Questions for native speakers of English

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Velifer » Mon May 11, 2009 7:18 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:"I thought you were stupid, but then you made sense."

Only say this if you are comfortable with being punched. Even though you are confessing your error, it will be taken as an insult to the person you are speaking to.

I would say something more like "I assumed you meant X, but now I see how that was wrong and you made sense." So the emphasis shifts to your failure in understanding or logic or lack of information, rather than your quick judgment that the other person was mentally deficient.

But the usage itself isn't jarring, just young and vaguely hipster-ish. I'd expect it from someone wearing a Sloshy concert t-shirt.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby rat4000 » Mon May 11, 2009 7:39 pm UTC

I was actually asking about whether the "make sense" should simply be in present tense, rather than something like "I thought you were stupid, but then you started making sense", which sounds more correct to me. I do realise that I shouldn't ever say that :)

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Velifer » Tue May 12, 2009 6:16 pm UTC

"I thought you were stupid, but then you started making sense" implies they talked their way out of stupid by completing their initially confusing arguments. They are the ones who brought about your change of mind.

"...but now you make sense" is the same as above. You now have more information available (perhaps from a third party) and see how they may be correct.

"...but now it makes sense" means to me that you've re-evaluated the argument very recently, and "it" would refer to the initial argument made in the past.

"...but then you made sense" means pretty much the same thing, but implies to me that you had re-evaluated the argument in the past.

"...but then you had made sense" is more an admission that you were wrong and the original argument was sound.

This is really splitting hairs. Anyone could jump in with other equally (or more) valid interpretations.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Silas » Wed May 13, 2009 1:29 am UTC

I think there's some dissonance between, "I thought you were stupid" and "but then you made [started making] sense;" comparing them just doesn't sound right. More natural, I think, would be, "I thought you were crazy, but then you started making sense" or, "I thought you were stupid*, but then you said some smart things about kittens." Stupid people make sense, sometimes, too.

*you might be better off with, "I used to think you were stupid," or something else in the 'used to' time.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby bebboe » Fri May 15, 2009 10:52 pm UTC

I have a real(ly weird) question. What about sentences like
(1) This book, Peter seems to like.
Is (1) considered grammatical? I was just wondering whether in English you could also topicalize objects that are embedded (since [to like this book] in 'Peter seems to like this book' might be - and usually is - considered a non-finite dependant clause) just as well as non-embedded objects as in
(2) This book, Peter likes. [which should be grammatical if I am not utterly mistaken]
The reason I ask is that I just realized that in German (which happens to be my native tongue which is why this so much puzzles me since I realized only today that this is not your usual topicalization) sentences like (1) [= Dieses Buch scheint der Peter zu mögen. / article present to force the object-reading for 'dieses Buch'] are considered grammatical. So, what about sentences like (1) or even
(3) This book, Peter promised Mary to read. [in the sense of: Peter promised Mary to read this book.]
again, the German equivalent seems to me to be perfectly grammatical [Dieses Buch versprach Peter der Marie zu lesen].

So, what about (1) and (3)?

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Yakk » Fri May 15, 2009 11:38 pm UTC

bebboe wrote:I have a real(ly weird) question. What about sentences like
(1) This book, Peter seems to like.
Is (1) considered grammatical? I was just wondering whether in English you could also topicalize objects that are embedded (since [to like this book] in 'Peter seems to like this book' might be - and usually is - considered a non-finite dependant clause) just as well as non-embedded objects as in

(1) would be considered very 'stilted' and awkwardly phrased.

You wouldn't expect a native speaker of English to use that order of words. It would probably be understandable, with possibly some confusion due to it's unexpected ordering.
(2) This book, Peter likes. [which should be grammatical if I am not utterly mistaken]
The reason I ask is that I just realized that in German (which happens to be my native tongue which is why this so much puzzles me since I realized only today that this is not your usual topicalization) sentences like (1) [= Dieses Buch scheint der Peter zu mögen. / article present to force the object-reading for 'dieses Buch'] are considered grammatical.

