Here is a little test on English grammar that some might enjoy - my score was no surprise to me :))
[edit: I misread something because I am a proper numpty. Ignore this post.]
Do grammar rules still count if no one uses them?
Ok. This one I do not understand.
Read this sentence carefully. “I’d like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother who doesn’t, and to my only other sibling, Hilary.” Which of the following is correct?
- Hilary is male
- Hilary is female
- It’s impossible to know from the context.
EXPLANATION AS TO WHY THEY SAY HILARY MUST BE MALE:
The absence of a comma before “who doesn’t” implies that there are other brothers. A comma after “my brother” would mean that there was only one brother.
In what way does the absence of a comma imply that there are other brothers? I interpret it as follows: there are three siblings, Clara, Benedict, and Hilary. Clara is the sister who lives in Madrid, Benedict is the brother who does not live in Madrid, and Hilary is the other sibling with an unspecified sex. What am I not seeing here?
I am sure there is a grammar heaven where even unused rules still count. This little test was put together because new grammar and spelling tests have been introduced in English schools.
@ Colin : I, too, had to read things more than once!
I hadn’t seen your second post (see, I do have to read things a bit more carefully!).
“…to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother who doesn’t, and to my only other sibling, Hilary.”
Had it been " to Benedict, my brother, who doesn’t live in Madrid, we would not been able to tell whether poor Hilary was a he or a she.
The sentence without the comma "… Benedict, my brother who doesn’t live in Madrid… implies that there is another brother who might or might not live in Madrid.
Yeah, I got to the one about Hilary then gave up. I’ll just pretend that I’m exempt from your rules because we spell “color” without the “u.”
@ SanneT - I still don’t get it. With the comma, we would have
“I’d like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother, who doesn’t, and to my only other sibling, Hilary.”
In what way is this different to the original?
In both cases, it seems to imply that Benedict is the brother who does not live in Madrid and nothing seems to imply that Hilary is male.
Diverging a bit, to what extent is ‘correct English’ simply the English used by the people who have decided to call themselves the people who know what ‘correct English’ is?
I’m assuming these people are the MLA, right? Cambridge for you guys?
@ I am not noted for my clear explanations, but I’ll try: Benedict, my brother, who doesn’t … We have Clara, my sister, and we have Benedict, my brother. Then we have Hilary, the only other sibling. We cannot tell Hilary’s gender.
BUT if we have Clara, my sister, and Benedict my brother who doesn’t live in Madrid, then we have the implied other brother, Hilary.
Ok, I think I see what they are getting at. The original sentence is this
“I’d like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother who doesn’t, and to my only other sibling, Hilary.”
The fact that there is no comma between ‘my brother’ and ‘who doesn’t’ implies that Benedict is the brother who does not live in Madrid, and there is another brother who does, i.e. Benedict is the one not living in Madrid. This is clear with the following example
“I have two brothers, one of whom lives in Madrid, and the other does not. That is Benedict, my brother who doesn’t, and that is Hilary, my brother who does.”
I think this is what they meant, but I don’t accept that this is the only correct interpretation. I think the interpretation that they suggest would go along with using the comma between ‘my brother’ and ‘who doesn’t’ is just as valid.
Valid in current usage, yes. Valid in terms of strict grammar rules of yore, no. (Therefore, not valid for the poor dears being tested.)
As a non-native English speaker, I would assume this sentence is used mainly during a conversation, for instance, in a party as a icebreaker. How do people notice a comma in between “brother” and “who”, and know Hilary must be male while conversing?
@djvlbass Oxford and Cambridge, they gang up on us!
After rereading the sentence, I am starting to think that the interpretation that they say is the correct one is better, even if I think both are valid.
Where commas are placed can be important for clear writing, though, in my opinion, if the placement of a single comma is crucial for deciding the meaning of a sentence, probably it is worth rewriting the sentence in a simpler way.
A wonderful example of correct comma placement!
This grammar guru is going to bed now. Good night!
@kigoik “How do people notice a comma in between “brother” and “who”, and know Hilary must be male while conversing? ;-)”
Unless the speaker makes a very noticeable pause, I don’t think any listener would notice.
Of course, probably no listener would have to notice or need to notice, because Hilary is obviously standing right there, in all his glorious BBC manliness.