Since the semester is just a couple of weeks old, writing assignments have yet to begin rolling in. (And they’re likely to be fewer as first-year students branch out from Craft I into broadcast and interactive.) In this slow season, let’s review some recurring grammar points.
Is the following sentence, from student work, correct or incorrect?
She is a 22-years-old Mexican-American Disney fan.
Today, Clarissa’s family is in France, waiting . . . to bring her body home.
Incorrect. Words like bring and take and come and go imply directions. You bring something to where you are; you take it somewhere else. Since the policewoman’s relatives were in Paris at the time, they were waiting to take her body home to Martinique.
Similarly, from a cover letter by another student:
It would give me an international perspective and the ability to work in English when I will come back to France.
You come to where you are; you go somewhere else. This student was writing from New York and so meant when I go back to France. (Notice that I dropped will; in this case, present tense is used to indicate future. That’s one of the many quirks of English.)
Another student made the same mistake in a story on an East Side grocery store:
That’s what shopping in Todaro Bros is about for Andrea DiCarlo, 64, an executive who comes there a couple of times a week.
DiCarlo probably said “I come here . . .” when she was interviewed at the store — and come would have been perfectly fine in a direct quote. But except for Todaro’s employees, most people probably won’t be in the store when they read the story. Goes is correct.
A reflexive pronoun consists of a pronoun plus the suffix -self: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves. (Never hisself or theirselves!) Reflexives refer back to the antecedent and are often used to emphasize it. If I ask a student, “Did you write this?” I’m asking a simple question: who wrote it? If I ask, “Did you write this yourself?” I’m doublechecking to make sure it’s not plagiarized — hence the emphasis.
Reflexives should never be used as subjects, though sometimes as objects (direct object: I hurt myself; indirect object: I gave myself a haircut.) Consider these two examples:
From LinkedIn for Journalists: Myself and a colleague have a few ideas for articles we would love to work on together.
It should read: A colleague and I have a few ideas for articles we would love to work on together.
And from a student: As both the neighborhood and himself have changed, so has Robinson’s original mission.
Better: As both he and the neighborhood have changed, so has Robinson’s original mission.
Note the positions of the pronouns. In the first, a colleague and I is correct because it is considered polite for the speaker to mention himself last. But he and the neighborhood sounds more graceful than the neighborhood and he.