13 Dec 2014

Creating metaphors

A language figurative tool giving the object the additional characteristics, often used to reveal hidden features, feelings or emotions. Through a metaphor, an author shows us an object by depicting it and using a connection with something which is not, at first glance, similar. Metaphor is the art of poetry and writing, but also the part of everyday speech, and most of the idioms are metaphors. When a metaphor is used too often that the hidden message is lost, then it is called a dead metaphor and it is advisable not to use it in writing.

It is raining cats and dogs. Idiom and a dead metaphor.
The tv set in this room is an old dinosaur. Easy metaphor.
My soul was a lampless sea and she was the tempest. Hard metaphor.

Extended metaphor: when one idea is used in different perspectives or characteristics in a paragraph, the whole scene or a chapter.
My soul was a lampless sea and she was the tempest. Stormless days were rare, but we loved our boat

Mixed metaphor: when two different ideas are connected to one object creating rather comic effect - avoid it by all costs.
She is a rock in the hot water
She is an iceberg in the hot water.  

Creating metaphors is not an easy task and requires good knowledge of a language: rich vocabulary and grammar, as well as creativity and hard work.

The easiest way to create a metaphor is to remember that we need to link two objects or two ideas, and, therefore, compare them in a not obvious way; furthermore, we do not use connectors: as or like.

She was happy. // She felt like a twinkling star on the midnight firmament at Christmas. This is a simile, easier to create.

She was a twinkling star ion the black firmament, a Christmas star sparkling brightly during the whole year.

Worn out elbows on his work shirt, George has done twelve years of donkey work, toiling for the same factory six days a week, ten hours a day.

George felt as worn out as the elbows on his work shirt.

Katie, a wilting flower in the desert, was longing for the rest of the cooling night in the comfort of her bed.

Katie was longing for the rest of the cooling night in the comfort of her bed, a wilting flower in the basket on the street.

Kate's body was a lifeless desert tired of the ruthless sun and endless customers, dreaming of the cooling night at her own, comfortable bed.

While creating a metaphor, we need to see a picture and show it to the reader, not just describe a scene. Using the convoluted adjectives or adverbs will not help to convey the feelings. Simple way is better and the best teachers are books, which we should read twice, once for the action and then for the understanding how the author used the language and why.

11 Dec 2014

The premise of a novel based on the blurb

The blurb is what we usually may find on the back cover of a book, the short text informing the reader what is the book about and at the same time - trying to attract her or him, to grab their attention so that they will want to buy it.

There are other types of blurb - all are more or less just marketing texts trying to sell goods. Personally, I prefer a blurb depicting enough about the settings and the plot of a book to know what a book is about, what I may expect, but without disclosing too many details.

Too long a blurb with too many details puts me rather off the book, unless it is really a wonderful piece of writing. Another thing, alarming my suspicious, is the usage of too many super adjectives or adverbs, such as 'graspingly chilling' or 'splendidly crafted'.

The most tragic (sic!) outcome is when a literary critic writes a blurb: please try to read 'The list of the best sellers of 2014' in the New York Time and in the Independent. English is not my first language, but I am quite sure that the over convoluted style of writing books reviews in the Independent will not contribute to the frenzy of Christmas shopping in the bookstores.

Now, about the premise of a novel: it is a sentence (at best) defining it. Do not confuse a theme or themes of a novel with its premise. Theme is usually a boarder term whereas the premise narrows to the actions, events happening in a novel. A good blurb gives us the premise or foretaste of it.

For a reader, it is a wonderful exercise, employing your language skills: try to write the premise of a book you have recently read. And try to limit yourself to twenty words. Here my own work: the premise of Susan Hill's 'The woman in black'.

Arthur, as an old man, writes a diary; he paints the remote and haunted place, at which he attended the funeral of late Mrs. Drablow to faced the most traumatic events of his life.

7 Dec 2014

Noun clauses

A noun clause is a subordinate clause that acts as a noun or pronoun and answers a question who or what. A noun clause can be introduced by either a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun. Sometimes the relative pronoun is dropped.

Noun clause as a subject
What I think is none of your business.
Whatever you want to do after lunch is fine with me.

Noun clause as a direct object
Peter asked if he could borrow a car.
It is not absolutely sure whether he takes part in a competition or not.

Noun clause as an indirect object
Peter promised an award whoever finds his missing cat.
Jane sent a kiss that man in a front row.

Noun clause as a predicate nominative
Love is all what people need.
The good thing was that they did not have to do it again.

Noun clause as an object of a preposition
I am interested in what we are going to do with it.
He wrote a book about what he had found during his trips.

Noun clause as an object complement
They named him whatever they call the president in that country.

