Faulty predication occurs when a sentence’s subject and predicate do not make sense together, and this problem can certainly create headaches and confusion for readers. In other words, the sentence’s subject cannot carry out the activity that the sentence’s verb describes, or the subject can’t be described by the verb. Here’s an example of faulty predication:
The purpose of the book persuades readers to get involved in community service.
In the sentence above, the subject is “purpose.” However, the purpose itself cannot “persuade,” as the verb in this sentence states. In other words, a purpose is not capable of the perceptive act of persuading. This faulty predication can be easily revised so that the subject and verb are relevant to each other:
The author of the book persuades readers to get involved in community service.
In the revised sentence, the subject is “author,” and the verb is “persuades.” An author can certainly attempt to persuade his or her readers.
Here’s another demonstration of faulty predication:
The organization believes that more grant proposals must be written as soon as possible.
This sentence indicates that the organization believes, but an organization cannot do such a thing—only people can believe. A revised version of this sentence may look similar to this one:
The organization’s board members believe that more grant proposals must be written as soon as possible.
The revised sentence shows that the board members, who are indeed people, believe.
Also among faulty predication errors are those involving the use of is where and is when. Here are some examples of these phrases used incorrectly:
A vacation is where people get away from school and/or work to relax.
A simile is when a comparison includes the words “like” or “as.”
The first example contains a faulty use of is where. Vacation is not technically a specific place. The second example illustrates incorrect use of is when. A simile is not a time. Like other types of faulty predication, these errors can be corrected painlessly:
A vacation is a break people take to get away from school and/or work.
A simile is a comparison that includes the words “like” or “as.”
Another member of the bothersome faulty predication family is the erroneous use of the reason is because. Take a look at the following case in point:
The reason the team lost the game is because they were missing their key players.
The sentence above demonstrates the redundancy of the use of the reason is because. The reason and is because essentially mean the same thing—both phrases describe the cause.
The reason is because is also incorrect because the subject “reason” is a noun, and the verb “is” requires another noun or an adjective in order to complete the predicate (the part of the sentence that discusses the subject). Basically, “reason” needs a subject complement. Here’s where the additional noun or the adjective can come into play.
The reason is ______________. (Insert a noun or adjective here.)
The reason is a lack of talented players. (“Lack of talented players” is a noun phrase).
The reason is obvious. (“Obvious” is an adjective.)
“Because” is a conjunction, not a noun or an adjective; therefore, it cannot be the subject complement that “is” requires.
Fortunately, this problem, like the preceding ones, can be fixed quite easily:
The reason the team lost the game is that they were missing their key players.
The team lost the game because they were missing their key players.
As seen in the sentences above, there is more than one way to eliminate the unnecessary repetition found in the reason is because. Note that most other types of faulty predication can also be remedied in more than one way—there is no one correct solution for these issues.
You can test your understanding of this handout by completing Student Success Center exercises available here.
Copyright 2005 by the Student Success Center and the University of Houston-Victoria.
Created 2005 by Kelli Trungale.