Celebrity English

June 29, 2006

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Learn grammar and vocabulary from the stars at Celebrity English!


Kate: “I’ve never had a doll before made after me.”

June 15, 2006

"I've never had a doll before made after me. It's very cool and really exciting. The eyes are different colors as well. They really paid attention to detail that way." – Kate Bosworth, who has one blue eye and one hazel eye, on having a Lois Lane doll fashioned in her likeness

In the first sentence, Kate has misplaced the modifier "before." This adverb describes when something happened. There are two actions in this sentence: "had a doll" and "made after me." Since "before" follows "had a doll," it seems to express that Kate has never owned a doll. Kate is attempting to explain that she has never had a doll made in her likeness, so the modifier should be placed after the shorter phrase "made after me" ("I've never had a doll made after me before ") or before the entire phrase "had a doll made after me" ("I've never before had a doll made after me"). Either syntax is acceptable, but the original is not.

This is what Kate should have said:

"I've never had a doll made after me before. It's very cool and really exciting. The eyes are different colors as well. They really paid attention to detail that way."


Paris: “I always have a boyfriend all the time, so I’ve never really got to know me”

June 15, 2006

"I always have a boyfriend all the time, so I've never really got to know me and, like, have time for myself because I spend all my energy on the boyfriend." – Paris Hilton

This quote contains a redundancy, an error in verb tense, an error in pronoun choice, and a superfluous colloquialism.

Paris says that she "always" has a boyfriend "all the time." These adverbs mean the same thing, so the use of both of them in the same sentence is redundant. Remove one of the adverbs to improve the sentence.

In the clause "I've never really got to know me," the verb is "have got." Paris is expressing something that has happened in the past and may be continuing in the present; the proper tense for this action is the present perfect, which is formed by combining the present tense of "have" with the past participle of the verb. The verb "get" has two past participles: "got" and "gotten." The use of the former means "to have" in a present sense ("I've got a craving for cookies") or "must" in a future sense ("I have got to get some cookies"), and the use of the latter means "to have received, to have had" ("I have always gotten cookies from my grandmother"). Since Paris is explaining that she has never had the opportunity to know herself, the proper past participle to use in this context is "gotten."

In the same clause, Paris uses the pronoun "me" to refer back to the subject "I." When the subject and the object (or, as in this case, the object of the infinitive phrase that refers back to the subject) in a sentence are the same, a reflexive pronoun should be used. Since the subject is in the first person, the proper pronoun to use in this case is "myself."

The use of "like" in a superfluous manner in a sentence is a colloquialism. While it is acceptable in everyday conversation, it should never be used in formal speech or standard written English.

This is what Paris should have said:

"I always have a boyfriend, so I've never really gotten to know myself and have time for myself because I spend all my energy on the boyfriend."


Denise: “the thing with Charlie and I”

June 13, 2006

"Unfortunately, the thing with Charlie and I – that was a court document that became public. I didn't hand it to a tabloid and say, 'Here, print this.'" – Denise Richards

This quote contains a pronoun error. Denise has used the subjective pronoun "I" as the object of a preposition.

There are two objects in the prepositional phrase "with Charlie and I": "Charlie" and "I." While it makes sense to say "the thing with Charlie," it does not make sense to say "the thing with I." The objective pronoun "me" should be used as the object of a preposition.

This is what Denise should have said:

"Unfortunately, the thing with Charlie and me – that was a court document that became public. I didn't hand it to a tabloid and say, 'Here, print this.'"


Jennifer: “Laying out in the sun is a year-round thing.”

June 11, 2006

"I even travel alone. I take a week and go by myself to a hotel on a beach. Laying out in the sun is a year-round thing." – Jennifer Aniston in Harper's Bazaar

This quote contains an error in diction. In the third sentence, Jennifer has incorrectly used a form of "lay" when she should have used a form of "lie."

"To lay" means "to place" and it is a transitive verb that takes an object. "To lie" means "to recline" and it is intransitive. It is sometimes useful to replace "lay" or "lie" with its definition to determine whether the word is being used properly in a sentence.

