MET workshop: two grammar pathway minisessions

Phrasal verbs: “Bring ’em on!”

Facilitator: John Linnegar

English abounds with phrasal verbs, which function to convey either logical/literal (Joe put the book down) or idiomatic meaning (Let’s put it down to experience). These composites derive primarily from verbs of movement or action and adverbial or prepositional particles of direction and location. For example:
eat – eat in, eat out, eat up (finish)
move – move in, move on, move over, move up (in the world)
take – take in, take off, take on, take under (one’s wing)

They contribute, usually subtly, to the richness of the language and carry meanings – sometimes informal, colloquial, emotive or slangy – different from their root verb forms, which is possibly why they are also notorious for befuddling both writers and editors or revisers. Why, for instance, do we sometimes place the object before the particle (as above) and sometimes after it (Joe put down the book)? And in a particular instance of usage, why do we write “The swimmer dived into the pool” but “The operator logged in to the program”?

The answers to these and related phrasal verb conundrums will be provided during this minisession, in which participants will learn by doing a number of exercises that help to illustrate current usage.

Modal verbs: “Might you be in the mood?”

Facilitator: John Linnegar

In the writing of ESL and EFL authors, English modal verbs often present editors and revisers with challenges at a number of levels. Amid much unidiomatic usage, they find themselves having to fix the inappropriate use of modal verbs in order to render texts comprehensible. In particular, can, could, may, might, shall and will present challenges. This minisession will take participants through the current wisdom on the preferred usage of modal verbs in several contexts in English and help them to apply these verbs in a selection of different text types.

Participants will learn by doing – in that they will be exposed to a wide variety of texts in which errors of modal verb usage occur. They will then have an opportunity to correct the errors, which will in turn lead to discussions about currently acceptable or unacceptable usage in a variety of contexts and genres.

Who should attend? Editors and translators who have to polish (i.e. copy-edit, revise or proofread) texts in English, particularly those written by ESL and EFL authors. In particular, those who will find this workshop informative and confidence-building include practitioners who feel they are on shaky ground with these verb types or who have grown a bit rusty and find themselves on uncertain ground when pressed by an author for a reason for their corrections to these verbs.

About the facilitator: John Linnegar is something of a grammar geek, having had the best of English teachers at school at a time when grammar was well taught. A former schoolteacher (English and History), John has been improving authors’ texts since 1979. He has written and published Engleish, Our Engleish: Common Errors in South African English and How to Resolve Them (2013), Text Editing (2012) and, more recently, Grammar, Punctuation and All That Jazz ... (with Ken McGillivray, 2019). He is a co-author of Oxford English Grammar: The Advanced Guide (2015) and contributes a regular column on grammar and punctuation to the quarterly newsletter of the Professional Editors’ Guild. He considers himself a descriptivist more than a prescriptivist in matters grammatical, being inclined to reflect what the authorities* consider to be preferred current English usage.

* John Kahn The Right Word at the Right Time (Reader’s Digest, London 1985); Tom McArthur (ed) The Oxford Companion to the English Language (OUP 1992); David Crystal The Fight for English (OUP 2007); Elizabeth Manning Murphy Working Words (Canberra Society of Editors 2011); Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (6th ed, John Wiley & Sons Australia 2011); Bryan A Garner Garner’s Modern English Usage (OUP 2016).