In a language arts project, I have the following sentence:

Grant watched in awe of the spectacular view of Dylan hitting a buzzer beater on TV as he served a Big Mac to his customer.

My teacher thinks that there's something wrong with it; he says that the of the spectacular view of Dylan hitting a buzzer beater on TV acts as a prepositional phrase and thus can't contain the verb "hitting".

Is this true? Please explain.

  • 5
    He's right, there's something wrong with it, but it's not grammar so much as brute force that's holding that sentence together. It ought to be three or four sentences so the reader can reconstruct some idea of what's going on. This looks like the result of a phrase concatenator like the Chomskybot. – John Lawler Jan 12 '17 at 21:30
  • 2
    I reckon what's wrong with it is that Grant is watching in awe of Dylan himself, not in awe of the view of Dylan. And who is he? Who is serving the Big Mac? If it's Dylan that really is spectacular :-) – Andrew Leach Jan 12 '17 at 21:32
  • Some punctuation would help. The prepositional phrase doesn't, presumably, begin with "of", but with "in". Grant watched, in awe of the spectacular view of Donald Duck in a golden shower on the TV, as he served a custard tart to the Queen of Siam. – WS2 Jan 13 '17 at 0:55
  • 1
    Prepositional phrases can certainly have verbs and verbals. Your teacher is wrong. – Khuldraeseth na'Barya Jul 13 '17 at 2:26

Two little observations of dubious relevance:

  1. In The King’s English, 2nd ed., Chapter 2 begins with the syntax of the gerund. I believe that the advice given there requires "Dylan's," with an apostrophe s.

  2. The sentence is obviously hard to understand even in writing, and I believe an editor should query how the reader is to know that Dylan is the one hitting a buzzer beater but not the one serving a Big Mac.

  • Would The spectacular view of Dylan hitting a buzzer beater on TV awed Grant as he served a Big Mac to his customer. be a better choice? – whe21405 Jan 19 '17 at 20:54
  • Yes, I think that removes the ambiguity. By the way, I don't think a waiter has ever served served a Big Mac, with "billions and billions" of data points. Does MacDonald's now have waiters? – Chaim Jan 20 '17 at 12:43
  • 1
    The possessive for "Dylan", while it would be arguably correct as well, is certainly not necessary. – Hot Licks Jun 13 '17 at 1:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.