Jennifer has used "laying" as a gerund in the intransitive sense. Replace "laying" with the gerund form of its definition to see if its use in this sentence makes sense: "Placing out in the sun is a year-round thing." This is not logical. Try replacing "laying" with the gerund form of the definition of "lie" to see if its use makes sense: "Reclining out in the sun is a year-round thing." This is logical. This replacement exercise has proved useful determining which verb to use in this sentence.

Jennifer's use of "out" is excessively wordy. The sun is obviously outside, so removing "out" from the sentence makes it more concise. 

This is what Jennifer should have said:

"I even travel alone. I take a week and go by myself to a hotel on a beach. Lying in the sun is a year-round thing."


David: “a good mix of Rob and I” and “It’s just you want a good mix” and “I thought that was a funny mix if you do it”

June 9, 2006

"Kids like him, and I think that’s a good mix of Rob and I because we used to work together, and then maybe him because he’s new and people like him. It’s just you want a good mix, and I thought that was a funny mix if you do it – and he was into it. He was excited." – David Spade, on Benchwarmers co-star Jon Heder

This quote contains an error in pronoun choice, a pronoun omission, and awkward syntax.

In the phrase "a good mix of Rob and I," the object of the preposition "of" is "Rob and I." The pronoun "I" is in the subjective case. The object of a preposition should always be in the objective case. Change "I" to "me" to correct this error.

The first sentence is awkward and does not effectively convey meaning. David is describing a mix of three people and their attributes. He says "Kids like him" and refers to this quality as a thing ("that's"), then combines the quality with a pair of people. It would be more logical to structure the sentence such that the mix is described as being of three people. Change "that's" to "he's" and "mix of" to "mix with."

The end of the first sentence is awkward because David gives two reasons, but they are not in parallel structure. The inclusion of the words "then maybe him" throws the sentence off balance. Remove them to improve the syntax of the sentence.

The clause "It’s just you want a good mix" is awkward because it is missing a pronoun. Add "that" after "just" and notice the change in the flow of the words: "It’s just that you want a good mix."

The second sentence contains awkward syntax that could be improved by changing the verb tense sequence and switching the person of the pronouns. In the clause "I thought that was a funny mix if you do it," David is describing a cause ("if you do it") and an effect ("that was a funny mix"). The cause is in the present tense but the effect is in the past tense. This is not logical. Since David is describing a hypothetical situation, it would be most effective to employ the future unreal conditional tense: change "that was a funny mix" to "that would be a funny mix" and change "if you do it" to "if you did it." Since David is speaking about what he and his co-workers wanted, change "you" to "we" to further improve the sentence.

This is what David should have said:

"Kids like him, and I think he’s a good mix with Rob and me because we used to work together and because he’s new and people like him. It’s just that we wanted a good mix, and I thought that would be a funny mix if we did it – and he was into it. He was excited."


Angelina and Brad: “These mothers and children can be saved…”

June 5, 2006

"While we celebrate the joy of the birth of our daughter, we recognize that two million babies born every year in the developing world die on the first day of their lives. These mothers and children can be saved, but only if governments around the world make it a priority." – Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, in a statement issued by Getty Images

Getty Images is a media conglomerate that made a deal with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to license photographs of Shiloh for the purpose of raising funds for charity. The company issued a press release on the couple's behalf, and it appears as though Angelina and Brad have made an error in diction through a faulty reference. Before we examine this error, we should note that it is common for public relations agents to take the sentiments of their clients and fashion their words into language suitable for publication. As such, it is possible that neither Angelina nor Brad made the error. It may in fact be an error on the part of the professional writers who crafted the statement for the couple and the company. Getty Images has issued a formal correction. Let's look at what went wrong:

In the first sentence, Brad and Angelina recognize "two million babies born every year." In the second sentence, they refer back to the babies as "these mothers and children." This syntax implies that the babies are not only children, but mothers as well. The error can be corrected in two ways.

