Home  »  The King’s English  »  GRAMMAR

H.W. Fowler (1858–1933). The King’s English, 2nd ed. 1908.

Part II


When a word admits of two constructions, to use both may not be positively incorrect, but is generally as ugly as to drive a horse and a mule in double harness.
They did not linger in the long scarlet colonnades of the temple itself, nor gazing at the dancing for which it is famous.—Sladen. This undoubtedly caused prices to rise; but did it not also cause all Lancashire to work short time, many mills to close, and a great restriction in the purchases of all our customers for cotton goods?—Times.set herself quietly down to the care of her own household, and to assist Benjamin in the concerns of his trade.—Scott. This correspondent says that not only did the French Government know that Germany recognized the privileges resulting for France from her position in Algeria, but also her general views on the work of reform which it would be the task of the conference to examine.—Times. Teach them the ‘character of God’ through the ‘Son’s Life of Love’, that conscience must not be outraged, not because they would be punished if they did, or because they would be handsomely rewarded if they didn’t, but simply because they know a thing is right or wrong…—Daily Telegraph.
And any one who permits himself this incongruity is likely to be betrayed into actual blunders.
The popularity of the parlements was surely due to the detestation felt for the absolute Monarchy, and because they seemed to half-informed men to be the champions of…—Times. (Here because they seemed does not really fit the popularity … was, but parlements were popular) A difference, this, which was not much considered where and when the end of the war was thought to be two or three years off, and that the last blow would be Russia’s.—F. Greenwood. (The last clause does not fit the end of the war was thought, but it was thought) Attila and his armies, he said, came and disappeared in a very mysterious manner, and that nothing could be said with positiveness about them.—Borrow. Save him accordingly she did: but no sooner is he dismissed, and Faust has made a remark on the multitude of arrows which she is darting forth on all sides, than Lynceus returns.—Carlyle. The short drives at the beginning of the course of instruction were intended gradually to accustom the novice to the speed, and of giving him in the pauses an opportunity to fix well in his mind the principles of the automobile.—Times. The predecessors of Sir Antony MacDonnell … were, to use the words of the Prime Minister, ‘the aiders, advisers, and suggesters of their official chiefs’.—Times. (Though a chief can have a suggester as well as an adviser, adviser is naturally followed by an objective genitive, but suggester can only be followed by a possessive genitive—except of the suggestion made) My assiduities expose me rather to her scorn … than to the treatment due to a man.—Richardson. One worthy gentleman, who is, perhaps, better known than popular in City restaurants, is never known to have lavished even the humblest copper coin on a waiter.—Titbits. Its hands require strengthening and its resources increased.—Times.
Analogous, but always incorrect, though excusable in various degrees, is the equipping of pairs that should obviously be in double harness with conjunctions or prepositions that do not match—following neither by or, both by as well as, and the like.
Diderot presented a bouquet which was neither well or ill received.—Morley. Like the Persian noble of old, I ask, ‘that I may neither command or obey’.—Emerson. She would hear nothing of a declaration of war, or give any judgment on…—J. R. Green. It appears, then, that neither the mixed and incomplete empiricism considered in the third chapter, still less the pure empiricism considered in the second chapter, affords us…—Balfour. Scarcely was the nice new drain finished than several of the children sickened with diphtheria.—Spectator. Which differs from that and who in being used both as an adjective as well as a noun.—H. Sweet. M. Shipoff in one and the same breath denounces innovations, yet bases the whole electoral system on the greatest innovation in Russian history.—Times. It would be equally absurd to attend to all the other parts of an engine and to neglect the principal source of its energy—the firebox—as it is ridiculous to pay particular attention to the cleanliness of the body and to neglect the mouth and teeth.—Advertisement. The conception of God in their minds was not that of a Father, but as a dealer out of rewards and punishments.—Daily Telegraph. Dr. Dillon, than whom no Englishman has a profounder and more accurate acquaintance with the seamy side—as, indeed, of all aspects of Russian life—assumes…—Times. Sir,—In view of the controversy which has arisen concerning the 12 in. Mark VIII guns in the Navy, and especially to the suggestion which might give rise to some doubt as to the efficiency of the wire system of construction…—Times.
We add three sentences, in the first of which double harness should not have been used because it is too cumbrous, in the second of which it is not correctly possible, and in the third of which the failure to use it is very slovenly.
