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  1. #1
    popri is offline Newbie
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    a question of English used in an entrance exam

    Hi! This is my first time to write here.
    An entrance exam for high schools was held in Tokyo and somebody was asking a question on the Japanese site if the sentence written below is correct. I myself don't understand well and the question's made me very curious.

    The sentence: He had a brother Bob.

    Is this correct?

    He/She thinks it should be "He had a brother called Bob."
    or "He had a brother, Bob."

    I think it's very picky but I guess he/she thinks there should be no mistakes in such a public test. I'd very appreciated it if you could explain slight differences for three sentences.

  2. #2
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    They are all just different ways of saying the same thing. That HE HAD A BROTHER WHOSE NAME WAS BOB (we can only assume poor Bob is dead since you use the past tense)


    He had a brother Bob.

    He had a brother called Bob.

    He had a brother, Bob.

  3. #3
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    Although 'he had a brother Bob' would be a very strange and uncommon way of saying it. You would only say this is very specific contexts.

  4. #4
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    "Guess who I met last week."
    "No, who?"
    "Bill."
    "Bill?"
    "Bill."
    "Hmm. I don't remember a Bill."
    "Sure you do. He had a brother Bob and three sisters."
    "Wait a minute...it's all coming back to me. Little fellow?"
    "That's the one."
    "Okay, so what about Bill?"
    "Well, it's not about Bill, exactly. It's more about his brother, Bob. Did you know he'd just been made President of the United States?"
    "Bob?"
    "Bob."
    "Bob who had a brother Bill and three sisters?"
    "That's the one."
    "Well, what do you know..."

    MrP

  5. #5
    popri is offline Newbie
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    Thank you for answering my question. But could it be possible for you to explain a little bit more?
    My question might have confused you, but I know those three sentences are all correct. At least, there is no problem as SPOKEN English. But it could be a different story when it comes to writing. I'd like to know subtle nuance of each sentence.
    I guess writers and editors have their own writing styles. Even ordinary people would consider which sentence is suitable to express their feeling.
    What I mean is I'd like to know nuance of each sentence at the level of writing. I hope any of you understand and help me again!
    Somebody is complaining that public high schools in Tokyo have made a grammatical mistake, and I want to explain the three sentences are all correct. And they wouldn't satisfy with the answer that a native speaker told me so. They would start saying like "a native speaker? Can you trust him/her? There are so many people and we don't know if they speak proper English. Oh well.... I know that's silly but I want to satisfy them in order not say such a thing any longer.

  6. #6
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    Hello Popri

    We're all agreed that the version with the comma is correct:

    1. He had a brother, Bob.

    The comma denotes a pause. However, in some contexts (e.g. in the dialogue I posted before) you wouldn't necessarily pause before "Bob". Therefore a comma wouldn't be necessary.

    (But that's only my opinion; other native speakers would insist on a comma.)

    MrP

  7. #7
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    I think the comma is pretty essential. As the noun phrase 'brother Bob' is very odd. With the comma and Bob following, you are adding additional information, basically, that his name is Bob.

    Consider:

    I have a dictionary the Oxford

    I have a dictionary, the Oxford

  8. #8
    popri is offline Newbie
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    Re: a question of English used in an entrance exam

    Dear all of you who've answered for my question:

    I'm sorry that it took me a while to come back here.
    I just wanted to say thanks to all of you.
    It was very useful and the person on the Japanese site seems to satisfied with my explanation.

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