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  #41  
Old August 3rd, 2011, 6:27 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ominous View Post
With regard to the second question, my book says the answer is (c). The book argues that "it" in (c) refers to "the study" so, the sentence should be like "It found that the people who napped for half an hour during the day did better than those who stayed awake the whole day."
Anyway, I'm not quite convinced.
Ehh, in their revised sentence, yes, the "it" does refer to the study. But in the original sentence, the "it" does not refer to the study, but is instead a "prop it" or "empty it." The same "it" can be found in the sentence "It is raining." One can argue that the revised sentence is superior because it avoids an empty passive formation, but I don't see how one can argue the the original form is actually wrong. One can always add a vacuous "It was found that" in front of something like that.

See the discussion here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dummy_pronoun

So, in short, I think you are quite right not to be convinced.


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  #42  
Old August 6th, 2011, 12:32 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

I'm not convinced either. In fact, the passive voice is often used when discussing scientific studies. It's true, that the new sentence is also correct, but I agree that the first one isn't wrong.


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  #43  
Old September 3rd, 2011, 8:04 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

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Originally Posted by Hes View Post
Opening PostSo the idea for this thread is for Non-English speakers to get corrections and advice on their English and we English speakers to do our best to help them.

So if anyone has any questions or just wants to run something by us, go ahead.
I realize that this is a while ago, but...

It's for us to do our best. We English speakers should always try to do our best, but this thread is for us English speakers to do our best to help them. Just between you and me.


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  #44  
Old September 5th, 2011, 3:22 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

A: How's your brother's bookstore doing?
B: Great. Actually, he's got a second one ________ soon.

(a) open (b) opens (c) opened (d) opening

Isn't the answer "(c) opened" ? It's like "I got my car fixed yesterday."


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  #45  
Old September 5th, 2011, 4:03 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ominous View Post
A: How's your brother's bookstore doing?
B: Great. Actually, he's got a second one ________ soon.

(a) open (b) opens (c) opened (d) opening

Isn't the answer "(c) opened" ? It's like "I got my car fixed yesterday."
The answer would be (d) because the event is taking place in the future. In the sentence you compared it to, the event was in the past. Also notice that the first sentence is "he has got" while the second one is "I got" and that "opening soon" is a shortened version of "which is opening soon".


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  #46  
Old September 5th, 2011, 5:11 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Thanks, SBNB.
Now I can see.


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  #47  
Old October 5th, 2011, 7:40 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Q. Complete the sentences with a/an, the, some, or any.

1. Do we have _____ tomatoes?
2. There aren't _____ eggs.
3. There is ______ milk in the fridge.
4. I think _____ cheese is on the table.
5. Pass me _____ apple, please.


The answers are 1. any, 2. any, 3. some, 4. the and 5. a.

I have no problem with question 1, 2, 3, and 5 but how can I explain question number 4 to my students?


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  #48  
Old October 5th, 2011, 7:54 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Well, my best answer would be that you are talking about the whole block of cheese. Not some cheese, or a slice of cheese, but all of it. Therefore, the best answer is the cheese.


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  #49  
Old October 5th, 2011, 8:17 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ominous View Post
Q. Complete the sentences with a/an, the, some, or any.

1. Do we have _____ tomatoes?
2. There aren't _____ eggs.
3. There is ______ milk in the fridge.
4. I think _____ cheese is on the table.
5. Pass me _____ apple, please.


The answers are 1. any, 2. any, 3. some, 4. the and 5. a.

I have no problem with question 1, 2, 3, and 5 but how can I explain question number 4 to my students?
Interesting. Writing as a native English speaker, "the" is undoubtedly the best choice to me, but I am not readily able to explain that. Let's see if we can't reason it out.

Of all the choices, "any" is the worst. It's a universal quantifier, and there's no way that all cheeses in the world are on that table. So that one's out.

OK, how about "a"? The problem with "a" is that it's used with countable nouns, and most of the time, "cheese" is uncountable--a mass noun, like "sand." Yes, one can have multiple "cheeses," but in that case, we're generally talking about kinds of cheese, such as "There are three cheeses in the tasting: smoked Gouda, Muenster, and Roquefort." Or, possibly, "a cheese" could refer to a typical unit of cheese (such as a wheel). Although that could be what we're talking about here, there's nothing to suggest that in the sentence, and the default would be to assume otherwise. So let's discard "a."