I think that the grammar jargon is not as important as the ability to create proper sentences using the pattern shown above.

Noun clause used as an object is very common in academic writing and I am going to show a few common forms of the usage of a noun clause in academic writing.

Reported speech after verbs: say, state, report, claim, argue.

He said that he wanted to give up smoking.
He told me that he wanted to give up smoking.

In both cases the red part is a direct object, me - indirect object or recipient.

Peter told me that although he loved the language, he hated working on grammar.

Sentences with such verbs, like: prove, show, mean, demonstrate.
This shows that the public investment in certain goods can benefit the whole society.
These data demonstrate that while some cases of cheating are intentional, the great majority arise from a lack of understanding.

Other common sentences beginning with: It is plus + adjective/passive voice + that + noun clause.
It is believed that the Earth is a planet.
It is widely understood that...noun clause.
It is clear/unclear that /why... noun clause.

He does not know why she left so early.
It is not clear whether or not punishment is the best way to deter plagiarism in papers.

Results from a study questioned whether treatment with the drug really improved survival.
(Cambridge dictionary)

5 Dec 2014

The Elliptical Adverb Clauses

Adverbial clauses, as well as other adverbials, answers the questions: where? when? to what degree? under what condition? why? how? They usually start with subordinating conjunctions.

Let's look at the sentence that Susan Hill wrote in 'Woman in Black':

As I crossed the long entrance hall of Monk’s Piece on my way from the dining room, where we had just enjoyed the first of the happy, festive meals, towards the drawing room and the fire around which my family were now assembled, I paused and then, as I often do in the course of an evening, went to the front door, opened it and stepped outside.

As I crossed the long entrance hall of Monk’s Piece on my way from the dining room towards the drawing room and the fire // adverbial clause (when? under which condition?)

around which my family were now assembled // adjectival clause (what kind of room?)

where we had just enjoyed the first of the happy, festive meals // adjectival clause (what kind of room, at which room?)

I paused // and then went to the front door, // opened it // and stepped outside. // the independent clauses

as I often do in the course of an evening // adverbial clause (how?)

In informal English, a 'LIKE' may replace the conjunction 'as if'' and, therefore, introduce a subordinate clause. This is possible because 'LIKE' has several meanings and grammar functions, and some of them are:
like - adverb
You look angry. (how does he look? // adjective
Mary seems to look like she was an angry crocodile. // informal

Mary seems to look as if she was an angry crocodile. // formal/ standard English

Elliptical adverb clauses
There is a special case of an adverbial clause used in comparisons and begins with THAN or AS and often has words left out. Those are known as elliptical adverb clauses. In these clauses a word or more than one is omitted as understood, or implied.

Mary is taller than I (am).
John can jump higher than I (can).
Peter worried more about himself than (he worried about) his mission.

People respected books more than the writers.

It may be a potentially misunderstanding problem. As

People respected books more than they respected writers.  or
People respected books more than writers respected books.

Mary likes Peter more than I. (like Peter)
Mary likes Peter more than (she likes) me.

But: He likes me more than Mary. (likes me?)
Or: He likes me more than (he likes) Mary. ?

While (I am) gardening, I always take time to enjoy flowers fragrance.

1 Dec 2014

An adverbial clause 1

An adverbial clause is a subordinate clause starting with a subordinating conjunction. To understand the role of the adverbial clause we need to understand the role of adverbs in a sentence.

So, an adverb modifies verbs, adjectives, other adverbs or part of a sentence (phrase) or  another clause or the whole sentence.

I will do it tomorrow. // adverb

I will do it as soon as you stop nagging me about it. // adverbial clause

An adverb, adverbial phrase or adverbial clause function as adjuncts (adverbials) in a sentence and may be removed from it and the rest of the sentence still stays grammatically correct sentence.

I will do it! (an independent clause - a sentence)

The most common subordinating conjunctions are: afteralthoughasas ifbecausebeforeeven ifeven thoughifin order tosincethoughunlessuntilwhateverwhenwhenever,whether, and while.

Most adverbial clauses can come before or after the main clause, and embedded adverbial clauses are rare (other than those beginning with THAN or sometimes AS).

Faster than thought travels, the angel appeared.

For us, speakers of English as a second language, it is important to spot an adverb clause by its function rather than looking for dependent marks; it is important to ask questions: where?, when?, how?, to what degree? under what condition?, why?. And if you find your answer in a sentence, then most probably it is an adverb clause.

Classification of adverbs and adverbial is not the same, depends on the function of the word in a sentence and varied from one author to the other. Here, it is my try to make any sense of it.