The odd part of it is that this childish confusion does not only not take from our pleasure, but does not even take from our sense of the author’s talent.—H. James. (far from diminishing our pleasure, does not…) As to the duration of the Austro-Russian mandate, there seems little disposition here to treat the question in a hard-and-fast spirit, but rather to regard it as…—Times. (…spirit; it is rather regarded as…) To the student of the history of religious opinions in England few contrasts are more striking when he compares the assurance and complacency with which men made profession of their beliefs at the beginning of the nineteenth century and the diffidence and hesitation with which the same are recited at the beginning of the twentieth.—Daily Telegraph. (more striking than that between the assurance…)
When two sentences coupled by a conjunction (whether coordinating or subordinating) have one or more parts in common, there are two ways of avoiding the full repetition of the common parts. (a) ‘I see through your villany and I detest your villany’ can become ‘I see through and detest your villany’; ‘I have at least tried to bring about a reconciliation, though I may have failed to bring about a reconciliation’ can become ‘I have at least tried, though I may have failed, to bring about, &c.’ (b) By substitution or ellipse, the sentences become ‘I see through your villany, and detest it,’ and ‘I have at least tried to bring about a reconciliation, though I may have failed (to do so)’. Of these, the (a) form requires careful handling: a word that is not common to both sentences must not be treated as common; and one that is common, and whose position declares that it is meant to do double duty, must not be repeated. Violations of these rules are always more or less unsightly, and are excusable only when the precise (a) form is intolerably stiff and the (b) form not available. In our examples below, the words placed in brackets are the two variants, each of which, when the other is omitted, should, with the common or unbracketed parts, form a complete sentence; the conjunctions being of course ignored for this purpose.
What other power (could) or (ever has) produced such changes?—Daily Telegraph. Things temporal (had) and (would) alter.—Daily Telegraph. (It had), as (all houses should), been in tune with the pleasant, mediocre charm of the island.—E. F. Benson.
This type will almost always admit of the emphatic repetition of the verb: ‘could produce or ever has produced’.
Those of us who still believe in Greek as (one of the finest), if not (the finest) instruments…—Times. (One of the noblest), if not (the noblest), feelings an Englishman could possess.—Daily Telegraph.
Use (b): ‘One of the finest instruments, if not the finest’.
The games were looked upon as being (quite as important) or (perhaps more important) than drill.—Times. The railway has done (all) and (more) than was expected of it.—Spectator.
Use (b): ‘as important as drill, if not more so’; ‘all that was expected of it, and more’. All words that precede the first of two correlatives, such as ‘not … but’, ‘both … and’, ‘neither … nor’, are declared by their position to be common; we bracket accordingly in the next examples:
The pamphlet forms (not only a valuable addition to our works on scientific subjects), but (is also of deep interest to German readers).—Times. (not only forms…, but is…) Forty-five per cent of the old Rossallians … received (either decorations) (or were mentioned in despatches).—Daily Telegraph. (Either received … or were) The Senate, however, has (either passed) (or will pass) amendments to every clause.—Spectator. (either has passed or will pass) Cloth of gold (neither seems to elate) (nor cloth of frieze to depress) him.—Lamb.
A curious extension, not to be mended in the active; for neither cannot well precede the first of two subjects when they have different verbs. On the other hand, words placed between the two correlatives are declared by their position not to be common:
Which neither (suits one purpose) (nor the other).—Times. (suits neither … nor) Not only (against my judgment), (but my inclination).—Richardson. Not only (in the matter of malaria), (but also beriberi).—Times. (In the matter not of malaria only, but of…)
It is not very uncommon, on regaining the high road after a divergent clause or phrase, to get confused between the two, and continue quite wrongly the subordinate construction instead of that actually required.
