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  1. #1
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    too/either, Stephen Fry

    What do you think about the use of "too" at about 1:17 in this video?

  2. #2
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    Re: too/either, Stephen Fry

    Stephen says:
    Of course, I am concerned that young people shouldn't break into other people's cars, too.
    On first hearing that sentence it sounds completely unremarkable, but studying it more closely I can certainly see why you asked a question about it. "Either" would not be appropriate in this sentence, however. It is a tricky one, but I think it comes down to this - he is concerned, so he uses "too".
    • He is concerned about young people breaking into his car.
    • He is concerned about young people breaking into other people's cars, too.


    The bottom of this page has some more examples of sentences where it is tricky for non-native speakers to choose the right word.

    Incidentally, to me it is not the use of "too" that is strange, it is the use of "I am concerned that...".

    Normally we say things like:
    • I am concerned that I will not be safe.
    • I am concerned that young people will break into my car.
    • I am concerned that students are not interested in my lessons.


    But Stephen says he is concerned that young people should not break into his car, which could be interpreted to mean that the fact that young people should not break into his car is concerning! It is completely clear to me what Stephen means though, and I would not even have thought about it unless you asked this question and I looked at the sentence closely.

    And one more digression for any students of English accents - Stephen is almost speaking in his natural accent but he is doing a slightly silly voice. Listen to the way he says "principle" at 1:34, for example. I think Stephen would normally pronounce that word more clearly.

  3. #3
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: too/either, Stephen Fry

    Thank you very much.

    I think I understand it better now and I think which word should be used depends on what it refers to. If it refers to, as you say, Stephen's being concerned, then "too" should be used. (He's concerned about young people breaking into his car and he is concerned about young people breaking into other people's cars too.) If, on the other hand, the word refers to what young people do, then we should use "either". (Stephen thinks that young people shouldn't break into his car and (he thinks that) they shouldn't break into other people's cars either.) I think either would work with the wording he chose for his sentence, woudn't it? (Irrespective(ly) of the "concerned" issue.) Is that right?

    I'm not sure why I noticed that actually but I have two guesses. Firstly, I think I observe native speakers using "either" whenever there is any trace of negation in a sentence. It might not be true that they do it, but that's what I notice. Do they actually?

    And secondly, I simply did not think the "too" might be referring to "concerned".

    PS: I've just got stuck on the "it" I've marked red. Is it correct? "Either" is singular so it should be but it doesn't sound right to me.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 21-Nov-2010 at 02:17.

  4. #4
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    Re: too/either, Stephen Fry

    "Either" would still sound strange to me in that sentence but I am interested to hear how other native speakers feel.

    I'm not sure why I noticed that actually but I have two guesses. Firstly, I think I observe native speakers using "either" whenever there is any trace of negation in a sentence. It might not be true that they do it, but that's what I notice. Do they actually?
    I would not be surprised if this were true. I think when people are talking in casual situations they are not always careful about this type of thing, especially in long and complex sentences.

  5. #5
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    Re: too/either, Stephen Fry

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I think either would work with the wording he chose for his sentence, woudn't it? (Irrespective(ly) of the "concerned" issue.) Is that right?

    PS: I've just got stuck on the "it" I've marked red. Is it correct? "Either" is singular so it should be but it doesn't sound right to me.
    It sound fine to me, BC.

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    Re: too/either, Stephen Fry

    You are both right about this. I am joining in only because Munch wrote, "I am interested to hear how other native speakers feel."

    I am concerned that they shouldn't break into my car.

    I am concerned that they shouldn't break into other peoples cars, too

    I am concerned that they shouldn't break into other peoples cars, either


    I think that, as with question tags, we sometimes tag the intended thought rather than the actual words - and listeners have no problem with this, normally. You, BC and Munch, only noticed this because you are both interested in the English language and you both know the usage normally taught.

    You two probably also noticed the misplaced only in my last sentence. Most native speakers wouldn't have noticed it - it's common practice.

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