The exam was difficult; consequently many failed.

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shiness

Senior Member
Korean, South Korea.
The exam was difficult; consequently many failed.



Although my book says that english is incorrect, I still can't seem to make myself aware of what's wrong in there.

Any advise will be appreciated.


P.S : I'm awaiting your reply even if it proves to be no-error case to your knowledge, too.
 
  • elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    The sentence is a bit stilted but I don't detect any grammatical errors.

    Perhaps "failed it" would be clearer? But I'm really splitting hairs.
     

    Tradman

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think the problem might be the use of the semi-colon here. It's often used "to connect two grammatically independent items that are closely connected, but work better together in the same sentence" (See http://www.usingenglish.com/articles/punctuation-semi-colon.html ) and I'm not sure that that applies here. Having said that, it does seem a bit picky in view of the fact that many native English speakers don't know (or understand) the rules governing usage of the semi-colon.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don't see anything wrong with the semicolon because it's separating two independent clauses.

    On further thought I think the alleged error may be the missing comma after "consequently"; however, I personally think the sentence is short enough to render the comma unnecessary.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I agree with Tradman. These clauses are more like a cause and effect, not really independent ideas.
    "Independent clause" is a grammatical term that has nothing to do with whether a clause is an "independent idea."

    An independent clause is a clause (a group of words with a subject and a verb) that can stand alone as a sentence.

    Both "the exam was difficult" and "consequently many failed" have a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence. Thus they are independent clauses and the semicolon is appropriate.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I agree with everything said. You could get nitpicky about the two punctuation marks, but neither one is in error, not even close.

    Our problem is, the book says there's an error. To me that means the book is in error, but if shiness is not in a position to have that opinion-- we must find an "error."

    The closest thing I can come up with is, that "many" has no clear antecedent. Test, difficult. Nothing about people who took it. Many of these unmentioned people failed.

    Antecedent can be treated as a strictly grammatical matter by people who defy common sense. It's stated that the exam was difficult-- to me this clearly implies people took the test. How can you allege an exam that no one took-- is difficult? So it's implied that people took the test. "Consequently many failed" makes sense, because "many" can only refer to people in the plural, so everything else in the first sentence is exlcuded as an antecedent.

    There's our "error," I'll bet. There is nothing actually in the first clause that "many" refers back to-- "exam-takers" is implied, to my ear. But their existence is very tenuous, and a literal-minded teacher might hold a "just the facts" attitude, and decree that strictly speaking, "many" has no antecedent.

    Ask this kind of person why the difficulty of a test caused anything other than exam-takers to fail, and he might say "that's irrelevant. It isn't stated in the first clause, therefore it's a non sequitur.

    Shiness, do you have to identify the "error" here, for a test? "No antecedent for many" is the best guess I can make-- I don't personally believe there is an error. Good luck with this.
    .
     

    shiness

    Senior Member
    Korean, South Korea.
    Thanks for all your concern and replies to it.

    In my opinion, the sentence itself doesn't carry in the first place a point of
    importance which makes the sentence correcr or not, thus resulting in
    my personal conclusion that whether or not to put the comma behind "consequently" may not be even worth considering.

    I'd rather blame in this case the author's inappropiriate depature with the question.
     

    shiness

    Senior Member
    Korean, South Korea.
    Nope, not really FFbrand :).
    I'm not really obliged to make any conclusion, nor an answer for a test paper hehe. I could care less of it now.

    Appreciate your help.
     

    gaparici

    New Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    Both "the exam was difficult" and "consequently many failed" have a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence. Thus they are independent clauses and the semicolon is appropriate.
    "the exam was difficult" and "many failed" are the independent clauses. However the use of the word "consequently" links them as a cause and effect relationship. Without the "the exam was difficult" clause, "consequently many failed" has little sense, it is not such independent and can't stand alone as a sentence.

    Probably a comma would have been enough.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "the exam was difficult" and "many failed" are the independent clauses. However the use of the word "consequently" links them as a cause and effect relationship. Without the "the exam was difficult" clause, "consequently many failed" has little sense, it is not such independent and can't stand alone as a sentence.

    Probably a comma would have been enough.
    No. A comma would have been incorrect and would have resulted in a phenomenon known as a comma splice.

    That they can stand alone as sentences does not mean that they would independently communicate the meaning expressed by the sentence that combines them. All it means is that we could write

    The exam was difficult. Consequently, many failed.

    and we'd have two grammatically correct sentences.

    Such is not the case with an independent clause and a dependent clause. For example,

    Because the exam was difficult, many failed.

    in which the first clause cannot stand alone as a sentence, no matter what. Note that the meaning of this sentence and the original one is more or less the same; the difference is only grammatical.
     

    japonesa

    Member
    english
    It should surely read, "The exam was difficult. Consequently, many failed." Two straightforward independent sentences, with the second supporting the assertion of the first.
    However, in truth, few native Englsih speakers would spot the error although I'm not sure that's a good reason for ignoring it!
    Hope it helps. Your English must be very good if you're wondering about such pedantic phrases!.
    Good luck!
    Japonesa
     

    roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    I do agree with elroy. It's completely fine. In fact, I looked at my wonderful English Grammar book (A Comprehensive English Grammar by C.E. Eckersley & J.M. Eckersley).

