Is this sentence grammatically correct?
January 6, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

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"I was quite surprised upon receipt of the infringement notice; I do not recall the incident, much less it be intentional."

Is "much less it be" in this this sentence grammatically correct? Help us resolve this dispute so we can get back to fighting about the existence of the traffic ticket in the first place, like a normal household!
posted by lwb to Writing & Language (31 answers total)
 
It's not parallel to the rest of the sentence--much easier to break it up.
posted by Mngo at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2010


IMHO I'd go with: "much less it being intentional."

And I don't think you need a semicolon there; a full sentence stop makes more sense to me.
posted by carlh at 8:30 AM on January 6, 2010


Can you be more clear about what meaning you are trying to impart? It's not really clear from the sentence. I cannot, however, come up with a meaning that would make "much less it be" grammatically correct. So I'm gonna go with no, but I don't think I could give a proper correction unless I knew what you are trying to convey.

Perhaps:

"I was quite surprised upon receiving the infringement notice. I didn't recall the incident, much less it being intentional."

While this is grammatically correct, it doesn't make much sense. How could you remember intent if you don't even remember the incident itself? Feels redundant/awk.
posted by jckll at 8:33 AM on January 6, 2010


It's awkward. Keep it simple. Example:

I was quite surprised when I received the infringement notice. I do not recall the incident, and any infringement was definitely intentional.

Not trying to put words in your mouth, but flowery English is not a way to get out of paying a traffic ticket...
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


To clarify, this is a letter my boyfriend is writing to try to get a speeding fine commuted to a warning. He asked me to proof-read it, and I suggested he change "be" to "being", but he insists his original phrasing is grammatically correct, although he can't explain his word choice.

How could you remember intent if you don't even remember the incident itself? Feels redundant/awk.

Heh, I thought that too. He also has the gem: "I sincerely apologise for committing the alleged offence".
posted by lwb at 8:38 AM on January 6, 2010


So instead of a parallel expansion:

I do not recall the incident.
I do not recall much less it be intentional.

You're going for an insertion:

I do not recall the incident.
much less I do not recall it be intentional.

There's really no way to have that make sense. If you forgot the incident, you can't then remember that it was unintentional.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:40 AM on January 6, 2010


It is not grammatically correct because, as Mngo says, it is not parallel. You could say "I do not recall the incident, or consider it intentional", except it doesn't make sense to assign intention or lack of intention to something you don't recall.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:41 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not recall the alleged incident. Furthermore, I am certain that did the incident occur it was not intentional.

There's really no good way to say "I don't remember that happening" and simultaneously "I didn't do it on purpose" without getting deep into legalese.
posted by jckll at 8:43 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do not recall the incident, and certainly not that it was intentional.

The incident may have not have been perceived. Your own intention should have been, unless you are claiming memory problems.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2010


I think what he's trying to say is "The idea that this was an intentional incident is far-fetched, seeing as I don't even recall the incident in any way" but I don't think that's a good argument anyway.

Much better to say "I don't remember the incident and certainly never intended to {do whatever it was}" and leave it at that.

As for the other thing, "I sincerely apologise for committing the alleged offence," a better way of putting it is "I don't believe that I did {X}, but if it did happen, I sincerely apologise."

But again, not a good argument. If you're standing next to someone whose foot gets stomped on, saying "I don't think it was I who stomped you, but if it was I am sorry" might fly, but "I apologize for {traffic violation} if I committed it, but I don't think I did" isn't going to.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:47 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


IMHO I'd go with: "much less it being intentional."

Secondined. "Much less it be" makes no sense.
posted by desuetude at 8:47 AM on January 6, 2010


"I don't even recall the incident, much less do it intentionally" would be grammatically parallel, but it has a tinge of self-incrimination.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:54 AM on January 6, 2010


Much better to say "I don't remember the incident and certainly never intended to {do whatever it was}" and leave it at that.

O.J. Simpson couldn't have said it better.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2010


Since we're threading the needle here, "I do not," together with "it being," sounds like you currently don't intend it, perhaps better is: "...certainly not it having been intentional." This is a question about compressed grammar as well as legal strategy.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:58 AM on January 6, 2010


Oh, and seconding the logic problem. If he doesn't recall the incident, how can he judge whether it "it" was intentional or not? Does he not recall it, or does he deny that he was speeding? Not remembering isn't the same thing as alleging that it did not occur.

Perhaps "...I do not believe that this incident occurred even outside of my recollection, much less as an intentional infraction."

However, unpacking this a little further leads to the conclusion that it's immaterial whether he intentionally sped; it's a legit ticket even if he didn't mean to speed.

