Faulty Predication

from http://www.nipissingu.ca/English/HORNBOOK/faultpre.htm

 

Faulty predication—sometimes called "illogical predication"—occurs when a subject and a predicate do not make sense together. Both subject and verb are not grammatically related or logically related.


Examples of This Trouble

Wrong: The purpose of cinema was invented to entertain people.
(The "purpose" was not invented. "Cinema" was invented.)
Corrected: The purpose of cinema is to entertain people.
Corrected: Cinema was invented to entertain people.

Wrong: A compromise between urban life and country life would be the ideal place to live.
(A "compromise" is not an "ideal place.")
Corrected: A compromise between urban life and country life would create the best living arrangement.
Corrected: A community that offered a compromise between urban life and country life would be the ideal place to live.


How to Avoid This Problem

The key to avoiding faulty predication is making sure that there is no breakdown in the connection between subject and predicate. Quite often this problem appears in sentences that contain the verb "to be." When a form of "to be" joins a subject with a complement (the word or words that describe the subject), the complement that follows the verb does not grammatically or sensibly describe the subject.

Wrong: A characteristic that I loathe is a person who is a hypocrite.
(A "characteristic" is not a "person." The characteristic is found in the person.)
Corrected: A characteristic that I loathe is hypocrisy.
Corrected: A kind of person that I loathe is one who is a hypocrite.
Corrected: I loathe a person who is a hypocrite.


Faulty Predication with "Is When"

Faulty predication also occurs when a writer uses the construction "is when" or "is where." Definitions require nouns on both side of the verb "to be."

Wrong: A potlach is when Northwest Coast peoples hold a feast and distribute valuable gifts to their guests.
(A potlach is not a time.)
Corrected: A potlach is a lavish ceremonial feast held by Northwest Coast peoples, at which the host distributes valuable gifts to the guests.

 Wrong: Anorexia nervosa is where young women refuse to eat and gradually starve themselves to death.
(Anorexia is not a place.)
Corrected: Anorexia nervosa is a disorder suffered by young women who refuse to eat and gradually starve themselves to death.


Faulty Predication with "the Reason Is Because"

The commonly heard construction "the reason is because . . . " is redundant. "Because" means "for the reason that," so "the reason is because" literally means "the reason is for the reason that."

Wrong: The reason the school burned down is because someone fell asleep while smoking.
Corrected: The reason the school burned down is that someone fell asleep while smoking.
Corrected: The school burned down because someone fell asleep while smoking.