3 Types of Sentence Errors Resulting from Missing Articles

In each of the following sentences, lack of an article (aand, or the) results in a grammatically flawed sentence. Discussion after each example, followed by a revision, identifies the problem.


1. In 2006, The Simpsons television show paid tribute to the 1974 Oakland A’s in an episode.


The first instance of the article the, as an element of a composition title, cannot do double duty as an article that performs a grammatical function in the sentence, and the statement must be revised so that it includes such an article: “In 2006, an episode of the television show The Simpsonspaid tribute to the 1974 Oakland A’s.” (However, if “television show” were omitted from the original sentence, no further revision would be necessary.)


2. During our discussion, we’ll hear insights from a chief financial officer, investment banker, and others.


“Chief financial officer” requires the article that precedes it, while the plural pronoun others does not need one. But “investment banker” is left in the lurch; it cannot share the article that precedes the first item in the list: “During our discussion, we’ll hear insights from a chief financial officer, an investment banker, and others.” (Even if a specific designation were to replace others, an article would have to precede each item: “During our discussion, we’ll hear insights from a chief financial officer, investment banker, and chief risk officer” implies that one person with three roles, rather than three people who each have one role, is being identified.)


3. Live Nation bought a majority stake in Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bonnaroo, BottleRock, Lollapalooza, Governor’s Ball, and Electric Daisy Carnival.


Here, some of the listed event names do not require an article, but those that end with a word describing a type of event do: “Live Nation bought a majority stake in the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bonnaroo, BottleRock, Lollapalooza, the Governors Ball, and the Electric Daisy Carnival.”

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Words Ending in “-ly” Aren’t Always Adverbs

Ask anyone to name a distinguishing characteristic of an adverb, and the reply might be that such a word ends with -ly. Although that is often true, some adverbs, such as fast, lack the ending. For this reason, they are known as flat adverbs. In addition, many words ending in -ly aren’t adverbs.

Many adjectives end in -ly (which means—and is cognate with—“like”), including some that are also adjectives in their “flat” form. For example, dead and deadly are both adjectives. Deadly may look like an adverb, but one cannot say that one person stared deadly at another person; a correct treatment would be to employ deadly as an adjective and use the noun form of stared: “He gave her a deadly stare.” A more prominent error is to use timely as if it were an adverb, as in “She was instructed to complete the report timely.” But it is an adjective, and should be treated as such, as in “She was instructed to complete the report in a timely manner.”

Some words ending in -ly serve as both adjectives and adverbs, such as friendlylikely, and stately. (Other adjectives that look like adverbs but serve only the former function include costly and worldly.) Others, which do not have root words, include earlyand ugly (both adjectives and adverbs) and burly and grisly (which are only adjectives). Occasionally, an adjective ending in -ly can be converted into an adverb by changing the ending to -lily, but words like friendlily and uglily are rare in writing and almost unheard of in speech.

Many adjectives are merely nouns referring to people and with -ly attached, as in the case of brotherlyneighborly, and scholarly, or pertaining to time (for example, monthly) or direction (for example, northerly). Note that many other nouns also end in -ly, such as assembly (based on the verb assemble) and bully (where the ending is a result of the pronunciation of the source word from another language), and some verbs do, too, such as complyand reply.

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