Leonard Peikoff Grammar Course Homework 5

(Updated October 14, 2020 cuz I found the answers for 1 and 4 in Peikoff’s lecture).

More work on Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course.

I tried a different method for this homework. I went through the lecture and a bunch of the homework about simultaneously. I liked this approach a lot better because I got instant reinforcement of concepts. I also took more thorough notes in my pass through the lecture, which helped. I also found that I had more energy and attention for thinking about the more challenging problems since I knocked out the easier ones simultaneous with going through the lecture. The lecture served more as an actual aid to doing the homework in how I approached things this go-around. 🙂

I went through each problem on my own first and then checked my answer against Peikoff’s. I will mark the problems in their respective headers with the following emoji: ✅ for correct, ❌ for incorrect, ❓for ones that Peikoff apparently skipped (if he gets to them in later lectures, I’ll update this post) and ❗️for problems that are either particularly interesting or that I’m still not certain about. If I say that Peikoff agrees, that means he agrees with me overall, and not necessarily that he explicitly agrees with every detail of my analysis.

Instructions for problems 1 through 12:
Correct any errors in the use of verbals or pronouns.

✅Problem 1

People like she and Ted are disgusting; I would have been ashamed to have told their story to my father, who is an old and tired man.

✅ “She” is a subject pronoun but I think “like” is a preposition here, which means that “her” should be used instead.

✅ Based on what Peikoff said in lecture, the present infinitive should be used because, presumably, the intent is to indicate that, at some time in the past, this person would have been shamed to tell the story to the father. I don’t think there is an idea here that the telling should happen prior to the being ashamed. Peikoff said that you use the present infinitive when the infinitive refers to a time which is either the same as or later than the main verb.

So a corrected version would be: People like her and Ted are disgusting; I would have been ashamed to tell their story to my father, who is an old and tired man.

Peikoff: address this in (Lecture 5, 2:14:20) (thanks to AnneB for specifying where this was addressed in an FI post. I went through the lectures somewhat non-linearly so I passed over this).

✅ Problem 2

I cannot afford my hobby, which is the cause of all my trouble.

Ambiguous pronoun referent. It is unclear if the intent is to say that the lack of being able to afford the hobby is the cause of all the trouble or if the hobby itself is the cause of all the trouble.

For the “unaffordability of hobby = cause of trouble” interpretation, you could do:

My inability to afford my hobby is the cause of all my trouble.

for the “hobby is cause of problems” interpretation, maybe do something like this:

My hobby, which I can’t even afford, is the cause of all my trouble.

or

My unaffordable hobby is the cause of all my trouble.

Peikoff: agrees that it is ambiguous. Calls it “broad reference“.
For the “unaffordability of hobby = cause of trouble” interpretation, Peikoff likes the following rewrite:

The fact that I cannot afford my hobby is the cause of all my trouble.

✅ Problem 3

I shall follow whoever they choose as their leader — or whomever else is in charge.

Two errors:
The core internal structure of the clause “whoever they choose” is “they choose [pronoun]”, with the pronoun serving as the object, meaning that the pronoun should be “whomever”.

The core internal structure of the clause “whomever else is in charge” is “whomever … is”, so the pronoun is serving as the subject, meaning it should be “whoever” here. (Question: “is” is a linking verb, but what’s the pronoun linked to in the second relative clause?)

Corrected sentence:

I shall follow whomever they choose as their leader — or whoever else is in charge.

Peikoff: agrees.

✅ Problem 4

The day passed quickly, eating cake and playing poker.

Dangling participle “eating cake and playing poker.” As written, it makes it sound like the day itself is chillin’, eating cake and playing power. Rewrite with a pronoun:

Eating cake and playing poker, we felt the day go by quickly. or something like that.

✅ Problem 5

When on top of the Empire State Building, happiness was easy to feel.

This feels like a dangling infinitive – happiness was easy to feel for whom? Presumably what they intended to convey was that happiness is easy for some person to feel. Rewrite with a pronoun:

When I was on top of the Empire State Building, I easily felt happiness.

Peikoff: says this is a dangling elliptical clause, a type of error that he did not specifically cover in the lecture but that is similar to some stuff covered therein. LP’s sentence rewrite is very similar to mine:

When I was on top of the Empire State Building, it was easy for me to feel happiness.

❌ Problem 6

You knew it to be I, and I knew it was him.

The “it” in “You knew it to be I” comes after a verb, so it should be in the objective case. The objective case and the subjective case for “it” are identical, so we can only know which case of “it” we are dealing with by reasoning it out. Per the rule about predicative nominatives, case has to be the same on either side of “to be”. “I” is subjective/nominative case, and is thus incorrect, since it should agree with the objective case version of “it”. So the first part of the sentence should be “You knew it to be me”. BTW I’m not sure I see why we’re using an infinitive here rather than “was.”

The second part of the sentence is fine. “Was” is the past tense of “to be”. The “it” in “I knew it was him” is in the objective case because it follows the verb. The “him” on the other side of the “was” should therefore be in the objective case, and it is.

Corrected version:

You knew it to be me, and I knew it was him.

Peikoff: For the first part of the sentence, Peikoff’s reasoning is somewhat different than mine but he gets to the same place. Peikoff’s analysis for “You knew it to be I” is that the subject of the infinitive is always in the objective case, and therefore “it” is an object. Peikoff agrees re: case has to be the same on either side of “to be”.

