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A grammar question

Peter PrinciplePeter Principle Registered User regular
edited May 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm reviewing some lab documents, and I'm not sure which is the grammatically correct way to write the following sentence.

"Host bodies and the attached headcrab parasite should be promptly placed into an incinerator."

"Host bodies and the attached headcrab parasites should be promptly placed into an incinerator."

"A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business." - Eric Hoffer, _The True Believer_
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    scrivenerjonesscrivenerjones Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    one parasite per host, or several?

    if it's one, try "Each host body and its attached headcrab parasite should be promptly placed into an incinerator." boom you're done.

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    PlatyPlaty Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Shouldn't it be "placed in an incinerator"?

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    CheerfulBearCheerfulBear Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Shouldn't it be "placed in an incinerator"?

    Only if you're doing the placing while inside the incinerator.

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    PlatyPlaty Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Well, "placed in an incinerator" brings up several thousand results in Google and "placed into an incinerator" brings up this thread as a second result. I don't know, it just doesn't feel right to me.

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    Peter PrinciplePeter Principle Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    one parasite per host, or several?

    Just one.
    if it's one, try "Each host body and its attached headcrab parasite should be promptly placed into an incinerator." boom you're done.

    That's a good work-around, but doesn't quite fit in context, unfortunately. These are general guidelines, not specific directives.

    Peter Principle on
    "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business." - Eric Hoffer, _The True Believer_
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I find its helpful to put new words in context.
    Models and the attached wig walked down the runway
    Models and the attached wigs walked down the runway

    I lean towards the latter, but I prefer
    Models and their attached wigs walked down the runway.
    That way we're implying ownership.

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    pacbowlpacbowl Los AngelesRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Yeah, "Each host body and the attached headcrab parasites should be promptly placed into an incinerator." sounds right.

    Each host body implies there's more than one. If it was one body then it would be "The host body and attached headcrab parasite should be promptly placed into an incinerator."

    I'm really just guessing.

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    FiggyFiggy Fighter of the night man Champion of the sunRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Awkward phrasing is often the culprit to many grammatical problems.

    The second phrase in the OP is more correct than the first, but both are awkward.

    Improv has given a better solution, assigning ownership. You are placing the host body and its headcrab parasite into the incinerator.
    Well, "placed in an incinerator" brings up several thousand results in Google and "placed into an incinerator" brings up this thread as a second result. I don't know, it just doesn't feel right to me.

    This should go without saying, but the number of hits a phrase has on google should not be a barometer for proper grammar.

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    Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Another option: "Every headcrab parasite, and the host body to which it is attached, should be promptly placed into an incinerator." (Switching "headcrab parasite" and "host body" is acceptable, but I assume you want to emphasize the parasite and not the body.)

    As previously mentioned, the only reason this is an issue is because the current phrasing is too awkward to convey the needed level of precision. If you want to ensure that you are specifying a single headcrab parasite per host body, then the first option is correct. If you don't care, and you just want to specify that any and all headcrab parasites attached to a particular host body should be placed in the incinerator (assuming there can even be more than one), then the second is correct. However, it should be noted that the second is [logically] correct even if there can be only one parasite per host.

    Improv's suggestion of moving to the possessive pronoun is also good, as it provides more precision. Imagine it was referring to a shipment, and the headcrab parasites were "attached" to the container, in which case it would not be clear to which headcrab parasites you were referring (the ones attached to host bodies or the ones attached to the container).

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    FiggyFiggy Fighter of the night man Champion of the sunRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I believe your example would require you omit those commas. You would only use commas to set off a parenthetical element. "and the host body to which it is attached" is not. It is essential to the context of this sentence.

    I guess this could be argued, but in the interest of absolute clarity, removing the commas would be appropriate.

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    RderdallRderdall Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I'm glad I don't work where you work. Headcrab parasites don't sound like something I'd like to catch. Especially if it'll have me wind up in an incinerator.

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    Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Figgy wrote: »
    I believe your example would require you omit those commas. You would only use commas to set off a parenthetical element. "and the host body to which it is attached" is not. It is essential to the context of this sentence.

    I guess this could be argued, but in the interest of absolute clarity, removing the commas would be appropriate.


    Not gonna argue about comma usage, as the vast majority of the time it is purely a matter of stylistic preference. Appropriateness, clarity, and a desire for paucity are all a matter of taste, not grammar.

    Either way, we're all in agreement that it's the original phrasing that is the issue, not necessarily the grammar.

    Inquisitor77 on
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