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The Well Bred Sentence
(Table of Contents)

SAMPLE: EXERCISE AND ANSWER NOTES

Exercise and Answer Notes is a 16,000-word document that tests the principles of syntax and usage outlined in The Well Bred Sentence, the grammar book published on this site. Its twenty-three exercises, each consisting of at least ten questions, are referred to at the appropriate stages of The Well Bred Sentence. Every question is answered in detail. All sentences that are set for analysis or correction are natural sentences extracted from published works.

Users of Exercise and Answer Notes should not treat its questions as tests. Instead, they should be considered prompts for reflecting upon issues discussed in The Well Bred Sentence. The answers, in fact, are more important than the questions. They should be studied in detail, assessed and challenged. (At English Grammar Tutor we are more than happy to justify them.) When it is not immediately obvious how a question should be answered, the user should simply consult the answer. Remember, you are not being tested: you are studying.

Exercise 1

The basic sentence is rendered in bold in each of the following sentences and the verbial (verb, copula or copular verb) in italics. Identify each as a verb, copula or copular-verb basic sentence. (Identification is sufficient for the purpose of this exercise. But it is a good idea to study the analyses in `Exercise 1 Answers'.)

1. The altar boys were a tough corps to join at the age of seven.

2. Soon after I began serving, while I was still trustful, a gang was formed among the boys to protest against the punishments.

Exercise 1 Answers

1. The altar boys were a tough corps to join at the age of seven.

Copula basic sentence: The copula were assigns a definition, by means of the noun-phrase complement a corps, to the subject The boys.

The noun-phrase complement a corps is described by the adjective phrase to join at the age of seven and by the adjective tough.

The subject can be said to be described by altar, a noun-form acting as an adjective. Or it can be said that altar is part of the compound-noun subject The altar boys.

2. Soon after I began serving, while I was still trustful, a gang was formed among the boys to protest against the punishments.

Copula basic sentence: The predicate-adjective phrase formed among the boys to protest against the punishments is assigned by the copula was as a description of the subject a gang. (The `gang’ was a `formed-amongst-the-boys-to protest-against-the punishments’ sort of gang.)

Two adverb phrases: Soon after I began serving and while I was still trustful, locate the time when a gang came into being. There is no activity in this sentence that is either a subject's or an object's. So this cannot be a verb or a copular-verb sentence:

The author of this sentence does not claim that `the boys formed a gang’. Rather, he claims that a gang came into being. This subtly of meaning is destroyed by an analysis that tags `was formed’ as a verb in this sentence.

Exercise 7

(i) The following sentences all fail tests for validity in the complex sentence. Guess the writer's intention in each sentence then re-write it and underline the basic sentence in your revised sentence.

(ii) Reflect on why each sentence needed to be re-written.

(iii) Study the reasons (in Answers) for re-writing.

1. Viewers have besieged the ABC switchboard since he went off the air last month, taking leave to care for a sick family member.
Were viewers besieging or taking leave?

2. The threatened strike could have stopped the ice-skating show that was headed off by a High Court order.
Did the High Court head off the ice-skating show?

Exercise 7 Answers

defective sentence
1.Viewers have besieged the ABC switchboard since he went off air last May, taking leave to care for a sick family member.

In this sentence the present-participle phrase taking leave to care for a sick family member did what present-participle phrases do: it attached to the verb have besieged of the basic sentence as the simultaneous act of the subject Viewers. In so doing it made the unintended meaning that viewers were both `besieging' and `taking leave'. Unaware of the characteristic habit of present-participle phrases, the writer of the original sentence hoped it might attach to `went off' in the adverb phrase since he went off the air last month. But present-participle phrases do not attach to adverb phrases.

His indecision about which of three possibilities is the verbial functor in his complex sentence had the inevitable result: a miscarriage of meaning. The revised sentence resolves the problem by constraining the rogue verbial functors into an adverb phrase that describes the time of the act have besieged of the subject Viewers:

verb basic sentence
Viewers have besieged the ABC switchboard since he went off air last May to take leave to care for a sick family member.

defective sentence
2. The threatened strike could have stopped the ice-skating show that was headed off by a High Court order.

This sentence places the sequence that was headed off by a High Court order after the noun phrase ice-skating show. There it cannot but function as an adjective phrase that describes that noun phrase. The description results in the unintended meaning that the ice-skating show was headed off by a High Court order. The header that should have been part of the adjective phrase that describes strike.

verb basic sentence
The threatened strike that could have stopped the ice-skating show was headed off by a High Court order.

Exercise 17
Underline the basic sentence in the following sentences. Strike out all commas that should not be in them. Justify each strike-out in terms of (a) to (e):

(a) disrupts a basic sentence ;
(
b) disrupts a foreshortened sentence;
(c) disrupts an attributing sentence;
(d) disrupts a phrase (noun, adjective, predicate adjective, adverb, relative);
(e) intercedes a noun and the adjective that describes it.

1. The words of this Slovak poet, Ondra Lysohorsky, are as poignant today as they were, when first written more than fifty years ago.

2. She is absolutely right to think that anyone who dates him, plays into the hands of our enemy.

Exercise 17 Answers

1. The words of the Slovak poet, Ondra Lysohorsky, are as poignant today as they were when first written more than fifty years ago.

The comma after were in the original sentence disrupted the predicate-adjective phrase (underlined) of the copula basic sentence of this complex sentence. In so doing it disrupted a basic sentence.

  2. She is absolutely right to think that anyone who dates him plays into the hands of our enemy.

The comma after him in the original sentence disrupted the noun phrase (underlined) that anyone who dates him plays into the hands of our enemy that specifies the content of the copular verb is absolutely right to think of this complex sentence. It thereby disrupted a basic sentence.

We are happy to provide samples of any other exercise you may wish to see. Please, however, ask for one sample at a time, and be specific. (For example: `sample, Exercise 12'.)                                                                                                                                                                       Return to Grammar Book