always spaces -- that no word directly touches a comma before it. As for when to put an article like "An" at the end, I'm afraid I don't know. But I bet a copy of the MLA style book could clear it up for you.

  • How to Write Book and Movie Titles

    Lou, CPA title How does one write a movie title in a list? Is it "Longest day, The" or "Longest day,The" ie without a space between (,The) Also, I notice that the words "The" & "A" are printed at the end of the title following a comma --- what about the word "An" ? ie: "An American In Paris" (or) "American in Paris, An"