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Author Topic: Lesson #1 - How the English Language Really Works  (Read 15539 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: May 06, 2009, 05:17:44 PM »

Take a look at these two passages:

From an interoffice memo:

“Dear Personnel Department:

I had received a news regarding Home Office is requesting to pull out one of my marketing assistants: Dina Reyes by August and be replacing by another one. I just like to ask if this personnel movement is authorise by your division. Never did someone had an ethical gesture to ask me on this matter…

Click here for quick grammar critique

Suggested Fix:

To the Personnel Department:

I learned that the Home Office wants to pull out one of my marketing assistants, Dina Reyes, and have her replaced by somebody else this August. May I know if this personnel movement is authorized by your division? I was never given the courtesy of being consulted on this matter…

And look at this archetypal recommendation written by an anonymous technical consultant:

“Insofar as manifestations of functional deficiencies are agreed by any and all concerned parties to be imperceivable, and are so stipulated, it is incumbent upon said heretofore mentioned parties to exercise the deferment of otherwise pertinent maintenance procedures.”

Click here for quick grammar critique

Suggested Fix:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Or, in scrupulously grammatical English: “If it isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it.”



The big question, of course, is this: Why are people prone to writing such grammatically problematic English sentences and forbidding statements?

Here, to my mind, are some of the major reasons:

1. Rudimentary knowledge of the behavior of English verbs
2. Inadequate understanding of how the English pronouns work
3. Inadequate understanding of the three English cases: nominative (or subjective), objective, and possessive case
4. Tendency to make the subjects of sentences too longwinded
5. Profound tendency of many people to use legalese or bureaucratese as their default language register

My theory is that many people mangle their English because, first of all, there are major gaps in their knowledge of basic English grammar and usage; they are therefore forced to make do and get by with the limited stock of English expressions they have accumulated in their heads. This could be due to their having received inadequate formal English instruction in school, or to having had very little opportunity to practice speaking and writing—not to mention thinking—in English. In any case, they now need to plug these gaps in their English by making a thorough and continuing self-review of the basic elements of the language.

So what can English-deficient people do to get started in plugging the gaps in their knowledge of English grammar and usage?

As a basic step in polishing their English to make themselves better communicators, this section of Jose Carillo’s English Language Forum will focus on two aspects:

1. A review of how the English language and its components basically work; and
2. Putting ideas and sentences together to form clear, coherent, readable, and
grammatically correct statements in English—all the time.

That’s what will be taken up in this section next and on a weekly basis. Watch for it!
« Last Edit: May 11, 2009, 03:05:57 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

Spreen
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2009, 12:18:42 AM »

Hello, Sir Joe!

Greetings with all due respect!

Thank you very much indeed for giving me a chance to learn more about the romance of the English language and be a part of your forum.

Is it correct to say, " Be careful in driving or drive carefully"? Which sentences are grammatically acceptable, Drive carefully, be careful in driving, drive cautiously, be cautious in driving? I would prefer to use "Be cautious in driving or drive cautiously. I am also confused about "Hi" and "Hello." Because my girlfriend attended a seminar on English proficiency and she told to me that one of the speakers said that "Hi is for Hi and Hello is for Hello." I am puzzled because I used to answer "Hi" to the person who greeted me "Hello." Please, help me out in understanding the rules in grammar which govern these sentences.

Thank you very much and more power.


Very respectfully yours,
Reagan
« Last Edit: May 09, 2009, 12:23:46 AM by Reagan » Logged
Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2009, 10:06:28 AM »

Yes, (1) “Be careful in driving” and (2) “Drive carefully” are both perfectly correct usage, and, for expressing the same idea, we can also say (3) “Be careful when driving” and (4) “Be careful when you drive” or the longer (5) “You must be careful when you drive” or (6) “You must be careful when driving.” How you say it is really a matter of choice, habit, emphasis, or situation.

Version 1 above, “Be careful in driving,” is actually the elliptical (shortened) form of the imperative sentence “You should be careful in driving”; in both of these constructions, the adjective “careful” is modified by the adverbial prepositional phrase “in driving.” The statement is in the nature of a request.

Version 2, “Drive carefully,” is a more forceful imperative statement than Version 1. It’s a mild command. When you put an exclamation mark at the tail end of the sentence, the mild command becomes a forceful order: “Drive carefully!” Both of these very concise constructions drop the subject “you”; they only use the verb “drive” and modify it with the adverb “carefully.” (Note that when the speaker doesn’t have safety in mind when he or she makes the command, the command can even be reduced to this single-word sentence: “Drive!”)

Versions 3, 4, 5, and 6 use the adverbial form “when + modifying phrase” to modify the adjective “careful.” In 3, that adverbial modifier is the gerund “driving”; in both 4 and 5, it’s the subordinate clause “you drive”; and in 6, it’s the gerund “driving” that—together with “when”—forms the subordinate adverbial phrase “when driving” to modify the verb “careful.”

So as you can see, Reagan, English provides us with so many ways for saying “Be careful in driving.” We can use any of the forms or sentence constructions discussed above, and all we really need to do is to make sure that our choice is grammatically and semantically correct—and not offensive to the person being addressed.     

As to “Hi!” and “Hello!”, contrary to the impression that that call-center trainor has given your girlfriend, there really are no firm rules for choosing between them. Whether it’s said face-to-face, through a telephone, though mobile-phone text message, or even through a letter, the choice between “Hi!” and “Hello!” is all a matter of personal disposition, occasion, mood, and medium of communication. Of course, “Hi!” being more peppy and informal than “Hello!”, you should perhaps be using it more often when talking face-to-face with people within your own age range. “Hello!” may be more appropriate for people much older than you are or superior to you in rank in the workplace. In formal situations like writing a job application letter, though, it won’t be advisable to use “Hi!” or “Hello!” to greet your unseen prospective employer. A more circumspect greeting—or none at all—will be more appropriate. 

(As to call-center telephone greetings and manners, however, I’m aware that the business process outsourcing industry has developed certain norms that apply to “cold calls”—meaning telephone calls that a call-center agent makes to customers who are total strangers. Perhaps a call-center trainor can discuss those norms with us by making a post in this Forum.)

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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2010, 04:56:00 PM »

Well, I must say that I actually thought the sentence was error-free. I didn’t realize that there is actually something wrong with the phrase itself. In fact, I do agree with you that people have a limited knowledge of English grammar and usage throughout tasks in their daily lives. I believe that this would have something to do with writing styles and personality. But I am sure that there are ways to improve and make ourselves better at using the language.
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Rex Lampros
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« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2011, 05:04:51 PM »

Hello, Sir Joe!

Greetings with all due respect!

Thank you very much indeed for giving me a chance to learn more about the romance of the English language and be a part of your forum.

Is it correct to say, " Be careful in driving or drive carefully"? Which sentences are grammatically acceptable, Drive carefully, be careful in driving, drive cautiously, be cautious in driving? I would prefer to use "Be cautious in driving or drive cautiously. I am also confused about "Hi" and "Hello." Because my girlfriend attended a seminar on English proficiency and she told to me that one of the speakers said that "Hi is for Hi and Hello is for Hello." I am puzzled because I used to answer "Hi" to the person who greeted me "Hello." Please, help me out in understanding the rules in grammar which govern these sentences.

Thank you very much and more power.


Very respectfully yours,
Reagan




















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