I feel, however, that there never was a time when the people of this country were more ready to believe than they are today, and would openly believe if Christianity, with ‘doctrine’ subordinated, were presented to them in the most convincing of all forms, viz….—Daily Telegraph. (Would believe is made parallel to they are today; it is really parallel to there never was a time; and we should read and that there would openly believe) In the face of this statement either proofs should be adduced to show that Coroner Troutbeck has stated facts ‘soberly judged’, and that they contain ‘warrant for the accusation of wholesale’ ignorance on the part of a trusted and eminently useful class of the community, or failing this, that the offensive and unjust charge should be withdrawn.—Times. (The charge should be withdrawn is made parallel to Coroner Troutbeck has stated and they contain; it is really parallel to proofs should be adduced; and we should omit that, and read or failing this, the offensive…) We cannot part from Prof. Bury’s work without expressing our unfeigned admiration for his complete control of the original authorities on which his narrative is based, and of the sound critical judgment he exhibits…—Spectator. (The judgment is admired, not controlled)
Sometimes the confusion is not merely of the pen, but is in the writer’s thought; and it is then almost incurable.
…the privilege by which the mind, like the lamps of a mailcoach, moving rapidly through the midnight woods, illuminate, for one instant the foliage or sleeping umbrage of the thickets, and, in the next instant, have quitted them, to carry their radiance forward upon endless successions of objects.—De Quincey.
The missing subject and (with one exception) the missing verb of a subordinate clause can be supplied only from the sentence to which it is subordinate. The exception is the verb ‘to be’. We can say ‘The balls, when wet, do not bounce’, ‘When in doubt, play trumps’, because the verb to be supplied is are, and the subject is that of the principal sentence. Other violations of the rule occur, but are scarcely tolerable even in the spoken language. The following are undesirable instances:
For, though summer, I knew … Mr. Rochester would like to see a cheerful hearth.—C. Brontë.
We can supply was, but not it; the natural subject is I.
I have now seen him, and though not for long, he is a man who speaks with Bismarckian frankness.—Times.
‘Though I did not see him for long’, we are meant to understand. But the though clause is not subordinate to the sentence containing that subject and verb: and always joins coordinates and announces the transition from one coordinate to another. Consequently, the though clause must be a part (a subordinate part) of the second coordinate, and must draw from that its subject and verb: ‘though he is not a man of Bismarckian frankness for long,…’. Even if we could supply I saw with the clause in its present place, we should still have the absurd implication that the man’s habitual frankness (not the writer’s perception of it) depended on the duration of the interview. We offer three conjectural emendations: ‘I have now seen him, though not for long; and he is a man who…’; ‘I have now seen him, and though I did not see him for long, I perceived that he was a man who…’; ‘I have now seen him, and though I did not see him for long, I found out what he thought; for he is a man who…’.
Claim is not followed by an infinitive except when the subject of claim is also that of the infinitive. Thus, I claim to be honest, but not I claim this to be honest. The Oxford Dictionary (1893) does not mention the latter use even to condemn it, but it is now becoming very common, and calls for strong protest. The corresponding passive use is equal]y wrong. The same applies to pretend.
‘This entirely new experiment’ which you claim to have ‘solved the problem of combining…’—Times. Usage, therefore, is not, as it is often claimed to be, the absolute law of language.—R. G. White. The gun which made its first public appearance on Saturday is claimed to be the most serviceable weapon of its kind in use in any army.—Times. The constant failure to live up to what we claim to be our most serious convictions proves that we do not hold them at all.—Daily Telegraph. The anonymous and masked delators whose creation the Opposition pretends to be an abuse of power on the part of M. Combes.—Times.
Possible and probable are not to be completed by an infinitive. For are possible to read can; and for probable read likely.
But no such questions are possible, as it seems to me, to arise between your nation and ours.—Choate. Should Germany meditate anything of the kind it would look uncommonly like a deliberate provocation of France, and for that reason it seems scarcely probable to be borne out by events.—Times.
Prefer has two constructions: I prefer this (living) to that (dying), and I prefer to do this rather than that. The infinitive construction must not be used without rather (unless, of course, the second alternative is suppressed altogether).
Other things being equal, I should prefer to marry a rich man than a poor one.—E. F. Benson.
The following infinitives are perhaps by false analogy from those that might follow forbade, seen, ask. It may be noticed generally that slovenly and hurried writers find the infinitive a great resource.
Marshal Oyama strictly prohibited his troops to take quarter within the walls.—Times. The Chinese held a chou-chou, during which the devil was exorcised and duly witnessed by several believers to take his flight in divers guises.—Times. Third, they might demand from Germany, all flushed as she was with military pride, to tell us plainly whether…—Morley.