Getty Images has chosen to maintain the use of the pronoun "these" and remove "mothers and" from the subject. "These children" now refers back to "two million babies born every year" and establishes a logical reference.

Another option would be to change the meaning of the second sentence by removing the pronoun "these." The sentence would begin, "Mothers and children can be saved." This removes the reference but also imparts logic to the sentence (the plight of mothers who lose their children is compelling, so it makes sense that Angelina and Brad would want to save them as well).

This is what Getty Images has Angelina and Brad stating now:

"While we celebrate the joy of the birth of our daughter, we recognize that two million babies born every year in the developing world die on the first day of their lives. These children can be saved, but only if governments around the world make it a priority."


Lindsay: “for people that are older than me”

June 4, 2006

“This [movie] is acceptable for the younger audience and for people that are older than me. I think it was hard for me to find that kind of film, so it was nice that I found it.” Lindsay Lohan, on Just My Luck

The clause "for people that are older than me" contains two errors in pronoun case. First, Lindsay has used "that" to refer to "people." Since "people" are people, she should use "who." The second error is that Lindsay has used the objective "me" when she should have used the nominative "I."

This clause features an ellipsis, which is the omission of one or more words that are not necessary to the meaning of the sentence. However, the missing words must be kept in mind when determining the proper grammatical structure of the sentence.

When the conjunction "than" is used in an elliptical clause, the nominative case (I, he, she, we, they) must be used because the missing word is a verb that requires a subject. The sentence "He is taller than I." features an ellipsis, and the word that is missing is "am": "He is taller than I [am]." You would not say, "He is taller than me am." Keep the missing word in mind when using an elliptical construction.

This is what Lindsay should have said:

“This [movie] is acceptable for the younger audience and for people that are older than I. I think it was hard for me to find that kind of film, so it was nice that I found it.”


Josh: “There was one moment where” and “there was about maybe two inches”

June 3, 2006

"There was one moment where I really genuinely thought I was going to drown. I got caught on a wire and the safety people had been sent around the corner because they were in the shot and so they couldn't see me. The camera people couldn't see me and there was about maybe two inches of breathing room." – Josh Lucas, on filming Poseidon

This quote contains two errors: a poor choice of subordinating conjunction and an error in subject/verb agreement.

In the first sentence, the subordinating conjunction "where" (which introduces the adverb clause "I really genuinely thought I was going to drown") modifies "one moment." Since "one moment" refers to a point in time, not a place, the correct word to use is "when."

In the last sentence, the subject is "two inches," which is plural, and the verb is "was," which is singular. To correct the sentence, change the verb to the plural.

This is what Josh should have said:

"There was one moment when I really genuinely thought I was going to drown. I got caught on a wire and the safety people had been sent around the corner because they were in the shot and so they couldn't see me. The camera people couldn't see me and there were about maybe two inches of breathing room."


Sarah: “The only things I’ve tried to change is the perfunctory stuff”

June 3, 2006

"The only things I’ve tried to change is the perfunctory stuff. I mean, maybe it’s just that I’m old enough now to know you can’t change somebody and you shouldn’t try." – Sarah Jessica Parker, on remaking men

The first sentence contains an error in subject/verb agreement. The subject is "things," which is plural, and the verb is "is," which is singular. Sarah complicated the matter by using the uncountable noun "stuff" as the predicate nominative in this sentence; "stuff" is always singular and it, too, does not match the number of the subject.

The sentence could be corrected in many ways. One would be to change the verb to the plural "are" and replace "stuff" with a countable noun (such as "ones": "The only things I've tried to change are the perfunctory ones.") Another would be to change the subject to the singular "thing" ("The only thing I've tried to change is the perfunctory stuff.") Perhaps the best way would be to restructure the sentence to avoid the linking verb syntax altogether.

This is what Sarah should have said:

"I’ve tried to change only the perfunctory stuff. I mean, maybe it’s just that I’m old enough now to know you can’t change somebody and you shouldn’t try."