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    #1

    How to pronounce it?

    Dear teachers,
    Yesterday afternoon my colleagues and I sat in on a new teacher's lecture. After the class, every member of our teaching and research group was required to make a comment on the teacher's teaching and a professor, who teaches English writing, criticized the new teaching for using "How to spell the word?" in her teaching. I also teach the course of English writing and use the same coursebook as this professor does(We teach the different classes of the same year). The coursebook we two use tells us that "How to operate this computer?" is a wrong sentence and should be changed to "How do you operate this computer?" or "How should this computer be operated?" But in my opinion, the structure of "How to spell/pronounce it?" is frequently used as a complete sentence in conversations and we usually do not think of it as something incorrect, but certainly we should avoid using it in writing, which demands relatively formal English.

    Just now I retrieved my transcription of a video teaching programme where one of the teachers says "The problem with “How to spell____?” is that the question lacks the subject you. English grammar requires that we include it; or else it sounds strange. " However, I have noticed that these days at CBS5 there is a video clip promoting www.pronouncenames.com where a jounalist interviews people on the street at random and asks a lady "How to pronounce it?" . If you like, you may go to http://cbs5.com/video/id=56429@kpix.dayport.com and have a look. The question the journalist asks is at 0:28/2:35.

    So, here I would like you to give me your views on how people(yourself included) actually use "How to do something?" in speech and writing. I hope to learn how to use it properly in different situations with your help.
    Thanks.
    Richard

  1. Soup's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Hello Richard

    The standard wording is "How do you pronounce it?" The other one, "How to pronounce it?", is a common grammar question among my Asian students (Japan, China, South Korea), past and present.

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    #3

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Hello Richard

    The standard wording is "How do you pronounce it?" The other one, "How to pronounce it?", is a common grammar question among my Asian students (Japan, China, South Korea), past and present.
    Thanks, soup.

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    #4

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Hello Richard

    The standard wording is "How do you pronounce it?" The other one, "How to pronounce it?", is a common grammar question among my Asian students (Japan, China, South Korea), past and present.
    Why Asian?

    Thanks

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    #5

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    Why Asian?

    Thanks
    Do you mean that you Brazilian learners of English also frequently use this wrong structure as a complete question? If so, it could be a universal mistake by non-native learners of English. It is an interesting phenomenon.

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    #6

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by ohmyrichard View Post
    Do you mean that you Brazilian learners of English also frequently use this wrong structure as a complete question? If so, it could be a universal mistake by non-native learners of English. It is an interesting phenomenon.
    No, I misunderstood. I thought the structure was wrong because of the question mark.

    How to pronounce it (?) might be a title of a book, a course etc.


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    #7

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    Why Asian?

    Thanks
    No reason in particular. It's just that I've been teaching in Asia for the past 11 years and the question about the grammaticality of "How to say/write/do/pronounce/understand" is a popular one.

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    #8

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    Why Asian?

    Thanks
    I suspect it's because Chinese grammar is simpler, and "How to say" most closely resembles their manner of asking the same thing.

    Ex. Cantonese "dim gong?" = "how say..." which takes a direct object. I'm not 100% sure of the spelling, but that's how it is said in Hong Kong.

    Much simpler than our formulae: "How is it that one says....." phew! That's not easy.

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    #9

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    I suspect it's because Chinese grammar is simpler, and "How to say" most closely resembles their manner of asking the same thing.

    Ex. Cantonese "dim gong?" = "how say..." which takes a direct object. I'm not 100% sure of the spelling, but that's how it is said in Hong Kong.

    Much simpler than our formulae: "How is it that one says....." phew! That's not easy.
    I have no idea whether Chinese grammar is simpler or not. But as for the Chinese counterpart of "How do you pronounce this word/ spell it/...?" it is really something more concise and if I translate it back into English literarally,it is "How (to)say it/pronounce it/ spell the word?" with the subject "you" habitually omitted. Academically we call the use of the wrong structure of "How to pronounce this word?" negative transfer.
    As for "How is it that one says..." I've got a question for you. Can we simply say "How does one say..." to ask about the same thing? This sentence structure reminds me of a similar one--that is, "What is it that makes him mad?" What is the difference between "What is it that makes him mad?" and this simpler version: "What makes him mad?" And which one of the two versions do you native speakers prefer? We Chinese learners of English always prefers the latter,which is simpler and closer to its Chinese counterpart in terms of structure, over the former, which in our eyes is unnecessarily complicated in structure. This may be something very interesting when we contrast the Chinese and English ways of putting this same idea.
    Last edited by ohmyrichard; 13-Nov-2009 at 02:24.

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    #10

    Re: How to pronounce it?

    Well, "how is it that one says" is long-winded, but even our regular English interrogative involves "to do" unlike any other languages I know. "How do you say..." has two verbs, which is odd for any learner who is not a native speaker.

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