The ‘split’ infinitive has taken such hold upon the consciences of journalists that, instead of warning the novice against splitting his infinitives, we must warn him against the curious superstition that the splitting or not splitting makes the difference between a good and a bad writer. The split infinitive is an ugly thing, as will be seen from our examples below; but it is one among several hundred ugly things, and the novice should not allow it to occupy his mind exclusively. Even that mysterious quality, ‘distinction’ of style, may in modest measure be attained by a splitter of infinitives: ‘The book is written with a distinction (save in the matter of split infinitives) unusual in such works.’—Times.
The time has come to once again voice the general discontent.—Times. It should be authorized to immediately put in hand such work.—Times. Important negotiations are even now proceeding to further cement trade relations.—Times. We were not as yet strong enough in numbers to seriously influence the poll.—Times. Keep competition with you unless you wish to once more see a similar state of things to those prevalent prior to the inauguration…—Guernsey Evening Press. And that she should force me, by the magic of her pen to mentally acknowledge, albeit with wrath and shame, my own inferiority.—Corelli. The oil lamp my landlady was good enough to still allow me the use of.—Corelli. The ‘persistent agitation’ … is to so arouse public opinion on the subject as to…—Times. In order to slightly extend that duration in the case of a few.—Times. To thus prevent a constant accretion to the Jewish population of Russia from this country would be nobler work…—Times.
Corresponding to the active construction ‘…have attempted to justify this step’, we get two passive constructions: (1) ‘This step has been attempted to be justified’, (2) ‘It has been attempted to justify this step’. Of these (1), although licensed by usage, is an incorrect and slovenly makeshift: ‘this step’ is not the object of ‘have attempted’, and cannot be the subject of the corresponding passive. The true object of ‘have attempted’ is the whole phrase ‘to justify this step’, which in (2) rightly appears as the subject, in apposition to an introductory ‘it’.—In point of clumsiness, there is perhaps not much to choose between the two passive constructions, neither of which should be used when it can be avoided. When the subject of the active verb ‘have attempted’ is definite, and can conveniently be stated, the active form should always be retained; to write ‘it had been attempted by the founders of the study to supply’ instead of ‘the founders had attempted to supply’ is mere perversity. When, as in some of our examples below, the subject of the active verb ‘have attempted’ is indefinite, the passive turn is sometimes difficult to avoid; but unless the object of ‘justify’ is a relative, and therefore necessarily placed at the beginning, ‘an attempt has been made’ can often be substituted for ‘it has been attempted’, and is less stiff and ugly.
The cutting down of ‘saying lessons’, by which it had been attempted by the founders of the study to supply the place of speech in the learning of Greek.—Times. But when it was attempted to give practical effect to the popular exasperation, serious obstacles arose.—Times. (When an attempt was made to…) He and his friends would make the government of Ireland a sheer impossibility, and it would be the duty of the Irish party to make it so if it was attempted to be run on the lines of…—Times. (if an attempt was made to run it on the…) It is not however attempted to be denied.—Hazlitt. (No one attempts to deny) As to the audience, we imagine that a large part of it, certainly all that part of it whose sympathies it was desired to enlist,…—Times. (whose sympathies were to be enlisted) He will see the alterations that were proposed to be made, but rejected.—Times. (proposed, but rejected) The argument by which this difficulty is sought to be evaded.—Balfour.
This and the following instances are not easily mended, unless we may supply the subject of ‘seek’, &c. (‘some writers’).
The arguments by which the abolition was attempted to be supported were founded on the rights of man.—Times. Some mystery in regard to her birth, which, she was well informed, was assiduously, though vainly, endeavoured to be discovered.—Fanny Burney. The close darkness of the shut-up house (forgotten to be opened, though it was long since day) yielded to the unexpected glare.—Dickens. Those whose hours of employment are proposed to be limited.—Times. The insignificant duties proposed to be placed on food.—Times. The anti-liberal principles which it was long ago attempted to embody in the Holy Alliance.—Times. Considerable support was managed to be raised for Waldemar.—Carlyle.
We may notice here a curious blunder that is sometimes made with the reflexive verb ‘I avail myself of’. The passive of this is never used, because there is no occasion for it: ‘I was availed of this by myself’ would mean exactly the same as the active, and would be intolerably clumsy. The impossible passives quoted below imply that it and staff would be the direct objects of the active verb.
Watt and Fulton bethought themselves that, where was power was not devil, but was God; that it must be availed of; and not by any means let off and wasted.—Emerson.
