Another grammar question?

Subject: Another grammar question?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 08:53:30 -0400

Tamara wonders about the difference between: <<My sentence: Factors that
are the same across all pipelines and internal
companies are only included in this form. Summer Students: Only factors that
are the same across all pipelines and internal companies are included in
this form.>>

The meaning does indeed change, and possibly enough to cause some grief for
users of the form. Let's assume that factors A and B are the same across all
pipelines, and factors C and D aren't. Your sentence means that A and B will
appear on this form, but on no other forms--it's the only form that contains
A and B. Your student's sentence means that the form contains A and B, but
never C and D--but A and B could appear elsewhere.

<<According to my reference manual, the adverb "only" should be placed as
close to the mord modified. When I look at my sentence, I see "only" is
placed beside the verb "included".>>

That advice applies equally to all adverbs, and it's why the problem arose
in your sentence: moving the adverb changes which verb it modifies; in fact,
the student's sentence changes it into an adjective that modifies "factors"
rather than the verb "includes". You can solve many such problems by getting
rid of the "are" (or other form of the verb "to be"), which also strengthens
the sentence: "This form only contains..." Now, it doesn't matter whether
you move only ("contains only") because it's still the same verb being

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"Writing, in a way, is listening to the others' language and reading with
the others' eyes."--Trinh T. Minh-Ha, "Woman native other"

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