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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Friday, October 14

ES3, the Adjective s-v-o

The adjective s-v-o is, as you might suspect, a word group acting as an adjective, and, like the adjective 1-o, comes right after the noun it’s describing. And, since nouns can show up in lots of places, you can find adjective s-v-o’s in lots of places. First, the simplest place, right after the S. “Anyone who owns a bike can enter the race.” Two things to note: First, the signal word “who” is called a relative pronoun because it shows the relationship between the word group it introduces and the word it’s describing; and second, “who” and “whom” are the two most frequently used signal words. Most people don’t use “whom” because they either don’t know when it should be used or they think it sounds too formally phony, sort of a look-down-the-nose Britishism. Let me show you the ways we get around the who/whom problem. “The people with whom we traveled to Canada own a home in Florida.” “The people whom we traveled to Canada with own a home in Florida.” “The people that we traveled to Canada with own a home in Florida.” “The people we traveled to Canada with own a home in Florida.” Note the movement from formal to informal, the last one being the most informal. Note also that “that” is a useful signal word because it can stand for either “who” or “whom,” thus sidestepping the question of which is correct. Simple, right? The signal words for the adjective s-v-o are who, whom, which, that, when, where, and whose. Another consideration: This word group can be included in the sentence with or without commas, depending on whether it’s necessary in the sentence or is only added information. For example, “Anyone who owns a bike can enter the race,” and “Jim Clark, who owns an expensive racing bike, entered the race.” In the first sentence, the adjective s-v-o is necessary to point out which “anyone” can enter the race. In the second sentence, the adjective s-v-o is merely adding information about Jim Clark, but isn’t necessary to the meaning of the main S-V-O. For ardent grammarians, these are called restrictive and non-restrictive adjective clauses, restrictive meaning necessary and non-restrictive meaning unnecessary. Now, you can forget all the grammatical terminology and just get on with it. Here are some examples of the ways this word unit can be used.

That most useful signal word “that” is pronounced differently than the “that” used as a regular pronoun or a demonstrative adjective. Whew! There we are again with the gobbledygook. Look how the pronunciation changes depending on how it’s used. “That book is mine. I don’t like that.” In both cases it rhymes with “hat.” “I know someone that can do it.” This one rhymes with a really short “thut.” Say the following sentence out loud and you’ll hear the difference: “I hate the book that that man just bought.” Did you hear it? The shortened “that” is the one we use so often that signals an adjective s-v-o. Okay, and soon we’ll be on to the adverb s-v-o. Exciting.

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