Phrase versus clause

This is a phrase:
in the hat
This is not a phrase:
hat the in

This is a phrase (not a clause):
Rex the dog
This is a clause:
Rex barked

The easiest type of clause to identify has a stated subject and a predicate:
Rex [SUBJECT] || barked [PREDICATE].
Rex [SUBJECT] || barked at the cat [PREDICATE].
(“Barked” is the verb. “Barked at the cat” is the complete predicate. The predicate includes the verb.)
Rex the dog [SUBJECT] || barked at the cat [PREDICATE].
(“Rex the dog” is the complete subject. “Barked at the cat” is the complete predicate.)

A phrase does not have the subject-predicate structure of a clause: 
on the boat
in the classroom
would have been
stand up

NoteIn everyday language the term “phrase” refers to two or more “grammatically related” words. (“the big dog” not “dog big the”) Grammarians, however, also use the word “phrase” to apply to just one word because a single word can serve the same function as a phrase:

Sentence Verb phrase
Rex is barking. is barking
Rex barked. barked
Sentence Noun phrase
Rex barked. Rex
Rex the neighbor dog barked. Rex the neighbor dog

James Thurber’s country mouse

The Mouse Who Went to the Country
By James Thurber

Once upon a Sunday there was a city mouse who went to visit a country mouse. He hid away on a train the country mouse had told him to take, only to find that on Sundays it did not stop at Beddington. Hence the city mouse could not get off at Beddington and catch a bus for Sibert’s Junction, where he was to be met by the country mouse. The city mouse, in fact, was carried on to Middleburg, where he waited three hours for a train to take him back. When he got back to Beddington he found that the last bus for Sibert’s Junction had just left, so he ran and he ran and he ran and he finally caught the bus and crept aboard, only to find that it was not the bus for Sibert’s Junction at all, but was going in the opposite direction through Pell’s Hollow and Grumm to a place called Wimberby. When the bus finally stopped, the city mouse got out into a heavy rain and found that there were no more buses that night going anywhere. “To the hell with it,” said the city mouse, and he walked back to the city.

Moral: Stay where you are, you’re sitting pretty.

Thurber, James. The Mouse Who Went to the Country. In James Thurber, Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated. Garden City, NY: Blue Ribbon Books, 1943. Print. (3).

A terrific ‘zoonoses’ sentence

[Pronunciation: zoh-onuh-sis, zoh-uhnoh-sis]

Infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans from infected animals are known as zoonoses.

SM’s revision in class today:
Diseases given to humans by animals are called zoonoses.

Much better!

Here it is in context:

Infectious diseases are the only ones that can be transmitted. They may be spread by infected animals, infected people, or contaminated substances, such as food and water. Infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans from infected animals are known as zoonoses. Diseases given to humans by animals are called zoonosesZoonoses may be transmitted by carriers, such as insects; by the bite of an infected animal; by direct contact with an infected animal or its excretions; or by eating animal products.

Zoonoses are:
a. insects that carry diseases.
b. infected animals that transmit infectious diseases to humans.
c. infectious diseases that man gets from animals.
d. carriers that transmit infectious diseases.

Whimbey, Arthur and Linden, Myra J. Teaching and Learning Grammar: The Prototype-Construction Approach. Chicago: BGF Performance Systems, LLC, 2001. Print. (90-91).

A panda walks into a bar

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

‘Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

‘Well, I’m a panda,’ he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’

Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham, 2006. Print ISBN-10: 1592402038 ISBN-13: 978-1592402038

Update 2/22/2012: Visual aid for the “Oxford comma” from Language Log

How to punctuate adjectives

The grey horse jumped gracefully over the low brick wall.

Should I place a comma between “low” and “brick”?

Here are the “comma tests” you can use to decide:

  • Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written in reverse order?
  • Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written with and between them?

If the answer is ‘no,’ we don’t need a comma.

