Leonard Peikoff Grammar Course Homework 4

I noted the analyses I’m particularly interested in other people’s thoughts/analysis on with a ❗️. I tried to limit edits in the “Initial thoughts” parts to typos or stuff needed for clarity/finishing a thought.

Section 1

Write out the following forms

I did them in the form of example sentences.

Problem 1

first person singular pluperfect (progressive) indicative passive of HOLD

Initial answer: The ball had been held by me for a while.

Peikoff’s answer: LP says this is wrong. It’s had been being held.

Post-mortem: I did the pluperfect but forgot the progressive part. I’m less immediately familiar with the tenses than I thought. It is the sort of thing I could work on with some flashcard review or something maybe, if I wanted to.

Problem 2

second person plural present perfect indicative active of KILL

Initial answer: They are killing him.

Peikoff’s answer: Peikoff says this is wrong. It’s “you have killed”.

Post-mortem: Saw “second person plural” and thought of the third person plural. I think part of the issue here was that I just don’t really think of second person plural much in English (unlike in say Spanish where there are the ustedes and vosotros forms of verbs).

Problem 3

Well I found this one challenging and I’ve gotten two wrong so far so I’m very low confidence now 🙂

third person singular present subjunctive passive of BLESS

Initial answer: That he be blessed by the Pope was the monk’s fondest wish.
Peikoff: correct!

Hey I got the one right that I was lowest confidence about and thought about the most.

Section 2

Correct any errors in verbs or verbals.

Problem 1

Did she finish yet?

Initial answer: For questions, I think we want to use the present perfect, so we want Has she finished yet?.

Peikoff’s answer:

“So you’re looking at something from the past through the present so that requires by definition the present perfect tense […] You could say ‘Did she play yesterday?’ but the ‘yet’ requires the present perfect tense.”

Answer after further thought: My rewrite was correct but my reasoning was confused. I can see that the reasoning is mistaken – it’s not questions in general where you need the present perfect. I had in mind some kind of restriction or clarification on the type of question which I didn’t state.

Problem 2

The David is the greatest work Michelangelo has ever created.

Initial answer: I think “has ever created” is mistaken because that makes it sound like Michelangelo creating works is an ongoing thing, and Michelangelo has been dead for hundreds of years. “Is” is fine because we are discussing a work that still exists. I think for this one, because we’re talking about an event in the past judged from the perspective of the present, talking about things in terms of the simple past and simple present makes sense. It’s like how you could say “The Allied invasion of Normandy is the greatest amphibious invasion that Westerners ever accomplished.” It was accomplished in the past but is the greatest Western amphibious invasion ever as of right now. I think it works the same here. Corrected sentence:

 The David is the greatest work [that] Michelangelo ever created.

Peikoff’s answer: Peikoff agrees and has same reasoning regarding the has:

the has brings it up to the present and implies “Well, up to now this is the best Michelangelo was doing, but who knows in the future?” Obviously, that present reference is inapplicable because he died long ago.

Problem 3

It is absolutely crucial that you are ready to leave by noon.

Initial answer: This may be a demand necessitating the subjunctive. The “absolutely critical” makes it sound kind of like an order.


It is absolutely crucial that you be ready to leave by noon.

Peikoff’s answer: LP agrees.

Problem 4

The office was very busy, but finally we had caught up on the work.

Initial answer: This sentence is using tense wrong. When you have two things in the past that happened in a sequence, you use the past perfect for the earlier one, but because catching up on work would logically come after being busy, this has it the wrong way around.

Correction: The office had been very busy, but we finally caught up on the work.

Peikoff’s Answer: LP disagrees but I think this is an issue of interpretation of the sentence. Peikoff explains that the normal case is that you want to keep things in the same tense. So e.g. The office was very busy, but finally we caught up with both in the simple past, or you look at both things as having been completed in the past and say The office had been very busy, but we had finally caught up on work. A student had a wording very similar to mine, and Peikoff says he can’t see a good reason to do it that way.

Answer after further thought: : I read this sentence as saying something like, the office had been very busy (for a while), but finally we caught up on the work (which had been causing the busyness). The state of being busy preceded the state of catching up on the work, so it gets the past perfect tense. I might be mistaken but i didn’t find Peikoff persuasive on this. You can hear the relevant audio of the lecture here.

Problem 5

If a man finds that other men be richer than he, he must change his course.

My initial answer: not sure!

– Is the subjunctive wrong here?
– Is there an issue with “than he”? Sounds kind of awkward and formal.
No idea.
Peikoff’s Answer: This is a switch from indicative “finds” to subjunctive “be”.
If you wanted to keep the idea of contrary-to-factness, you could do the following rewrite:
If a man find that other men be richer than he, he must change his course.
Post-mortem: I immediately agreed with Peikoff’s statement of the problem with the sentence. I think I was tunnel-visioning on the latter parts of the sentence for some reason. Making a tree would probably have helped see the issue better.

Problem 6

If Aristotle and Locke accepted Plato’s politics, we would not have freedom today.

