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A grammatical dilemma

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Reilith, Apr 9, 2015.

  1. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

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    Okay, so I can't seem to find this anywhere online (I know I am not looking hard enough, but it's 2:25 AM here) so I decided to just ask you Scribes.

    I wrote a sentence that goes:

    "So he gave up on trying to figure out from Madden and quietly asked Cinneria at dinner once; she gave him one of her half-smiles and told him to ask Madden."

    And here my word processor makes the conundrum. It underlines "to figure" as if it doesn't go with "trying". It keeps telling me to change it to "figuring" but in my head "trying to figure out" sounds completely correct. Is there some rule I am missing, or is there really a difference here? Because using "trying figuring out" sounds really harsh when I roll it on my tongue.

    Any input is welcome.
     
  2. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    Word processors sometimes don't understand human language. "Trying to figure out" is perfectly acceptable, and actually the more grammatically correct (and palatable) phrase. I know that if I saw "trying figuring out" in a sentence, I would do a double take and chalk it up to poor editing/a typo.
     
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    If I may suggest removing the "on". He gave up trying to figure out from...
     
  4. This might not work but you could try an it between figure and out.
     
  5. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    oh yes, I second that. "He gave up trying to figure it out from..." I'd certainly call that a winner.
     
  6. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    Personally, I am a verbose overwriter in first-draft, and then a ruthless reducer in edit mode - I suggest "He gave up on Madden". :)
     
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I agree with the comments on removing the "on".

    For myself, I had to reread the sentence multiple times to make sense of it. Without the preceding sentences to give it context, it read awkward to me. Once I figured out the context, it seemed to read fine. Take that for what it's worth. Sometimes it's more difficult to comment on a sentence when it's taken in isolation.

    But "trying to figure" works fine in my opinion.
     
  8. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    I'm not an expert, but it sounds like you are using the transitive form of the verb 'figure' without an object. Figure out what? I bet if you included an object, the red underline would disappear, and you wouldn't have to use 'figuring' either.

    But, I think I'd go with cupiscent's recommendation--scrap the whole phrase.
     
  9. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    I think the word you're looking for is 'ascertain'.


    Example....He could not ascertain from Madden.
     
  10. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    I don't think that's right. 'Ascertain' is a transitive verb. So you'd still have the same problem: ascertain what? Transitive verbs require an object.
     
  11. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    Well, obviously we don't have much to work with. I didn't really intend for it to be seen as a completed sentence, I was just suggesting it. Give me the entire page and I'll rewrite it to make ascertain shine. I can have ascertain giving you glittery lap dances upon the soul of your imagination if you like.
     
  12. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    Agreed. I like the word and use it myself.

    Just trying to identify the problem with Reilith's sentence as is.
     
  13. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

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    Thank you all for your kind answers. The object as many of you were asking is noted in the sentence prior to this one. It is the fact that Madden is hiding something, that the other protagonist (Steffan) is thing to figure out. I will rewrite it in a different way, but as this is the first draft I still let myself go while writing before I get to the nitty-gritty editing process. If I manage to edit it out in the way that the object of "figuring out" then I presume the problem will be gone. Thank you all!
     
  14. spectre

    spectre Sage

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    Sounds like an international grammatical dilemma, I'd ignore it myself. Literature is alive, we're not writing on tombstones.
     
    Reilith likes this.
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