Daily Archives: July 19, 2007

Taking Issue

I feel a little like I’m poking the beehive with this one – we’ve not had a good linguistic scuffle around here in a while – but I just can’t let it pass.

517s8malepl_aa240_.jpgMy grammar students have been asked to purchase this book. It runs for about 83 bucks on Amazon; I suspect that it’s a bit more expensive at TCC’s bookstore because it comes with a reading packet, too. For that kind of money – really, for ANY money – we would reasonably expect that the book is good for what it claims to do, right?

I’m not so sure the kids haven’t been robbed.

Last Thursday, I left the students with the assignment to do the practice exercises for chapter 2. The work reviews the four basic kinds of sentences (students have to identify sample sentences as commands, statements, exclamations, or questions), subjects and verbs (students are asked to identify these things in the practice sentences), and sentence fragments and complete sentences. In one of the fragment exercises, students have to decide whether a sample structure is a complete sentence or a fragment; in the other, they are asked not only to decide whether the structure is complete, but to complete it if it’s not and, in either case, to identify the subject and the verb in the sentence.

I’m taking issue with the directions for this final exercise. It reads, and I quote:

Instructions: Below are some of the expressions from Practice 3. For each complete sentence, underline the subject with one line and the verb with two lines. Turn each fragment into a complete sentence. Then underline the subject with one line and the verb with two lines.

Is it just me, or is the final “sentence” in that series of directions grammatically incorrect? Ignoring that, if the sentence were complete on its own, there should be a comma after “then” – it’s introductory material – I don’t think that the structure actually is a complete sentence. My argument is that it’s really a dependent clause.

Run with me for a second, please:

I think (and I could be wrong here – I could also be channeling my inner prescriptivist…) that “then” in this sentence is functioning as a coordinating conjunction that connects two clauses; “first do this, THEN do that.” Turn each fragment into a complete sentence, then underline the subjects and verbs. The sentence as it stands can’t really stand alone; it’s dependent on the sentence that came before it for meaning – if we don’t know what we were supposed to do first, how would we know what to do next?

Am I right, or am I full of uptight, grammarian bullshit?

If I’m right, it bothers me deeply that this is in a textbook that is supposed to be teaching English grammar.

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Filed under concerns, General Griping, Grammar, Questions, Yikes!