My initial answer: For this “if” statement, we want the past perfect form  had accepted. What’s the explanation here? The whole thing here is conditional and we are talking about a possible condition. And I guess the fact of it being impossible is long settled. We’re saying like “if these two long-dead thinkers had accepted Plato’s politics, it would have this consequence.”

Peikoff’s Answer: Agrees.

❗️Problem 7 – Long Fused Participle Analysis

I am outraged by you begging for money, although it should result in us getting a handout.

Initial answer:

There is a shift in person from “I” to “it” standing for “begging for money”, and “begging for money” looks to be a participle or something modifying “you” within a prepositional phrase. So maybe we want something like:

Your begging for money outrages me, although it should result in us getting a handout.”

I considered whether there was a fused participle. I wasn’t fully clear on the idea of what precisely a fused participle was, and I came across this post which says:

A fused participle consists of a noun or pronoun followed by an ‑ing verb. The entire unit is then plopped down in a sentence to serve as a noun. We might call it a Noun Combo.

How do you tell the difference between a fused participle and a normal participle? I guess one way is to see if you can delete the “participle” part and still have it make sense (Elliot mentions this in this video, where he discusses the specific example I’m about to use).

Consider the following sentences:
1) Women having the vote share power with men.
2) Women having the vote reduces men’s power.

For #1, if you delete “having the vote”, you still have a grammatical sentence: “Women share power with men.” OTOH, with #2, if you delete “having the vote”, you have instead “Women reduces men’s power”, which is ungrammatical.

A rephrasing of #1 would be something like “Women who have the vote share power with men.” OTOH, for #2 it’d be something like “The fact of women having the vote reduces men’s power.” So with this rephrasing approach I can see how in #2 the two parts are “fused” into a single noun, whereas in #1 there’s more of a clear modifier relationship.

So maybe the real characteristic of a fused participle is this fusing of a participle and noun/pronoun into a single noun-concept.

Based on all this analysis, I think “I am outraged by you begging for money, although it should result in us getting a handout.” would be classified as a fused participle, since:
1. it seems like the combination of “you” and “begging” is operating together as the object of the preposition “by”, and
2. if you delete the “begging for money”, you get the broken sentence “I am outraged by you, although it should result in us getting a handout.” which has a pronoun “it” with no referent, and
3. The better rewrite would be “I am outraged by the fact of you begging for money”, not “I am outraged by you who beg for money”, so that fits better with fused participle.

Elliot analyzes the woman voting sentenceshere and says that the “fused participle” “Women having the vote reduces men’s power.” would not be okay if interpreted as a participle but seems okay as a gerund with a subject “Women.” That makes sense to me.

Peikoff’s Answer: Peikoff agrees that this sentence contains a fused participle. He points out that my correction is incomplete. My correction was

Your begging for money outrages me, although it should result in us getting a handout.”

A fully corrected version would be:
Your begging for money outrages me, although it should result in our getting a handout.

I think the reason is that we want to make our use of possessives parallel rather than switching to the objective pronoun like in my version.

Here, Peikoff characterizes the “fused participle” as being defined by the use of a gerund without a possessive. That doesn’t strike me as a great definition.

Post-mortem: I was heavily focused on the issue of whether the example met the criteria for being a fused participle and so I neglected the issue of parallelism.

Problem 8

Gold may seem to be a good investment, but it might not remain one for long.

Initial answer: Not sure.
1. The first part of the sentence is hedging and saying Gold “may seem” to be a good investment, which implies that maybe it isn’t, but then the second part says it might not “remain one” for long, which seems to imply that gold is in fact a good investment but this situation might change. So there’s some internal tension in how the sentence is written.
2. Any relevant distinction between usage of may and might?
3. Incorrect use of “may seem” when present tense would be better for something that seems to be the case right now.
I think brainstorming items 1 + 3 have the answer: why are we talking about what “may seem to be” the case right now?
Second answer: The sentence should be rewritten as follows:

Gold seems to be a good investment, but it might not remain one for long.

This starts out talking about what is going on right now – Gold seems to be a good investment. Then we move into the second part, where we have “might” indicating some doubt that the current state of affairs with gold will endure.

Peikoff Answer: LP disagrees. He says the issue is that the “might” should also be a “may”, so that the sentence reads:

Gold may seem to be a good investment, but it may not remain one for long.

He says the issue is that there is a switch in tense from present to past. I totally missed out on this angle. It is in the dictionary though:

A NYT grammar article mentions the “might” as the past tense of “may” as a source of confusion:

And wait: there’s yet another source of confusion. Dictionaries also list “might” as the past tense of “may,” which seems puzzling since both words convey a present or future meaning. This past-tense function occurs in sequence-of-tense situations — a statement that originally uses “may” switches to “might” when it follows a past-tense verb:

He may go to the theater.
He said he might go to the theater.

Peikoff seems to concede in a discussion with a student the possibility that “may” and “might” are losing their associations with certain times in people’s minds and just indicate probability alone.

Answer after further thought: So brainstorming item #2, which I didn’t really explore, turned out to be getting at the real issue Peikoff had in mind.

Problem 9

Returning to New York City, the Senator went at once to the theater.