That leaves "some" and "the." Both are perfectly grammatical; both are even idiomatic in at least some contexts in English. "Some" has at least a couple of possible meanings here. The first, as Nnylarak indicates, is that some, but not all, of the cheese is on the table. For example, "I think some cheese is on the table (but the rest is in the fridge)." The second is that the cheese on the table might not be the desired kind, as in "I think some cheese is on the table (but not the Cheddar you wanted)."

However, the very fact that we have to explain what's meant by these usages reflects their slight unnaturalness. The more natural choice is "the," which here simply refers to a particular specimen of a mass noun. We would do the same thing with, say, sand: We would say "Sand is very rough," referring to sand in the abstract, but "The sand on this beach is very white," referring specifically to the sand here, and not there.

EDIT: Note, however, that we would not say, "I think there is the cheese on the table," but rather, "I think there is cheese on the table." In this latter case, there is really no true subject in the subordinate clause; there is only the dummy subject, "there." Whereas in the original sentence, the subordinate clause has a definite subject, "the cheese," and that definiteness may explain why we do in fact say "the cheese," there, and not "some cheese" or indeed, just "cheese."


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  #50  
Old October 5th, 2011, 8:47 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

5. is an not a - because apple begins with a vowel


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  #51  
Old October 5th, 2011, 11:34 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTung View Post
That leaves "some" and "the." Both are perfectly grammatical; both are even idiomatic in at least some contexts in English. "Some" has at least a couple of possible meanings here. The first, as Nnylarak indicates, is that some, but not all, of the cheese is on the table. For example, "I think some cheese is on the table (but the rest is in the fridge)." The second is that the cheese on the table might not be the desired kind, as in "I think some cheese is on the table (but not the Cheddar you wanted)."
But if it were "some", would you not be far more likely to say "I think there is some cheese on the table"? For me, it's the word order that suggests "the".


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Old October 5th, 2011, 1:50 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Once again, I have to point out that it's perfectly possible to say any of those sentences quite on purpose and still be understood. In other words I caution against considering what one should say and try to imagine what one would say, when and why. Often, very often in conversation, the structure of a sentence and word choice are the result of context. E.g.

"I'm so hungry, do you have any cheese?"

"Yes."

"Where is it? any cheese at all is fine."

"I think any cheese is on the table."

Perhaps not the kind of thing you'd ever expect yourself to say, but it doesn't seem even especially strange to me. Then there's, say, this one: I think there is the cheese on the table (let's not forget that "there" has perfectly legitimate adverbial and nominal jobs as well). As written it sounds strange, but so do many utterances that aren't fully prepared ahead of time.

"Where is the cheese?"

"What...?"

"The cheese, you remember cheese?"

"I think... there is the cheese, on the table."

Of course we can squabble about punctuation, but editors do tend to avoid reflecting disfluencies when transcribing oral statements, after all. All I'm saying is that grammatical correctness is not any indication at all of what people actually get around to saying. It may be great for ESL students to get the traditional grammar rules down, but they're eventually going to have to deal with native speakers who take, if I might be so bold, rather provocative liberties with their tongues. (And trust me, I'm not not good at English...)



Last edited by canismajoris; October 5th, 2011 at 1:56 pm. Reason: style changes
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  #53  
Old October 5th, 2011, 5:50 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
But if it were "some", would you not be far more likely to say "I think there is some cheese on the table"? For me, it's the word order that suggests "the".
Oh yes, of course. To be sure, I'd point out that the question isn't, "Find the word that, if it were used, would be most likely to be placed in the blank (as opposed to some other place)." I think it is the more straightforward, "Find the word that, of the choices provided, is most likely to be placed in the blank (as opposed to some other word)." There's a difference of priors here.

But you're quite right--the wording is somewhat unlikely if you were to use "some"; that's why I prefer "the."

Quote:
Originally Posted by canismajoris View Post
Once again, I have to point out that it's perfectly possible to say any of those sentences quite on purpose and still be understood. In other words I caution against considering what one should say and try to imagine what one would say, when and why. Often, very often in conversation, the structure of a sentence and word choice are the result of context. E.g.

"I'm so hungry, do you have any cheese?"

"Yes."

"Where is it? any cheese at all is fine."

"I think any cheese is on the table."

