A Collection of Nursery Rhymes
The KISS Grammar Workbooks Back to April Menu

Fingers and Toes
Analysis Key

Every lady {in this land}

Has twenty nails (DO), {upon each hand}

Five [#1], and twenty [#1] {on hands and feet}: |

All this is true (PA), {without deceit}. |


Notes
1. I read this poem three or four times as I was browsing anthologies of children's poetry and it simply did not make any sense to me. Then I realized that I was making the same mistake that many students do -- I was reading the lines and ignoring the punctuation. It seemed stupid to me -- how could any woman have twenty nails upon each hand?
     My guess is that many students will find it similarly confusing, and ultimately informative as well. I'm not sure that third or fourth graders will understand the syntax involved, but the poem should still demonstrate to them the importance of punctuation.
     Perhaps the best technical explanation of "five" and "twenty" is that they are the nouns in ellipsed noun absolutes -- five *being* upon each hand, and twenty *being* on hands and feet. A conscious understanding of noun absolutes, of course, is way out of the range of primary school students, so you might want to show them how, in terms of meaning, the commas in the first three lines separate three compound sentences -- Every lady in this land has twenty nails. Upon each hand there are five, and there are twenty on hands and feet.

This illustration and poem are from  The Real Mother Goose.
Illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1916.