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    • Join Date: Mar 2010
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    #1

    Question Why does my example sentence mean this and not that?...

    Hey, I wonder if anyone can help me please . I have posted a similar question a while ago regarding the meaning of an example sentence I created. You guys gave me some really helpful advice. I am now just trying to understand why the sentence means the way it does.

    Example:
    Two students are discussing their new teacher’s lesson they have just finished.
    One comments - “It wasn’t as fun as the old teacher’s lessons but we learnt so much more.”

    I was wondering if anyone could explain to me the reason, in terms of English, why the sentence can only mean...

    ...(1) “(The new teacher’s lesson) wasn’t as fun as the old teacher’s lessons but we learnt so much more [in the new teacher’s lesson].”

    ...and not (2) “(The new teacher’s lesson) wasn’t as fun as the old teacher’s lessons but we learnt so much more [in the old teacher’s lessons].”

    Is it because “It” referring to ‘The new teacher’s lesson’ is the subject of the sentence and therefore the clause after the word “but” must relate to the subject of the sentence (new teacher's lesson) and not the object of comparison (old teacher’s lessons)?

    Is it instead because of the conjunction “but”? – I understand in a sentence that a clause after the word ‘but’ should contrast/contradict the clause before the ‘but’. In my example the clause before the “but” is a negative opinion of the ‘new teacher’s lesson’ (i.e. wasn’t as fun). As the clause after the word “but” is a positive opinion (i.e. “we learnt so much more”) it must therefore be describing the ‘new teacher’s lesson’ (meaning (1)) and not the ‘old teacher’s lessons’ (meaning (2)) in order to correctly contrast/contradict the clause before the word “but”.

    Or is there another explanation?
    ---
    The only thing that I believe disproves my second explanation (regarding the contrasting/contradicting clauses) is that isn’t it dependant on the speakers viewpoint as to what they believe contrasts/contradicts?

    The meaning I believe to be correct (meaning 1) could be rephrased “The old teacher’s lessons were more fun than the new teacher’s lesson but we learnt so much more in the new teacher’s lesson. This seems logical where the speaker does not expect to learn more from a less fun lesson but actually does learn more from a less fun lesson.

    The meaning I believe to be incorrect (meaning 2) could be rephrased “The old teacher’s lessons were more fun than the new teacher’s lesson but we learnt so much more in the old teacher’s lessons. Is this logical if the speaker expects to learn less from a more fun lesson but actually learns more from a more fun lesson?
    ---
    Overall I’m just trying to understand why my example sentence can only mean meaning (1) and not meaning (2). Thank you so much for any help and advice, I very much appreciate it.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
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      • Home Country:
      • England
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    • Join Date: Aug 2010
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    #2

    Re: Why does my example sentence mean this and not that?...

    Well, the explanation could become technical and complicated but to put it simply, it is because in English discourse, the pronouns, adverbs, what we say refer to the most immediate context unless something different is specified. In your example, the new teacher's lesson is the immediate topic.

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