Author Topic: Some syntax variations in English evoke practically the same sense  (Read 5405 times)

Miss Mae

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Why should there be an in between the words "speaking" and "English" in the second sentence but nothing between the same words in the first sentence?

The last time I was heard speaking English fluently was when my grade-school assistant principal visited me in the ICU.

But that incident made me conscious of a divide between Filipinos who prefer speaking in English and those who prefer speaking in Tagalog.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2013, 01:43:39 PM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some syntax variations in English evoke practically the same sense
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2013, 01:48:02 PM »
Hmm… a very interesting grammar question.

In the first sentence, “The last time I was heard speaking English fluently was when my grade-school assistant principal visited me in the ICU,” the preposition “in” is not used between “speaking” and “English” because here, “English” is being used as an adjective modifying the gerund “speaking.” With such a construction in the form “gerund + adjective + adverb,” the implied sense is that the speaker speaks English fluently as a matter of course.

On the other hand, in the second sentence, “But that incident made me conscious of a divide between Filipinos who prefer speaking in English and those who prefer speaking in Tagalog,” the preposition “in” is used between “speaking” and “English” and between “speaking and “Tagalog” because in both instances, “English” and “Tagalog” are being used as objects of the preposition “in.” In this form, the implied sense is that the speaker has a choice of speaking either in English or Tagalog, and vice versa. This sense is, in fact, emphasized by the verb “prefer,” in such a way that the preposition “in” becomes functionally necessary to link the verb with the alternative objects “English” or “Tagalog.”

In informal English, however, these grammatical distinctions often get blurred without causing sentence dysfunction. In the first sentence you presented, the phrase “speaking English fluently” can also use “in” without raising eyebrows and yield practically the same sense: “The last time I was heard speaking in English fluently was when my grade-school assistant principal visited me in the ICU.” So with knocking off the “in” in the phrases “prefer speaking in English” and “prefer speaking in Tagalog” in the second sentence: “But that incident made me conscious of a divide between Filipinos who prefer speaking English and those who prefer speaking Tagalog.” English has the flexibility and tolerance for such minor deviations in syntax in evoking the same sense, so they really shouldn't cause us to lose sleep.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 01:14:26 AM by Joe Carillo »

Miss Mae

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Re: Some syntax variations in English evoke practically the same sense
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2013, 12:40:33 AM »
Wait. Let me understand.

If the reason why there is no in between the words "speaking" and "English" is because the latter was used as an adjective, then why there is also no in between the words "live" and "is" in the sentence below?

About 140 kilometers away from the city where I live is Dubai.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some syntax variations in English evoke practically the same sense
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2013, 10:43:51 AM »
There’s no need for the preposition “in” in this sentence that you presented:

“About 140 kilometers away from the city where I live is Dubai.”

It’s because in the phrase “where I live is Dubai,” the noun “Dubai” is actually not an object of the preposition; instead, it is the subject of the sentence. You see, that sentence is what’s known as an inverted sentence, with the following construction as its normal form:

“Dubai is about 140 kilometers away from the city where I live.”

In this normal form, “Dubai” is the subject and the whole phrase “is about 140 kilometers away from the city where I live” is the subject complement that serves to describe it.

But let’s address the question as to whether the preposition “in” might hypothetically be needed in the original sentence you presented. Yes, it might, but that “in” would need an object of the preposition, say “my Filipina friend,” to function properly, as in the following sentence:

“About 140 kilometers away from the city where I live in with my Filipina friend is Dubai.”

In that form, however, “live in” becomes a prepositional idiom that could mean “to live in one’s place of employment” or “live in another’s home” or, in the derogatory sense, to live with a member of the opposite sex without benefit of marriage—an arrangement that’s legally known as “cohabitation.”

Another thing: Even if that reconstruction is grammatically and semantically airtight, it would be much more readable if it’s also rendered in the normal form as we had done to your original sentence. That normal form would read as follows:

“Dubai is about 140 kilometers away from the city where I live in with my Filipina friend.”

I trust that settles this matter about the usage of “in” for you.

Miss Mae

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Re: Some syntax variations in English evoke practically the same sense
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2013, 01:59:56 PM »
Thank you. But would you still please allow me to list down what I had understood (and correct what I might have misinterpreted)? Informal English could tolerate these minor syntax deviations,  but how about if I have to use them formally?

•   The preposition “in” need not be used between a verb and an adjective.
•   The preposition “in” should be used between a verb and another object.