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On 1st March we moved to a new blogging system.

The archives of all the student, teacher and staff blogs are still available here to read but commenting has closed.

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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Goodbye to the land of grapes

Hi Emam,

Thanks for your last few postings with all your great photos. It's been really interesting learning about all the different grapes, sweets and treats from Palestine.

We're moving over to a new blogging system next week, so this will probably be our last chance to blog together.

It's been great getting to know you and I think lots of our blogging audience around the world have been charmed by your postings too.

I thought today we'd have a look at a few vocabulary items, as well as dangling modifiers in this last blog. The examples I've chosen come from your last few postings.

Let's look at this sentence. I hope you don't mind, I've changed it a tiny bit so that we can concentrate on just one item of vocabulary – the word besides .

She was busy housekeeping and working on the farm besides grandpa.

There are two words that look very similar in English but which have quite different meanings:

beside – (preposition) next to
besides – as well as, in addition to

Here's how to use each word in a sentence like yours:

She was busy working beside my grandpa on the farm.

Besides my grandpa, there was only my grandma working on the farm.

Now that you can see both words, which one was it you wanted to use – beside or besides?

Next let's look at these words – nearly and slightly:

I took a photo of my grandpa’s library. It has some old books, which are nearly damaged that he still reads.

If the books are nearly damaged they aren't actually damaged, they're almost damaged.

I think the word you wanted was slightly. If the books are slightly damaged, they are damaged a little bit.

Dangling modifiers
Now let's have a look at this sentence:

My uncle Sareef, is sitting next to a "Beithingan" vegetable, after being harvested.

The problem here is that it sounds like your poor uncle Sareef has been harvested (as if he's a vegetable that's been growing for six months in the fields)! This mistake is quite a common one. It's one that not only students of English make, but one that native speakers make too. So don't worry, you're in good company!

To make sure you don't make this kind of mistake (called a dangling modifier), you need to be sure that the subject of your introductory phrase, (My uncle Shareef), is the same subject as your main clause (after being harvested). In your example, the subject of your introductory phrase is uncle Shareef , but the subject as your main clause is the Beithingan (being harvested).

Have a look at the sentences below. Can you spot which of them contain dangling modifier mistakes? If the sentence is correct, you don't have to do anything. But if you find a mistake, can you see how you could correct it?

1. Turning up at 10, the party had already started.
2. Seeing the beautiful sunset, she took a photo to help her remember the perfect day.
3. Sitting by the window in the cafe, she asked the waiter for a coffee.
4. Being in need of repair, I was able to buy the shoes at a good price.
5. Stacked up on the library shelves, he began to read the books.

All the best,


treats – special things to eat
charmed by – were attracted to or found something very nice or enjoyable
tiny - small
concentrate on – give your full attention to
poor - unfortunate, or unlucky
native speakers – people first language (here, people who's first language or mother tongue is English)

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

February 2010

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