Used or employed, and so in the next:
No salvage appliances or staff could have been availed of in time to save the lives of the men.—Times.
This is extraordinarily common. The instances are arranged in order of obviousness.
Yezd is not only the refuge of the most ancient of Persian religions, but it is one of the headquarters of the modern Babi propaganda, the far-reaching effects of which it is probably difficult to underestimate.—Spectator. Not a whit undeterred by the disaster which overtook them at Cavendish-square last week … the suffragettes again made themselves prominent.—Daily Mail. So far as medicine is concerned, I am not sure that physiology, such as it was down to the time of Harvey, might as well not have existed.—Huxley. The generality of his countrymen are far more careful not to transgress the customs of what they call gentility, than to violate the laws of honour or morality.—Borrow. France and Russia are allies, as are England and Japan. Is it impossible to imagine that, in consequence of the growing friendship between the two great peoples on both sides of the Channel, an agreement might not one day be realized between the four Powers?—Times. I do not of course deny that in this, as in all moral principles, there may not be found, here and there, exceptional cases which may amuse a casuist.—L. Stephen. In view of the doubts among professed theologians regarding the genuineness and authenticity of the Gospels in whole or in part, he is unable to say how much of the portraiture of Christ may not be due to the idealization of His life and character.—Daily Telegraph. Is it quite inconceivable that if the smitten had always turned the other cheek the smiters would not long since have become so ashamed that their practice would have ceased?—Daily Telegraph. I do not think it is possible that the traditions and doctrines of these two institutions should not fail to create rival, and perhaps warring, schools.—Times. Any man—runs this terrible statute—denying the doctrine of the Trinity or of the Divinity of Christ, or that the books of Scripture are not the ‘Word of God’, or…, ‘shall suffer the pain of death’.—J. R. Green. But it would not be at all surprising if, by attempting too much, and, it must be added, by indulging too much in a style the strained preciosity of which occasionally verges on rant and even hysteria, Mr. Sichel has not to some extent defeated his own object.—Spectator. No one scarcely really believes.—Daily Telegraph. Let them agree to differ; for who knows but what agreeing to differ may not be a form of agreement rather than a form of difference?—Stevenson. Lastly, how can Mr. Balfour tell but that two years hence he may not be too tired of official life to begin any new conflict?—F. Greenwood. What sort of impression would it be likely to make upon the Boers? They could hardly fail to regard it as anything but an expression of want of confidence in our whole South-African policy.—Times. My friend Mr. Bounderby could never see any difference between leaving the Coketown ‘hands’ exactly as they were and requiring them to be fed with turtle soup and venison out of gold spoons.—Dickens. But it is one thing to establish these conditions [the Chinese Ordinance], and another to remove them suddenly.—Westminster Gazette. What economy of life and money would not have been spared the empire of the Tsars had it not rendered war certain.—Times. (It is the empire. The instance is not quoted for not, though that too is wrong, but for the confusion between loss and economy) The question of ‘raids’ is one which necessarily comes home to every human being living within at least thirty miles of our enormously long coast line.—Lonsdale Hale. (An odd puzzle. Within thirty means less than thirty; at least thirty means not less than thirty. The meaning is clear enough, however, and perhaps the expression is defensible; but it would have been better to say: within a strip at least thirty miles broad along our enormous coast line)
The fact that a negative idea can often be either included in a word or kept separate from it leads to a special form of confusion, the construction proper to the resolved form being used with the compound and vice versa.
My feelings, Sir, are moderately unspeakable, and that is a fact.—American. (not moderately speakable: moderately belongs only to half of unspeakable) …who did not aim, like the Presbyterians, at a change in Church government, but rejected the notion of a national Church at all.—J. R. Green. (Reject is equivalent to will not have. I reject altogether: I will not have at all) And your correspondent does not seem to know, or not to realize, the conditions of the problem.—Times. (Seems, not does not seem, has to be supplied in the second clause) I confess myself altogether unable to formulate such a principle, much less to prove it.—Balfour. (Less does not suit unable, but able; but the usage of much less and much more is hopelessly chaotic) War between these two great nations would be an inexplicable impossibility.—Choate. (Inexplicable does not qualify the whole of impossibility; to make sense we must divide impossibility into impossible event, and take inexplicable only with event) And the cry has this justification,—that no age can see itself in a proper perspective, and is therefore incapable of giving its virtues and vices their relative places.—Spectator. (No age is equivalent to not any age, and out of this we have to take any age as subject to the last sentence; this is a common, but untidy and blameworthy device)
This is very common, but quite contrary to good modern usage, after the verb regard, and others like it. In the first three instances the motive of the omission is obvious, but does not justify it; all that was necessary was to choose another verb, as consider, that does not require as. In the later instances the omission is gratuitous.
