Can you find the mistake?

 We’ll have to wait for the final count to be sure, but it looks like it’s just between you and I.
Answer: between you and me. We’re all trained to be polite, and something in us doesn’t want to say “I.”  Think of it this way: would you say, “Give it to I”??

The Thanksgiving table setting is comprised of some new pieces and some family treasures.
Answer: One of the most frequently misused words in the English language. “Comprise” means contain. The word you want here is “composed”; or if you’re dead set on using “comprise,” the correct structure would be “the table setting comprises some new pieces …”  Correct, but stuffy.

Take this folder with you and give it to whomever is chairing the meeting.
Answer: To whoever. The entire clause “who is chairing the meeting” is the object of the preposition “to,” and “whoever” is the subject of that clause.  Say it this way – “whom is chairing the meeting” — and you’ll hear why it’s wrong.
 
He was so disinterested in the speech he almost fell asleep in his chair.
Answer: No matter how boring the speech, you’re disinterested only if you’re completely objective. This fellow was probably “uninterested.”
 
It may be correct usage, but it’s different than what I learned in school.
Answer: different from. From. From.

Walking down the unfamiliar street, the house numbers seemed to make no logical sense.
Answer: Grammarians call this a dangling modifier, or dangling participle. The house numbers themselves weren’t walking down the street. Rephrase to something like this: As I walked down that unfamiliar street, I could see that the numbers made no logical sense.
 
Our contractor only designed the guest bathroom.
Answer: This may not even be an error. Depends on the speaker’s actual meaning. If the contractor only designed the bathroom but didn’t build it, the sentence is correct as is. If she worked on just this one room, it should read “designed only the guest bathroom.”
 
Barrel riders know how important it is to quickly leave the starting gate.
Answer: Trick question. There is no error. The rule against split infinitives died somewhere back in the 1890s. How else can we expect  “to boldly go where no man has gone before”? However, you could improve this sentence by putting “quickly” at the very end of the sentence – not to avoid a split infinitive but to add punch.

“Good writing is surely difficult enough without the forbidding of things that have historical grammar, and present intelligibility, and obvious convenience, on their side.”    –Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1926),

Maggie Stuckey, editor

Have a grammar question that’s bugging you?  Send me a note; I’ll do my best. 

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