(2) is a bit less stilted/awkwardly phrased. If you put the right emphasis, it could be used as a form of ironic formalism. Like "This book, Peter liiikess", with maybe some upper torso bobbing, while being used by someone called Peter to talk about themselves in the third person. And maybe a smarmy half-smile.
So, what about sentences like (1) or even
(3) This book, Peter promised Mary to read. [in the sense of: Peter promised Mary to read this book.]
again, the German equivalent seems to me to be perfectly grammatical [Dieses Buch versprach Peter der Marie zu lesen].

By this point, you'd get a puzzled expression from anyone you wrote/said this to.

(This post is actually a serious attempt to look at the wording used, and tell you how it lines up with how native English speakers might use it.)
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 16, 2009 2:41 am UTC

I could actually see using all three in succession, if you're pointing at the books as you say it:
<pointing> This book, Peter likes.
<pointing at another book> This book, Peter seems to like.
<pointing at a third> This book, Peter promised Mary to read.

(Though the third sentence, I would more likely say "Peter promised Mary he'd read", since while promise+infinitive works, promise+object+infinitive in general seems stranger and definitely would be unusual in this case. It's more likely to be promise+object+clause.)
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby bebboe » Sat May 16, 2009 9:19 am UTC

Thanks for your answers, but perhaps you really can try to judge whether the sentence is grammatical or not? As native speakers, you're intuitions are supposed to be what determines the answer to this question. So again:
- at least (1) is grammatical but rarely if ever used?
- and as to (3), some do consider it grammatical and others don't?

the real point of my question is whether a grammar for English should rule out (1) and (3) or not [not taking into account questions of style or appropriateness and such]

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby eekmeep » Sat May 16, 2009 10:38 am UTC

bebboe wrote:I have a real(ly weird) question. What about sentences like
(1) This book, Peter seems to like.
Is (1) considered grammatical? I was just wondering whether in English you could also topicalize objects that are embedded (since [to like this book] in 'Peter seems to like this book' might be - and usually is - considered a non-finite dependant clause) just as well as non-embedded objects as in
(2) This book, Peter likes. [which should be grammatical if I am not utterly mistaken]
The reason I ask is that I just realized that in German (which happens to be my native tongue which is why this so much puzzles me since I realized only today that this is not your usual topicalization) sentences like (1) [= Dieses Buch scheint der Peter zu mögen. / article present to force the object-reading for 'dieses Buch'] are considered grammatical. So, what about sentences like (1) or even
(3) This book, Peter promised Mary to read. [in the sense of: Peter promised Mary to read this book.]
again, the German equivalent seems to me to be perfectly grammatical [Dieses Buch versprach Peter der Marie zu lesen].

So, what about (1) and (3)?


Disclaimer: I am a math major, but I do speak English, and I think I do so fairly well.

Each of those three sentences are gramatically correct, and I would understand them. HOWEVER they are not "natural." If I saw or heard those sentences I would immediately assume I was hearing (reading) a foreigner speaking english.

We (Americans) tend to order our sentences:

Object?verb/direct object with appropriate qualifiers.

Since we don't have endings to decline our sentences, our word order is pretty important. So we would understand what you said, but we wouldn't say it that way.

Hope that answers your question ...

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby bebboe » Sat May 16, 2009 11:53 am UTC

That kind of answers my question, provided nobody is a spoil sport and claims that (1) and (3) actually are ungrammatical :)
then I'm off to looking for an answer to why this is possible, but that's not really a question for native speakers but for theoretical linguists

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 16, 2009 2:03 pm UTC

About why what's possible?
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Re: Questions to the native speakers of English

Postby Walter.Horvath » Sat May 16, 2009 3:21 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Few native speakers of English capitalise English when speaking.

