We learned last week that failure to include a subject or verb in a sentence will cause a sentence fragment. Even when subjects and verbs are both present, you still may not have a grammatically correct sentence. Subjects and verbs must fit together grammatically. When they don’t, the sentence has a mixed structure, or faulty predication. A mixed construction is a sentence with parts that do not logically fit together.
A predicate is the part of the sentence that makes a statement about the subject, and the main part of the predicate is the verb. Sentences must be logical, meaning the predicate must have the ability to act on the subject. Faulty predication is created when the subject can’t logically do or be whatever the verb says it’s doing or being. Consider the sentence below:
- A quality that I admire is someone who is patient.
“Someone” is not really a “quality,” so this sentence isn’t logical. This is considered faulty predication because the subject (quality) isn’t consistent with the predicate (is someone who is patient).
- A quality that I admire is patience.
Is patience a quality? Yes. But note that a person can be patient; a quality is patience. The only way to correct the sentence is to change the form of the word, patient.
- The rules of the game expect all players to be in full uniform.
“Rules” can’t “expect” anything, right? Rules can require:
- The rules of the game require that all players be in full uniform.
Trouble with Linking Verbs
Another illogical construction with faulty predication is using when, where, and because immediately after the linking verb “is.”
- An idiom is when a word or phrase has an unpredictable meaning.
In the previous sentence, the subject, “idiom” is a noun. The sentence is illogical, because a noun must follow the linking verb “is.” When used as a linking verb, “is” must join two nouns:
- An idiom is a word or phrase with an unpredictable meaning.
The same rule applies to “where” in the following sentence:
- The summit is where a mountain is the highest.
Omit “where” and follow “is” with a noun:
- The summit is the highest point of a mountain.
- A gulf is where a portion of ocean or sea is partially surrounded by land.
- A gulf is a portion of ocean or sea partially surrounded by land.
Reason. . . is Because
Using “is because” following “reason” creates a confusing structure. It’s redundant, as the meaning of “because” is “the reason that.” It’s not only illogical, but confusing:
- The reason I like to play tennis is because it keeps me in shape.
- I like to play tennis because it keeps me in shape.
- The reason I went to work early was to catch up on emails.
- I went to work early to catch up on emails.
Both of these examples are corrected by removing “the reason” and the linking verb preceding “because.”
Finding these types of sentence-level errors is tricky, and they are often overlooked in academic papers. Read sentences carefully, paying close attention to the subject and predicate of each sentence. You can also try using MS Word’s FIND tab to locate illogical constructions such as “is when,” “is where,” and “reason. . . is because.” When working to eliminate faulty predicate construction, nothing works better than a close reading.
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