69 – Frolic: Babies and participles

“Blimey, your health service …”

“Yes?”

“It’s incredible.”

“Do you think so?”

“Well, maybe not all of it, but your midwifery – the mind boggles.”

“It does?”

“Absolutely. I mean delivering babies isn’t usually a walk in the park – not in Poland anyway.”

“I’d say not anywhere.”

“A-a-a-a, but that’s just it.”

“That’s just what?”

“It is, apparently.”

“It is what?”

“A walk in the park.”

“Look, you are not making any sense here – what is a walk in the park?”

“How you deliver babies. In Britain.”

“Get away!”

“No, no, it is. Or, at least, it can be.”

“Says who?”

“The Times Educational Supplement. I’ve found this article – in your archives. Listen to this.”

 “When delivered in a fresh, artistic way, children will seize on writing as they do art and drawing.”

 “Oh this, ha, ha, ha!”

“What’s so funny? I mean what a feat: they manage to deliver kids in a fresh way. And artistic! I defy you to beat that.”

“No, no, they don’t deliver children!”

“What do you mean they don’t deliver children? Are you saying that The Times Educational Supplement would have wilfully misinformed its readers?”

“No, no, of course not; it’s just that they didn’t know their grammar.”

“Are you saying you need to know grammar to deliver babies?”

“No, yes, I mean everybody needs grammar to communicate – grammar is the mortar that holds the bricks of vocabulary together – but this has nothing to do with babies; it’s a dangler.”

“A dangling baby?”

“NOT A BABY THERE IS NO BABY – IT’S A DANGLING PARTICIPLE!!!”

“A dangling what?”

“Participle. ‘Delivered’ is a dangling participle here.”

“Why is it dangling?”

“Because they made it refer to the wrong noun.”

“They did?”

“Absolutely. They obviously thought that you could relate an initial participle such as ‘delivered’ to the object – which, in this sentence, is writing – but you can’t.”

“You can’t?”

“Nope. Initial participles will always be interpreted as referring to the subject of the main clause – ALWAYS. And the subject here is children.”

“Sure, it’s an important subject.”

“No, no, I don’t mean a subject of discussion – I mean grammar. It’s a very common error.”

“It is?”

“Yep. But it’s very easy to put right. Whenever an initial participle is meant to refer to the object instead of the subject, you just change the voice of the main clause from active to passive – that’s all.”

“Is that really all?”

“Yep. Because, when you change the voice, the object becomes the subject.”

“And what happens to the subject?”

“It becomes the agent.”

“Secret?”

“Get away! Look, what they were trying to say was this.”

  “When delivered in a fresh, artistic way, writing will be seized on by children as eagerly as art and drawing.”

 “Blimey.”

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4 thoughts on “69 – Frolic: Babies and participles

    • Thank you so much, Torrie. Goodness knows what they were trying to do to these poor children! What I cannot get over is that dangling participles are very common (at least in Britain), yet the grammatical principle is so simple – what exactly did those people do at school? 🙂

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      • I never considered myself particularly brilliant at school, but I must say…..I have an at-home job typing transcription and it’s been a hugely eye-opening experience as far as bad grammar goes! I absolutely cannot believe that “professionals” can get away with using such poor grammar! Add to that the fact that some of my son’s teachers from his schools before here also were NOT GRAMMATICALLY ADEPT in some of their correspondences and these were considered the very best of schools! Yes, sad but true…I think the world of grammatical perfection is in real trouble! It’s a very good thing we have you on here telling it how it needs to be! 🙂

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      • I agree, Torrie (not necessarily about my contribution but about everything else). Having worked in British education for some 25 years, I kept being amazed by the abysmal grammar of some of the educators I collaborated with. Their poor students stood no chance – so sad! Thankfully, grammar is slowly making a comeback in British schools, but we’ve now had two generations with insufficient grammatical knowledge, so I wonder who exactly is supposed to ensure that kids’ grammar and punctuation are up to scratch. 🙂

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