Perhaps not the kind of thing you'd ever expect yourself to say, but it doesn't seem even especially strange to me.
Wow, I'd have to say that would sound mighty strange to me if it were not said ironically. As in, "Well, if you're such a Philistine as to be OK with 'any cheese,' there's plenty of 'any cheese' on the table." I'd almost expect air-quotes to come into play here. But as a serious utterance, stating simply that there is some (unspecified kind of) cheese on the table, I don't see it. Almost certainly one would say, "I think there's [some] cheese on the table," as Melaszka suggests.


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  #54  
Old October 5th, 2011, 6:02 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

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Originally Posted by BrianTung View Post
Wow, I'd have to say that would sound mighty strange to me if it were not said ironically. As in, "Well, if you're such a Philistine as to be OK with 'any cheese,' there's plenty of 'any cheese' on the table." I'd almost expect air-quotes to come into play here. But as a serious utterance, stating simply that there is some (unspecified kind of) cheese on the table, I don't see it. Almost certainly one would say, "I think there's [some] cheese on the table," as Melaszka suggests.
I don't remember adherence to conversational maxims being part of the question. There was no indication of any kind what the intent, attitude, or tone of voice of the speaker was, nor for what reason he or she was prompted to speak; nor was there any clue as to the audience (if any)--their number, location, age, sex, or level of English competence; nor was there a specified medium of communication; nor was there evidence whether the subject of the sentence is real or abstract, near or distant, or even a metaphor or euphemism for something else entirely. Therefore, I think you're basing what "one would say" on a very small set of facts while ignoring a host of variables. Understanding those variables and speaking accordingly transcends grammar, and is one of the most important skills a second-language learner must cultivate.

The bottom line here is that there's no can or can't here, we're forced to reckon with what is most common. That's fine. My point was not that anyone has ever or should ever say those things, only that they are 100% possible utterances. Completing, translating, or interpreting a sentence or phrase completely out of context is just not as simple as picking "the right word."



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  #55  
Old October 5th, 2011, 6:09 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by canismajoris View Post
Completing, translating, or interpreting a sentence or phrase completely out of context is just not as simple as picking "the right word."
No, it isn't, but many ESOL exams (which quite a few students need to pass for university entrance or career advancement) do ask you to do something as simple as that. I don't particularly like it, either, but in the real world teachers have to teach to the test or disadvantage their students.

But let's quit the bickering here, because I think it's taking us away for what this thread is intended for - answering non-native speakers' questions.

By all means say if you think alternative answers are possible, but please don't get into extended meta-disputes and try to think about what is the most useful answer for the question asker's immediate needs.


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  #56  
Old October 6th, 2011, 10:16 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

"The" was the biggest problem when I wrote a degree report in London. My professor corrected everytime I did mistakes with "the" in my report.

This is what I understand. Let me correct if I'm wrong.

Situation A
There is a couple. They went shopping and bought cheese for their dinner. They returned. Some time later, a(the ?) girl asked a(the ?) boy.

G: Where is the cheese? (She means the very cheese they bought today.)
B: I think the cheese is on the table.
G: Oh, I see.

Situation B
A frined of them visited their house. He planned to make a great dinner for them (even though he is a guest!).

Friend: Hey, guys. Do you have any cheese?
B & G: Yeah, there is some cheese in the fridge.

In situation B, there can be confustion if their friend say like this.

Friend: Hey, guys. Do you have the cheese?
B & G: What cheese are you talking about???

Back to my original question, the guy who make the above questions assumes the first situation when he or she asks me to fill in the blank.

Am I good?


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  #57  
Old October 6th, 2011, 11:43 am
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

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Originally Posted by ominous View Post
"The" was the biggest problem when I wrote a degree report in London. My professor corrected everytime I did mistakes with "the" in my report.
I have Eastern European friends with otherwise pretty much native standard English who really struggle with "the", too.

Quote:
This is what I understand. Let me correct if I'm wrong.

Situation A
There is a couple. They went shopping and bought cheese for their dinner. They returned. Some time later, a(the ?) girl asked a(the ?) boy.
I would say "the girl asked the boy" here, because it's referring back to the "couple" who have already been introduced. "A girl" and "a boy" suggests it's another, totally unconnected girl and boy whom we haven't met yet, not the original couple.

Quote:
G: Where is the cheese? (She means the very cheese they bought today.)
That's fine. However, "Where is the cheese?" could also be used for the cheese they habitually have in their house - they don't have to have bought cheese that day. If you ask a "Where is...?" question it suggests that you already know that your interlocutor has/knows the thing you're asking about, so it is never normally used with "some", "any" or "a".

