Curiouser Q&A: Sweat, Effect, Colons & Gotten

books I've had some different questions come my way regarding grammar. I consulted various stylebooks to give you the best answers.

What is the past tense of sweat?

I went to Garner’s Modern American Usage for a clear explanation of sweat vs. sweated. “Although sweated is a variant past tense and past participle, sweat is the standard form when the verb is used in physical senses—e.g.: ‘Neil Hord didn’t mind the heat as he sweat under his hard hat.’ But in quasi-figurative phrases (‘We really sweated over that one!’), the past forms are sweated—e.g.: ‘Remington Park fans have sweated their way through another summer.’”


When do I use a colon and a semicolon?

The colon has five uses.

  1. It links two separate clauses or phrases by indicating a step forward from the first to the second: the step may be from an introduction to a main theme, from a cause to an effect, or from a premise to a conclusion.
  2. It can introduce a list of items. “The celebrating towns are as follows: Dallas, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Liberal, Kansas.”
  3. It can introduce a quote: “Here is a lovely quote just for you.”
  4. It appears after salutations. “Dear Mrs. Awesome Pants:”
  5. It separates titles, hours and minutes, and Bible verses. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography; 12:15 p.m.; and John 11:35.

The semicolon separates parts that need a more distinct break than a comma can signal, but that are too closely connected to be made into separate sentences. Here are three uses:

  1. The semicolon unites closely connected sentences; typically, as in this very sentence, there is no conjunction between clauses.
  2. It separates items in a series when any element in the series contains an internal comma. “These recipes will need to be made immediately: chicken and rice with potatoes; roast with carrots and onions; pasta with garlic bread; and chocolate cake.”
  3. It can be used to give a weightier pause than a comma would. This is usually up to the editor. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do with him; but there are some things he would do without me.”


When do I use affect and effect?

Affect is always a verb; it means “to influence.” Effect is generally a noun, meaning “result” or “consequence.” When it is used as a verb, it means “to bring about; to produce.”

“The cold weather is affecting my health.”

“The effects of your absence are detrimental.”

“Her personality effected changes in him.” (It “brought about” changes.)


Is the word gotten correct?

Charles Whibley, an English author and journalist, once said, “It [gotten] is like a piece of dead wood in a tree, and is better lopped off."