Wednesday's are for Grammar

Well everyone:
Your homework was to determine the parts of speech in this sentence.
Mrs. Spit was gardening quietly in her back garden, working quickly to finish the odious task. "Ewww", she screamed. "That beetle is ugly, disgusting and gross".

Let's see how you did:
Mrs. Spit (Proper Noun) was (Verb) gardening (Verb) quietly (Adverb) in (Preposition) her(Pronoun) back (Adjective) garden (Noun), working(Verb) quickly (Adverb) to finish (Infinitive Verb) the (Preposition) odious(Adjective) task(Noun). "Ewww"(Interjection), she (Pronoun)screamed(Verb). "That (Adjective) beetle (Noun) is (Verb) ugly(Adjective), disgusting (Adjective) and (Conjunction) gross (Adjective)".

Who Gets To Post This Week's Coveted Grammar Award:

Dreams Come True
Julia S
Jamie D
Sweet Camden Lass
We will give honourable mention to Geohede, who did not complete the homework, but gave us two very adorable and healthy twins named Saag and Naan. Welcome Earthside, wee ones.

Just a few reminders. A number of you counted "back" from back garden as a preposition. And I can see why, but a preposition tells us the relationship between something, and an adjective modifies the noun. In this case, we are modifying the word garden, by telling the reader that Mrs. Spit is in the back garden. If we said Mrs. Spit is back, in the garden, back would indeed be a preposition, because we are telling someone that there is a back, and Mrs. Spit is in it. This is different than telling the reader that there is a back garden. It's tricky, I'll admit. If you don't understand why you got something wrong, send me an e-mail, and I will send you the worksheet, with the sentence diagrammed.

Today's Lesson:

Excavator asked a great question a few weeks ago. Specifically she asked:
I have a difficult time trying to use language to describe parts of language--I get muddled. What about this sentence?"I wish I wasn't that kind of person...I'd be much more fun if I was more adventurous..." I originally wrote it as "I wish I *were*..." "I'd be much more fun if I *were* more adventurous..."

So class, should Excavator write if I was, or if I were? While it sounds as if the two phrases should be interchangeable, they actually aren't. To explain why, I need to explain subjunctive and indicative moods. (1)
Now a subjunctive mood in writing is a verb that is used in such a way that it designates a hypothesis, a possibility or a suggestion. It does not designate fact. In other words, things may be one way, they may be another. We can't be sure. In cases of subjunctive, we use "were" to denote that we aren't sure of the state of things.

An indicative mood, on the other hand, is much more clear. Things are either black or white, this way or the other. You are either pregnant or not. In cases of indicative, we use "was", to indicate that we are sure of things.

When we look at Excavator's question, we need to determine if she is in fact adventurous, or if she might be adventurous, could be adventurous, but we can't be sure. (2) In other words, do we have a subjunctive or an indicative?

Looking at the sentence closely, we see that Excavator is expressing a definite cause and effect relationship. She is saying that she would be much more fun, if only she was absolutely more adventurous. She's not saying that she might be more adventurous, or she might not be; she's saying that she would like to be, and that's an absolute (3).

So, in answer to Excavator's question, the answer is:
"I wish I wasn't that kind of person...I'd be much more fun if I was more adventurous..."

To give you another example, I could say:
"If I were rich, I could buy all the wool I want." I might be rich, I might not(4), we can't be sure.

Now, your homework this week is two fold. The first is to build your most compelling case about whether this statement is right or wrong:

If Mrs. Spit were pregnant, she would not go whitewater rafting. (5)

The next part is to pick from one of the options on the poll listed on the side. Tell me, would you like to:
  • Learn about apostrophes
  • Learn how to use English grammar to make yourself seem clever
  • Learn about punctuation
  • Submit a question about grammar
  • Please Mrs. Spit, we love you, but we hate the grammar. Please start posting about gnome races or growing kudzu or canning lima beans on Wednesdays.
(1)And I can do this because I went back to my grammar books to learn about them.
(2) And you thought grammar and introspection weren't related!
(3) In the sense that she absolutely wants to be more adventurous. I happen to think that anyone who goes white water rafting with children is very adventurous indeed. But that's just my opinion.
(4) I'm not. Just in case you were wondering.
(5) See above.