Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grammar 101 - sure vs. surely

gram⋅mar –noun
1. the study of the way the sentences of a language are constructed
2. a set of rules accounting for these constructions
I was never one for rules - so as a consequence, grammar never really took. In my ever pursuit of Chasing Distractions, I have decided to revisit the rules of the wordsmith. In this first installment I will discuss Adverbs and Adjectives.
Often people confuse the use of some adverbs and some adjectives. Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. For this installment I will use the adjective sure and the adverb surely.
Instructions: Choose the correct form for each of these sentences.
1. You seem very (surely, sure) of yourself.
2. Ila (surely, sure) is tired from work.
3. The milk (surely, sure) tastes sour.
4. Are you (surely, sure) this is the right road?
5. This story (surely, sure) is exciting.

The Grammar Police informed me that the correct answers are:
1. sure
2. surely
3. surely
4. sure
5. surely

(Each answer in which you used 'surely' could be substituted replaced with the other adverbs 'really' and 'certainly' and still make sense.)
Surley I will now be able to write better blog posts. I am sure of it.
(I hope I got that right)

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Charles said...

Good for you to pay more attention to things like grammar, diction, and usage. Such things are not--or at least shouldn't be--the arbitrary commandments of people with a stick you know where, but rather aids to clarity and precision in written communication.

Forgive me for pointing out, however, that in your discussion of using different words to avoid the use of the stilted-sounding "surely" you used the construction "substituted with," which isn't standard usage.

Substitute can only take the preposition "for", as in this example: "Joe didn't have all the ingredients the recipe called for, and substituted olive oil for butter, with bad results for his cinnamon rolls."

You could recast the sentence this way: "Joe didn't have all the ingredients the recipe called for, and replaced the butter with olive oil, etc." Or, alternatively, "Since Joe didn't have all the ingredients, the butter was replaced by olive oil."

To put it another way, the verb "substitute" doesn't work in both directions. You can say B was substituted for A, but you can't say A was substituted with (or by) B, because A isn't the substitute. In grammatical terms, A is not the object of the verb "substitute." B is the thing that is acted upon by the verb.

Does that make sense?

Chasing Distractions said...

Thanks Charles. Did I update that correctly?

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