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  1. #1
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    Default their nose/noses

    Dear all,

    In English, one can say: "John and Pete have blown their noses."
    If this sentence were translated literally into Dutch, it would implicate that John and Pete both have several noses. Instead, we say: "Jan en Piet hebben hun neus gesnoten." (de neus > neuzen)

    Now, I can't find anything about this matter in my grammar books (English, Dutch, Swedish, French, German). Well, perhaps the issue is being discussed in them, but I can't find it anyhow.

    Any information on the matter would be welcome, as well as translations of comparable constructions into other languages (preferably Germanic languages, Romance languages are okay too).

    Kind regards,

    Bik

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: their nose/noses

    If you used the singular in English, it might sound like they shared a nose.

  3. #3
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: their nose/noses

    I'll suggest that because teachers have long stressed the idea of everything in a sentence matching, ie. parallelism [see defintion below], English speakers believe that's how English works. But does it really?

    We know the logic of many of the old prescriptions was more than a bit faulty.

    Results 1 - 10 of about 446 English pages for " blew their noses"

    Results 1 - 10 of about 275 English pages for " blew their nose".

    Results 1 - 10 of about 47 English pages for " they blew their nose".

    Results 1 - 10 of about 94 English pages for " they blew their noses".


    The plural dominates but the singular makes a strong showing, illustrating that it is used. One of the small successes of PG.

    ++++++++++++++++
    M-W online:
    par·al·lel·ism
    Function: noun

    3 : repeated syntactical similarities introduced for rhetorical effect
    ++++++++++++

    Tdol's suggestion seemed mostly tongue in cheek but nevertheless, I'd say that common sense rules out such an idea in any language.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: their nose/noses

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    If you used the singular in English, it might sound like they shared a nose.
    yeah, I suspected it might. however, if you use the plural in Dutch, it sounds as if John and Pete each have, say, four noses.

    the logic behind it is:

    "Jan snuit zijn neus." (John blows his nose)
    + "Piet snuit zijn neus." (Pete blows his nose)
    ---------------------------------------------
    "Jan en Piet snuiten hun neus." (John and Pete blow their nose)

    It considered a kind of an ellipsis in which "neus" is a common element in each of the original sentences. I honestly admit that the English logic (which riverkid kindly pointed out) makes more sense, as the verb and the determiner (his > their) both are in the plural as well.

    Does anyone know how constructions like these look like in Swedish (I'm a linguistics student in English and Swedish)? "to blow one's nose" is a phrasal-reflexive verb, I think, but any other sentence should do

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