H.W. Fowler (1858–1933). The
King’s English, 2nd ed. 1908.
20. UNEQUAL YOKEFELLOWS
AND DEFECTIVE DOUBLE HARNESS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...)
21. COMMON PARTS
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
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
A curious extension, not to be mended in the active; for neither
cannot well precede the first of two subjects when they have different
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...)
22. THE WRONG
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
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
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.
23. ELLIPSE IN SUBORDINATE
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...'.
24. SOME ILLEGITIMATE
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
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
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.
25. 'SPLIT' INFINITIVES
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
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
We were not as yet strong enough in numbers to seriously influence the
Keep competition with you unless you wish to once more see a similar
state of things to those prevalent prior to the inauguration...—Guernsey
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
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.
26. COMPOUND PASSIVES
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
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
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
The close darkness of the shut-up house (forgotten to be opened,
though it was long since day) yielded to the unexpected
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.
27. CONFUSION WITH NEGATIVES
This is extraordinarily common. The instances are arranged in order of
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
Not a whit undeterred by the disaster which overtook them at
Cavendish-square last week ... the suffragettes again made themselves
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
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
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
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.
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
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)
28. OMISSION OF 'AS'
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
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
...what might be classed a 'horizontal' European triplice.—Times.
You would look upon yourself amply revenged if you knew what they have
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
29. OTHER LIBERTIES
TAKEN WITH 'AS'
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
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
With a speed of eight knots, as [which] has been found
practicable in the case of the Suez Canal, the passage would occupy
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.
- 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.
Here the right preposition is retained.
A man holding such a responsible position as Minister of the
United States.—D. Sladen.
- 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.
- 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')
31. BETWEEN TWO STOOLS
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
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
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
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
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
32. THE IMPERSONAL
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
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
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
33. BETWEEN ... OR
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
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
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,
34. 'A' PLACED BETWEEN
THE ADJECTIVE AND ITS NOUN
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
...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
No great additional expenditure is required in order to make Oxford more
serviceable a part of our educational system.—Westminster
And young undergraduates are in this respect in no different a
position from that of any other Civil Servant.—Westminster
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.
35. DO AS SUBSTITUTE
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
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
36. FRESH STARTS
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
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...'.
37. VULGARISMS AND COLLOQUIALISMS
Like for as:
Sins that were degrading me, like they have many others.—Daily
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
There is no moral force in existence ... which enlarges our outlook
like suffering does.—Daily Telegraph.
What ever...? is a colloquialism; whatever...? a
Whatever reason have we to suppose, as the vast majority of professing
Christians appear to do, that the public worship of Almighty
Whatever is the good in wrangling about bones when one is hungry and
has nutritious food at hand?—Daily Telegraph.
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