Should we tell him? :D

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby bebboe » Sat May 16, 2009 4:11 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:About why what's possible?

Why one can extract non-wh-elements out of non-finite-clauses. The question might have been weird, my reasons for asking the question are probably even weirder.
Anyways, thanks for your help. If I'll ever stumble upon the 'ask-a-native-speaker'-reply again, I know where to go.

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Yakk » Sat May 16, 2009 4:43 pm UTC

In a sense, "thata wuz a gud un" is grammatical English when speaking, because entire populations of English speakers would express themselves that way and be understood.

There is no sharp edge to English grammar. There are attempts at prescriptively saying what is or isn't grammatical (often involving stealing things from Latin of all languages). But ignoring that, there is just a gradient.

When people are saying "that doesn't sound like an English speaker", they are saying "this might be understood, but it doesn't sound like good grammar". And in some cases, the context of the use changes if it would be used by an English speaker (my use of ironic stilted words to speak about oneself in the third person, or Gmal's augmentation with pointing).

In a sense, something that would make you sound like someone who isn't a native speaker of English means it isn't grammatical. It can be comprehended. It might even obey the imported-from-latin rules. That, in some sense, doesn't matter.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Hitoversit » Sun May 17, 2009 12:43 am UTC

Little late, but if you wanted to say "I thought what you said was stupid, but now it makes sense" in a condensed, non-offensive manner you could always say, "Your words were paradoxical."

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby eekmeep » Sun May 17, 2009 2:28 am UTC

Just wanted to mention that some things that are 100% grammatical still don't sound like things a native English-speaker would say.

I try to use correct grammar, but sometimes it sounds stilted/awkward.

I think the OP is more looking for colloquialisms, if I understood the question correctly.

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Sun May 17, 2009 2:35 am UTC

If a native English speaker would never say something, and it sounds unnatural to every native speaker, then it's not really grammatical in the descriptive sense, either.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby BrainMagMo » Mon May 18, 2009 8:05 am UTC

bebboe wrote:I have a real(ly weird) question. What about sentences like
(1) This book, Peter seems to like.
Is (1) considered grammatical? I was just wondering whether in English you could also topicalize objects that are embedded (since [to like this book] in 'Peter seems to like this book' might be - and usually is - considered a non-finite dependant clause) just as well as non-embedded objects as in

(1) is almost right.
1a) This book, Peter seems to like it.
or
1b) This book, Peter seems to like it, but...
would be grammatical.
(2) This book, Peter likes. [which should be grammatical if I am not utterly mistaken]
The reason I ask is that I just realized that in German (which happens to be my native tongue which is why this so much puzzles me since I realized only today that this is not your usual topicalization) sentences like (1) [= Dieses Buch scheint der Peter zu mögen. / article present to force the object-reading for 'dieses Buch'] are considered grammatical. So, what about sentences like (1) or even

This sentence works, but is contrastive.
It means, "Peter doesn't like that book. (However,) This book, Peter likes" (I'd say it with the however, but understand it without)
Is that how you parse the German sentence?
(3) This book, Peter promised Mary to read. [in the sense of: Peter promised Mary to read this book.]
again, the German equivalent seems to me to be perfectly grammatical [Dieses Buch versprach Peter der Marie zu lesen].

So, what about (1) and (3)?

(3) is ungrammatical, due to the "Mary to read".
3a) This book, Peter promised Mary he would read her it.
or
3b) This book, Peter had promised Mary he'd read her it.
etc. would be grammatical.
I don't think it's grammatical without "it".

