Fix It! Grammar: Digging Deeper

Mar 17, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Last week we answered some of your general questions about Fix It! Grammar. This week we thought we’d take a closer look at each of the books in the series and go a little deeper to answer your questions. Many of these questions were first posted in our online forum.

We are using Fix-It! Grammar Book 1: The Nose Tree and are on Week 4. I have a question about Day 2. The sentence reads, "In due time the second soldier's turn to watch came." The word soldier's is marked as a noun, but isn't it an adjective modifying turn? Thank you for your help.

In this sentence the word soldier's is a possessive noun. Possessive nouns indicate ownership, relationship, or association. Grammatically they fit into the category of noun, that is, a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea. A formal way to understand the second soldier's turn is to think of it like this—the turn of the second soldier. Looking at it that way, it's easy to see why we can't actually call soldier's an adjective.

In Latin, we would call soldier’s a genetive noun. Genetive nouns include nouns that show possession. Now, some grammar books also would indicate soldier’s to be an adjective. You’re right in that sense; the word soldier’s is acting like an adjective by providing more information about the noun turn, but in essence it remains a noun. Ah, we just have to love our English language which is so full of oddities and exceptions!


We are in Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood and are up to Week 16, but we are still having trouble with clauses. We know that clauses need a subject and verb. We know which clauses are main or dependent. But, we have a hard time figuring out mostly where a clause ends and another one may begin. Sometimes we’ll think a part of a sentence is a main clause, only to realize that it’s split into two clauses. Would anyone have any tips to help us out?

The ending of a clause is not as important as the beginning, so as long as you include the subject and verb and stop the clause at a logical place, you are good to go!

For the starting point, do not include these types of constructions that come before a clause: prepositional phrase, adverb (-ly or other), participial phrase, phrase about a time period (e.g. Monday, one morning, last night). Also, don’t include coordinating conjunctions. Do include subordinating conjunctions (www.´╗┐asia words), who-which-that, and other relative pronouns. These words make clauses dependent instead of independent. Make use of the grammar card on clause starters, too.


In Fix It! Grammar Book 3: Frog Prince on Week 12, Day 4, part of the passage states, “Now, what Dorinda, Maribella, and King Morton did not divine was that Arthur was not truly a frog…” The Teacher Manual has “What Dorinda...divine” labeled as a subject. Why? Did and divine are verbs.

Entire clauses sometimes function as the subject, which means within that subject clause there will be another subject (or subjects) and verb (or verbs). Notice that beneath the bracketed S are more S’s and V’s for the subjects and verbs of the clause itself, but the whole clause is the subject of was. The entire explanation of how to figure this out is in the Teacher’s Manual on page 82 under “Grammar Notations, Advanced,” but don’t worry about it if this is too hard for your student—it’s advanced, as the notations indicate!


We are in Fix It! Grammar Book 4: The Little Mermaid and have a question about Week 21, Day 2. As my son and I were working on the assignment, we were a little confused about the use of lithest and were. I see the note on how to form superlatives—Form superlatives using -est, not with both “most” and “-est.” We both thought lithest sounded funny. Would it be incorrect to say most lithe?

Also, we’re wondering why were is used instead of are in “every step you take will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives.”

Lithest does sound strange, but that’s likely because it’s not a word we frequently use. It is correct, however, and while you could convert it to most lithe, it’s preferred to use the superlative form, lithest, when that is correct. You can check a dictionary to see the superlative forms when you like.

Were is correct because the verb is in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is used for contrary-to-fact statements. In this case, the Little Mermaid is not actually treading upon sharp knives, but she feels as if she is.


I am teaching Fix It! Book 5: Chanticleer to a student, and we both have a question about Week 5, Day 3. We are wondering why we can’t use a comma and the coordinating conjunction and between the main clause, long preposition, and the second main clause. Must the MC, cc MC always be close together, never having a phrase between them? I would have thought we could have punctuated the second sentence as follows: His snout was small, midway between furtive, glowing eyes, and from the look of this bete noire, I almost died for fear.

She can! There are often several ways to fix these, and hers is one of them. Sometimes the book suggests alternative fixes, but in the interest of keeping instruction to about a page per passage, we couldn’t cover everything.

Having said that, students often overuse the MC, cc MC pattern, losing the impact of each main clause, so it’s worth having a conversation, at least, about whether the construction sounds better as two sentences or as MC, cc MC. If she prefers to connect them with a comma and keep and, that’s perfectly legitimate and does work here.


How does Fix It! Book 6: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight differ from the earlier books in the series?

Congratulations for making it to the final book! That’s truly a wonderful accomplishment! This course will be especially fun, not only because of the fascinating story, but also because this is the year when all of the prior books’ teachings come together. You will spend this final year seeing how grammar works in a real-life story as you focus on advanced editing techniques. The beginning of the course will provide some review of concepts, but by the mid-way mark, you will be using all that you have learned to work on real-life editing of story text. This is a challenging yet fun course that will prepare you for the rigors of college-level editing and writing. We hope you enjoy it!

We hope that you enjoyed reading some of the questions we have encountered about Fix It! Grammar. Remember, you are never left to figure things out alone. We are here to help! Join our forums. When you do, you will have an entire community at your fingertips, supporting you as you teach your students!

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