I regard it as important as anything. Lord Bombie had run away with Lady Bombie ‘in her sark’. This I could not help regarding both a most improper as well as a most uncomfortable proceeding.—Crockett. So vital is this suggestion regarded. Rare early editions of Shakespeare’s plays and poems—editions which had long been regarded among the national heirlooms.—S. Lee. The latter may now be expected to regard himself absolved from such obligation as he previously felt.—Times. A memoir which was justly regarded of so much merit and importance that…—Huxley. …what might be classed a ‘horizontal’ European triplice.—Times. You would look upon yourself amply revenged if you knew what they have cost me.—Richardson. He also alluded to the bayonet, and observed that its main use was no longer a defence against cavalry, but it was for the final charge.—Times. …I was rewarded with such a conception of the God-like majesty and infinite divinity which everywhere loomed up behind and shone through the humanity of the Son of Man that no false teaching or any power on earth or in hell itself will ever shake my firm faith in the combined divinity and humanity in the person of the Son of God, and as sure am I that I eat and drink and live to-day, so certain am I that this mysterious Divine Redeemer is in living…—Daily Telegraph.
The last example is of a different kind. Read as sure as I am for as sure am I as the least possible correction. Unpractised writers should beware of correlative clauses except in their very simplest forms.
As must not be expected to do by itself the work of such as.
There were not two dragon sentries keeping ward before the gate of this abode, as in magic legend are usually found on duty over the wronged innocence imprisoned.—Dickens. The specialist is naturally best for his particular job; but if the particular specialist required is not on the spot, as must often be the case, the best substitute for him is not another specialist but the man trained to act for himself in all circumstances, as it has been the glory of our nation to produce both in the Army and elsewhere.—Times. We question if throughout the French Revolution there was a single case of six or seven thousand insurgents blasted away by cannon shot, as is believed to have happened in Odessa.—Spectator. (This is much more defensible than the previous two; but when a definite noun—as here case—can be naturally supplied for the verb introduced by as, such as is better). The decision of the French Government to send a special mission to represent France at the marriage of the German Crown Prince is not intended as anything more than a mere act of international courtesy, as is customary on such occasions.—Times.
Neither as nor such as should be made to do the work of the relative pronoun where there would be no awkwardness in using the pronoun itself.
With a speed of eight knots, as [which] has been found practicable in the case of the Suez Canal, the passage would occupy five days.—Times. The West Indian atmosphere is not of the limpid brightness and transparent purity such as [that] are found in the sketch entitled ‘A Street in Kingston’.—Times. The ideal statues and groups in this room and the next are scarcely so interesting as we have sometimes seen.—Times. (As is clearly here a relative adverb, answering to so; nevertheless the construction can be theoretically justified, the full form being as we have sometimes seen groups interesting. But it is very ugly; why not say instead as some that we have seen?)
The idiom as who should say must not be used unless the sentence to which it is appended has for subject a person to whom the person implied in who is compared. This seems reasonable, and is borne out, for instance, by all the Shakespeare passages—a dozen—that we have looked at. The type is: The cloudy messenger turns me his back, and hums, as who should say:—&c. To think of the campaign without the scene is as who should read a play by candle-light among the ghosts of an empty theatre.—Morley.
  1. Omission of a dependent noun in the second of two parallel series: ‘The brim of my hat is wider than yours’. For this there is some justification: an ugly string of words is avoided, and the missing word is easily supplied from the first series; it has usually the effect, however, of attaching a preposition to the wrong noun:
    I should be proud to lay an obligation upon my charmer to the amount of half, nay, to the whole of my estate.—Richardson. There is as much of the pure gospel in their teachings as in any other community of Christians in our land. There cannot be the same reason for a prohibition of correspondence with me, as there was of mine with Mr. Lovelace.—Richardson.
    Here the right preposition is retained.
