A grammar lesson

Posted: Sunday, September 09, 2001

You published, 7 September, a letter from an English teacher. It contains this sentence: "He seems to think teachers are only 'teaching' when they are in the physical presence of students." Ah, the placement of that frisky little word "only"! In the teacher's statement, it implies that teachers do something other than teach when they are in the physical presence of students. Here is the syntax which probably states the teacher's meaning more accurately: He seems to think that teachers are teaching only when they are in the physical presence of students.

By the way, in what presence of students other than the physical might a teacher be?

Consider the difference in meaning which the placement of "only" renders in these two statements:

"He only smokes in bed." (Does he not sleep in bed?)

"He smokes only in bed."

Now, how about the English teacher's use of "for free", the grammatical abomination of a preposition followed by an adverb? In short, "for" is redundant as well as erroneous; "free" says it all.

John B. d'Armand, D.M.A.

Auke Bay

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