Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Great Britain
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain

    • Join Date: Jul 2016
    • Posts: 18
    #1

    Natural use of adjectives

    Can anyone help me understand why "an acceptable straight line" sounds unnatural? This is the sentence : "I was barely able to draw an acceptable straight line."

    I wondered if "acceptable" should only be used predicatively but I can think of attributive usages e.g. an acceptable result.

    If it was academic writing, then I think it would be OK (with a comma between the adjectives), because the reader will read literally and no confusion should arise. However, this writing is neutral or informal. The reader might be confused and think that the writer meant "acceptably straight" (straight enough).

    But my preferred theory is that the two adjectives are very different in meaning. "straight" is about objective physical appearance and "acceptable" is about opinion. In this case, it's better to put the adjective about opinion after the verb in order to separate the ideas clearly for the reader.

    Any feedback would be appreciated. I am trying to give guidance to a student beyond the minimum "it's not natural".

    PS This question has already been posted here https://www.italki.com/question/363247
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 19-Jul-2016 at 14:08. Reason: Enlarged font to make post readable

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 19,218
    #2

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    I agree with Bob on the other site.

    No one can draw a perfectly straight line without using a straight edge, like a ruler. The line "I can barely draw a straight line" is therefore illogical to start with.

    The person who wrote this is admitting that drawing a straight line is actually very hard, not something that is the least someone with little talent can do.

    I suppose "acceptably straight" might be correct, but the original sounds quite natural.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,829
    #3

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    I agree with you that the intended meaning was probably "acceptably straight" which would be natural. The problem I have with "acceptable straight line" is simply that a line can't be acceptable or unacceptable.

    [Cross-posted with Barb, interestingly with opposing views!]
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. Piscean's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 9,939
    #4

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    I see nothing at all unnatural about an 'acceptable straight line'. It is a straight line drawn without the help of a ruler that is acceptable as a straight line.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Great Britain
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain

    • Join Date: Jul 2016
    • Posts: 18
    #5

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    Thank you for your answer. I can't see why "I can barely draw a straight line" is illogical. I can imagine saying it myself. I infer that the writer is referring to his ability rather than the objective difficulty.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Great Britain
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain

    • Join Date: Jul 2016
    • Posts: 18
    #6

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I see nothing at all unnatural about an 'acceptable straight line'. It is a straight line drawn without the help of a ruler that is acceptable as a straight line.
    Thank you for your answer. I think that your interpretation would make sense if the words were "acceptably straight", but this demonstrates that "acceptable straight" gives rise to ambiguity: is it a line which is both acceptable and straight? Or is it one which is straight within an certain range of acceptability?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Great Britain
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain

    • Join Date: Jul 2016
    • Posts: 18
    #7

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I agree with you that the intended meaning was probably "acceptably straight" which would be natural. The problem I have with "acceptable straight line" is simply that a line can't be acceptable or unacceptable.

    [Cross-posted with Barb, interestingly with opposing views!]
    Thanks for your answer. Yes, I think that is getting closer to my problem. If it is acceptable or not, then this implies the opinion of the writer or another is relevant in which case the issue of "acceptability" probably needs to be spelt out more clearly in a predicate.

  4. Piscean's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 9,939
    #8

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    Quote Originally Posted by Midlands Hammer View Post
    is it a line which is both acceptable and straight? Or is it one which is straight within an certain range of acceptability?
    The former interpretation is unlikely.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 19-Jul-2016 at 18:25.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Great Britain
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain

    • Join Date: Jul 2016
    • Posts: 18
    #9

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    I'm due to meet this student some time soon so I'll report back once I know exactly what he meant. In the meantime, thanks for the comments.

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

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,845
    #10

    Re: Natural use of adjectives

    Quote Originally Posted by Midlands Hammer View Post
    I can't see why "I can barely draw a straight line" is illogical.
    It isn't to me- I struggle to do the most basic things in drawing and would struggle to draw a straight line. A stick-figure is high art to me.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Superlative Adjectives and Comparative Adjectives
    By mtayyabrana in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 05-Oct-2014, 16:59
  2. [Grammar] Order of Adjectives: "old" and adjectives denoting condition
    By naweewra in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 15-Aug-2014, 11:59
  3. [Grammar] Adjectives + Enought And enough + adjectives
    By Jadoon 84 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 22-Nov-2012, 00:12
  4. Natural way?
    By asad hussain in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 15-Sep-2007, 03:34
  5. order of adjectives, use of word 'natural'
    By anfad in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 12-Apr-2004, 20:53

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
  •