Please explain how to correct this sentence so it has coherence: "They always have, and always, work hard."

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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When we speak of sentence coherence, we are speaking of a sentence with the quality of unity in an orderly and logical relationship of its parts. In other words, the way the parts relate to each other and express ideas must be orderly and logical. Part of the order of a sentence must come from the rules of grammar; some of the unity must come from logic. Let's take logic first.

They always have, and always, work hard

The first logical problem is that in the second phrase ("and always") the adverb "always" modifies nothing. An adverb is a modifying word that must appear in a sentence in relationship with a (1) verb [The robo toys sell quickly.], (2) another adverb [She drank it extremely quickly.], or (3) an adjective [It is a really fast horse.].

Another logical problem is that while either the Subject or Verb may be removed through ellipsis from one of two coordinated clauses, both Verb and Subject may not be removed in the same sentence. One or the other must be present in both parts of the coordinated clauses. If both Subject and Verb have ellipsis, then the logicality of the communication is lost.

This sentence is a prime example of the illogicality a sentence takes on when ellipsis affects both Subject and Verb. If the ellipses (i.e., words that were removed) are returned to the sentence, the sentence will be like this (ellipses in brackets [...] ):

They always have, and [they] always [will], work hard. (commas discussed later)

In this sentence, logic is best served when ellipsis removes only the Subject: They always have, and always [will], work hard. An example of a sentence that may have ellipsis of the Verb is: "The dog ran, and the cat, till both were exhausted." The Verb "ran" (one Verb applied to separate Subjects) is removed from the second clause.

The rules of grammar support this discussion of logic. The rules of grammar require a complement to an adverb: adverbs may not stand alone. The rules of grammar require clauses have both Subject and Verb, except when one is removed through ellipsis. The rules of grammar require that auxiliaries and main verbs agree in tense and aspect. The rules of grammar require commas replace words removed through ellipsis. The rules of grammar allow for the main verb to agree with the closest auxiliary verb if there are more than one.

They always have and always will work hard.

To get verb agreement in the matrix clause between "have" and "work." it would need to be:

They always have worked hard.

Putting all this together, the correct original sentence would be:

They always have worked and they always will work hard.

The correct sentence with Subject ellipsis will be this:

They always have worked and always will work hard.

No commas are needed because the ellipsed Subject is the same as the fist Subject eliminating the need for a comma to replace the ellipsed word. The rules of grammar require you never to put a comma between an auxiliary and a main verb, such as "will" and "work."

One reason the rules of grammar restrict you from using ellipsis for the Verb "will" is that the sentence is spoken from present perfective: speaking during the present moment recalling a past moment relating to something that will carry on into the future. Thus the construction of present perfective requires both the "have" and the "will" auxiliary modal verbs.

FINAL FORM with COHERENCE

They always have and always will work hard.

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