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  1. #1
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    Default The demon was sitting

    Okay, I have a friend in a writers critique group who asked the following...

    'Was' litters my writing and I'm going to have to lose a few hundred of them, I know.

    I'm happy to be proved wrong, which is why I'm asking, but to my mind, 'The demon was sitting' is correct, if not the best of style.

    'The demon sat', unless it's in the very act of sitting is most definitely incorrect.

    So, do you make a grammatically correct sentence, grammatically incorrect, just get rid of the 'was'? Or am I totally wrong?
    For the most part, we try to avoid "To Be" verbs, as they are weak. But some times they are necessary. Is my friend correct?
    Thanks so much,
    Sarah

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: The demon was sitting

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahjen View Post
    Okay, I have a friend in a writers critique group who asked the following...

    For the most part, we try to avoid "To Be" verbs, as they are weak. But some times they are necessary. Is my friend correct?
    Thanks so much,
    Sarah
    Some enthusiasts have started a movement, or version of English called "E Prime" in which users substitute all forms of the verb "to be" with other verbs. This has several effects: obviously the passive becomes difficult to use; but it also makes the writer think of more apt ways of expressing their ideas. It also helps to avoid labelling. For example, instead of saying "John is bad", one should say "John behaves badly". As an exercise, writing in E-Prime can make you think (for example this reply illustrates the technique). But I don't see the necessity of it.

  3. #3
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: The demon was sitting

    What is wrong with the many possibilities of the verb "to be", why the necessity to avoid using it. I am in favour of the language changing to accomodate changing circumstances but I find the verb "to be" to be more than adequate and flexible for all eventualities.

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    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: The demon was sitting

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    What is wrong with the many possibilities of the verb "to be", why the necessity to avoid using it. I am in favour of the language changing to accomodate changing circumstances but I find the verb "to be" to be more than adequate and flexible for all eventualities.
    Do a Google on "E-Prime". There are plenty of good summaries about the wonders of language that suddenly appear when writers stop relying on "to be" as a lazy way to express everything -- according to devotees.
    One of my favourite arguments is that it encourages the writer to take responsibility for their statements. "You are a nerd" becomes "Your behaviour irritates me".
    There is also an ontological argument that if we stop automatically equating one thing with another "A is B", we will more likely see the properties of A more clearly.
    From my reading, there is some very good prose written in E-Prime, and also some that is quite turgid.

  5. #5
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: The demon was sitting

    I see no problems with most uses of to be; my prime hate is the over-use of "get".

  6. #6
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: The demon was sitting

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahjen View Post
    Okay, I have a friend in a writers critique group who asked the following...

    'Was' litters my writing and I'm going to have to lose a few hundred of them, I know.

    I'm happy to be proved wrong, which is why I'm asking, but to my mind, 'The demon was sitting' is correct, if not the best of style.

    'The demon sat', unless it's in the very act of sitting is most definitely incorrect.

    So, do you make a grammatically correct sentence, grammatically incorrect, just get rid of the 'was'? Or am I totally wrong?
    For the most part, we try to avoid "To Be" verbs, as they are weak. But some times they are necessary. Is my friend correct?
    Thanks so much,
    Sarah
    One would need a lot more context to see if 'The demon was sitting' was what would work best in a given situation, Sarah. As I see it, this has nothing to do with grammar at all.

  7. #7
    stuartnz's Avatar
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    Default Re: The demon was sitting

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    From my reading, there is some very good prose written in E-Prime, and also some that is quite turgid.
    (not a professional teacher) My problem with E-prime is the zealotry of its advocates, many of whom seem to insist that it is the only acceptable way ro write. In the example under discussion in this thread, saying "the demon was sitting" is not equating one thing with another, but it is still a breach of the E-Prime rules.

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