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The president (and his assistant) were expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m.

I didn't think it was wrong but The Punctuation Guide - Parentheses says it's wrong.

It says:

Whatever the material inside the parentheses, it must not be grammatically integral to the surrounding sentence. If it is, the sentence must be recast. This is an easy mistake to avoid. Simply read your sentence without the parenthetical content. If it remains grammatically correct, the parentheses are acceptable; if it doesn’t, the punctuation must be altered.

It says if the sentence remains grammatically correct without the parenthetical content, then parenthesis are acceptable.

So if I just say:

The president and his assistant were expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m.

It still remains correct. So why can't I use parentheses?

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  • 4
    Why do you think it is wrong? Did your teacher or book say it was wrong?
    – James K
    Feb 25, 2022 at 6:09
  • I didn't think it was wrong but this website says it's wrong. thepunctuationguide.com/parentheses.html
    – user152133
    Feb 25, 2022 at 6:12
  • What is unclear about that web page "Whatever the material inside the parentheses, it must not be grammatically integral to the surrounding sentence. If it is, the sentence must be recast. This is an easy mistake to avoid. Simply read your sentence without the parenthetical content. If it remains grammatically correct, the parentheses are acceptable; if it doesn’t, the punctuation must be altered."
    – James K
    Feb 25, 2022 at 6:17
  • 1
    When you as a question you should include any links to sites that you have read. And you should explain what is hard for you to understand. This question is not clear and not complete.
    – James K
    Feb 25, 2022 at 6:19
  • Thank you for correcting it for me. ^-^
    – user152133
    Feb 25, 2022 at 6:21

3 Answers 3

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By "without the parenthetical content" it means you remove everything inside the round brackets.

Without the parenthetical content you get the sentence:

The president were ...

And this is clearly incorrect: the subject and verb don't agree.

Instead, it says you should alter the punctuation. And the correct way to alter the punctuation is to remove the round brackets.

The president and his assistant were ...

This sentence is correct.

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  • While the second example still remains grammatical even if we remove the parenthetical content. So it's correct: "The president (and his assistant) traveled by private jet." So I'm left with: "The president traveled by private jet."
    – user152133
    Feb 25, 2022 at 6:42
  • Yes, "The president traveled by private jet" is correct. That's why "The president (and his assistant) traveled by private jet" is okay. Feb 25, 2022 at 6:44
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    Because that is what the parentheses mean. Parentheses are used to enclose content that is additional, superfluous, non-integral. By definition, if the content within the parentheses is grammatically necessary, the parentheses are incorrect.
    – randomhead
    Feb 25, 2022 at 7:11
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    @user152133 It is worth noting that outside of formal writing, native speakers write sentences where subject–verb agreement is confused by parentheses all the time. Both “The president (and his assistant) was…” and “The president (and his assistant) were…” are problematic, but both still get used fairly often.
    – KRyan
    Feb 25, 2022 at 15:16
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    @KRyan Agreed. I've even found myself writing things like "The president (and his assistant) was (were) expected...".
    – TripeHound
    Feb 26, 2022 at 9:12
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When you use parentheses, the part that is in the parentheses isn't part of the syntax of the sentence. It has to work without that part.

The president were expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m.

That doesn't work because the verb doesn't agree in number with the subject.

You might also ask why you want to use a parenthetical. Why not just say

The president and his assistant were expected to arrive at 10:00 a.m.

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    I think the intended purpose of the parenthesis here is to indicate that the assistant is not of equal importance as the president. I think you are correct that you shouldn't use parenthesis here for the reason given, but I think you could still separate the assistant out a little by enclosing him in commas to do the same thing. Feb 25, 2022 at 6:17
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    @RichardWinters I don't think it would be natural to just put and his assistant set off with commas, but you could use along with or accompanied by, set off by commas. Feb 25, 2022 at 6:54
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    If you are wanting to indicate the assistant is not as important yet still notable then the way to do that would be: "The president (and his assistant) was expected to arrive at 10:00 a.m." The "(and his assistant)" part becomes an offhand comment and using "was" in the singular suggests the president is the only important part of the sentence by matching the singular verb to the singular subject. Of course there may be another grammatic failure in that sentence I'm not seeing, but to me it looks correct.
    – CitizenRon
    Feb 25, 2022 at 15:05
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    @CitizenRon - I'm not sure that enclosing and his assistant in parentheses means that the assistant is not as important but still notable. The fact that one is called president and the other assistant already does that quite efficiently. The question remains why not just write, The president, along with his assistant, was expected to arrive at 10. Why the jarring parentheses? What is added there? Why not commas?
    – EllieK
    Feb 25, 2022 at 18:04
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    @EllieK: If many actions by the President are described, and the assistant is present for all of them, including the parenthetical in the description of the second action will make clear that the presence of the assistance should be assumed for all subsequent actions. If the second action said "..., along with his assistanct,...", and future actions didn't mention the assistant, the omission might be taken as implying that the assistant had stopped accompanying the President.
    – supercat
    Feb 25, 2022 at 21:25
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An alternative without this problem is,

The President (accompanied by her assistant) was expected to arrive by 10 AM.

This sentence still works if you remove the parenthetical. “([A]long with his assistant)” also fits, without breaking the agreement between subject and verb.

You might also rephrase the main clause to have a subject like “the delegation of the President (and his assistant) was ....”

Edit: If it isn’t clear why “The President, accompanied by her assistant, was ....” has a singular subject, you can expand this to, “The President, who was accompanied by her assistant, was ....” The clause, “who was acoompanied by her assistant,” modifies the subject of the sentence, “[t]he President,” which is singular and agrees with “was.”

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  • That's still wrong, for two reasons: #1 the President and her assistant is plural, while "was" is singular. Thus "The President and her assistant were expected to arrive by 10 AM. #2 "her assistant" is integral to the sentence. "The delegation of the President (and his assistant) was ....” is equally wrong.
    – RonJohn
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:04
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    @RonJohn “The delegation” is singular, and thus agrees with “was.” Similarly, “The President” remains the subject of the sentence, “The president, accompanied by her assistant, was ....” So the sentence takes a singular verb. If you expand it to, “who was accompanied by her assistant,” it might become clearer that the clause is a relative clause modifying the subject.
    – Davislor
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:22
  • If you want to go the delegation route, then say "The President's delegation (including his assistant) was ...".
    – RonJohn
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:31
  • @RonJohn “The President’s delegation” and “The delegation of the President” would both work. They are equivalent, and both are grammatically singular.
    – Davislor
    Feb 26, 2022 at 1:29

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