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Simbera » Mon May 18, 2009 8:37 am UTC

bebboe wrote:I have a real(ly weird) question. What about sentences like
(1) This book, Peter seems to like.
Is (1) considered grammatical? I was just wondering whether in English you could also topicalize objects that are embedded (since [to like this book] in 'Peter seems to like this book' might be - and usually is - considered a non-finite dependant clause) just as well as non-embedded objects as in
(2) This book, Peter likes. [which should be grammatical if I am not utterly mistaken]
The reason I ask is that I just realized that in German (which happens to be my native tongue which is why this so much puzzles me since I realized only today that this is not your usual topicalization) sentences like (1) [= Dieses Buch scheint der Peter zu mögen. / article present to force the object-reading for 'dieses Buch'] are considered grammatical. So, what about sentences like (1) or even
(3) This book, Peter promised Mary to read. [in the sense of: Peter promised Mary to read this book.]
again, the German equivalent seems to me to be perfectly grammatical [Dieses Buch versprach Peter der Marie zu lesen].

So, what about (1) and (3)?


I'm going to go ahead and say "no" to all of them. I'm surprised I'm the only one, to be honest.

"Like" takes direct objects, and these objects must follow 'like' - you need to follow 'likes' with 'this book', because that is how English sentences are ordered. Your ordering would work (roughly) if you were constructing a sentence in Japanese. Note that Yoda speaks with a Japanese sentence structure a lot of the time, but with English words, which is what your sentences would sound like.

A large percentage of native speakers would be able to figure out what you meant by the first two sentences, sure, particularly if you were physically present to point at things. But neither would never be said by a native speaker (except to deliberately make an incorrect sentence as a joke, or to impersonate small green Jedi masters). Number 1 could be broken up thus: "This book?" (holding book up) "Peter seems to like it." and number 2 sounds like a relative clause that would be at the beginning of a sentence, as in "This book Peter likes is full of swearing and blasphemy."

Number 3 I couldn't figure out at all, and needed to read your 'corrected' version to understand what you meant - even that was very confusing and I'm still not 100% sure I have it right. You meant "Peter made a promise to Mary that he would read this book", right? It would never be said by a native speaker under any circumstances, and even the corrected version would be extremely rare and would probably require clarification.

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Belial » Mon May 18, 2009 12:51 pm UTC

"Like" takes direct objects, and these objects must follow 'like' - you need to follow 'likes' with 'this book', because that is how English sentences are ordered.


You've never seen an english sentence with its word order rearranged for emphasis?

You don't read much, do you?

A lot hinges on word order in english, but it's not cast in iron. You can pull the direct object out to the front of the sentence, use a comma, and you're good. It changes where your attention goes in the sentence, which makes it a nice tool in both writing and speech, and when done properly, is easily understood. (Which is itself an example: technically, "when done properly" is an adverbial phrase that modifies "understood", and by a strict word-order construction, should follow that word. What I did there: do you see it?)

Yoda sounded so odd becuase he did this with predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives (Seductive, the path to the dark side is), which is still not wrong, per se, it's just weird as hell. He also didn't have the pauses typical when rearranging for emphasis.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Mon May 18, 2009 4:37 pm UTC

Simbera wrote:"Like" takes direct objects, and these objects must usually follow 'like' - you need to generally follow 'likes' with 'this book', because that is how English sentences are usually ordered.

Fixed, to reflect actual language use.

I suspect that there is no language on earth whose speakers always follow the most common word order for {subject, verb, object}. An SVO language sometimes has OSV sentences, an SOV language sometimes has SVO sentences, and so on.

As Belial said, it's usually for emphasis. "Now that book, I like," contrasts that book with some other book or books we were previously talking about, that I don't particularly care for. (Relative clauses are a situation in which the word for the object often must precede the verb, because it's the relative pronoun.)
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Naurgul » Mon May 18, 2009 5:01 pm UTC

In writing, is "I kinda like this book" or "I kind of like this book" better? Or should this phrase be left just for oral speech?
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Mon May 18, 2009 5:43 pm UTC

It depends on formality. The "standard" or "correct" way to write most reductions is as separate words: kind of, should have, going to, want to, don't know, have to, etc.

