Tag Archives: grammar and style

Antecedent

“1. The words in a text, usually a noun phrase, to which a pronoun or other grammatical unit refers back. Cook is the antecedent of him in: ‘In 1772. Cook began his second voyage, which took him further south than he had ever been.’ Similarly, his second voyage is the antecedent of which. With impersonal itthisthatwhich, the antecedent may be a whole clause or paragraph, as in: ‘Might not the coast of New South Wales provide and armed haven? To some people this looked good on paper, but there is no hard evidence that it did so to William Pitt or his ministers.’ Despite the implications of the name, an antecedent can follow rather than precede: ‘For his first Pacific voyage, Cook had no chronometer.’ 2. In logic, the conditional element in a proposition. In If they did that, they deserve our respect, the antecedent is they did that.”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Write it Right: Sensation for Emotion

“Sensation for Emotion. ‘The play caused a great sensation.’ A sensation is a physical feeling; an emotion, a mental. Doubtless the one usually accompanies the other, but the good writer will name the one that he has in mind, not the other. There are few errors more common than the one here noted.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

Demonstrative

“Demonstrative: A term used in association with pronouns and determiners as an adjective and a noun: a demonstrative pronoun; three demonstratives in one sentence. A demonstrative usage indicates relationships and locations, such as between this (near the speaker and perhaps the listener) and that (not near the speaker, perhaps near the listener, or not near either).”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Metonymy

“A figure of speech which designates something by the name of something associated with it: the Crown substituting for monarchy, the stage for the theater, No. 10 Downing Street for the British Prime Minister, the White House for the US president. A word used metonymically (crown, as above) is a metonym. Metonymy is closely related to and sometimes hard to distinguish from metaphor. It has sometimes been seen as a kind of synecdoche and sometimes as containing synecdoche. Both metaphor and metonymy express association, metaphor through comparison, metonymy through contiguity and possession. Many standard items of vocabulary are metonymic. A red-letter day is important, like the feast days marked in red on church calendars. The work redcap (a porter) originally referred to a piece of red flannel tied for visibility around the caps of baggage carriers at New York’s Grand Central Station. On the level of slang, a redneck is a stereotypical member of the white rural working class in the Southern US, originally a reference to necks sunburned from working in the fields.”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.