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It’s Always Ungrammatical in Philadelphia

Posted in Test Prep on September 24, 2010 by

Dave Ingber is the Faculty Manager at Knewton. He also enjoys overly precise and intentionally pompous grammatical analyses of pop culture.

The following is an overly precise and intentionally pompous grammatical analysis of a Mac’s love letter to Philadelphia Phillies 2nd baseman Chase Utley from the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

(1) Dear Chase, (2) I feel like I can call you Chase because you and me are so much alike. (3) I would love to meet you someday, it would be great to have a catch. (4) I know I can’t throw as fast as you, but I think you would be impressed with my speed. (5) I love your hair. (6) You run fast. (7) Did you have a good relationship with your father? (8) Me neither. (9) These are all things we can talk about, and more. (10) I know you have not been getting my letters because I know you would write back if you did. (11) And I hope you write back this time and we get to be good friends. (12) I am sure our relationship would be a real home run! (13) Rooting for you always.* (14) Mac

(1) This introduction is an acceptable way to start a letter.

(2) The author correctly uses the pronoun “I” as the subject of the initial clause (“I feel… Chase”). However, his decision to use the objective case pronoun “me” in the second clause is a bad one, as the first person narrator (“I”) is part of a compound subject (“you and I” for the verb “are”).

(3) The two independent clauses in this sentence are incorrectly separated by nothing but a comma; unless the comma is replaced by a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction is added, this sentence is a comma splice.

(4) The first clause contains an ambiguous comparison because it compares a clause (“I can’t throw”) to a pronoun (“you”). The reader does not know the author’s intent; the sentence could be interpreted as “I can’t throw as fast as you can throw” or “I can’t throw as fast as you (are able to move).” Additionally, the preposition “with” cannot be idiomatically paired with the past participle “impressed.”

(5) This sentence is technically acceptable. One could reasonably argue that the possessive pronoun “your” lacks an antecedent, but in context, the sentence is grammatically sound.

(6) This sentence is technically correct, as the word “fast” can function as an adverb and modify the verb “run.” Were I a quibbling man, however, a more standard adverbial modifier would have been a welcome alteration if I were given a choice.

(7) This sentence is perfect.

(8) A more acceptable, yet still colloquial, sentiment would be, “Neither do I.” This alternative formation at least contains a noun and a verb in an inverted sentence (in which after the verb comes the subject). Even still, the word “neither” assumes a negative answer to the preceding question.

(9) Contextually, the pronoun “these” is ambiguous because it seems to be referring to “the topics of conversation previously mentioned.” Since these “topics” are mentioned not as nouns in a list, but as consecutive independent clauses, a pronoun cannot accurately refer to them. Additionally, the independent clause is followed by a “comma + and.” In such cases, an independent clause must follow. The word “more” is not an independent clause.

(10) When two actions occur in the past, but one action occurred before the other, the earlier action should occur in the past perfect tense, while the later action should occur in the simple past tense. In this sentence, logic tells you that Chase would have received the letter before being able to respond to it.

(11) Sentences should generally not begin with a coordinating conjunction; a continuation transition word would improve the sentence. Additionally, two independent clauses are separated by the coordinating conjunction “and,” yet there is no comma!

(12) The word “would” is used to express the result of a past-tense hypothetical situation (e.g. “If we met, we would become friends”). However, the author claims to be “sure” of the outcome in this case, so the future is more appropriate. (Note: the author employs “would” properly in Sentence (4), as he merely speculates about, and is not sure of, Chase’s potential reaction to Mac’s velocity.)

(13) This participial phrase seems logically to be modifying the noun “Mac,” but if such is the case, the phrase should end with a comma.

(14) Mac spells his name correctly!

Here is my corrected version of Mac’s letter:

Dear Chase,

I feel like I can call you Chase because you and I are quite similar. I would love to meet you someday; having a catch would be great. I know I can’t throw as fast as you can, but I think you would be impressed by the speed with which I can throw a ball.  I love your hair, Chase. You run speedily. Did you have a good relationship with your father? I did not. Not having a good relationship with one’s father, your hair, and the speed with which you can throw a ball all represent potential topics of conversation, and I am confident that we could generate even more topics. I know that you have not been receiving my letters because I know that you would have written back if you had received them. Moreover, I hope that you write back in this instance and that we become good friends. I am sure that our relationship will be a real home run.

Always rooting for you,

*This sentence is not read aloud during the episode, but I paused the episode at just the right moment in order to capture the sign-off.