However, when you are chatting informally, or when you are writing dialogue and want to convey that the characters are speaking informally, I would say it's fine to use written reductions: kinda, shoula, gonnna, wanna, dunno, hafta, etc.

(Though you're also correct in thinking that using "kind of" is a bit more informal in the first place, and probably wouldn't be used in, say, a business cover letter or something. But the others are perfectly fine for formal writing, as long as you write them as separate words.)
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Silas » Mon May 18, 2009 8:16 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:However, when you are chatting informally..., I would say it's fine to use written reductions: kinda, shoula, gonnna, wanna, dunno, hafta, etc.

(Though you're also correct in thinking that using "kind of" is a bit more informal in the first place, and probably wouldn't be used in, say, a business cover letter or something. But the others are perfectly fine for formal writing, as long as you write them as separate words.)

I disagree (though maybe we're just thinking of different cutoffs for 'formal'): going to, used to, and have to (for must) are all colloquialisms. They're all impermissible at a certain level of writing (term papers and above, in my experience). The same goes, I think, for pretty much every helping verb + infinitive, except for 'be' (ie, am I to believe that you've never heard this rule?).
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby person132 » Tue May 19, 2009 4:33 am UTC

bebboe wrote:I have a real(ly weird) question. What about sentences like
(1) This book, Peter seems to like.
Is (1) considered grammatical? I was just wondering whether in English you could also topicalize objects that are embedded (since [to like this book] in 'Peter seems to like this book' might be - and usually is - considered a non-finite dependant clause) just as well as non-embedded objects as in
(2) This book, Peter likes. [which should be grammatical if I am not utterly mistaken]
The reason I ask is that I just realized that in German (which happens to be my native tongue which is why this so much puzzles me since I realized only today that this is not your usual topicalization) sentences like (1) [= Dieses Buch scheint der Peter zu mögen. / article present to force the object-reading for 'dieses Buch'] are considered grammatical. So, what about sentences like (1) or even
(3) This book, Peter promised Mary to read. [in the sense of: Peter promised Mary to read this book.]
again, the German equivalent seems to me to be perfectly grammatical [Dieses Buch versprach Peter der Marie zu lesen].

So, what about (1) and (3)?


I would say that 1 and 2 are grammatical, but 3 is pushing the limits.
But I think of all of these constructions as conversational forms, evidence that the speaker is composing the sentence in their head as they go along. I wouldn't expect this in a prepared speech or anything written, unless you were going for the archaic, flowery-sounding use of the direct object at the beginning of a sentence (The island of Ithaca Odysseus ruled...").

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Simbera » Tue May 19, 2009 11:49 am UTC

Yeah, fair enough, I did over-generalise in that paragraph (as I was trying to provide a framework that the person could use generally, beyond these three examples; clearly I failed) but you are doing the same, Belial (and to be frank you could be less condescending about it, too). Obviously I'm aware that sentences can be rearranged for emphasis, but there are still limitations and rules that dictate how you can do this; the example sentences did not follow these rules.

At the risk of repeating my mistake, I will try and generalise what I mean: you can vary sentences for emphasis provided that it does not directly break grammatical laws; skirting them and making them complicated with various clauses and phrases is fine, but flying directly in the face is wrong. Far-too-simple example: reordering "The dog bit the boy" to "The boy was bitten by the dog" gives the same meaning, just with different emphasis; "The boy bit the dog" means something entirely different.

TL;DR There are rules which I am probably unable to adequately explain, but as a native speaker can say that those 3 sentences all sound wrong to me (perhaps for no other reason than "I'm a native speaker and therefore what I say goes", I'm not sure)

In writing anything but informal chatspeak/forumspeak/personal emails, I would say that "kinda" is unacceptable. In slightly more formal writing (I'm thinking short stories/novels, that sort of thing) "kind of" would be okay; if you included "kinda" in a novel I was editing, I would point it out but wouldn't push the issue at all if you wanted to keep it as-is, as it falls right on the borderline.