If you want to ask a "Where" question with "some" or "any" you would probably phrase it differently, e.g. "Do you know where I can find some cheese?"

Does that make any sense?

Quote:
B: I think the cheese is on the table.
G: Oh, I see.
Absolutely fine.

Quote:
Situation B
A frined of them visited their house. He planned to make a great dinner for them (even though he is a guest!).
This is nothing to do with the/some, but I'd say "A friend of theirs visited their house. He planned to make a great dinner for them (even though he was their guest!)" here. With personal pronouns, you usually use the predicative possessive after "of", not the object form (e.g. "She's a colleague of mine", "It's an obsession of hers" etc) and if your main verb ("planned") is in the past, then you should put "is" in the past, too.

Quote:
Friend: Hey, guys. Do you have any cheese?
B & G: Yeah, there is some cheese in the fridge.
Absolutely fine.

Quote:
In situation B, there can be confustion if their friend say like this.

Friend: Hey, guys. Do you have the cheese?
B & G: What cheese are you talking about???
Pretty much, yes (unless he'd 'phoned them beforehand to check that they had cheese).

(By the way, I'd say "In situation B, there could be confusion if their friend said it like this")



Last edited by Melaszka; October 6th, 2011 at 12:41 pm.
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  #58  
Old October 6th, 2011, 4:06 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
I have Eastern European friends with otherwise pretty much native standard English who really struggle with "the", too.
It's been called (I forget by whom) the hardest word to deal with in the English language.

Quote:
This is nothing to do with the/some, but I'd say "A friend of theirs visited their house. He planned to make a great dinner for them (even though he was their guest!)" here. With personal pronouns, you usually use the predicative possessive after "of", not the object form (e.g. "She's a colleague of mine", "It's an obsession of hers" etc) and if your main verb ("planned") is in the past, then you should put "is" in the past, too.
I think this might be a bit UKUS. U.S. English has a greater tendency to break tense agreement, I believe, than U.K. English. In the sentence, "Geoff and Marcy bumped into Percy the other day and acted like they'd never seen him before, even though he ___ their friend," U.S. English would almost certainly have "is"; I think U.K. English would be somewhat more likely to have "was." (I'm sorry, it'd be more likely to have "was". )

Quote:
Pretty much, yes (unless he'd 'phoned them beforehand to check that they had cheese).
Actually, in our household, if a friend came over, the exchange would more likely go like this:

Quote:
Friend: Hey guys, do you have the cheese?
B: *burp* No.


Quote:
(By the way, I'd say "In situation B, there could be confusion if their friend said it like this")
At least in U.S. English, it is also acceptable to say, "In Situation B, there can be confusion if their friend says it like this." That is to say, unless the situation is strongly counter-factual, present indicative is acceptable. But the "it" is required; "say" is transitive.


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  #59  
Old October 6th, 2011, 4:18 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTung View Post
I think this might be a bit UKUS. U.S. English has a greater tendency to break tense agreement, I believe, than U.K. English. In the sentence, "Geoff and Marcy bumped into Percy the other day and acted like they'd never seen him before, even though he ___ their friend," U.S. English would almost certainly have "is"; I think U.K. English would be somewhat more likely to have "was." (I'm sorry, it'd be more likely to have "was". )
I'm in the U.S. and I would use "was" in that sentence. Maybe the use of "is" would be regional or generational, but it certainly wouldn't be correct.


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Old October 6th, 2011, 4:55 pm
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Re: The Improve Your English Thread v4.

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Originally Posted by SusanBones View Post
I'm in the U.S. and I would use "was" in that sentence. Maybe the use of "is" would be regional or generational, but it certainly wouldn't be correct.
You're right, "almost certainly" almost certainly overstated my case! I'm not sure myself what I would say in that sentence. I think I would say "is," but now I'm too self-conscious to be sure of myself. Strict adherence to tense agreement is a bit bothersome for me--I find it invites questions such as, "Was? Isn't he any longer?" for no good reason other than mere consistency.

But lest you think I'm just being provincial, I'm convinced I read somewhere that it had* become more common in the U.S., and I'm primarily a descriptivist, so I cleave to common usage. YMMV.

*Hunh. "Had," not "has." Well, what do you know.


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