Mar­i­tal sta­tus

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INSIGHT - Co-or­di­nated by JANE F. RAGAVAN english@thes­tar.com.my

PLEASE ed­u­cate me on the us­age of “marry”. Sce­nario: A mar­ried B in Au­gust 2011. Ques­tion: When A wants to tell some­one about his mar­i­tal sta­tus, which sen­tences be­low are cor­rect? Maybe you have other sug­ges­tions. (1) I mar­ried B in Au­gust 2011. (2) I got mar­ried to B in Au­gust 2011. (3) I am mar­ried. (4) I was mar­ried. (5) I have mar­ried. – YTChin

A can use sen­tences 1, 2 and 3, which are all cor­rect. But since it is still 2011 now, it would be bet­ter to re­place 2011 with “this year”.

Sen­tence 4 im­plies that A was mar­ried in the past, but is no longer mar­ried.

Sen­tence 5 has an am­bigu­ous mean­ing. A says “I have mar­ried.” But it is not clear if he is still mar­ried.

The sim­plest way to tell some­one about one’s mar­i­tal sta­tus is to use sen­tence 3, i.e. “Iam mar­ried.” This does not of course give de­tails, such as the date of the mar­riage or the per­son one is mar­ried to. There is also at least one other way of ex­press­ing sen­tences 1 and 2, and that is: “ B and I were mar­ried in Au­gust this year.”

Is or are?

PLEASE tell me which of the fol­low­ing is cor­rect:

a) There are a cater­pil­lar and two but­ter­flies in the pic­ture.

b) There is a cater­pil­lar and two but­ter­flies in the pic­ture. What is the rea­son for the choice? Could you also rec­om­mend the most com­pre­hen­sive English us­age ref­er­ence books avail­able in Malaysian book stores or some free online en­quiry web­sites? – Hope­fulGirl

Your sec­ond sen­tence is cor­rect, i.e. “There is a cater­pil­lar and two but­ter­flies in the pic­ture.”

My view is based on what Collins Cobuild English Gram­mar (2nd ed. 2005) says about whether to use “is” or “are” in sen­tences us­ing “there” as its sub­ject. It says that you use “a sin­gu­lar form of ‘be’ (which is “is”) when you are giv­ing a list of items and the first noun in the list is sin­gu­lar or un­count­able.” (p.416, 10.50)

How­ever, we say “There are two but­ter­flies and a cater­pil­lar in the pic­ture.”, us­ing the gen­eral rule “that the verb form matches the item(s) that it is ad­ja­cent to ...” (Roger Wood­ham, BBC World Ser­vice – Learn­ing English)

bbc.co.uk/world­ser­vice/learnin­genglish/ gram­mar/lear­nit/lear­nitv128.shtml

You should, how­ever, never use “is” be­fore a plu­ral noun or noun phrase, e.g. “There’s man­goes on the tree.” or “There’s five ap­ples on the ta­ble.” “Are” should al­ways be used in these kinds of sen­tences.

There is a very use­ful ref­er­ence book on cur­rent English us­age avail­able in Malaysian book stores – Michael Swan’s Prac­ti­cal English Us­age. Make sure you buy the lat­est edi­tion. The BBC link above leads to a re­li­able, free online en­quiry web­site.

Soar­ing build­ings

BE­LOW is a cloze pas­sage. Which is the best an­swer?

The in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment projects pro­posed in Bud­get 2011 are wel­comed in the Klang Val­ley as they would cer­tainly im­prove the qual­ity of life. How­ever, in­dus­try ex­perts com­mented that both wide­spread plan­ning and fol­low-up ac­tion must be in place to en­sure that funds al­lo­cated for the projects are used ef­fec­tively.

One of the projects pro­posed is the 100-storey Warisan Merdeka which has be­come the hottest topic. Many peo­ple have ex­pressed con­cern over adding a mega struc­ture to the con­gested city. They want more in­for­ma­tion on the pur­pose of the RM5 bil­lion sky­scraper. The Malaysian In­sti­tute of Plan­ners’ hon­orary sec­re­tary Lee iLh Shyan, said the govern­ment should pro­vide more de­tails on the pur­pose of Warisan Merdeka.

With build­ings soar­ing higher, roads are also to _____ un­der the bud­get with six new high­ways such as the Am­pang-Cheras-Pan­dan El­e­vated High­way, Guthrie-Da­mansara-PJ High­ways and Pan­tai Barat-Bant­ing-Taip­ing High­way. The traf­fic plan­ning con­sul­tant, Goh Bok Yen be­lieves that these high­ways will serve the pur­pose of dis­pers­ing traf­fic and

First, which­ever verb you choose, you will have to use its pas­sive form. “Build­ings” can be said to “soar” be­cause “soar” can mean “to be very high or tall” ( OALD), but roads can’t just ex­pand/de­velop/in­crease/im­prove on their own. If the verb form can­not be changed in a cloze pas­sage ques­tion, then I think none of the an­swers is cor­rect.

The sen­tence con­tain­ing the blank space talks about the prospec­tive build­ing of six new high­ways. Let me quote the para­graph it comes from here:

“ With build­ings soar­ing higher, roads are also to _____ un­der the bud­get with six new high­ways ...”

So, it looks like new and bet­ter roads (high­ways) are go­ing to be built. This rules out “ex­pand”, “in­crease” and “im­prove”. I agree with your choice of “de­velop”, since this in­cor­po­rates the ideas of “in­crease” and “im­prove”, but it should be used in the pas­sive: “ With build­ings soar­ing higher, roads are also to be de­vel­oped ...”

How­ever, if we for­get about the cloze pas­sage ques­tion, it would be neater and clearer to write this part of the sen­tence thus: “ With build­ings soar­ing higher, new and bet­ter roads are also to be built ...”

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