In an essay or professional document of any kind, I would suggest substituting it with a synonym such as 'partially', 'somewhat' or whatever fits in with that particular nuance of "kind of".

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Belial » Tue May 19, 2009 12:46 pm UTC

Simbera wrote:Obviously I'm aware that sentences can be rearranged for emphasis, but there are still limitations and rules that dictate how you can do this; the example sentences did not follow these rules.


Our native-speaker-ness cancels out, so I think you're going to have to explain what those rules are and why they're necessary.

The first sentence looks not just perfectly grammatical, but is entirely inconspicuous. It follows all defined rules of grammar and usage I'm aware of, and it doesn't dangle any participles or misplace any modifiers. It is, in fact, something I might even say or write, given the desire to emphasise the book in question over some other book: "Peter didn't like any of those books. This book, Peter seems to like. So let him keep it."

Same with the second.

The third needs "he would" replacing "to", but is otherwise fine.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby 6453893 » Tue May 19, 2009 1:37 pm UTC

Silas wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:However, when you are chatting informally..., I would say it's fine to use written reductions: kinda, shoula, gonnna, wanna, dunno, hafta, etc.

(Though you're also correct in thinking that using "kind of" is a bit more informal in the first place, and probably wouldn't be used in, say, a business cover letter or something. But the others are perfectly fine for formal writing, as long as you write them as separate words.)

I disagree (though maybe we're just thinking of different cutoffs for 'formal'): going to, used to, and have to (for must) are all colloquialisms. They're all impermissible at a certain level of writing (term papers and above, in my experience). The same goes, I think, for pretty much every helping verb + infinitive, except for 'be' (ie, am I to believe that you've never heard this rule?).


I think the business letter is the standard for "formal writing" in the real world. You would not be fired for saying "We have to stop going bankrupt" in a letter1. Academic writing is a different beast altogether, and is worthy of an entire thread to itself.

--------


1Not that I'm advocating that 'have to' is superior to 'must'. Just that both are acceptable unless you work for the IBFTEUOL2

2International Bureau For The Efficient Use Of Language, also known as LEB3 4

3Linguistic Efficiency Bureau

4I have been reading too much Infinite Jest

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 19, 2009 2:43 pm UTC

Silas wrote:The same goes, I think, for pretty much every helping verb + infinitive, except for 'be' (ie, am I to believe that you've never heard this rule?).

Help to sounds more formal than simply help followed by a verb. There is also want/wish/desire/hope, and start/begin, unless you really think it's "better" to use commence+gerund than begin+infinitive. Ought to really isn't any less formal than should, and actually functions as a modal on its own, since it can't change tense and doesn't change with the subject the way all main verbs do.

In other words, even if you do believe that of all the examples I happened to give, there are plenty of other times when verb+infinitive is perfectly fine. (And in the cases of don't know and ought to, there's the same kind of reduction in informal speech as there are with kinda and shoulda and gonna.)

Also, the fact that you wouldn't normally use something in academic writing is pretty irrelevant to the formal/informal distinction, because among other things you probably wouldn't use much (if any) first or second person sentences, or questions, or exclamations. Not because those are inherently more casual constructions, but because they simply aren't part of the convention for academic writing.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Silas » Tue May 19, 2009 4:20 pm UTC

6453893 wrote:I think the business letter is the standard for "formal writing" in the real world. You would not be fired for saying "We have to stop going bankrupt" in a letter1. Academic writing is a different beast altogether, and is worthy of an entire thread to itself.

Well, maybe not- but if I were writing an open letter to my stakeholders, I'm pretty sure I would say, to avoid bankruptcy, we must raise capital and... instead of have to.
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Silas wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:It depends on formality.... [W]hen you are chatting informally..., I would say it's fine to use written reductions: kinda, shoula, gonnna, wanna, dunno, hafta, etc....