The traditional way to plead "I don't think I did this but I can't prove it but please don't give me this ticket" is to go to court, be polite to the judge, and cite your good driving record and/or be willing to take one of those all-day seminars in exchange for the points on your license.
posted by desuetude at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2010


"I don't even recall the incident, much less do it intentionally"

Would that have to "doing" in that case?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2010


Simple answer is NO it is not grammatically correct at all.

"be" needs to agree with "it." "It be intentional" on its own doesn't work, right? Just because it's tucked as a clause into a larger sentence doesn't make it correct.

Changing "be" to "being" makes it correct because "being" is now acting as a kind of adjective, and makes "being intentional" an adjective of "it." Grammatically, you could say as its own sentence "It is being intentional" (even though it doesn't actually make sense).

Beyond correct English, however, better English would be
"I do not recall the incident, much less that it was intentional."
"I do not recall the incident occurring or it being intentional."
"I do not recall that the incident occurred or that it was intentional."

But, as others have pointed out, this is a bad argument and you should just leave it out.
posted by thebazilist at 9:02 AM on January 6, 2010


it's immaterial whether he intentionally sped;

Maybe it was vehicular assault.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:03 AM on January 6, 2010


The traditional way to plead "I don't think I did this but I can't prove it but please don't give me this ticket" is to go to court, be polite to the judge, and cite your good driving record and/or be willing to take one of those all-day seminars in exchange for the points on your license.

He's following established procedure in our jurisdiction for commuting a first-offence and minor (<1>
I agree that the matter of intent isn't necessarily that relevant, but he does want to include it, and I'm picking my battles here.

Thank you all for your help. He will be reading through this thread in the morning, and I will pick best answers then :)
posted by lwb at 9:06 AM on January 6, 2010


er, minor (under 10km/h over speed limit) violation.
posted by lwb at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2010


"I didn't steal those delicious cookies, Mom, much less intend to eat them."
*wipes crumbs from corner of mouth*
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:08 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about: "I would never intentionally exceed the speed limit, and am not aware of having done so in this case."
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:10 AM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's following established procedure in our jurisdiction for commuting a first-offence and minor

Oh, oops, carry on, then!

How about: "I would never intentionally exceed the speed limit, and am not aware of having done so in this case."

This is a better reworking. Same intent, grammatically sensemaking, logically sound.
posted by desuetude at 9:14 AM on January 6, 2010


StickyCarpet: Yours is the first suggestion in this thread that he didn't try to nitpick, so congratulations! I think that will work well, and eliminates the original grammar problem entirely.
posted by lwb at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2010


Ack, the poor, diminished, subjunctive.

Furthermore, I am certain that did the incident occur it was not intentional.

Should be

Furthermore, I am certain that had the incident occured, it would not have been intentional.
posted by mr. remy at 9:54 AM on January 6, 2010


> he insists his original phrasing is grammatically correct

He is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is not even close to being grammatical. I say this not to make him feel bad but in the hopes he will become aware that he does not know enough about grammar to be making such judgments. (Note: I am not being prescriptivist here; this is not a matter of violating fake grammar rules like not ending sentences with prepositions, it is a matter of violating the real grammar of English.)

And mr. remy is of course correct about "did the incident occur it was not intentional" being wrong as well. People who are not absolutely confident of their ability to wield Highfalutin' Literary English with aplomb and accuracy should not go down that road, but should write as simply and straightforwardly as they can. There is nothing wrong with "I do not recall the incident, and if it happened it was not intentional."
posted by languagehat at 10:33 AM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't ever apologize for something you didn't do.
posted by nomad at 10:55 AM on January 6, 2010


Personally, I'd go with something like:
"I was quite surprised upon receipt of the infringement notice. I do not recall the incident, and it certainly was not intentional."

or: "I was quite surprised to receive the infringement notice. I do not recall the incident, and it certainly was not intentional."
posted by James Scott-Brown at 11:14 AM on January 6, 2010


I have no recognaizance viz a viz the notarized occurent,
be it ever to have befallen,
expounding the flabberghastance with which I descried your aforesent accusatory communique.
posted by mjg123 at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2010


(or what languagehat said)
posted by mjg123 at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2010


jckll: ""I was quite surprised upon receiving the infringement notice. I didn't recall the incident, much less it being intentional."

While this is grammatically correct, it doesn't make much sense. How could you remember intent if you don't even remember the incident itself? Feels redundant/awk.
"

Makes sense to me. It's like saying "I don't remember even seeing this guy before, much less helping him with his scheme" when accused of conspiring with someone. You're disclaiming two things, the first of which makes the second obviously unlikely (which is the whole point).
posted by Rhaomi at 7:42 PM on January 6, 2010


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