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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2005
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    Default a question for native speakers

    Hi,

    This question concerns a subtle process:
    How, for want of a better way of putting it, does your brain work when you try to make out this sentence's meaning"
    This law enables the volume of gas to be calculated.

    For me, the process is like this:
    1) The law...
    2) The law enables the volume of the gas...
    3) The law enables the volume of the gas.. + to be calculated

    That is, I will automatically and, what is worse, habitually pause at the word 'gas'. Then I'll think to my self: What will the law enables the volume of the gas to do? And then I'll see the clause 'to be calculated'. And then I'll understand this sentence.

    But now I become a bit suspicious of this reasoning. Grammar books often say a sentence like 'What caused you to be ill' should be split into three parts: 1) What 2) caused 3) you to be ill, which probably means that something like 'you to be ill' should be understood as a grammatical unit.

    However, when I try to read this sentence, my thinking pattern'd in evitably lead me to mentally split it this way 1) What 2) caused you 3) to be ill, since perhaps this agrees with the grammar and thinking pattern of my native tongue.

    And I realize that this could be the very problem that's been hindering my understanding of English sentences for so long and that's made me regress a lot whenever I try to read. Maybe the right way to understand that sentence should be like:

    1)The law.. (Subject)
    2)The law enables... (Verb)
    3)The law enables..+ the volume of gas to be calculated (Object)

    And for a sentence like:
    The agreement requires all parties to renounce the use of violence.

    My, and arguably many other my countrymen's, presumably wrong way of thinking about this is like:
    1)The agreement... (thinking: what will it do?)
    2)The agreement require all parties.... (thinking: what will it require all parties to do?)
    3).....the rest


    The correct reasoning should be:
    1)The agreement.. (thinking: what will it do?)
    2)The agreement require..(thinking: what will it require? )
    3).... (conclusion:what it requires is all parties renouncing the use of violence.)

    Does this type of reasoning correspond with yours? I'd be so happy if you could share a little bit of your view. Thank you.





    PS: I've got a extra question. If my reasoning is right, then maybe the sentence 'What caused you to be ill?' and 'What caused you being ill' are not so different, are they? Perhaps their differences lie only in formality?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    Default Re: a question for native speakers

    Native speakers think in terms of the verb's semantic structure or how many arguments/objects it requires. Everything else, except the subject, is just added information. For example,

    Max gave me a book. (Ditransitive: Direct Object + Indirect Object)
    => The reader and/or listener gets to 'give' then automatically looks for two objects.

    The named the dog "Spot". (Direct Object + Object Complement)
    => The reader and/or listener gets to "named" and automatically looks for the direct object and its complement.

    Consider now,

    enable, verb, someone + to do something

    'What caused you to be ill?' and 'What caused you being ill' are not so different, are they? Perhaps their differences lie only in formality?
    'formality' plays an active role in many languages but its role isn't all that active in English, so try not to use it as a means to justify why this or that word, phrase or sentence doesn't seem to fit the frame, sort to speak.

    [1] What caused you to be(come) ill?
    Verb: cause, someone/something (to do/be . . .) The 'to do/be' part is optional, as in [2]:

    [2] *What caused you being ill? (ungrammatical)

    Try,

    [3] What caused your illness?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2005
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    Default Re: a question for native speakers

    Awfully helpful. Thanks. It's appreciated.

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