The grey horse jumped gracefully over the brick low wall.
The grey horse jumped gracefully over the low and brick wall.
SO: The grey horse jumped gracefully over the low brick wall. (NO COMMA)

He was a difficult, mule.
He was a stubborn, difficult mule. (CORRECT)
He was a difficult and stubborn mule. (CORRECT)
SO: He was a difficult, stubborn mule. (USE A COMMA BETWEEN THE ADJECTIVES)

Grey horse sentence from: Whimbey, Arthur and Jenkins, Elizabeth. Analyze, Organize, Write. Revised Edition. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1987. Print. (4).
Answer from : the OWL

What is a fable?

From Wikipedia:

A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a “moral”), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.

A fable differs from a parable in that the latter excludes animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and other powers of humankind.

From Composition in the Classical Tradition:

The fable is a short, fictitious narrative designed to teach a moral lesson or make a cautionary point. The purpose of the fable is to give advice, to exhort the reader or listener to pursue a wise and prudent course of action, and to dissuade the reader or listener from foolish or imprudent behavior. The fable is not intended to stand alone as a literary object. It functions as an illustrative example in a deliberative speech or essay as a form of proof.
D’Angelo, Frank J. Composition in the Classical Tradition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Print. (59-60).

From Writing about Literature:

A Fable Is a Short Tale with a Pointed Moral

The fable (from Latin fabula, a story or narration) is an old, brief, and popular form. Often but not always, fables are about animals that possess human traits (such fables are called beast fables). Past collectors and editors of fables have attached “morals” or explanations to the brief stories, as is the case with Aesop, the most enduringly popular of fable writers. Tradition has it that Aesop was a slave who composed fables in ancient Greece. His fable “The Fox and the Grapes” signifies the trait of belittling things we cannot have. More recent popular contributions to the fable tradition include Walt Disney’s “Mickey Mouse,” Walt Kelly’s “Pogo,” and Berke Brethed’s “Bloom County.” The adjective fabulous refers to the collective body of fables of all sorts, even though the word is often used as little more than a vague term of approval.
Roberts, Edgar V. Writing about Literature. 12th Edition, New York: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print. (161).

2/8/2012 – Class notes – X-1-2-3

In class today, we began work on the 1st paper: Define fable.

We created a set of “X-1-2-3” sentences using the 1st two steps of William J. Kerrigan’s 6-step method for writing a 5-paragraph essay:

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement.

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence, not just something in it.

An X-1-2-3 set from Kerrigan’s text:
X Power corrupts.
1 Power corrupts the weak.
2 Power corrupts the strong.
3 Power corrupts every relation between the two.

NOTE: In the X-1-2-3 set above, the subject remains the same; the predicate changes.

X Power] [corrupts.
1 Power] [corrupts the weak.
2 Power] [corrupts the strong.
3 Power] [corrupts every relation between the two.

Your X-1-2-3 stack becomes the “spine” of your essay:

X Power corrupts. THESIS STATEMENT
1 Power corrupts the weak. TOPIC SENTENCE #1
2 Power corrupts the strong. TOPIC SENTENCE #2
3 Power corrupts every relation between the two. TOPIC SENTENCE #3

Last but not least:

Thesis statements usually work best when placed at the end of the introduction.

Topic sentences generally work best placed at the beginning of a paragraph.

Writing to the Point Fourth Ed. by William J. Kerrigan and Allen Metcalf

The Six Steps

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement.

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence [i.e. the subject and the predicate], not just something in it.

STEP 3. Write four or five sentences about each of the three sentences in Step 2—clearly and directly about the whole of the Step 2 sentence, not just something in it.

Step 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.

STEP 5. In the first sentence of each new paragraph, starting with Paragraph 2, insert a clear reference to the idea of the preceding paragraph.

STEP 6. Make sure every sentence in your theme is connected with, and makes a clear reference to, the preceding sentence.

Kerrigan, William J. and Metcalf, Allen. Writing to the Point. 4th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1987. Print. (197.)
ISBN-10: 015598313X
ISBN-13: 978-0155983137

Computer lab

Change of venue

I’ve reserved a Computer Lab in the Main Hall for class Monday so we can try to get you all signed up for the Langan text online – and give you enough practice that it’s easy to use.

February 6
8:30 – 10:55
Main Hall
Room 314


You need to know two things:

Mercy College User Name
Mercy College Password

If you don’t have a User Name & Password, or if you’ve forgotten what they are, call:

Help Desk

cijohn @