+0
StartFragment>

The following is a question given to students.

Please try the question.

Can you get the correct answer?

• Printed on the box at the center of a coffeehouse [was/ were] the words "To Insure Promptness."

It is said that the answer is 'were' because the subject of the questioned sentence is 'the words.'

But a syntax I read has another theory.

It says 'Adjective Phrases' can function as subject like the following sentence.

• Emotionless and expressionless is what I would call him here.

And I have also 'googled' with "printed on" and I have found the following sentence supporting my argument.

• Printed on each card was the student's name, the date, and three boxes to check.

As I have shown, I think the answer of the question should be both.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading my argument in advance.
+0
Stenka25Printed on the box at the center of a coffeehouse [was/ were] the words "To Insure Promptness."
were.
This is a variant of locative inversion, wherein, for example,

Three small tables were in the corner of the room.
becomes
In the corner of the room were three small tables.

Likewise
The words "To Insure Promptness" were printed on the box at the center of a coffeehouse.
becomes one of several possible inverted structures:

On the box at the center of the coffeehouse were printed the words "To Insure Promptness".
Printed on the box at the center of the coffeehouse were the words "To Insure Promptness".
Agreement between subject and verb does not change in the inverted version.
_____________
Stenka25Printed on each card was the student's name, the date, and three boxes to check.
were or was.
Again an inverted structure is used. But here you have the choice. You can note the series of subjects and consider the subject plural. In that case, choose were. Or you can use the principle of proximity and make the agreement between the nearest subject (name) and the verb. In that case, choose was. Agreement through proximity is perhaps less formal in style, but it is frequently used.
_____________
Stenka25Emotionless and expressionless is what I would call him here.
Inverted pseudo-cleft structure.
The base sentence is:
I would call him emotionless and expressionless here.
It becomes, by transforming it into a pseudo-cleft structure:

What I would call him is emotionless and expressionless.

Inversion is then applied to highlight the original object complement emotionless and expressionless, thus:
Emotionless and expressionless is what I would call him here.
But what I would call him here is still the subject, in my opinion.

CJ
+0
Stenka25▣ Prepositional Phrases functioning as Subject 전치사구

[location]

• Outside the fridge is not a good place to keep milk.

[time interval]

Between eleven and midnight suits me all right.
StartFragment>

▣ Adjective Phrases functioning as Subject

• Very dedicated is what I would call him.
As an analysis of the surface structure, I see nothing wrong with calling these the subjects of the sentences. (You can even do the same for the one I analyzed earlier.) There are always alternate systems of analysis available. These particular sentences all show cases of highlighting an element that is not normally highlighted -- by placing it at the beginning of the sentence.
Stenka25• On the paper was all the remarks Joe’s classmates had made about him.

If we do not admit 'on the paper' is subject how can we possibly explain this sentence?
I don't think this sentence needs to be explained -- except to say that it's incorrect.
It should be: On the paper were all the remarks Joe's classmates had made about him.
It's interesting that you believe there are a lot of sentences with structures like On the paper was all the remarks ...I can honestly say that, with the exception of this one that you have quoted, I have never seen or heard such a sentence. I find it hard to believe that it represents a new direction that the English language is taking. Emotion: smile
CJ
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
1 2
Comments  
were in both cases
I'd use were in the 2nd too too, because this is a plurality of items which are all printed, and you have AND (not or) between them. The author went after the singular in "name," but I think this was wrong.
 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
Thanks, CJ.

But I have to tell you this.

My intention is not to change any set English grammer.

I'm an English teacher in Korea.

In my country too many teacher teach students too much grammer instead of teaching them just good English sentence and telling them to try to use it as many times as they want.

In my country students don't try to use English sentence because they are afraid of the possibility of using incorrect sentence.

I'm not any radical advocate of the uselessness of grammer teaching.

I'm opposed to putting too much emphasis on English grammer in English teaching.

And I'm also against teachers' giving too tricky questions about English grammer.

Personally, I'm very grateful to you, CJ.

Whenever I post a thread, you gave me the sincere answer and they were very helpful.

And for this question I post, again you gave me a very long detailed answer.

But this time it's very hard to fully accept your answer.

I know the rule of inversion, and I am not saying you are wrong.

However, in the book "English Syntax and Argumentation - written by Bas Aarts"
StartFragment>

They say "Prepositional Phrases" & "Adjective Phrases" can be a subject.

But they are used as subjects in a limited boundary like the following examples.

▣ Prepositional Phrases functioning as Subject 전치사구

[location]

• Outside the fridge is not a good place to keep milk.

[time interval]

• Between eleven and midnight suits me all right.
StartFragment>

▣ Adjective Phrases functioning as Subject

• Very dedicated is what I would call him.

I know you love your native language English very much and you are very good at it.

But language has its quirky side and is on the constant changing.

And in language world something wrong in the past become someting OK right now.

Just a few days ago I came across the following sentence.
StartFragment>

• On the paper was all the remarks Joe’s classmates had made about him.

If we do not admit 'on the paper' is subject how can we possibly explain this sentence?

And if we say the above sentence is just another wrong sentence how come there are so many wrong sentences?

I know understanding standard English grammer is very important.

But I also think we don't need to give novice learners too difficult a question.

When I read in "A S Hornby's" grammer book the following statement, that is, "It is a sound principle not to present the learner with specimens of incorrect English and then require him to point out and correct the errors. (A S Hornby)" I couldn't agree more.

Thanks, CJ.

I'm going to teach the rule of inversion and your example sentences.

But I want to teach them the exceptions, too.

What do you think?
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
>On the paper was all the remarks Joe’s classmates had made about him.
I think were is the correct verb here. See the hits at Google Books by highly educated English book authors:
56 on "were all the remarks"
http://books.google.com/books?q=%22were+all+the+remarks%22&btnG=Search+Books

1 on "was all the remarks"
http://books.google.com/books?q=%22was+all+the+remarks%22&btnG=Search+Books

>In my country too many teacher teach students too much grammer instead of teaching them just good English sentence and telling them to try to use it as many times as they want.
Sorry to say, but you seem to be doing exactly thatEmotion: smile
Re the above sentence:
teachers, not teacher
grammar, not grammer
good English sentences, not good English sentence

>In my country students don't try to use English sentence because they are afraid of the possibility of using incorrect sentence.
In my country students avoid speaking and/or writing English because they are afraid of the possibility of using incorrect sentenceS.

>Outside the fridge is not a good place to keep milk.
This may be OK, but a more natural one is IMO:
Keeping milk outside the fridge isn't a very good idea.
I'll keep in mind your remark, Marius Hancu.

Thanks.
While grammar definitely has its importance, I'd like to see more ESL teachers present the English-language literature as one of the best modalities for improving's one ability in English. Discussing recent or less recent fiction or poetry in class is in my opinion one of the best ways for doing that. Too much time is spent in learning correct patterns. That can be done much better in context by discussing literature.
The same is valid for the posters here. Not many present quotes from the literature for clarification (Cadzao is one of the good examples), most of the postings are about structure and patterns. OK, this is the grammar forum, but still ...
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
Thanks for your help, CJ.

I think I can figure out what you are trying to say.

It's really hard to exactly express what I really mean in English.

But let me tell you this.

I'm not making a mountain out of a molehill trying to make my argument more important than it really is.

I'm just showing something that bothers me, so I can get your kind opinion.

I have many other question that's troubling me, and I hope you can give me the same help you've given me next time.
Show more