Thursday May 26, 2011
At exactly 12
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED By FADZILAH AMIN
IS there such a thing as “12.00a.m.” or “12.00p.m.”? I remember my teacher telling me that it should be “12.00 noon” or “12.00 midnight”. – Raymond
This question has been asked before, but I’ll answer it again. Your teacher is right. The time should be stated as 12 noon and 12 midnight. The letters “a.m.” stand for ante meridiem, a Latin phrase which means “before noon” and the letters “p.m” stand for post meridiem, which means “after noon”.
To say 12.00a.m or 12.00p.m at noon would therefore be wrong, since noon cannot be before or after itself. As for midnight, is it before or after noon? It would be safer and clearer to call it 12:00 midnight.
At one time
ALMOST every day, I hear a DJ on the radio using this phrase:
“We’ve all lost our temper at one time ...”
Shouldn’t it be “We’ve all lost our temper at one time or another ...”? – Lau
I agree with you, although what is wrong with the sentence is not its grammar, but its use of the expression “at one time”.
“At one time” means “at a time in the past but not now”. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online). Thus adults may say: “We were all children at one time.” This statement is definite and clear-cut and talks about a particular period in the past of the speaker(s), i.e. the period of childhood. Notice also that the simple present tense verb “were” is used.
When we say “We’ve all lost our temper at one time or another.”, the addition of “or another” makes the time vague – it is some time in the past, but perhaps different times for different people. We also use the present perfect verb (“have lost”) to indicate some unspecified time(s) in the past. In fact, the expression “at one time or another” is the one usually used in sentences of this structure. Here are some Internet examples:
“We’ve all lost our temper at one time or another. Describe for me the last time you lost your temper. What had occurred? How did you respond?” (from a question in a sample questionnaire from Purdue University, USA)
“We’ve all lost our tempers at one time or another on the field of play, and at some stage in our lives we’ve all bit someone.” (from an introduction to a video showing Luiz Suarez, the football player, biting a player from the opposite team during a scuffle in a game)
I recently encountered the phrase “risk left behind” on the Internet. I’d been taught to write “risk being left behind”, and Google suggested that the second phrase outnumbered the first by about 100:1.
But when I thought about it, “risk left behind” sounds fresh and fizzy and with a 21st century zing to it. – sm
I am sorry, but I don’t share your enthusiasm for the ungrammatical use of “risk left behind” instead of “risk being left behind”. I just think of it as sloppy usage. Zing or fizz doesn’t impress me!
“Risk” can be used as a noun or a verb. When “risk” is used as a noun, the expression “risk left behind” can be grammatical when “left behind” is used as a reduced relative clause. Let me give an example:
“The Big Four banks are not eager to absorb all of the risk left behind by Freddie [Mac] and Fannie [Mae] ...” (from an article in FrumForum on the Internet)
Here, “risk” is used as a noun, and “left behind” is really a reduced relative clause used instead of “that is left behind”. A reduced relative clause usually consists of a present or past participle of a verb instead of a relative pronoun and a full verb. Here’s another example: “All those going for the city tour please board the bus now.”, where “going” is used instead of “who are going”.
What you were rightly taught some time ago is the clause “risk being left behind” where “risk” is used as a verb. Let me quote you the very same clause used by a prominent American in the 21st century:
“US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Bosnia to push through much needed reforms ‘or risk being left behind’ for European Union and Nato integration, in a speech to students in Sarajevo Tuesday.” (EUbusiness, an “independent online business information service about the European Union”, Oct 12, 2010)
“Risk” is a transitive verb which is usually followed by a noun phrase, a pronoun, or an –ing verb (gerund). “Being left behind” is the passive form of “leaving something/somebody behind”, and “being”, like “leaving, is a gerund.