    A man holding such a responsible position as Minister of the United States.—D. Sladen.
  2. A preposition is sometimes left out, quite unwarrantably, from a mistaken idea of euphony:
    Without troubling myself as to what such self-absorption might lead in the future.—Corelli. (lead to) He chose to fancy that she was not suspicious of what all his acquaintance were perfectly aware—namely, that…—Thackeray. (aware of)
  3. Impossible compromises between two possible alternatives.
    To be a Christian means to us one who has been regenerated.—Daily Telegraph. (‘A Christian means one who has’: ‘to be a Christian means to have been’) To do what as far as human possibility has proved out of his power.—Daily Telegraph. (‘As a matter of human possibility’: ‘as far as human possibility goes’)
    One compromise of this kind has come to be generally recognized:
    So far from being annoyed, he agreed at once. (‘So far was he from being annoyed that…’: ‘far from being annoyed, he agreed’)
The commonest form of indecision is that between statement and question. But the examples of this are followed by a few miscellaneous ones.
May I ask that if care should be taken of remains of buildings a thousand years old, ought not care to be taken of ancient British earthworks several thousand years old?—Times. Can I not make you understand that you are ruining yourself and me, and that if you don’t get reconciled to your father what is to become of you?—S. Ferrier. We will only say that if it was undesirable for a private member to induce the Commons to pass a vote against Colonial Preference, why was it not undesirable for a private member…—Spectator. Surely, then, if I am not claiming too much for our efforts at that time to maintain the Union, am I exaggerating our present ability to render him effectual aid in the contest that will be fought at the next election if I say that prudence alone should dictate to him the necessity for doing everything in his power to revive the spirit which the policy of Sir Antony MacDonnell, Lord Dudley, and Mr. Wyndham has done so much to weaken?—Times. I then further observed that China having observed the laws of neutrality, how could he believe in the possibility of an alliance with Russia?—Times.
The next two use both the relative and the participle construction, instead of choosing between them.
Thus it befell that our high and low labour vote, which (if one might say so in the hearing of M. Jaurès and Herr Bebel) being vertical rather than horizontal, and quite unhindered in the United States, of course by an overwhelming majority elected President Roosevelt.—Times. He replied to Mr. Chamberlain’s Limehouse speech, the only part of which that he could endorse being, he said, the suggestion that the electorate should go to the root of the question at the next general election.—Times. Who, in Europe, at least, would forego the delights of kissing,—(which the Japanese by-the-by consider a disgusting habit),—without embraces,—and all those other endearments which are supposed to dignify the progress of true love!—Corelli. Poor, bamboozled, patient public!—no wonder it is beginning to think that a halfpenny spent on a newspaper which is purchased to be thrown away, enough and more than enough.—Corelli. But hurriedly dismissing whatever shadow of earnestness, or faint confession of a purpose, laudable or wicked, that her face, or voice, or manner, had, for the moment betrayed, she lounged…—Dickens. At the Épée Team Competition for Dr. Savage’s Challenge Cup, held on the 25th and 27th February last, was won by the Inns of Court team, consisting of…—14th Middlesex Battalion Orders.
This should never be mixed up with other pronouns. Its possessive is one’s, not his, and one should be repeated, if necessary, not be replaced by him, &c. Those who doubt their ability to handle it skilfully under these restrictions should only use it where no repetition or substitute is needed. The older experimental usage, which has now been practically decided against, is shown in the Lowell examples.
That inequality and incongruousness in his writing which makes one revise his judgment at every tenth page.—Lowell. As one grows older, one loses many idols, perhaps comes at last to have none at all, although he may honestly enough uncover in deference to the worshippers at any shrine.—Lowell. There are many passages which one is rather inclined to like than sure he would be right in liking.—Lowell. He is a man who speaks with Bismarckian frankness, and who directly impresses one with the impression that you are speaking to a man and not to an incarnate bluebook.—Times. The merit of the book, and it is not a small one, is that it discusses every problem with fairness, with no perilous hankering after originality, and with a disposition to avail oneself of what has been done by his predecessors.—Times. If one has an opinion on any subject, it is of little use to read books or papers which tell you what you know already.—Times. …are all creations which make one laugh inwardly as we read.—Hutton.
One’s, on the other hand, is not the right possessive for the generic man; man’s or his is required according to circumstances; his in the following example:
There is a natural desire in the mind of man to sit for one’s picture.—Hazlitt.