(Though you're also correct in thinking that using "kind of" is a bit more informal in the first place, and probably wouldn't be used in, say, a business cover letter or something. But the others are perfectly fine for formal writing, as long as you write them as separate words.)
[Formal writing generally prohibits], I think, pretty much every helping verb + infinitive, except for 'be' (ie, am I to believe that you've never heard this rule?).

Help to sounds more formal than simply help followed by a verb. There is also want/wish/desire/hope, and start/begin, unless you really think it's "better" to use commence+gerund than begin+infinitive. Ought to really isn't any less formal than should, and actually functions as a modal on its own, since it can't change tense and doesn't change with the subject the way all main verbs do.

It was just a casual hypothesis. Ought is a good counterexample- I wish I'd thought of it. But those others aren't really auxiliary verbs, unless I've forgotten my grammar lessons. Aren't they verb + object? There's actually the force of a verb behind them. (Also, they're not directly negated: *Susan helped not to bake the pie)

Also, the fact that you wouldn't normally use something in academic writing is pretty irrelevant to the formal/informal distinction, because among other things you probably wouldn't use much (if any) first or second person sentences, or questions, or exclamations. Not because those are inherently more casual constructions, but because they simply aren't part of the convention for academic writing.

I don't think the academic angle is really the point. I have the same sense of formality in plenty of non-academic contexts: legal opinions, wedding announcements, foreclosure notices, or a letter of resignation*. Don't you?

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby BrainMagMo » Tue May 19, 2009 9:04 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Simbera wrote:Obviously I'm aware that sentences can be rearranged for emphasis, but there are still limitations and rules that dictate how you can do this; the example sentences did not follow these rules.


Our native-speaker-ness cancels out, so I think you're going to have to explain what those rules are and why they're necessary.

The first sentence looks not just perfectly grammatical, but is entirely inconspicuous. It follows all defined rules of grammar and usage I'm aware of, and it doesn't dangle any participles or misplace any modifiers. It is, in fact, something I might even say or write, given the desire to emphasise the book in question over some other book: "Peter didn't like any of those books. This book, Peter seems to like. So let him keep it."

Same with the second.

The third needs "he would" replacing "to", but is otherwise fine.

Belial, would you say that, or "Peter didn't like any of those books. This book, Peter seems to like it. So let him keep it."
That's the only error I saw, and it would satisfy the "must have SVO" that Simbera wants.

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 19, 2009 9:11 pm UTC

BrainMagMo wrote:Belial, would you say that, or "Peter didn't like any of those books. This book, Peter seems to like it."

I can't speak for Belial, but I would most definitely not say it that way. You've already got the object with "this book". No need to repeat it with a pronoun, which additionally makes the beginning of the sentence redundant and strange sounding. Like, "John he likes pizza" instead of just "John likes pizza".
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Belial » Tue May 19, 2009 10:50 pm UTC

What Gmalivuk said.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Yakk » Tue May 19, 2009 11:38 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
BrainMagMo wrote:Belial, would you say that, or "Peter didn't like any of those books. This book, Peter seems to like it."

I can't speak for Belial, but I would most definitely not say it that way. You've already got the object with "this book". No need to repeat it with a pronoun, which additionally makes the beginning of the sentence redundant and strange sounding. Like, "John he likes pizza" instead of just "John likes pizza".

John likes pizza.
John, likes pizza.
John, he likes pizza.
Pizza, John likes.
Pizza, John likes it.
Pizza; John likes it.
Pizza: John likes it.

Okay we get the point. JOHN LIKES PIZZA OKAY?

Now can we please, as a culture, move on?

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby 6453893 » Wed May 20, 2009 4:26 am UTC

Silas wrote:I don't think the academic angle is really the point. I have the same sense of formality in plenty of non-academic contexts: legal opinions, wedding announcements, foreclosure notices, or a letter of resignation*. Don't you?

*angry, spiteful, letters don't count.


