Re: Common Errors in English

Subject: Re: Common Errors in English
From: "Bonnie Granat" <bgranat -at- granatedit -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 23:34:45 -0500

Mark Baker wrote:
> Lynne Wright asked:
>> if its 'six head of sheep', and 'seven tons of coal', why isn't it
>> 'five years OF experience'?
> Because it isn't. Why is it "five minutes time" and not "five
> of
> time"? English is highly irregular.

We don't say "he had four months training." It needs an "of" in
there. What I think now is that the convention has been to use a sort
of reverse possessive, and that this convention is, in fact, so widely
used, even if the construction itself is not understood at all, and is
therefore correct by virtue of its widespread use.

> The point is, it is fine to attempt to build logical models to
> explain the
> structure of English. But if the logic fails to explain common
> constructions, the the problem is with the logic, not with the
> constructions. It is not good practice to try to constrain, exclude,
> or
> transform common construction of the language in an attempt to make
> imperfect grammatical system work. Procrustean grammarians must not
> prevail.

So if "nine years' experience" and "five minutes' time" is the
convention, how can one say it is wrong?

Bonnie Granat


Re: Common Errors in English: From: Mark Baker

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