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  1. #1
    learning54's Avatar
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    Default Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Hi teachers,
    Are questions 'a' and 'b' correct according to the bold words in this statement? 'We couldn't find him in the trees'.
    a) Where couldn't you find him?
    b) Where could you not find him?

    Thanks in advance

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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Quote Originally Posted by learning54 View Post
    Hi teachers,
    Are questions 'a' and 'b' correct according to the bold words in this statement? 'We couldn't find him in the trees'.
    a) Where couldn't you find him?
    b) Where could you not find him?

    Thanks in advance
    They mean the same. It's an extremely unlikely question, of the type "Where wasn't he?"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    A better comprehension question would be "Where did you look for him?"
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  4. #4
    learning54's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Hi Raymott,
    Thank you for your reply. So, they are not very natural ones, are they?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Hi Barb-D,
    Thank you for your suggestion.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Quote Originally Posted by learning54 View Post
    Hi Raymott,
    Thank you for your reply. So, they are not very natural ones, are they?
    No, they are not natural at all. In English, we don't ask questions such as the following:
    1. "Where wasn't he?"
    2. "Where didn't you have dinner last night?"
    3. "Where couldn't he find his keys?"

    They are understandable in the context of a comprehension question (an artificial language situation), but I'd advise against using them even there, because it could give students the idea that these were good questions in speaking generally.

    In a comprehension question, you might have the text:
    "They couldn't find him in the trees. Nor could they find him in the village. They did, however, find him at the beach."
    And the question, "Where couldn't they find him?"
    And the answer would be "In the trees and in the village."
    But you have to understand that you've created an artificial universe in which he could only be in one of three possible places. In real life, there are infinite places he could be, so there are infinite answers to "Where wasn't he?" etc.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Hi Raymott,
    Thank YOU so much for your detailed explanation. I really understand your intention, further more, your great advice!

    Best,
    L54

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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    I have pointed out before that quite a few of your questions are not really natural.

    Even when they are natural, many do not really test comprehension. For example, a student who has read or heard "A smerdle torqued through a grundy grot and pippled quertly", could easily answer these questions:

    What torqued through a grundy grot?
    How did the snerdle get through the grundy grot?
    What sort of grot was it?
    What was grundy?
    How did the snerdle pipple?
    What did the snerdle do quertly?

    The person who set the questions might be very satisfied with the correct answers, not realising that the student had no idea of the meaning of smerdle, torqued, grundy, grot, pippled or quertly.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  9. #9
    learning54's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Hi 5jj,
    Thank you for your reply. The students understand the meaning of almost each word. They have done the listening, we have already discussed vocabulary if needed, and afterwards we have read the text. The next class we do do this exercise.

    So, they have already heard every statement I ask for. The exercise is only oral and I tell them:

    In relation to this statement, 'The tall trees were five hundred metres away', Ask a question with ‘how far’.

    They have to say, 'How far away were the trees?' That's the idea, and so on with other statements. It is quite productive in order to make them think only in English. What do yo think?


    L54
    Last edited by learning54; 26-Feb-2012 at 19:03.

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    Default Re: Question on a question with 'couldn't you' and 'could you not'

    Quote Originally Posted by learning54 View Post
    What do you think?.
    I see your point, but I have always been wary of getting learners to ask questions to which they already know the answer. If I want them to practise question formation, I prefer to give them pair-work exercises in which each has some information that the other is missing. They are told that they have received a message in which some words have become illegible, and they need to know what they are. So their worksheets might read:

    Student A: %%%% could not see the cat %%%% the chair.

    Student A: John could not see %%%% behind %%%%.

    If you want more control, the students could have the garbled message and ask the teacher for the information.

    I can't claim that this is 'authentic' use of language, but it is less artificial than asking questions to which they know the answer.





    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


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