Initial answer: Wasn’t sure. Accidentally listened to part of lecture with answer from Peikoff before doing brainstorming. Whoops!

Peikoff’s answer: It should be “having returned to New York City”. I paused the audio after hearing the answer to see if I could make sense of this myself before Peikoff explains it.

Second answer: Ah think I see it. Yeah okay, the Senator couldn’t go to the theater in NYC before having returned to NYC, so you need to indicate that the returning action happened first and completed, and then the going to the theater happened, so you use the perfect participle to do that. Yeah LP seems to agree.

Problem 10

If Smith should be nominated, he will agree to run.

Initial answer: I think the “will agree” is wrong because it’s a conditional statement so it should be “would agree.”

“Should be” seems a bit awkward to me but I don’t know that it is actually wrong. I would say “were”, so my full corrected version would be:

If Smith were nominated, he would agree to run.

Peikoff’s answer: LP agrees re: changing “will agree” to “would agree.”

Problem 11

You would not have said that word, I assume, if you had known how much it would have shocked me.

Initial answer: “would have shocked me” is inappropriate here because the shocking actually took place, whereas “would have shocked me” sounds like something which didn’t actually happen but, had it occurred, would have been shocking. It’s like if you said “If Joe had won the election, that would have shocked me”, if Joe winning the election is contrary to fact. This sentence is written in such a way that it sounds as if the shocking word was said and the shocking took place. I think that the appropriate wording here is “would shock me”. So the rewrite should be:

 You would not have said that word, I assume, if you had known how much it would shock me.

Peikoff’s answer: LP agrees.

❗️Problem 12

I have stopped drinking because I heard no more criticism.

Initial answer:

I’m not 100% sure what the meaning is here and the grammar correction kind of depends on that.

Brainstorming possible rewritings of the sentence:
1. I stopped drinking because I heard no more criticism.
2. I stopped drinking because I could hear no more criticism.
3. I stopped drinking because I would hear no more criticism.
4. I stopped drinking because I have heard no more criticism.
5. I stopped drinking because I hear no more criticism.
6. I stopped drinking because I have been hearing no more criticism.
7. I stopped drinking because I am hearing no more criticism.

And then you can do “have stopped” or “had stopped” variants on these as well.

As written, the sentence might mean that he has stopped drinking because he stopped hearing criticism about quitting drinking from the perspective that is a good idea to stop drinking (as in, people used to say to him “No, don’t quit drinking, drinking is cool”, and they stopped doing that, so he stopped drinking). The sentence is compatible with that sort of reading, because it’s mixing the present perfect “have stopped” with the simple past “heard”, so the sequence of events is ambiguous.

My guess, though, is that the implied context is that people have a negative attitude towards drinking, and so stopping drinking would lead to getting less criticism. So the sentence could mean that he stopped drinking and stayed a non-drinker because, upon doing that, people stopped criticizing him (like maybe he was a bad drunk or something, and they they noticed he quit and stopped criticizing him for his drinking habit).

All that said, I’m still not sure what a proper rewrite is, since I find the sentence kind of ambiguous. Let’s see what Peikoff says:

Peikoff’s answer: So a student replies with my brainstorming #4 above, and Peikoff seems to think that’s okay, notes that the student is objecting to the switch in tense, then asks if the student could construct a scenario where the wording as written would work and then asks for a scenario that would make it work. LP says if you didn’t hear criticism for a year and then stopped drinking after a year, then you could say “I have stopped drinking [now] because [last year] I heard no more criticism.”

Further thoughts: I think I suppress thoughts I have by not doing conscious brainstorming that helps bring them to the surface. Even though I couldn’t give a confident answer, my brainstorming helped me come up with some relevant thoughts and bridge the gap a bit instead of getting stuck entirely on thinking about this problem. Conscious efforts at brainstorming is something I should keep in mind when trying to solve problems in general.

Problem 13

He explained in detail what the Law of Gravitation means.

Initial answer:

This one seems okay to me. There is a shift in tense from past to present but the thing is that the Law of Gravitation is a fact of nature, an unchanging thing, and so I still think it gets the present tense despite being explained in the past.

Second thoughts:

But tense within a sentence should generally match, right? Unless there’s a reason to do otherwise?

I think that’s true, but I think the fact that you’re talking about a past event (the explaining) and then bringing in discussion of something that is currently true (the Law of Gravitation) is a sufficient reason. You could rewrite the sentence, though, to avoid the issue:

He explained in detail the meaning of the Law of Gravitation.

But I don’t think it’s actually necessary to do that.

Peikoff’s answer: The sentence can be considered correct as written. You could make the tenses consistent and talk about what the Law of Gravitation “meant”, but “means” is preferable because it indicates the “timeless present.” The “timeless present” concept overrides the principle of consistency.

Exercise Self-Assessment / Summary

I almost got stuck on this exercise but managed to get myself unstuck. I also think I improved my honesty somewhat in terms of portraying more of my unedited thinking process, and worked on some important stuff like brainstorming. I also wrote a bunch, which is good in general. I currently plan to do more Peikoff stuff, though I may shift focus to another project for a little bit.

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