Not everything falls in a simple gradient between Formal and Informal. Each of those genres of writing have different conventions and styles associated with them. All of those contexts are formal, but not in the same way. You might say a wedding is more or less as formal as a legal document, but you wouldn't say

John and Lisa (The "Couple") cordially invite you (The "Invitation Recipient") to their union in marriage (The "Wedding" as defined in Section 3.4) on the Second (2nd) of May (The "Wedding Date").

Surely there are different "formal contexts" where certain conventions are appropriate, and other formal contexts where they are not.

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Silas » Wed May 20, 2009 7:21 am UTC

What are you getting at? There are indeed numerous writing conventions for different situations- one for road signs, one for menus, one for treaties, one for greeting cards. I don't think it's controversial to say that they can be roughly arrayed from informal to formal. At the formal end, there's specialization, but that's not surprising. Are academic robes more or less formal than black tie? At any rate, neither includes a polo shirt and khakis.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Simbera » Wed May 20, 2009 7:33 am UTC

Ahh...I see where I've been going wrong now.

Belial wrote:"Peter didn't like any of those books. This book, Peter seems to like. So let him keep it."


This still doesn't really work with normal conversational practise but I can see where the problem lies now.

"This book, he seems to like."

This forces it to become part of a larger context (such as the one you described above) because you can only use such pronouns as 'he' when it's perfectly clear who 'he' is, usually from previous sentences. Conversely, you wouldn't keep saying Peter this, Peter that - once you had established that you were talking about Peter (disclaimer: and no other males you might think 'he' referred to) you would switch to 'he'. For that matter, you would probably change 'book' to 'one' in the second sentence.

So, mea culpa. I was wrong, you can construct a sentence in that pattern in certain circumstances, but due to the convention of using pronouns, you would almost never use that exact sentence. Agree?

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Grop » Wed May 20, 2009 8:52 am UTC

There was an interesting discussion on Language Log regarding constructions where the subject or the object is repeated, as in "This book, Peter seems to like it" or "the times, they are a-changing": Left dislocation.

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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby 6453893 » Wed May 20, 2009 11:28 am UTC

Silas wrote:What are you getting at? There are indeed numerous writing conventions for different situations- one for road signs, one for menus, one for treaties, one for greeting cards. I don't think it's controversial to say that they can be roughly arrayed from informal to formal. At the formal end, there's specialization, but that's not surprising. Are academic robes more or less formal than black tie? At any rate, neither includes a polo shirt and khakis.


I was disagreeing with whoever was proposing earlier that you are never allowed to use "have to", "help to", "try to" &c in situations of X Formality or higher. Black Tie and Academic Robes are both formal and have different conventions and that is fine. The problem arises from trying to make sweeping rules like "You are NEVER allowed to wear a certain item for ANY occasion more formal than smart casual."

Especially in cases like where "don't have to" and "mustn't" have wildly different meanings. A blanket ban on "have to" because it isn't formal enough would be problematic there.
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Re: Questions for native speakers of English

Postby Zamfir » Wed May 20, 2009 11:54 am UTC

As a Dutch speaker, I am interested in this situation. Dutch allows a similar construction, but you would use it only in particular cases. I get the same feeling for English, but it might be that I "feel" certain English sentences as correct because their Dutch equivalent would be correct. Normal order in Dutch is subject-verb-object, but object-verb-subject is acceptable if it is not ambiguous.

An example, in Ducth you could say "Peter mag ik niet, Jan mag ik wel, en Joris mag ik het het meest", "Peter I do not like, Jan I do like, and Joris I like most" . At least the third part of that sentence (Joris I like most) sounds like acceptable English to me.

Another example: "geld willen we, geen beloftes" , "Money we want, not promises". The latter sounds to me as acceptable English, altough perhaps a bit excentric.

Perhaps the most common use of this reversal of subject and object: "Zo'n auto zou ik willen hebben" , "Such a car I would like to have"


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