Usage and Grammar

Q. I teach an English-writing class, where I tell my Japanese students never to mix singular and plural pronouns and verbs (“the government has released its”; “the couple have had their”). I am also a Japanese-to-English translator and have turned in quite a few passages like this, albeit with a sense of guilt: “Company A offers our heartfelt sympathy to the tsunami victims.” What do you suggest in situations where “the company offer” and “its heartfelt sympathy” both sound odd?

A. The remedy (aside from the guilt thing) is to rewrite the sentence until it doesn’t sound odd. For instance, you could write, “We at Company A offer our heartfelt sympathy.” There is almost always a way to rethink (even the guilt thing).