    Here is what it says about the connectors:

    From page 307.

    4c "It is possible to have sentences linked only buy punctuation marks, commas, semi-colons or colons..."

    (Here is an example that is similar to the sentence in discussion:))
    "He doesn't work hard; he's incapable of hard work."

    Later on p. 311 he provides other examples:
    "He broke the rules of the school; therefore/so/consequently/accordingly he had to leave."

    Note that both sentences use the semicolon ;.

    Therefore, since the above comes from a "grammar" book. I would say that the author from shiness' book is not correct.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    4c "It is possible to have sentences linked only buy punctuation marks, commas, semi-colons or colons..."
    I agree with this, except that it's not correct to join two sentences with just a comma. If there is a comma and a coordinating conjunction, that's fine; but if the two sentences are joined with just a comma, we have a comma splice.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    I agree with this, except that it's not correct to join two sentences with just a comma. If there is a comma and a coordinating conjunction, that's fine; but if the two sentences are joined with just a comma, we have a comma splice.
    There is the exception where you can use the comma if you're joining short, parallel sentences. The most common example is "I came, I saw, I conquered" which I don't think I've ever seen punctuated differently.

    I agree with you, though, that the book probably wants a comma after "consequently" (I do read the sentence with a slight pause after that word if that means anything) or maybe an "and" before it, but that would clash with the semicolon.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    There is the exception where you can use the comma if you're joining short, parallel sentences. The most common example is "I came, I saw, I conquered" which I don't think I've ever seen punctuated differently.
    Yes, I suppose that would be a notable exception.
    I agree with you, though, that the book probably wants a comma after "consequently" (I do read the sentence with a slight pause after that word if that means anything) or maybe an "and" before it, but that would clash with the semicolon.
    Not necessarily. It is permissible - in fact, required in most cases - to join two indepedent clauses with a coordinating conjnction and a semicolon if one of them contains a comma (see the second sentence in my previous post). So if we add a comma after "consequently" we could by all means add a semicolon and an "and." My only issue with would be that "and consequently" is a little redundant.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    Not necessarily. It is permissible - in fact, required in most cases - to join two indepedent clauses with a coordinating conjnction and a semicolon if one of them contains a comma (see the second sentence in my previous post).
    Interesting. I would have been comfortable with a comma in your previous post, but is standard practice that a semicolon must be used there? (I'm very rusty with semicolons since I don't come across them often.)

    So if we add a comma after "consequently" we could by all means add a semicolon and an "and." My only issue with would be that "and consequently" is a little redundant.
    So a sentence like (without the comma, which seems unnecessary if the "and" is put in -- although like you said, it's unnecessary here anyway)

    The exam was difficult; and consequently many failed.

    would be alright? I'd have thought this would go against the begining a sentence with a conjunction rule (which has exceptions but this doesn't seem to fit the bill).
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Interesting. I would have been comfortable with a comma in your previous post, but is standard practice that a semicolon must be used there? (I'm very rusty with semicolons since I don't come across them often.)
    I don't know if it's "standard practice," but it's certainly correct and it's what I usually try to do. I think you can't go wrong by using a semicolon in such sentences.
    So a sentence like (without the comma, which seems unnecessary if the "and" is put in -- although like you said, it's unnecessary here anyway)

    The exam was difficult; and consequently many failed.

    would be alright? I'd have thought this would go against the begining a sentence with a conjunction rule (which has exceptions but this doesn't seem to fit the bill).
    Well, that rule only refers to the actual first word in a sentence. Anyway, that sentence is unusual precisely because there is no comma. :) The idea behind using a semicolon with a coordinating conjunction is to eliminate confusion and make it clear where one clause ends and the other begins.

    The exam was difficult; consequently many failed.
    The exam was difficult; consequently, many failed.
    The exam was difficult, and consequently many failed.
    The exam was difficult; and consequently, many failed.
    The exam was difficult and consequently many failed.

    All of the above are correct. Notice that you do not need any punctuation marks in this sentence because the clauses are very short and misunderstanding is unlikely.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    People who want to use semicolons can take Elroy's information about them to the bank.

    You'd expect someone my age to be habituated in their use, and also something of an authority-- but I write with my ear, and use the m-dash where others might use a semicolon or even an ellipsis. To me it's a matter of phrasing, not analytic grammar, and I say that as someone who's proven his fondness for the latter subject.

    In fact you'll search my writings in vain, here and anywhere, if you're looking for so much as a single semicolon.

    I'm not "right' in avoiding this punctuation mark-- it's just too similar in appearance to the colon. And I don't use colons either-- too tiny and nitpicky-looking. Maybe it's a matter of poor eyesight.

    There's a rule for the comma-- if it "sounds" like it needs a comma, put one in. If a reader would falter at some point in your sentence for want of a comma, put one in. If you are writing in a voice that is flat or deadpan or not strongly inflected, and forward momentum is your foremost stylistic consideration at the moment then by all means omit commas till the cows come, all too inexorably, home.

    For learners punctuation marks are not a matter of style so much as a subcategory of simple prose expression in a new language, replete with rules that have to be learned. As in jazz, a form of music also primarily preoccupied with phrasing, you can only play with the rules once you have learned them and can use them (or put a twist on them) unerringly.
    .
     
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