The Phenomena of the Vortices and Cacti

twisted-juniperA friend and I were recently discussing what our possibilities for recreation are for a trip to Sedona, Arizona, this summer. When I said “vortexes,” her response was “shouldn’t it be vortices?” I had never heard that word, but told her I would investigate and use it as a blog topic. So here we are.

According to the Gregg Reference Manual nouns of a foreign origin retain their foreign plurals while some now have English plurals and others have two plurals—both foreign and English. How confusing is that? When there are two plural forms, one form may be preferred to the other and you are instructed to check your dictionary to be sure of the correct plural form.

I will not quote the entire section from Gregg, but it is interesting indeed. It is in the Tribute (11th) edition starting on page 204. Here are select entries:

WORDS ENDING IN US (the asterisk indicates the preferred form)
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
cactus cactuses cacti*
focus focuses* foci
nucleus nucleuses nuclei*
stylus styluses styli*
thesaurus thesauruses thesauri*
WORDS ENDING IN A
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
agenda agendas
dogma dogmas* dogmata
formula formulas* formulae
vertebra vertebras vertebrae*
WORDS ENDING IN UM
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
addendum addenda
auditorium auditoriums* auditoria
consortium consortiums* consortia
curriculum vitae curricula vitae
erratum errata
maximum maximums* maxima
memorandum memorandums* memoranda
stadium stadiums* stadia
ultimatum ultimatums* ultimate
WORDS ENDING IN O
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
crescendo crescendos* crescendo
tempo tempos tempi (in music)
WORDS ENDING IN ON
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
criterion criterions criteria*
phenomenon phenomenons phenomena*
WORDS ENDING IN X
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
appendix appendixes* appendices
crux cruxes* cruces
index indexes (of books) indices (math symbols)
matrix matrixes matrices*
vortex vortexes vortices*
WORDS ENDING IN IS
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
analysis analyses
crisis crises
ellipsis ellipses
parenthesis parentheses
synopsis synopses
WORDS ENDING IN EU OR EAU
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
Adieu adieus* adieux
Bureau bureaus* bureaux
Plateau plateaus* plateaux
COMPOUND WORDS
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
chaise longue chaise longues* chaises longues
hors d’oeuvre hors d’ouevres* hors d’oeuvre
maître d’ maître d’s

So did you learn anything from this taste of English and foreign pluralization of foreign nouns? I sure did! I was wrong and will forevermore refer to Sedona’s vortices correctly. Who knew?

 

Acronyms, All Caps, Plurals, and Possessives

This topic came up recently in my own task of proofreading. If you have an acronym or another all capital letter word, how do you make it plural or possessive? And then once you do, is the added pluralization or possession in all caps or not?

The short answer is that any pluralization or possession is added to the base word, but in this case, it is NOT in all caps:

  • There are never any ATMs around when you need them.
  • ADOT’s signs don’t always help the traffic flow.

There are times where you will need to use an apostrophe to avoid confusion:

  • Her report card had all A’s and B’s.

Here, the “A’s and B’s” are not possessive, but it could be confusing to leave the apostrophe out in “As” as it is a different (and real) word. In this case, the apostrophe in “B’s” is for consistency.

There is some confusion when using abbreviations because making the abbreviations possessive may be different than making the entire original words possessive:

  • The United States’ geography is so varied and interesting.
  • The U.S.’s geography is so varied and interesting.

You will use the rules depending on how it sounds. The “United States” spelled out does not need an apostrophe and “s” because you don’t say the extra “s.” But using the abbreviation “U.S.,” you would say the extra “s,” so would add the apostrophe and “s.” See Apostrophail!.

Just remember that only the original acronym or abbreviation should be in caps and any pluralization or possession would be added to that, but not in caps.

Grammar Giggle – Cod Fillet’s and Bags

I found this in a grocery store in Albuquerque. If I were to read this sign literally, I would see that it is $9.99 for the Cod Fillet’s 16 oz. bag, which sounds significantly overpriced unless it is a designer bag. And to warrant a sign, that Cod Fillet must have more bags than some of my friends do. I’m pretty sure they meant to say that the $9.99 was for a 16 oz. bag of cod fillets, but that’s not what it actually says.

