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    • Join Date: Mar 2009
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    #1

    very sweetly

    Dear teachers,
    Could you tell me what the sentence means:

    Could you very sweetly tell me a story?

    Does it mean 'with a nice voice' or... I don't know.

    Thank you in advance.


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    #2

    Re: very sweetly

    Quote Originally Posted by cat's_eyes View Post
    Dear teachers,
    Could you tell me what the sentence means:

    Could you very sweetly tell me a story?

    Does it mean 'with a nice voice' or... I don't know.

    Thank you in advance.
    No. I do not think so. 'very sweetly' means "(would you be) so sweet..."

  1. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: very sweetly

    So you think sweetly belongs to could?
    That means this would have the same meaning (if it's actually true):
    Could you be so sweet and tell me a story?

    Cheers!


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    #4

    Re: very sweetly

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    So you think sweetly belongs to could?
    That means this would have the same meaning (if it's actually true):
    Could you be so sweet and tell me a story?

    Cheers!
    Hi

    Good question. If I put aside everything and allow my brain to use only my knowledge in syntax, yes, I would say 'sweetly' describes 'tell'. But I will not resort to syntax only because I feel that would be a bad decision.
    If I look at the meaning, I would say 'sweetly', although carries all the features I have learnt about adverbs, is attached to the referent of 'you'. It describes 'you'. Adjectival. And here we go, at the end of my tether.

  2. Soup's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: very sweetly

    Quote Originally Posted by svartnik View Post
    If I look at the meaning, I would say 'sweetly', although carries all the features I have learnt about adverbs, is attached to the referent of 'you'. It describes 'you'. Adjectival. And here we go, at the end of my tether.
    Well, even if sweetly were an adjective, there's the problem that adjectives modify nouns, not pronouns. Having said that, I can see your interpretation quite clearly, and I get it:


    Could you--if you would be so very sweet as to--tell me a story?
    It's a possible interpretation, one that would require punctuation, though; but, even then it would be ambiguous:


    • Could you--very sweetly--tell me a story?
      1. in a sweet voice <default reading>
      2. be so kind as to



    The problem is that the adverb lacks an implied subject; we'd have to give it one for the phrase to carry the meaning you want:


    • Could you, if you'd be so kind as to, tell me a story?

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: very sweetly

    It's true that it's ambiguous but on first reading it, I automatically connected "very sweetly" with "could".

  4. Soup's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: very sweetly

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    It's true that it's ambiguous but on first reading it, I automatically connected "very sweetly" with "could".
    Interesting. On my first read, I couldn't figure out what it meant.

    Could the reason you read it as modifying could be because very sweetly is emphasized?


    • Could you very sweetly tell me a story?


    Or could it be that could 's modality forces that reading? That is, could is akin in meaning to would you be so kind as to.

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: very sweetly

    Quote Originally Posted by cat's_eyes View Post
    Dear teachers,
    Could you tell me what the sentence means:

    Could you very sweetly tell me a story?

    Does it mean 'with a nice voice' or... I don't know.

    Thank you in advance.
    Perhaps it worth stating explicitly that this doesn't sound like a sentence that you would hear often from a native speaker.

    Would you very kindly tell me a story?
    = Would you be so kind as to tell me a story? would be more normal.

  6. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: very sweetly

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Interesting. On my first read, I couldn't figure out what it meant.


    Or could it be that could 's modality forces that reading? That is, could is akin in meaning to would you be so kind as to.
    Yes I think that's it. It's true, however, that it's not the the way that a native speaker would usually say it, as Raymott has said.

  7. #10

    Re: very sweetly

    The syntactic approach to decoding this is clearly limited as this is a sentence you'd find in spoken communication, which as we know can diverge from explicit rules of syntax in favour of any number of other cues (especially if it's not presented in the style we'd expect - be that a child, an English learner or somebody with a different dialect of English). It could mean "read it sweetly" or "be so sweet as to read it" - both of which would be achievable through intonation and stress in the sentence. I think if we heard it, we'd instinctively know what the person meant, but as it is just one sentence that's been presented to us out of context, we can't say what it means.

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