1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Take ...for example+ punctuation

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Mar 24, 2009.

    Hi,everyone.
    Please tell me whether sentences like "Take myself for example" are treated as a complete sentence and thus concluded with a period or they are taken as part of a longer sentence? For instance, shall we write
    "Take my brother for example. He dropped out of school when Ihe was in Grade Five." or
    "Take my brother for example, he dropped out of school when he was in Grade Five."
    or
    "Take my brother for example: he dropped out of school when he was in Grade Five."
    or
    "Take my brother for example---he dropped out of school when he was in Grade Five"?

    I also have two related questions:
    a. Can we say "Take ... as an example"?
    b. Can we say "Taking ... for example/ as an example, ..." and "To take ... for example/ as an example, ..." ?

    Thanks very much.
    Richard
     
  2. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    I think this should be in the grammar issues forums, a mod will probably move.

    I would consider "Take my brother, for example" to be an independent clause and it would therefore need to be separated from the rest of the sentence by a semicolon or be its own sentence. I believe an em dash or colon would also work in this case. I do think you need the comma there, before "for example" as well. I think it reads best when it's like this: "Take my brother, for example. He dropped out of school when he was in the fifth grade."

    Also, I don't know where you're from, but I've never heard "Grade Five" used conventionally as opposed to "fifth grade"... Perhaps the style of punctuating the rest of the sentence is different if you're outside of the states, too. I'm not up on my British/Australian/other grammar :D


    In your related questions, I don't see why you couldn't do it that way, but it would most likely subordinate the clause and change how you would punctuate it (it would probably be with a comma, not with a semicolon or as a separate sentence).
     
  3. sweetchaos
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    sweetchaos Contributing Member

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    Canadians refer to is as Grade Five, Grade Six, etc.
     
  4. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    I came up with these questions when I was reviewing my students' compositions. I remember that "Take ... for example" should stand as a complete sentence, but when so many students wrote a different way, they got me confused. I went to my dictionaries but they gave no example sentences. Then I googled it but also failed to get good examples. This is why I came here to seek your help. As I thought that this is a writing issue, I placed it in this category.
    Here's a follow-up question for you:
    Did the last paragraph of your reply mean that "Taking my brother for example, he dropped out of school when he was in the fifth grade." and "To take my brother for example, he dropped out of school when he was in the fifth grade." both OK?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree with vayda... take her advice...
     
  6. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks. I'll take it.
    Richard
     
  7. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, both are not OK. You wouldn't start off with "taking" or "to take." Take Maia's advice to take Vayda's advice. :D

    Use this:
     
  8. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    My last paragraph meant that the sentences are grammatically correct, but they sound weird. It might sound more normal if you switched the "for" to "as an"...so it would read "To take my brother as an example, he dropped out in the fifth grade"

    ...I take it back, that still sounds weird.
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I think it could only work if you said:

    "If you were to take my brother, for example, you would see that..."

    But the "If you were" changes the meaning of what Richard was posting.
     
  10. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    This seems like one of those times when the grammar can be perfectly fine but the context of how we normally hear it makes changing the structure sound too strange.
     
  11. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    I'm sorry that I am only concerned about how native speakers express this idea. Sometimes a sentence may be 100% correct in term of grammar, but native speakers never speak that way. For example, I think native speakers never say "TV is watched by this family every evening." and usually they say "This family watch TV every evening. " However, in the writing course book I am now using, compiled by a Chinese scholar, we are told that both versions are OK.
    So, please tell me, What is the way you native speakers express the idea? And how do you punctuate the sentence?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  12. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    The problem with your first example is that it is written in passive voice. That's something that us native speakers usually shun (well, us native speaking English teachers :D, maybe not so much the rest of the population) because it is a "weaker" form of writing. Technically, it's "wrong" to do, although in other languages (namely Spanish) it's not only perfectly fine, but actually the best voice to use in some cases.

    The grammatical problem with passive voice, and what makes it weak, is that the subject (in your example, "The TV") does not do the strong verb of "watch." The verb associated with TV is "was"...and despite what Descartes might think, we consider superfluous use of "be" verbs to be boring to read. Consequently, writing in passive voice is boring, because it necessitates the constant use of "be" verbs.

    I doubt a native speaker would say "The TV was watched by the family in the evenings," because we're so trained to avoid passive voice that speaking in it sounds unnatural. However, you WILL find occasions when passive voice is happily used in English - as a matter of fact, I just did it there, with "is happily used." However, you should consider these instances the exceptions, and not the rule. 99% of the time it's better to simply rephrase a sentence so that the strong verb (watched, in your example) is done by the subject of the sentence.

    Or, as my ninth grade teacher put it, to be verb + past participle = passive voice!


    (Edit: Also, your second example should read "The family watches TV every evening"....watch your subject/verb agreement!)
     