For “I knew it was him”, Peikoff reasons that there is an implied “that”, making it “I knew that it was him.” This makes “it” the subject of “was” and not the object of “knew”. “him” has to agree in case with the subjective “it” and thus should be “he”.

Corrected sentence:

You knew it to be me and I knew it was he.

Analysis After Listening to Peikoff: I was very focused on doing a sort of rule-based mechanical analysis when doing this problem, and so I neglected to think about whether “it” actually made conceptual sense as the object of “knew”. A tree might have helped spot this issue.

✅ Problem 7

I left her and hitchhiked to Denver. It was terrible.

Unclear antecedent. Was leaving her, hitchhiking to Denver, Denver itself, or the overall situation terrible?

One possible rewrite, depending on the intended meaning:

I left her and hitchhiked to Denver. The whole situation was terrible.

Peikoff: Agrees.

✅ Problem 8

Dictatorship is said to cause more evil in history than war did.

My intuition is that this should read Dictatorship is said to have caused more evil in history than war has. but I’m trying to figure out how to reason my way to do that in light of what Peikoff said on infinitives.

Ok I’ve got it. The “is said” something that happens now. the causing of evil is something that happened before. So the “to cause more evil” is referring to a time before that of the main verb, and so the perfect infinitive is correct.

So my tentative, somewhat low confidence rewrite is:

Dictatorship is said to have caused more evil in history than war did.

I’ll leave the “did” alone for now.

Peikoff: agrees.

Peikoff says that when you’re talking about what is done throughout history, you have to use the past tense. The audio is a bit hard to follow on this point.

❌ Problem 9

Each of us who is now living is destined to witness the rebirth of reason.

Sentence is fine IMHO. “Each” is singular so “is destined” is fine. “who” is the subject of “who is now living” and so “who” is fine.

FWIW, the Random House Webster’s Dictionary has this usage note for each:

In my experience, each is almost always in the “always singular” category of grammar resources that list out the number of the indefinite pronouns, and the pronouns that can be either singular or plural are things like  all, any, more, most and some.

Peikoff: the “is” in “who is now living” should be “are”, because the referent of “who” is “us”.

Analysis After Listening to Peikoff: I agree. Since Peikoff said to correct errors in pronouns and verbals, I was focusing heavily on those and wasn’t actively looking for verb agreement issues. Pronouns are pretty relevant to the verb agreement issue here, though. I guess I was having a bit of tunnel vision.

✅ Problem 10

Three shots rang out. Two of the servants fell dead. The other went through his hat. (F&S)

Unclear antecedent for “other” and pretty unclear sentence generally. Did a shot go through the surviving servant’s hat?

One possible rewrite:

Three shots rang out. Two of the servants fell dead. A shot went through the last servant’s hat, but he survived.

Peikoff: Agrees. Says it’s a “remote reference.”

❌❗️ Problem 11

To win the election, a proper campaign is needed.

This is fine. Per my notes, you use the present infinitive “when the infinitive refers to a time which is either the same as or later than the main verb.” A proper campaign is needed now to win the election in the future. Thus, the infinitive is referring to a time later than the main verb “is”, and thus, the present infinitive is appropriate.

Peikoff: This writing makes it sound like the campaign is going to win. Missing the subject. Dangling infinitive.

Peikoff’s rewrite:

To win the election, a candidate must wage a proper campaign.

Analysis After Listening to Peikoff: I think I read this as a general statement that was okay. Other examples of things that strike me as similar:

To bake a cake, butter is needed.
To cut the steak, a knife is needed.

I’m still not sure what I think of this one. (update: I agree with Peikoff now)

✅ Problem 12

My worst fault is my inability to express myself emphatically on paper. But this is not true when I am speaking aloud.

The referent for “this” is unclear. Does “this” refer to an inability to express oneself, or an inability to express oneself emphatically, or an inability to express oneself emphatically on paper? Grammatically I want to read the referent for “this” as “my inability to express myself emphatically on paper”, but logically, a fault consisting of an inability to express oneself emphatically on paper does not become untrue when one is speaking aloud. The fault is still true while speaking – it is just not applicable because it is a different situation than writing. It is as if you wrote something like: “My main physical problem right now is the knee pain I have while running. But this is not true when I am doing push-ups.”  With that statement, the intent would probably be to communicate that the person has knee pain while running but not while doing push-ups. However, the way it is written, it sounds like the status of the knee pain as the speaker’s main physical problem changes depending on whether or not they are doing pushups.

A rewrite for one possible meaning:

My worst fault is that I can’t express myself emphatically while writing. By contrast, I can express myself emphatically while speaking aloud.

Peikoff: Agrees. Points out that one possible meaning is that when the person is speaking aloud, the inability to express themselves emphatically on paper is cured too, so they can express themselves on paper and in speech.

✅ Problem 13

Instructions for Problem 13: *Rewrite without any pronouns.

The baby lost the toy. When it lost it, it was too dark, it seems, to do anything about it.

Rewrite: The baby lost the toy in such darkness that the toy apparently could not be retrieved.

Peikoff: His rewrite:

Finding the toy lost by the baby seemed to be impossible because of the darkness at the time.

Another rewrite (after listening to homework lecture): The baby lost the toy. When the baby lost the toy, the darkness was such that the toy could not be found.

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