- Section Preview
- 1. Principal Subject
- 2. Principal Predicate
- 3. Predicate modifiers
Module 2: Section 3
Keep the following considerations in mind when formulating the principal predicate:
These considerations are discussed below.
Legislation should always be speaking.
Legislation generally applies in the present to circumstances as they happen rather than to those existing at the time when it was originally written. This feature of legislation is often reflected in Interpretation Acts (see section 20 of the model Interpretation Act in the Resource Materials).
Compose sentences to be read as applying to actions or activities as they occur from time to time. This consideration particularly affects dependent clauses which set the context in which the principal predicate operates.
We could write:
A person who has driven a motor vehicle without holding a valid driving licence has committed [or has been guilty of] an offence.
A person who shall drive a motor vehicle without holding a valid driving licence shall commit [or shall be guilty of] an offence.
However, a context clause should be in the present tense when the requirements in the principal predicate are to take effect immediately as the events described in the clause occur.
A person who drives a motor vehicle without holding a valid driving licence commits [or is guilty of] an offence.
This states actively what the subject is to do or not do. Sentences that reverse this order (object, verb, subject) state the effect on the subject passively. They are less favoured for several reasons.
Readers of legislative texts are looking for the legal person who is responsible for taking action; the passive voice puts this person last and is more cumbersome since an auxiliary verb (from the verb “to be") has to be added (for example, “may be ordered").
In a passive construction, it is easy to miss who is responsible for taking the action described in the verb. This cannot happen when the person is the subject of the sentence. A sentence in the passive voice has to be clarified by adding in the person in an extra phrase beginning with “by".
A person who is diagnosed as suffering from the illness must be given a copy of the diagnosis on request.
Who does the diagnosis? Who is to give the copy and to whom is the request to be made? A sentence using the active voice would answer these questions:
If a medical practitioner diagnoses a person as suffering from the illness, the practitioner must give a copy of the diagnosis to the person when the person so requests.
In section 12(1), there shall be added, after the word “proceedings", the words “under Section 125 of the Companies Act".
The grammatical subject is “there”. It is false as it has no substance. A simple command is shorter and more effective:
In section 12(1), "under section 125 of the Companies Act" is added after ”proceedings”.
Operating a motor vehicle on a pedestrian walkway is prohibited.
A person arrested under a warrant of arrest must be taken without unnecessary delay before a magistrate’s court.
Property deposited with the building authority and not claimed within 30 days after its deposit is forfeited to the building authority.
The passive voice avoids having to repeat "a person who operates a motorcycle in the park”. Once it is clear who is responsible, the focus should be on the motorcycle. This also helps produce cohesive sentences.
Multiple principal subjects and predicates in the same sentence are confusing.
Readers can be confused by sentences that contain more than one subject when each of them is followed by its own predicate. If you need to confer distinct functions on different subjects, deal with each case in a new sentence.
A police officer executing a warrant of arrest must notify the person to be arrested of its substance, and a person arrested under a warrant of arrest must be taken without unnecessary delay before a magistrate’s court.
This sentence contains two distinct rules; the second appears to have wider application (extending to arrests made by other persons in addition to police officers). Separate sentences would ensure that the second is not to be construed as limited to the first case.
However, confusion is less likely in a sentence that:
A director, a manager and an employee of a company must:
A police officer executing a warrant to arrest a person must notify the person of its substance; the person must be taken without unnecessary delay before a magistrate’s court.