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    #1

    Does the sentence tell whether the man tore his shirt on purpose?

    He tore his shirt on a nail.

    To me, this sentence sounds like this man tore his shirt, at least partially, on his own will, since it's written in first person. Then, its Chinese translation shows this sentence only tells what happened. Presumbly, the translators of dictionaries must have a much better understanding of both languages. It's also the same translators, however, who don't differentiate the simple past and the present perfect tenses in their translations on many occasions. Could you please tell me what kind of meaning this sentences actually conveys.

    Many thanks

    Richard


  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Does the sentence tell whether the man tore his shirt on purpose?

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    [/CENTER]
    To me, this sentence sounds like this man tore his shirt, at least partially, on his own will, since it's written in first person.
    No, it's written in the third person. First person would be "I tore my shirt on a nail", and there's no correlation between point of view and volitional activity.

    It means he accidentally tore his shirt on a nail, unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise.

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    #3

    Re: Does the sentence tell whether the man tore his shirt on purpose?

    I must have been influenced by my mother language, in which the very same sentence could have two meanings.

    Thank you, Raymott.

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    #4

    Re: Does the sentence tell whether the man tore his shirt on purpose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    [/LEFT]
    It means he accidentally tore his shirt on a nail, unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
    As Raymott implies, it can have two meanings. It would almost always mean to accidentally tear but if 'there is evidence to suggest otherwise' it could mean to tear on purpose. However, it's difficult to think of a context in which this would be the case; that said, I will have a go:

    "The police would be there soon. He quickly tore his shirt on one of the rusty nails hanging from the dripping plank. He would tell them it had been a struggle, that he'd had no choice but to defend himself."

    OK, not pretty and no great author in the making, but it works.

    Anyone: why else might you tear your shirt on a nail intentionally?

    All I can think of is planks and nails - maybe because I've had a lot of experience with them whilst renovating my house.

  2. Jay Louise's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Does the sentence tell whether the man tore his shirt on purpose?

    Anyone: why else might you tear your shirt on a nail intentionally?


    If you were cut and bleeding and needed to use a strip of your shirt as a bandage.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Does the sentence tell whether the man tore his shirt on purpose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Louise View Post
    Anyone: why else might you tear your shirt on a nail intentionally?


    If you were cut and bleeding and needed to use a strip of your shirt as a bandage.
    If you wanted to buy a cool new shirt, but your wife said there was nothing wrong with the ones you already had.

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