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Author Topic: An assortment of bewildering questions about English usage  (Read 7899 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: October 28, 2011, 02:47:49 AM »

Questions sent as private message by pipes, Forum member (October 27, 2011):

Dear Mr. Carillo,

Good day!

I would just like to consult you about the following grammar-related questions that baffle me a lot:

1. During the search for Miss Universe 2011, the male host said, “Architecture and Agriculture is her hobby.” I’m sure I did hear him right. Since when have they (“Architecture and Agriculture”) become one? Is the use of the verb here correct?

2. What are the correct plural forms of “fish” and “food?” I recall my elementary and secondary teachers telling us about “schools of fish” and “foods.” However, my college professor told us that we should use “fishes” for fish and “food” for the noun food instead. Was he right in his grammar prescription?

3. When do we use “had...had” as in, “The boy had already had experience on the road with Gypsies....”?

4. Our book suggests that the correct responses signifying approval for the questions that start with “Would you mind...?” and “Do you mind...?” are “Yes, I would mind” and “Yes, I do mind.”

Shouldn’t the responses be “No, I wouldn’t mind” and "No, I don’t mind”?

5. Is there such a thing as a “possible conditional”? Would you mind giving me examples?

I am not an expert on these. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much.

Yours,
pipes

My reply to pipes:




Let’s take up your questions one by one:

1. “Architecture and agriculture is her hobby.”

Of course, that male host in the recent Miss Universe 2011 committed a grammar boo-boo by treating the compound subject “architecture and agriculture” as singular; he should have used the plural form of the verb “be” and the plural noun complement “hobbies” in that sentence, as follows: “Architecture and agriculture are her hobbies.” In the presence of so many samples of pulchritude from all over the world, that male host must have been mesmerized into thinking that the noun phrase “architecture and agriculture” is in the same league as, say, the expression “the long and the short of it.” The elements of this latter compound phrase are so inseparable that they have come to be taken as a unit, so the phrase is considered singular, as in “The long and the short of it is that he made a grammar mistake.”

2. The correct plural forms of “fish” and “food”

Your college professor was correct is prescribing “fishes” as the plural form of “fish,” as in “schools of fish” and “fishes” when referring to more than two of such aquatic animals. When the word “fish” is used to refer to the flesh of fish used as food, however, that prescription no longer applies, for “fish” then becomes a collective noun that’s considered singular in form, as in “A lot of fish was served at lunch.”  

And, yes, your college professor was also correct in prescribing “food” as the collective singular form for the noun “food.” That must be qualified, though, to be true only for several servings of the same kind of food, as in “The host served several plates of food unfamiliar to the guests.” When referring to various kinds of food as products, though, we can use the plural form “foods” for them, as in “The company manufactures various foods in its new facility.”

3. The use of the form “had...had”

In the sentence that you provided, “The boy had already had experience on the road with Gypsies,” the past-perfect form “had…had” is used to indicate that the boy already had a previous encounter on the road with Gypsies before another such experience with them in the past.

The past perfect form “had…had” consists of the main verb “had”—the past-tense form of the verb “have” in the sense of “to acquire or get possession of”—and the past participle ‘had,” to which an object (“experience” in the example above) is added.

Without the adverb “already” as used in the example above, “had…had” is typically used in past-perfect sentences relating two separate past actions, one of which happened earlier than the other, as in “We had had breakfast by the time Alice came home.”

4. The correct responses signifying approval for the questions that start with “Would you mind...?” and “Do you mind...?”  

The book you are using is grievously wrong if it indeed prescribes that the correct responses signifying approval for the questions that start with “Would you mind...?” and “Do you mind...?” are “Yes, I would mind” and “Yes, I do mind.” That book’s author or authors must have been terribly misinformed or confused when they made those prescriptions, for the well-established usage is that the correct responses to those questions signifying approval are exactly the opposite of what they prescribed:

Question: “Would you mind closing the door?” Correct response signifying approval: “No, I wouldn’t mind, go right ahead.”

Question: “Do you mind closing the door?” Correct response signifying approval: “No, I don’t mind, go right ahead.”

Please furnish me the title and other details of that book and, if possible, a scanned copy of the page where that erroneous prescription appears. I think representations must be made to withdraw that book from circulation right away so it can be stopped from perpetuating this very serious grammar misinformation about English grammar.  

5. Is there such a thing as a “possible conditional”?

Yes, of course. The possible conditional, also called the future possible conditional or the first conditional (real possibility), is the simplest form of the conditional sentence. (Click this link to a comprehensive discussion of the conditionals in the Forum, “The four types of conditional sentences.”) Such sentences talk about a future possibility that depends upon a certain future condition, and they take the form of an “if”-clause in the simple present tense, with the main clause in the simple future tense.

Here are two examples:

(1) “If you come this weekend, I’ll take you to the concert.”
(2) “If the team performs well tonight, we’ll have a chance of qualifying for the championship.”

Alternatively, the order of the “if”-clause and the main clause in possible conditionals can be inverted without changing their meaning:

(1) “I’ll take you to the concert if you come this weekend.”
(2) “We’ll have a chance of qualifying for the championship if the team performs well tonight.”
« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 10:46:01 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

Joe Carillo
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« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2011, 09:44:21 AM »

I made a back check of my e-mails for the past month and came across this e-mail from Pipes dated November 5, 2011 with a pdf file of the book page I requested. Due to an oversight, I missed reading it earlier.

Here's the e-mail from Pipes:


Dear Mr. Carillo,

Attached is the copy of the book I had told you about. However, since the book was written and published here in Thailand, I guess there is not much to worry about. You can take at look at how erroneous the book is.

Yours,
Pipes

My reply to Pipes:

I found that all the responses on that page regarding this statement are grammatically and logically correct: “If the sentence begins with “Do you mind...? or “Would you mind…?”

Your note to me was as follows:

Quote
4. Our book suggests that the correct responses for the questions that start with “Would you mind...?” and “Do you mind...?” are “Yes, I would mind” and “Yes, I do mind.” (signifying approval)?

Shouldn’t the responses be “No, I wouldn’t mind” and “NO, I don’t mind.”?

I said in my reply that you were correct in saying that to signify approval of the requested action, the correct responses should be “No, I wouldn’t mind” and “No, I don’t mind,” as in the following examples that I provided:

Question: “Would you mind closing the door?” Correct response signifying approval: “No, I wouldn’t mind, go right ahead.”

Question: “Do you mind closing the door?” Correct response signifying approval: “No, I don’t mind, go right ahead.”

Upon reviewing the prescribed alternative answers in the book, however, I found that you have misunderstood them to be all signifying disapproval. On the contrary, all of those answers actually signify approval of the requested action (“No, of course not,” “No, not at all,” “Not at all,” etc.). What this means is that they are all correct responses. It looks like you’ve simply mistaken them for the “Not Permit” answers below them on that same page, which prescribe the answers signifying disapproval (“Yes, I do,” “Yes, I do mind,” “Yes, I would,” etc.)

To sum up, all of the prescribed responses in that page are grammatically and logically correct, so I suggest that you go over them again so you can internalize their usage in the proper way.

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