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  1. VIP Member
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    #31

    Re: responsibility vs life vs time (countability)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    can't understand why it's so difficult for you as a native speaker to come up with a situation.
    Jutfrank is not alone.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

  2. Senior Member
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    #32

    Re: responsibility vs life vs time (countability)

    I just wanted to clarify one thing: I have no difficulties with sentences like "I have responsibility to these people/I'm under obligation to these people." I take them to mean a general state of being responsible or obliged = being responsible/obliged in many ways. But I stumble over infinitive constructions following the uncountable forms because these constructions, to my ear, specify and instantiate these abstract mass nouns. I have responsibility and to do something clash in my mind because the first part implies "in many ways", while the second says "in one way".
    Last edited by Alexey86; 25-Sep-2020 at 13:23.
    Not a teacher or native speaker

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #33

    Re: responsibility vs life vs time (countability)

    Okay, I understand much better now. Thank you for explaining.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    I stumble over infinitive constructions following the uncountable forms because these constructions, to my ear, specify and instantiate these abstract mass nouns. I have responsibility and to do something clash in my mind because the first part implies "in many ways", while the second says "in one way".
    Yes, I see exactly what you mean now. I think you're right. I have the same problem there, for the same reason you give.

    All I can say is that when you use the web to find examples of use, you're always going to find examples that don't make perfect sense, or that sound unnatural. This is why I always stress how important it is to find contexts that reveal rather than obscure, that simplify rather than complicate.

    My practical advice to you then is to ignore those confusing examples of responsibility to do something. As you say, it makes more sense to say a responsibility to do something, for the reason you give.

    Another complicating factor here is when nouns come as part of 'semi-fixed' preposition phrases, such as under obligation. In these cases, it is more likely that a speaker will use the uncountable noun even if he's thinking 'countably', as it were. This has more to do with lexis than with meaning, in my opinion. Sometimes we just say what sounds more natural for no other reason than just that. I don't think you need let this worry you. My practical advice to you is to follow the basic principles of meaning that we've discussed in this thread: say under an obligation if you're thinking of it "in one way" and under obligation if you're thinking "in many ways". And if you're stuck in between, use the uncountable version.

  4. Senior Member
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    #34

    Re: responsibility vs life vs time (countability)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Okay, I understand much better now. Thank you for explaining.
    I'm sorry it took more than thirty replies to explain what I mean. Every time I start a thread my phrasing seems to me as clear as possible, but then it turns out it only seems that way to me. Of course, my threads about article usage would be much shorter if I just asked what article to choose. But in that case, I wouldn't move forward in comprehending this topic using just my memory.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 25-Sep-2020 at 19:15.
    Not a teacher or native speaker

  5. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #35

    Re: responsibility vs life vs time (countability)

    Well, I agree. You seem to be the kind of person who benefits from a deep understanding of underlying principles.

    I'm happy to help wherever I can. I do try really hard to understand what you're really trying to ask, which is sometimes extremely hard because a) your questions are by nature very hard, b) I often have to work out what I think myself and sometimes my thoughts are not clear, c) I have to try to understand how you understand things and how that differs from my own understanding, d) I have to explain all this clearly, e) I have to use very abstract and sometimes technical language to do all this.

    All in all, I think you do an excellent job of explaining what you mean, and also of understanding what I say.

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