1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    More grammar problems for my dumbass

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, May 11, 2016.

    In the sentence:

    A four hundred meter long vessel with a listed crew of eighteen.

    Grammarly tells me that should be:
    A four hundred meters long vessel with a listed crew of eighteen.

    That -s- looks & sounds odd to me. Should that really be - meters?
     
  2. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Grammarly sees the four hundred before it and assumes you're talking about a quantity of four hundred meters.

    You're right, it's wrong. Who's the dumbass now?
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, grammerly is wrong in this instance because the software is unable to take into account instances of measurements where leaving the word for the measure (in this case, meter) is left in the singular by convention.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Also, your use of dumbass in the title is very questionable. I would say it should be dumb ass. Dumbass as a single word is an epithet that names a person. When you say "More grammar problems for my dumbass", you invoke a third party, who is a dumbass, and the question is for the benefit of said dumbass, not yourself. When you say "More grammar problems for my dumb ass", then the ass is oneself, described as dumb. Ass, in this case, not being an actual posterior, but the more figurative ass that is invoked in other idioms, such as "don't make an ass of yourself".

    :whistle: :-D
     
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  5. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    My dumbass dumb ass will note that in the future.
    Thanks for the help.
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I hate grammar software :)
     
  7. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    As bad as the software can be, Grammarly does seem very good at pointing out passive voice which is something I have trouble spotting.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The trouble I have withe a low-grade A.I. pointing out the passive is that I completely disagree with the blanket proscription against use of the passive. I disagree with all blanket proscriptions. Kowtowing to any of them means giving up my core belief that: Whatever you do, do it with deliberation and intent.

    When the passive is used by me, it is done with intent. ;) It is not something that just accidentally slips out.
     
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  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Same here. I suppose it can be useful for someone stumbling into passive voice by accident, but writers shouldn't take the view that passive voice can never be used.
     
  10. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    There are many times when I stick with the passive voice. Especially in dialogue when it's more natural for the speaker to be using it for the situation. Still, it's nice to have it pointed out to me in the cases where it wasn't intentional and can be easily changed
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm feeling the desire for examples, because so very, very often what people (and quite possibly grammar checkers) think is passive voice, isn't.
     
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  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've even had professionals highlight "had" and say it's passive voice when it just isn't. :(
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Or the infamous "was" as always being passive...... le sigh. :bigmeh:
     
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  14. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    By the time we finish discussing this we will have been being attacked by thoughts of tortuous grammar for such a long time.



    ;)
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2016
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  15. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I saw an article that explained that if you can stick in "by zombies" it's passive voice.

    Passive
    The contest was canceled because someone hacked the computer and rigged the votes.

    The contest was canceled by zombies because someone hacked the computer and rigged the votes.

    Not passive
    The company running the contest had to cancel it because someone hacked the computer and rigged the votes.

    Warning: I freely admit my grammar has always sucked. I may be wrong here.
     
  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I use that method too, @doggiedude, though sometimes I'm still not sure.

    @Kinzvlle posted about this app: http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ I've been playing with it and I think everything it highlighted as passive voice was, in fact, passive. I didn't change any of it, mind you, but I think it was correct. :D
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Passive voice is super-duper simple. Passive voice = no grammatical subject present. The reason the by zombies method tends to work (not always, btw) is that while the zombies are the logical subject of the sentence, the actors of the action, they can never be the subject because they are behind a prepositional wall, the word by. Nothing on the other side of a propositional wall can ever be the grammatical subject of a sentence. Ever.
     
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  18. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    That's pretty spot on, and the example I use when all else fails.

    Personally, I am always bewildered by this stumping people. It's genuinely one of the simplest constructions we have in this language.
    [form of to be] + [past participle] (+by XYZ)
    Done. Those are all the ingredients. If you're panicking at the word participle, that's just the version of past tense that goes after "have", and is just the regular past tense 9 times from 10.
     
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  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Many of us didn't have a good grounding in grammar, @NiallRoach. I was taught what a verb, noun and adjective is, and that's it. When you know if something is right by feel (because you learned through reading, not theory) it can be very difficult to articulate why something is wrong, or to assign the proper labels to it.

    And then when you DON'T think passive voice is a bad thing to use, it becomes even harder because something feels right and you have people telling you it's wrong because blah blah participle form of be xyz.

    There's no incentive for me to spend the time learning how to identify passive voice (besides the 'by zombies' trick) because I just don't care enough.

    I hope that clears up why some people find it difficult.
     
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  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know how the passive voice fear became such a big one, because IMO it is a VERY unimportant issue. People don't naturally speak or write in passive voice. If they use it, it will very often be for a good reason. Yes, sometimes there is a better phrasing, but there are dozens, probably hundreds, of more important ways to improve one's writing.

    In the two "contest was cancelled" options, the one marked passive voice is indeed passive voice, and it's also better.
     
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  21. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I couldn't identify the difference between an adverb and a prepositional wall.
    Ask me to calculate the decay rate of Technetium for ya & I can help.
    Dangle a participle in front of my face and... Meh. When it came to learning all that stuff, I couldn't be bothered to.
    What's that mean?
     
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  22. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    It's been said that Brits use the passive voice rather a lot, to be seen to be polite or diplomatic or simply not direct (a thing which is loathed by many east of the pond). Such use can never be proven with any degree of certainty, but it is a stereotype that gets bandied about. Such things should perhaps be considered when generalizing about grammatical use.
     
  23. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It just means that anything that is headed by a preposition and is thus a prepositional phrase cannot be seen as the syntactic subject. It comes to light best when you are looking at verb agreement in a sentence.

    One [of them] was the perpetrator.

    In this sentence, the plurality of them does not apply to the main verb in the sentence because it is behind that preposition of. The word that tells you which verb form to choose is the word one, which in this case is clearly singular. It is what drives verb agreement.

    This was done by me.

    In this sentence there is a logical actor: me. We know who did the thing. Right? But notice that the word me is the object form, rather than I, which is the subject form. That's really the only red flag we need to know that me cannot be the subject. It's in its object form. What's making it decline into that form is the preposition by, which in this case is invoking what is referred to as the instrumental case. The instrumental case carries the idea of with a thing, with a person, or by means of. So, by me is out as a possible subject. What's left is This was done. Done is a past participle, which is a verb serving as a kind of adjective. But it's still a verb, and that verb is modifying This. What was done? This was done. So This is also an object in the sentence because it is being directly modified by the verb. It is the recipient of the action, not the actor. The only word left is was, and its only purpose is to give tense to the sentence, which in this case is past tense. The thing that happened happened in the past. It cannot be the subject either. We are out of words. There is no grammatical subject.
     
  24. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I use passive voice a lot a work. Like instead of "David missed his deadline" I'll say "The document wasn't written by the deadline."

    Or sometimes I use passive-aggressive voice: "David, it's past 12pm on Friday and the document doesn't appear to be in my inbox. I assume it's been written but IT issues have prevented its arrival?" and then I sign off with "Regards" instead of "Kind regards" to show how furious I am.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with you here. If I had to guess, the amplification of concern over this is a synergy of the lazy-yet-stern rhetoric against its use coupled with a blurry understanding of what it even is, making it look like a thing that occurs with much greater frequency than it actually does. But that's just me make making a supposition. ;)
     
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