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    #1

    differences from prescriptive grammar

    Here is what I read in one of the grammar text-books

    "According to the rules of prescriptive grammar, while must occur before the past progressive and when before the simple past. Native speakers,however,will commonly
    substitute when for while before the past progressive."

    So I could have said that

    1)"She read the news paper when I was fixing my breakfast"?

    Would that have been possible to say

    2)"When she read the newspaper, I was fixing my breakfast."?

    OR

    3)"She was reading the newspaper when I was fixing my breakfast."

    OR

    4)"She read the newspaper, while I fixed my breakfest."

    Which grammar construction would be more often used in conversation?
    Last edited by ostap77; 24-Nov-2010 at 14:06.

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    #2

    Re: differences from prescriptive grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    Here is what I read in one of the grammar text-books

    "According to the rules of prescriptive grammar, while must occur before the past progressive and when before the simple past. Native speakers,however,will commonly substitute when for while before the past progressive."

    So I could have said that

    1)"She read the news paper when I was fixing my breafest"?

    Would that have been possible to say

    2)"When she read the newspaper, I was fixing my breakfest."?

    OR

    3)"She was reading the newspaper when I was fixing my breakfast."

    OR

    4)"She read the newspaper, while I fixed my breakfest."

    Which grammar construction would be more often used in conversation?
    You'll be getting me impatient again, Ostap!

    You are asking for a definitive answer when there simply isn't one. Different speakers will view the same situation in different ways. The same speaker may view identical situations in different ways depending on other things in his/her mind in the seconds leading up to the utterance.

    When/While she read/was reading the newspaper, I fixed/was fixing my breakfast.

    There are eight possible utterances there, not counting the possibilities with alternatives for read : peruse, study, scrutinise, glance over/through, etc.

    Unless we are actually there, we have no idea what may be a 'more' or 'less' likely utterance.

    Incidentally, "According to the rules of prescriptive grammar, while must occur before the past progressive and when before the simple past. Native speakers,however,will commonly substitute when for while before the past progressive."

    It seems to me that the rules of prescriptive grammar referred to in your book are pointless if native speakers commonly ignore them.

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    #3

    Re: differences from prescriptive grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    You'll be getting me impatient again, Ostap!

    You are asking for a definitive answer when there simply isn't one. Different speakers will view the same situation in different ways. The same speaker may view identical situations in different ways depending on other things in his/her mind in the seconds leading up to the utterance.

    When/While she read/was reading the newspaper, I fixed/was fixing my breakfast.

    There are eight possible utterances there, not counting the possibilities with alternatives for read : peruse, study, scrutinise, glance over/through, etc.

    Unless we are actually there, we have no idea what may be a 'more' or 'less' likely utterance.

    Incidentally, "According to the rules of prescriptive grammar, while must occur before the past progressive and when before the simple past. Native speakers,however,will commonly substitute when for while before the past progressive."

    It seems to me that the rules of prescriptive grammar referred to in your book are pointless if native speakers commonly ignore them.
    I'm not going to be getting you impatient again. Perhaps with other grammar questions I might have in the future. Appreciate your help!!!

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    #4

    Re: differences from prescriptive grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    Here is what I read in one of the grammar text-books

    "According to the rules of prescriptive grammar, while must occur before the past progressive and when before the simple past. Native speakers,however,will commonly
    substitute when for while before the past progressive."
    Prescriptive grammar gives rules that the writers believe people should follow; it does not mean that they will follow them. Some prescriptive rules are likely to be broken than followed. Usage often departs from the fixed patterns of simple rules because the requirements of language to communicate what we want to say can be complex. Most rules have exceptions and many are breached regularly. If you think of them as guidelines rather than rules, it might work better, especially with prescriptive rules which strive to change or affect rather than describe the way people speak.

    To be honest with these examples, the same speaker may use different forms at different times. With the newspaper/breakfast pair, it could depend on whether this is a neutral description of events or a moan about one person's laziness, or even the noise the person was making when preparing breakfast. They could be providing an alibi, telling a story, moaning, etc, and these would dictate the choices, and not everyone would come out with exactly the same forms.

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