 

Cod

Are Entities Singular or Plural?

As we’ve learned before, a verb must always agree in number and person with the subject. See Singular Verb, Plural Subject, Both . . . and, It’s All About the Agreement. But what if the “person” is an entity? Do you then use a singular or plural verb?

Typically, if you are talking about the entity as a unit, you use singular verb:

  • The committee meets on the third Thursday of each month.
  • The firm has earned many accolades.

If the entity is a company, it is usually treated as a unit. Just be sure that you carry the treatment as singular or plural every time you are talking about that entity. For instance:

  • ABC Corporation has ended its lease term. It is now looking for new office space.
  • NOT: ABC Corporation has ended its lease term. They are now looking for new office space. This example is inconsistent in treatment. If you are going to treat ABC Corporation as a single entity, then it is looking for space.

If you are want to emphasize that the members of the entity are acting independently, then a plural verb is correct:

  • The committee left the meeting together.
  • The staff have successfully staggered their vacations.
  • The jury left their notes in the jury box.

To help figure it out, replace the entity with “it” and replace members of the entity with “they” to make sure you are using the right verb. Using the examples above, replace the entity with the word in parenthesis to see how it works:

  • The committee (it) meets on the third Thursday of each month.
  • The firm (it) has earned many accolades.
  • The committee (they) left the meeting together.
  • The staff (they) have successfully staggered their vacations.
  • The jury (they) left their notes in the jury box.

Hopefully that was useful to you. If it was, please share this post so others can be as smart as you are!

Grammar Giggle – Presidents Day

Happy Presidents Day! I’m assuming this school was talking about the holiday honoring ALL of the U.S. Presidents and not just one President. Remember, with apostrophes you start with the correct word–in this case, “Presidents” because you’re talking about all the Presidents–and then make it possessive by adding an apostrophe (and an “s” if necessary). NOTE: various sources disagree about whether the apostrophe belongs at all. Since the apostrophe denotes possession and the holiday is to honor U.S. Presidents and not a day that belongs to those Presidents, no apostrophe is probably more correct. In any event, this school sign is obviously incorrect.

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Not Only More Subject/Verb Agreement But Also Intervening Clauses

questionWe’ll look at more subject/verb agreement today. If you missed last week’s topic, please see “Singular Verb, Plural Subject, Both . . . and, It’s All About the Agreement.”

When you have two subjects connected by and and preceded by eacheverymany a, or many an, use a singular verb.

  • Every car, truck, and van on the street is going 15 miles over the speed limit.

The same sentence without every would use a plural verb.

  • All cars, trucks, and vans on the street are going 15 miles over the speed limit.

When you have two singular words joined by oreither . . . orneither . . . nornot only . . . but also, the subject is singular and so you use a singular verb.

  • Neither the bride nor the groom was ready to walk down the aisle.
  • Either basil or mint is called for in the recipe.
  • Not only billing but also his expense reimbursement needs to get done on the first day of the month.

If, however, the subject is two or more plural words joined by oreither . . . orneither . . . nornot only . . . but also, then the subject is plural and you must use a plural verb.

  • Neither the paralegals nor the attorneys have any time for that project.
  • Either red roses or white daisies make her happy.

Just to keep it confusing, if you have a singular and a plural subject joined by oreither . . . orneither . . . nornot only . . . but also, your verb should agree with the nearest part of the subject. It usually sounds better to have plural verbs, so where possible, you should try to move the plural subject closest to the verb whenever you can.

  • Neither Joe nor his brothers are going to the beach.
  • Neither Joe’s brothers nor Joe is going to the beach.
  • Not only research knowledge but also grammar skills are important in a job search.

When you have an intervening clause between subject and verb (or multiple subjects and a verb), ignore the intervening clause to determine if you need a singular or plural verb.

