Politics in America

Politics in America

politics in America

Friends discuss politics in America. The Grammar focus is on Modals.

Gary: “Did you see the latest poll numbers?”
Maddock: “I don’t pay much attention to them.”
Gary: “These Zoomers want younger politicians. They want to get rid of all the old White guys. Everybody over sixty gets the boot.”
Maddock: “Age limits. That’ll be the day. Look around the world.”
Gary: “You shouldn’t underestimate this new generation.”
Maddock: “That would be fantastic to see a new generation with new ideas. But the old White guys have all the money.”
Gary: “Never say never.”


Pay attention means to heed, to be attentive, become aware of, or be responsive to someone or something. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Gets the boot means to be fired, be dismissed, lose one’s job. The idea is of being kicked out.
See online Idioms Dictionary.
That will be the day refers to something that is very unlikely to happen. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Underestimate means to place too low a value on, to underrate; to estimate something to be smaller or less important than it actually is. See online Dictionary.
Never say never means nothing is impossible, anything can happen. See online Idioms Dictionary.

Suggested Topic for Comments: Modals

“You shouldn’t underestimate this new generation.” The core meaning of the modal “should” in social interactions (vs. logical probability) is a weak obliging force. Its counterpart in Phrasal Modals is “be supposed to.” “Should not” means “ought not.”


New Idioms are “Pigs might fly” and “Until hell freezes over.” The Grammar focus is on Complementation.

Barb: “Do polls mean anything or is it just the media controlling our thoughts?”
Ellen: “You mean we don’t know what to think until they tell us?”
Barb: “Well anyway, it seems everybody in the USA favors age limits on politicians.”
Ellen: “A new poll?”
Barb: “Ya, CBS News poll with a pretty small margin of error. That’s not so surprising, actually. But there wasn’t much difference between Democrats and Republicans. That’s surprising.”
Ellen: “Of course it is. When they agree on anything it’s like pigs might fly.”
Barb: “And hell freezes over. Everybody wants more women in office, too.”
Ellen: “That’s a good thing, surprises me a little.”
Barb: “And young people want a maximum age of 60 on politicians.”
Ellen: “Ha! And hair will grow on my palm. I bet the average age right now is more like 70. I mean, even retirement is 65.”
Barb: “We don’t know yet what changes Zoomers will bring about.
Ellen: “We’ll find out, won’t we? Hope it’s better than the generation before.”
Barb: “Me, too.”


Pigs might fly means never. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Until hell freezes over means forever, endlessly. See online Idioms Dictionary.
And hair will grow on my palm means it will never happen. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Bring about means to cause something to happen. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Find out means to learn or ascertain something. See online Idioms Dictionary.

Suggested Topic for Comments: Complementation

“We don’t know yet what changes Zoomers will bring about.”

Complementation is a complicated aspect of English grammar, occurring in many different kinds of English sentences. In our sample sentence from the dialogue, we have the verb “know” which could be intransitive and not require an object, as in “We know”; or as here, it is transitive, and what follows is therefore the object of the verb. We understand already that what follows would often be a noun phrase:

“We know [this subject.]”
“We know [Mary].”
“We know [the cultural background of Texas].”

Therefore we can say that when a complement follows, it is nounlike but embedded into the larger independent clause as a direct object. We have “We don’t know yet [what changes Zoomers will bring about].” Syntactically this is the verb “know” followed by a Wh-clause derived from the Wh-question “What changes will Zoomers bring about?” — the complement.

That Wh-clause is called the “complement” of the verb, and because it is a Wh-clause, we know there will be a slight change in word order. We also know that “what” becomes the complementizer in such instances, unlike many other sentences with the complementizer “that“, for example:

Many people claim [that climate change is dangerous.]
Modern research shows [that coffee is very healthful.]

In our sentence under investigation, with an embedded Wh-clause, “what” is the complementizer (instead of “that“) and “what changes Zoomers will bring about” is the entire complement.

Aberrations: In some dialects of modern American English, as for example among African-American speakers and in the larger New York City metropolitan area (Diane Larsen-Freeman), the word order may not be changed and in informal conversation we might find this sentence expressed as “We don’t know yet what changes will Zoomers bring about.” They might also fail to invert, as is normal with Wh-questions and answers, and say: “I’m sorry, I don’t know what is the time,” instead of “I don’t know what the time is.” But these are abnormal variations.

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