  13. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for your great explanation of your preference of the active voice over the passive in most cases, Vayda. Here I would like you to enlighten me about why you revise three places of my first sentence "TV is watched by this family every evening. ", namely, the addition of "the" before "TV", the changes of "this" and "every evening" to "the" and " in the evenings" respectively? Is it again that most of the time you native speakers just speak this way? I know that we always "watch TV", rather than "watch the TV". Although in daily life we usually do not use the sentence in the passive "The TV is watched by the family in the evenings. " , as a teacher, I might use it as an example to explain this aspect of the English language. In this unusual classroom situation, I need to be accurate about everything, if possible. So, please tell me your understanding of this issue.
    Thank you very much for your great help.
    Richard
    PS: I love English very much, for it enables me to know more and more about this fascinating world. But sometimes it would give me a big headache, especially when I try to be sure of the use of a word, phrase or sentence structure. As an English writing teacher, I never allow myself to use English in a careless way, although still I may make many mistakes. I always urge my students to follow my example, but so few of them take my advice. I reason that it may be because it takes a great effort to learn English this way. They seldom go to physical dictionaries for acceptable usages; they rely on their electronic dictionaries, which are lighter and more convenient to carry around but includes a lot fewer entries, senses and example sentences. It is my firm belief that English and Chinese are poles apart and therefore relying on the current models of electronic dictionaries to learn English is not a sensible choice.
     
  14. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    There was no specific reason I changed your sentence in those areas, I just didn't scroll up to read and copy it word for word. It sounds fine your way as well. The only one I could argue a case for is switching "TV" to "The TV".... Television by itself seems like an abstract subject, whereas saying "The TV" more definitely means you're watching the appliance over there in the corner with the moving pictures on it. I don't like the subject of a sentence to be as abstract as "TV" by itself, which would refer to all the shows, movies, commercials, et cetera, that are on TV, unless the entire sentence is that general and abstract (for example, you said "Television is the bane of my existence," which is a very general sentence). I don't think it's wrong to use "TV" as a very specific thing, like you do in "TV was watched by the family" but it does sound a little less awkward to use "The TV," since you're probably referring to a specific appliance, and not the more general sense.

    I agree with you on using electronic dictionaries. I don't really know how you're conducting your class, but it seems like you'd be able to give assignments that force students to go to print dictionaries, wouldn't you? Perhaps you could give them vocab lists where the entries are simply not in their electronic dictionaries. It'd be funny if you didn't tell them they needed to find a print dictionary, just to see how long it took them to figure it out :)
     
  15. Neha
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    Neha Beyond Infinity. Contributor

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    I think, each for example statement, varies from environment to environment, and is paragraph specific. But that's just me of course.
     
  16. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for your explanation. I take your point about the TV being the subject of a sentence. I hope I don't get you wrong: You imply that when "TV" is used as the object of the verb "watch", in which case "TV" is certainly not placed at the beginning of the sentence, there is no need for the article "the", do you?
    Nowadays most Chinese teachers dare not force their students to do anything. Perhaps for this reason and the impact of the media and violent and erotic books and TV programs and online programs, many of our students take no interest in serious academic studies; they are big fans of superstars---they like all sorts of entertainment most. It is my nature not to force anyone to do anything; it is most Chinese teachers' only choice not to do it, for they dare not. But I think this is a big problem with our education. This problem arise because more and more high school graduates get into higher education institutions. This annually ever-increasing enrollment results directly from the government's goal of saving the economy. Nowadays it is so easy for high school students to get admitted into college. And most of them view campus as a club and we teachers define them as part-time students.

    Back to the use of electronic dictionaries, if a new model contains everything that is there in physical dictionaries, I will not be against the use of it. Students and also teachers like me must rely on those good example sentences in dictionaries to develop that feel for the English language. I do not mean consulting dictionaries alone will suffice. When there is something you don't understand while reading, listening audio materials or viewing video programs, you need to go to your dictionaries for its meaning and usage. Fortunately, electronic dictionaries with a wider coverage are now available on the market; however, they are expensive. I hope someday electronic dictionaries will no longer be a problem.
     
  17. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    Sounds a lot like the American education system, actually. Good to know we aren't alone in the world :)
     
  18. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Woa. I never expected it is the same case with your country.
     
  19. SufferMeElmo
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    SufferMeElmo New Member

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    I read 'take my brother for example' as an off-hand phrase. Me, I go with the comma:

    Take my brother for example, he dropped out of school when he was in
    fifth grade.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a comma really doesn't do the job there, unless 'he' becomes 'who'... an em dash would be better, if you don't want a full stop after 'example'...
     
  21. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    a semicolon would also work. Maia is a semicolon-hater :D
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not at all!... just when used in fiction... otherwise, it's a perfectly respectable and very useful little thing...
     
  23. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    "Take my brother, for example- he dropped out of school in grade five." That one seems to work the best.

    I don't actually know many people who would say "take my" rather than simply, "for example, my brother dropped out of school in grade five." Since it's dialogue, I'd go with what a person would normally say rather than what is necessarily grammatically correct (I mean, how many people speak with proper grammatical structure anyway? ... No one! ) Dialogue is one of those things you can play around with, because it is supposed to read like natural speech.

    Just a thought :)
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    lynne... a hyphen is never properly used to separate clauses... if that was meant to be an em dash and you can't use a real one, then it must be typed as a double hyphen [ -- ] and have no space after it... like this:

     
  25. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Beh it was meant to be an em dash but I was lazy and didn't type the extra - .
     

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