This is a confusion between two ways of giving alternatives—between … and, and either … or. It is always wrong.
The choice Russia has is between payment for damages in money or in kind.—Times. Forced to choose between the sacrifice of important interests on the one hand or the expansion of the Estimates on the other.—Times. We have in that substance the link between organic or inorganic matter which abolishes the distinction between living and dead matter.—Westminster Gazette. (Observe the ‘elegant variation’) The question lies between a God and a creed, or a God in such an abstract sense that does not signify.—Daily Telegraph.
The author of the last has been perplexed by the and in one of his alternatives. He should have used on the one hand, &c.
This is ugly when not necessary. Types of phrase in which it is necessary are: Many a youth; What a lie! How dreadful a fate! So lame an excuse. But there is no difficulty in placing a before ordinary qualifications of the adjective like quite, more, much less. In the following, read quite a sufficient, a more valuable, a more glorious, a more serviceable, no different position, a greater or less degree.
…adding that there was no suggestion of another raid against the Japanese flank, which was quite sufficient an indication of coming events for those capable of reading between the lines.—Times. Can any one choose more glorious an exit than to die fighting for one’s own country?—Times. Of sympathy, of … Mr. Baring has a full measure, which, in his case, is more valuable an asset than familiarity with military textbooks.—Times. No great additional expenditure is required in order to make Oxford more serviceable a part of our educational system.—Westminster Gazette. And young undergraduates are in this respect in no different a position from that of any other Civil Servant.—Westminster Gazette. The thousand and one adjuncts to devotion finding place in more or less a degree in all churches, are all…—Daily Telegraph.
The odd arrangement in the following will not do; we should have a either before so or before degree.
But what I do venture to protest against is the sacrificing of the interests of the country districts in so ridiculously an unfair degree to those of a small borough.—Times.
Do cannot represent (1) be, (2) an active verb supplied from a passive, (3) an active verb in a compound tense, gerund, or infinitive; You made the very mistake that I did, but have made, was afraid of making, expected to make, shall (make).
It … ought to have been satisfying to the young man. And so, in a manner of speaking, it did.—Crockett. It may justly be said, as Mr. Paul does, that…—Westminster Gazette. To inflict upon themselves a disability which one day they will find the mistake and folly of doing.—Westminster Gazette.
We can of course say He lost his train, which I had warned him not to do; because lose is then represented not by do, but by which (thing).
The trick of taking breath in the middle of a sentence by means of a resumptive that or the like should be avoided; especially when it is a confession rather of the writer’s shortwindedness than of the unwieldy length of his sentence.
It does not follow (as I pointed out by implication above) that if, according to the account of their origin given by the system, those fundamental beliefs are true, that therefore they are true.—Balfour. Sir—Might I suggest that while this interesting question is being discussed that the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ be sung in every church and chapel…?—Daily Telegraph.
A very short-winded correspondent.
It seems to be a fair deduction that when the Japanese gained their flank position immediately West of Mukden, and when, further, they took no immediate advantage of the fact, but, on the contrary, began to hold the villages in the plain as defensive positions, that a much more ambitious plan was in operation.—Times.
If the writer means what he says, and the grounds of the deduction are not included in the sentence, reconstruction is not obvious, and that is perhaps wanted to pick up the thread; but if, as may be suspected, the when clauses contain the grounds of the deduction, we may reconstruct as follows: ‘When the Japanese…, and when…, it was natural to infer that…’.
Like for as:
Sins that were degrading me, like they have many others.—Daily Telegraph. They should not make a mad, reckless, frontal attack like General Buller made at the battle of Colenso.—Daily Telegraph. Coming to God the loving Father for pardon, like the poor prodigal did.—Daily Telegraph. There is no moral force in existence … which enlarges our outlook like suffering does.—Daily Telegraph.
What ever…? is a colloquialism; whatever…? a vulgarism:
Whatever reason have we to suppose, as the vast majority of professing Christians appear to do, that the public worship of Almighty God…?—Daily Telegraph. Whatever is the good in wrangling about bones when one is hungry and has nutritious food at hand?—Daily Telegraph.
‘Those sort’:
I know many of those sort of girls whom you call conjurors.—Trollope. Those sort of writers would merely take it as a first-class advertisement.—Corelli.