1. Adverbs of time
Since, when, until, while, no sooner than, pairs of correlative conjunctions (hardly ... when)

2. Adverbs of place
Where, whenever, anywhere, everywhere

3. Adverbs of Degree or Comparison
To what degree? To what extent?
Than, as...as, the...the,

4. Adverbs of Condition
Under what condition?
If, unless

5. Adverbs of concession - contrast
Though, while, whereas, even if, although

6. Adverbs of reason
As, because, given, since

7. Adverbs of manner
Fast, slowly

30 Nov 2014

An adjectival dependent (subordinate) clause

A dependent clause is a group of words in the sentence with its own subject and verb that cannot stand alone and usually starts with a subordinator.

He came home. // independent clause

After he came home // dependent clause, has no meaning on itself

He prepared dinner after he came home.

After he came home, he prepared dinner.

Please notice that we usually separate dependent clause with a comma when it starts a sentence, and obviously we need an independent clause to combine with a dependent part to create a complex sentence.

A subordinate clause can act as an: adjective, adverb and noun in a sentence.

An adjectival clause is called a relative clause with essential and non-essential information.

Adjective clauses modify a noun or pronoun and answer the questions: which one? what kind? how many? They usually begin with a relative pronoun or with a relative adverb. Relative pronouns normally function in two ways: they join the clause to the word it modifies and they function as part of the clause. If they do not function as a part of the clause, they may be dropped.

Blessed is he, // independent clause with a poetical inversion
who comes in the name of the Lord. // subordinate clause - adjectival clause, the whole clause defines 'he', 'who' is a relative pronoun and also a subject of the clause.

he is // subject - verb of an independent clause
who comes // subject- verb of a dependent clause

The house (that) you saw yesterday was sold. // a relative pronoun can be dropped in less formal writing.

Adjective clause is sometimes called an embedded clause as in many cases we can find it in the middle of the sentence, sometimes separating the subject of a sentence and its main verb.

Peter, who used to work as a teacher, loves old cars.

The main clause is: 'Peter loves old cars' with dependent and non-essential part is: 'who used to work as a teacher'.

Joana was the first person whom he talked to.

It is an essential part of the sentence, an adjectival clause which begins with a relative pronoun 'whom', and 'whom' is an object of the preposition 'to'. Even though it is a correct sentence, some critics would call it a dangling preposition.

In formal writing it would be better to say:
Joana was the first person to whom he talked.

In even less informal English it may sound:
Joana was the first person he talked to. // an example of a dropped relative pronoun.

In modern English, there are only five relative pronouns:

who  whom  whose  that  which (apart from 'that' other words may take endings: -ever and -soever).

A special kind of adjectival clauses begins with a relative adverb when a noun denotes a time or place is modified by an adjective clause.

The most common such adverbs are: where, when and why; some sources consider these subordinating conjunctions.

Here again some differences in formal and informal English and in some grammarian schools.

where / at which

I was yesterday in a restaurant, where the food was excellent. // informal adjectival clause
I was yesterday in a restaurant, at which the food was excellent. // formal adjectival clause, object of the preposition 'at'.

when // on which

It was a day when I discovered the cosmos. // informal
It was a day on which I discovered the cosmos. // formal

why // for which

Do you know the reason why the train is delayed? // informal
Do you know the reason for which the train is delayed? // formal

Therefore, if we want to be very strict, we may conclude that an adjective clause is a relative clause beginning with a relative pronoun, which itself may be dropped when it does not not function as a part of the clause.

29 Nov 2014

Independent clause, correlative conjunctions and inversion

The correlative conjunctions are always in pairs. The most common connectors of independent clauses are:
  • either-or,
  • whether-or,
  • both-and, 
Either I heard someone knocking or I thought that I did.
Whether you like it or they like it, doesn't matter.
Both what I say, and what I do are important.
  • not only-but also, 
  • neither-nor, 
Not only will I do my best, but also I will do it correctly.
Neither had the man gone nor was he going soon.

The two sentences above - negative conjunctions require inversion in the clause. Inversion is normally used in questions and as a language tool to accentuate the uniqueness of the sentence.

Adverbs with negative meaning like: hardly, never, scarcely, little, no sooner, only, so, such, that and some conditionals are the next examples of inversion.

Independent clauses joined by a pair of correlative conjunctions make the sentence look complex and will give the extra marks on formal writing; thus, it is important to master them.

Not only do I want to master my English, but also I want to write complex sentences on my exams.

Not only has Susan Hill written many books, but also she is a master of the English language.

Neither are Gothic themes old-fashioned nor is the gothic novel a fad.

Hardly had I come home when the telephone rang.

No sooner had I come home than the phone rang.

Scarcely had I taken off my coat when they guests came.