Of the following sentences, only one is correct. Can you spot the errors in the others?
- Jadwiga rushed in the house to hide the whiskey before Colbart arrived.
- Aunt Mable is reticent to speak of her years as a con artist.
- The cat was laying on the floor next to the empty bird cage.
- The getaway car was spotted going East on Highway 2.
- Mort and Bart can’t agree on whom they think might win.
- Cecil grew less tomatoes this year than last.
- The former Vice President in charge of accounting was forced to return his bonus.
- As pets, fastidious homeowners prefer hairless dogs.
- Snodley felt his sunburnt nose gave him a fetching look.
- Sipping Campari on the French Riviera, Brad didn’t feel at all bad about his role in bringing the economy down.
- Even the prospect of sinking into abject poverty doesn’t seem to effect Gloria’s mood.
- Have you seen Jack’s and Martha’s new house?
- Jadwiga rushed into the house… The preposition “in” is used for static location— Jadwiga is in the house—and “into” for motion to or toward.
- Aunt Mable is reluctant to speak…Reticent means “quiet or silent.” Aunt Mable may be reticent in general, but she’s reluctant to talk about her past.
- The cat was lying on the floor… Lay is transitive, i.e., it takes an object. You can lay the cat on the floor. I laid it there yesterday. Lie is intransitive, i.e., it doesn’t take an object. The cat lies on the florr. I am going to lie down for a nap. One source of confusion is that the past tense of lie is lay.
- The getaway car was spotted going east… The directions—north, south, west, east—are not capitalized unless they refer to a section of a country: The South of France, the West
- Mort and Bart can’t agree on who they think might win The entire clause “who they think might win” is the object of the proposition “on.” The pronoun “who” is the subject of the verb “might”: who might win.
- Cecil grew fewer tomatoes. Use “fewer” for things you can count; use “less” for things you can’t count: less tomato juice. (Steven Pinker argues convincingly that the Less/fewer distinction has been overdone: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/15/steven-pinker-10-grammar-rules-break
- The former vice president… Tiles such as vice president are capitalized only when they precede the name: Vice President McGreedy.
- As pets, hairless dogs are the choice of fastidious homeowners. If the phrase “as pets” is followed immediately by “homeowners,” it implies that homeowners are pets.
- Snodley felt that his sunburnt nose gave him a fetching look The “that” can’t be omitted after the verb “feel,” meaning “believe” when it can be mistaken, as here, for the physical action of feeling.
- Even the prospect of sinking into abject poverty doesn’t seem to affect Gloria’s mood. To affect something is to have an effect on it. As a verb. effect means “to bring about”: Jack tried to effect changes in the office procedures.
- Have you seen Jack and Martha’s new house? In joint possession—Jack and Martha jointly own one house—only the second noun is in the possessive case.