  • The point of the exercises was to teach correct use of apostophes.
  • Only one of the examinees was prepared with supplies.

I hope that helps with subject/verb agreement. If you have any questions about this or have another topic you would like to see covered, please let me know at proofthatblog@gmail.com. Also remember that you can add your email address to the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” area on the top right hand side of the page and the posts will be emailed to you! Lastly, if you are learning something, please share with others who might be interested. Thanks!

Singular Verb, Plural Subject, Both . . . and, It’s All About the Agreement

Subject verbOne thing everyone learned in the fourth grade that hasn’t changed is that your verb must agree with your subject–both in number and person. For example:

  • He is anxious for his test results. (Singular verb is agrees with singular subject he.)
  • They are the noisiest group in the office. (Plural verb are agrees with plural subject they.)
  • Your order for six laptops is on the reception desk. (Singular verb is agrees with singular subject order.)

Where you have a subject with two or more words connected by and or both  . . . and, the subject is plural and requires a plural verb.

  • Andy and Sharon were nominated for office.
  • Both the set up and delivery of the computer were included in the price.

However, when two things connected with and actually refer to the same thing, use a singular verb.

  • Hamhocks and beans is his favorite New Year’s Day tradition. (Hamhocks and beans is one dish so it needs the singular verb is.)
  • The secretary and treasurer of the association is Mary. (Two positions handled by one person requires the singular verb is.)

That’s it for today, but we will follow up with more next week. Go forth and engage in plural and singular subject/verb agreement!

 

Plurals, Possessives, and Surnames Oh My!

10709367_s

A reader asked me to address possessives with a proper name.  I mentioned it in an article early on (see Apostrophail!), but we will delve into it here.

The first rule–the most important thing to remember when working with surnames (a person’s last name)–is do not change a person’s name. You can’t add an apostrophe before an “s” when the surname ends in “s.” For instance, do not make the name “Andrews” possessive by putting the apostrophe between the “w” and the “s.” That is changing the spelling of Andrews. A person’s name is the most personal thing they have. Don’t mess that up! So here are some tips for making surnames plural and possessive.

To make most surnames plural, you add an “s.”

  • The Smiths went to the Halloween party dressed as dice.

That means more than one Smith went to the party. Where the surname ends in s, x, ch, sh, or z, you should add es to make the name plural.

  • The Lopezes have been married for 50 years.

However, if adding es makes the name hard to pronounce, just use the s.

  • The Hastings went to the park for a picnic. (In this case Hastingses would be difficult to pronounce, so Hastings is better.)

As for possessives, to make most surnames possessive, add an apostrophe and an “s.”

  • Mr. Smith’s car was repossessed.

For these surnames that are plural and possessive, make them plural by adding an “s” and then add an apostrophe to make them possessive.

  • The Smiths’ car was parked illegally.

Where surnames end in “s,” to make them possessive, pronounce the word. If you say the extra “s,” you add apostrophe and “s.”

  • Shirley Jones’s son flunked algebra.

You would pronounce it “Joneses,” so you add the apostrophe and “s.” Where the surname ends in “s” and making it plural adds an extra syllable that makes it awkward to pronounce, add only the apostrophe.

  • Mr. Andrews’ house was broken into.

You would not pronounce it “Andrewses,” so you only add the apostrophe. Where you are talking about a surname that ends in “s” and you want it plural and possessive, make it plural first and then follow the rules on making it possessive.

  • The Joneses’ house was for sale.

You make Jones plural by adding “es” because it ends in “s,” but adding apostrophe and “s” after that would make it difficult to pronounce (Joneseses) so you just add the apostrophe.

Again, the main thing to remember is not to change the basic spelling of a person’s name. Start with their name spelled correctly, and then figure out how to make it plural and/or possessive.

Hopefully this is helpful. Don’t upset a person by misspelling their name. Possessives and plurals aren’t difficult if you think about the base word you are trying to change.

 

 

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_10709367_smith-name-in-phone-book.html’>bradcalkins / 123RF Stock Photo</a>