Grammar

Science-Fiction_HandbookNow, to answer yesterday's question of the day... the de Camp's wrote:

If you see nothing wrong with such sentences as "He stared like he had seen a ghost," or "An individual can return to any period of his entire life providing his passage is not blocked by engrams," you do not know enough about writing English to tackle fiction.

Their answer, word-for-word, is:

The first sentence uses "like" for "as"; the second, "providing" for "provided."


Thus, "He stared like he had seen a ghost," should be, "He stared as he had seen a ghost." Or, perhaps, "He stared as if he had seen a ghost." And, "An individual can return to any period of his entire life providing his passage is not blocked by engrams," should be, "An individual can return to any period of his entire life provided his passage is not blocked by engrams."

The confusion with like/as is a common one, and is the one of the two that is, I think, the most easily spotted. The second is more difficult. "Providing" is a gerund, a verbal that ends in -ing and functions as a noun. What's needed in that position of the sentence is a verb, not a noun.

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