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If, on the other hand, we insert the word other and write 'Shakespeare is greater than any other dramatist,' we introduce the minimum of alteration and put our finger on the faulty spot.
246. Examples of the erroneous use of the participle are furnished in the following sentences. Rewrite them correctly.
'Being a fine day, I went out for a walk.'
[To correct this sentence we may either
(1) Complete the absolute phrase and say 'It being,' or—
(2) Substitute an adverbial clause for being and say 'As it was.'] 'Sailing in a yacht, the coast seems to move faster than we.'
'Courting the favour of neither rich nor poor, success attended his
'Foiled and disgraced, his candidature was abandoned.'
'Louis was in some respects a good man, but being a bad ruler his subjects rebelled.'
'Being early killed, I sent a party in search of his mangled body.' 'Having failed in this attempt, no further trial was made.' 'Travelling along the line, the tower of the castle came in sight.'
'Judging from the time taken, the race was rowed quicker than in all previous years.'
'Having perceived the weakness of his poems, they now reappear to us under new titles.'
'Vainly endeavouring to suppress his emotion, the service was abruptly brought to an end.'
'Left for dead upon the ground, his companions rushed to his assistance.'
'Arrived at the spot, a scene of horror presented itself to their eyes.'
'Hastily discussing the position of affairs, prompt measures were adopted and a telegram was sent to the police station.'
'Not having had the accounts of the company properly audited for some years, it was resolved by the directors that the services of an accountant should be secured.'
SYNTAX OF ADJECTIVES AND PRONOUNS.
247. ADJECTIVES limit nouns attributively and predicatively. When we say 'a clever boy,' the use of the adjective is attributive: when we say 'The boy is clever,' it is predicative. With certain transitive verbs of incomplete predication, such as make, think, call, consider, an adjective is used factitively to complete the statement: "They made, or thought, or called, or considered, him clever.'
Some adjectives can be used only predicatively. We can say 'The man is afraid, or awake, or well, or ill,' but not 'the afraid man,' 'the awake man,' 'the well or ill man.' Sometimes an adjective changes its meaning when it is used attributively: 'He is a sorry fool' does not signify the same thing as 'The fool is sorry.' 'Glad' can be used attributively in only a few connexions: 'glad tidings,' 'glad heart.'
248. Concord. To speak of the agreement of the Adjective with its Noun in modern English is to use a term which seems scarcely appropriate, for the inflexions marking gender and case have disappeared entirely from English adjectives; and the demonstratives this and that are the only adjectives which admit of the inflexion of number.
W. E. G.
Collective nouns in the singular are often followed by verbs in the plural, but they cannot be preceded by these or those. It is a common error to say 'these sort,' 'those
"Those sort of things do not affect me at all.' The best way of correcting this is to say 'Things of that sort do not.' There is a harshness whether we say 'That sort of things do not,' or 'That sort of things does not,' though either expression admits of defence, if sort is a collective noun signifying 'class.' But if sort is an abstract noun, equivalent in meaning to ‘description,' each of these forms of expression is illogical, for it is the things, and not the description of the things, by which the effect is produced.
249. The constructions of many are curious. We may use many as an adjective and say 'many roses,' or 'many a rose,' with the idea of plurality in both instances. We can also speak of 'a great many roses,' where the adjective great limits the adjective many, unless we suppose that many is here a noun and that the full expression would be a great many of roses.' Many is used as a noun when we talk of 'the conflict between the few and the many.' Notice the difference of meaning between 'few' and 'a few.' Few means 'not many': a few means 'some.' Less is often wrongly used where fewer would be the right word. Less denotes quantity, fewer denotes number. Hence we ought not to say 'No less than twenty persons were present.'
250. Each, every, either, neither, are distributives, and their construction is therefore singular. Hence the following
'Each of the boys read in their turn.' We may alter each of to all, making turn plural, or we may alter their to his.
'They followed each in their turn.'
This sentence is not on precisely the same footing as the last, for if we substitute his for their, we may be making a mistake, as they may mean women, or both men and women. Supposing that 'they' refers to both men and women, are we to say 'his or her turn respectively'? This phraseology is suggestive of a legal document rather than of
ordinary diction. In such a case two courses are open to us,—to say simply 'in turn,' or to dispense with the each and say alï.
The use of adjectives as adverbs has been dealt with on p. 183, and of adjectives as nouns on p. 106.
251. Errors in connexion with the use of the comparative and the superlative degree are illustrated in the following passages:
I. Use of the superlative when fewer than three things are compared
'Of London and Paris the former is the wealthiest.' 'Which is the most learned of the two scholars?'
and of the comparative when more than two things are compared
'The town consists of three distinct quarters, of which the western one is by far the larger.'
To object to speaking of the division of a town into three quarters would be hypercritical: when used of a town, 'quarter' means 'a part,' not necessarily 'a fourth part.' In like manner we may speak of ‘a weekly journal,' though originally a journal must have been a publication issued every jour or 'day.'
Confusion of the comparative and superlative forms. of expression
'Of all other nations England is the greatest.'
Unless we have already specified one nation as the greatest and are making a comparison between all the remaining nations, this sentence is faulty. To say 'America is the greatest nation, and of all other nations England is the greatest' is correct. But if this is not our meaning, we must say either (1) England is the greatest of all nations,' or (2) England is greater than all other nations.' To blend the two expressions produces an illogical result, for England is not one of the other nations and therefore cannot be the greatest of the other nations. 'All other nations' signifies all the nations except England.
Milton, imitating a Greek construction, speaks of—
'Adam the goodliest man of men since born
But how could Adam be one of men since born,' or Eve one of her own daughters?
An analogous mistake is illustrated in this sentence:
'Tennyson was greater than all the poets of his age.' 'All the poets' includes Tennyson. He could not be greater than himself. Say therefore 'all the other poets.'
3. Pleonasm or excess of expression. Double comparatives and superlatives were common in Shakespeare's time: 'more better,' 'most unkindest,' 'most straitest.' We avoid such obvious redundancies of form now-a-days, but sometimes employ expressions which really are pleonastic: 'more perfect,' 'most universal.'
'He advised me to choose the smallest of the two, and which certainly appears to be the most preferable.' Note here (1) 'smallest and most preferable of two'; (2) 'preferable' is already comparative in meaning; 'most preferable' is therefore pleonastic; (3) and is redundant. Say, 'Of the two he advised me to choose the smaller, which certainly appears to be preferable.'
Observe however that although 'most preferable,' or even 'more preferable,' is pleonastic in this context, since only two things are compared, a case might occur in which the use of 'more preferable' and 'most preferable' would be legitimate. Suppose that four things, A, B, C, and D, are set before us, and a choice is allowed. Then, if we like B better than A, C better than B, and D better than C, we may say that in our opinion B is preferable to A, but C is more preferable, and D the most preferable of all.
Should we say, 'The two first' or 'The first two'?
Strictly speaking there can be only one first, but 'first' and 'last' are often used to signify 'in front' and 'towards the end' respectively: so we say 'the first remarks I have to make,' 'the first days of the year,' 'the last lines of the play.' Now if we talk of 'the first' or 'the last days of the year,' we may talk of 'the two first' or 'the two last days of the year.' 'The first two' is free from this objection, but it is open to another. It suggests a 'second two,' whereas there may be only three in the entire series.
253. The uses of the so-called Definite and Indefinite Articles are given on p. 109.
Some care is necessary in the use of the Articles to avoid ambiguity in those cases in which ambiguity is possible. 'A black and a white horse' means two horses, one black, the other white; 'a black and white