Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 21
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 73
    #1

    Existential there construction

    Hello,

    What difference (if any) do you feel between sentence pairs such as:

    There is a cure for every illness.
    Every illness has a cure.

    There is a solution to this issus.
    This issue has a solution.

    or:

    There was a guy crossing the bridge.
    A guy was crossing the bridge.

    - In the last example, would you sometime use the other sentence? When and how would it differ from the first one starting with there was?

    Thank you

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 6,332
    #2

    Re: Existential there construction

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello, Kudla:

    I cannot answer your question, but I can pass along some information that may interest you.

    1. A ball was in the street.
    2. There was a ball in the street.


    Two scholars claim the following:

    a. "The first sentence could be one piece of information in a longer description where the writer is setting up the reader to expect something to happen."

    b. "The second sentence may simply be a description without any accompanying expectation being aroused in the reader."

    c. "[T]here is a tendency on the part of speakers to place given information at the beginning of a sentence and new information toward the end of the sentence."


    James


    Those two scholars are Mesdames Marianne Celce-Murcia and Diane Larsen-Freeman in their The Grammar Book / An ESL /EFL Teacher's Course. (I have the 1983 edition.)
    Last edited by TheParser; 01-Nov-2014 at 12:14. Reason: My French spelling, of course, was wrong.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 73
    #3

    Re: Existential there construction

    "[T]here is a tendency on the part of speakers to place given information at the beginning of a sentence and new information toward the end of the sentence."

    This is especially true of my native language, where the word order is relatively free, and in a way similar to English it can also make use of fronting but it does not have a construction similar to there is/are. So if anyone could answer my original question about those sentences, I´d be glad.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 73
    #4

    Re: Existential there construction

    Anyone

  1. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,103
    #5

    Re: Existential there construction

    There's no practical difference from my point of view. That is, they would normally be taken to mean the same thing.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 73
    #6

    Re: Existential there construction

    "There's no practical difference from my point of view. That is, they would normally be taken to mean the same thing."

    Thanks, I felt the same way about them, at least the first 2 pairs. But, maybe, you or someone else can feel some kind of contextual difference, or difference in style, and you would rather use one variant instead of the other depending on the situation. Could that be true? I mean when you have a choice then it implies, at least virtually, some kind of difference between the items you can choose from, or else it would seem redundant to have more than one option when there is no difference. What do you think?

  2. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,103
    #7

    Re: Existential there construction

    There’s a difference, and in a certain context, one form might be better than the other.
    Hence these conversations (which, to some extent, beg the question):
    A: There’s no cure for my illness.
    B: There’s a cure for every illness.

    A: My illness had no cure.
    B: Every illness has a cure.

    “I mean when you have a choice then it implies, at least virtually, some kind of difference between the items you can choose from, or else it would seem redundant to have more than one option when there is no difference.”

    We get this assertion occasionally here. But English doesn’t work that way. Maybe Czech does. Let’s say a certain form of word order comes from a Germanic language and is adopted in the north of England, and another derives from a Latinate language – probably French – in the south of England. They mean exactly the same thing. And then the two populations merge, and you have different ways of saying exactly the same thing. English is not a constructed language, nor is there an Academy that rules which of two similar constructs is ‘real’ English. Note that I don’t say your example derived that way, only that your objection to redundancy can be countered by a little knowledge of linguistics.

    In any case, it’s not just English that has a “There is …” Eg:

    “There are two cats on the mat.” (Eng); “Ci sono due gatti sul tappete.”(It.) “Hay dos gatos en la estera.” (Sp); “Es gibt zwei Katzen auf der Matte.” (De.)
    “Two cats are on the mat” (Eng.); “Due gatti sono sul tappeto.”(It.); “Dos gatos están en el tapete.”(Sp.); “Zwei Katzen sind auf der Matte.”(De).

    But wait! How come the Spanish translator gives me “tapete” for the first ‘mat’, and “estera” for the second. Surely that’s redundancy? And why doesn’t it give ‘alfombrilla, or ‘falpudo’ which are also floor mats?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Nov 2010
    • Posts: 73
    #8

    Re: Existential there construction

    That was helpful, thanks. Since I am not a native speaker, I was just curious to know how those who are feel about these pairs, whether they are interchangeable or not rather than trying to assert what I do not know. But then, it may go beyond the framework of purely linguistic field and has more to do with psycholinguistics, dicision making or it is more of a personal preference or who knows what. I mean, ultimately, even if the pairs were like two peas in a pod, one always has to choose just one (unlike the peas) because all languages are linear.

    E.g. I call my dad tati (vocative of táta) but when I talk about him I say taťka (nominative of a similar yet different word) - both words are informal, while others may use the words reversely or use just one of them, etc. So here it is a matter of personal preference without much of a difference between them.

    Anyway, the pairs I gave were not much good for a contrastive analysis (that´s why I chose them) but there are other pairs with a noticeable difference or such where only one sentence is acceptable:

    There were people tall but The people were tall.
    vs
    There were people sick. or The people were sick.
    Maybe someone could give some pairs where they can see a clear difference

  3. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,103
    #9

    Re: Existential there construction

    Yes, there is a semantic difference between "The people were tall." and "There were tall people".
    "The people were sick."; "There were sick people." - totally different.
    In this case, in the first variation, the people are already identified. In the examples so far given, this hasn't occurred.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,910
    #10

    Re: Existential there construction

    Quote Originally Posted by Kudla View Post
    Since I am not a native speaker, I was just curious to know how those who are feel about these pairs, whether they are interchangeable or not rather than trying to assert what I do not know
    They are pretty much interchangeable, but one may fit a context better than the other.

    There is a cure for every illness.
    Every illness has a cure.
    If you're the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, you might favour the first as it moves cure towards the start of the sentence.

Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. "Spare us the tragic existential pose"
    By Cheese in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 30-Mar-2010, 05:33
  2. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 26-Mar-2009, 22:29
  3. [General] Participle construction=Gerund construction?
    By vil in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 14-Mar-2009, 16:12
  4. common, existential - adjective?
    By user_gary in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 20-Jun-2007, 11:44
  5. Existential there
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 27-Nov-2004, 21:16

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •