Archive for Grammar

The voice was passivized by the author

I just saw the following line in an ad: I can’t believe it was made by myself! …Certainly passive voice is not the only problem with that sentence. For example, the last word should be me rather than myself; a lot of English speakers incorrectly use myself to sound more formal or official in contexts […]


According to Wikipedia: […] a labile verb […] (or ergative verb) is a verb that can be either transitive or intransitive, and whose subject when intransitive corresponds to its direct object when transitive. […] In English, most verbs can be used intransitively, but ordinarily this does not change the role of the subject; consider, for […]

Plausible typos

Some typos are more harder to detect than others. I’m currently reading the 1989 Mandarin Paperbacks edition of C. J. Cherryh’s novel Downbelow Station, which is rife with the sort of typos that a spellchecker won’t catch, because the erroneous word is also a valid English word. (Okay, “rife” is an exaggeration; I really only […]

Double garden path

Turns out that although I mentioned garden-path sentences once here in passing, I’ve never really written about them. A garden-path sentence is one that initially leads the reader to parse it in one way, but turns out to be structured differently than it appeared to be. The usual example, and the first example I encountered, […]

Walking into bars

I really enjoyed this set of “…walks into a bar” jokes about various aspects of language. Some examples: A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly. A bar was walked into by the passive voice. Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.” A malapropism […]