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  1. Key Member
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    #1

    what ability do you have to survive?

    In a recent interview with Chinese college students in South China's Hainan Province.


    Reporter: If you graduate tomorrow, what ability do you have to survive?
    Student: I might starve to death.

    ========================
    Is "what ability do you have to survive?" natural in English? It sounds unnatural to me. I guess a native speaker would simply ask "What would you do for a living?" or "How to survive?" or "What to do for your survival?" I am not sure.

    What would a native speaker ask?

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    #2

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    The original is not natural. I think I might ask "What survival skills will you have (acquired)?"
    Typoman - writer of rongs

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    Well, it seems quite appropriate to me. We must imagine that that's exactly what the speaker intended to say unless we have a reason not to. We'd need to see much more context to know for sure.

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    #4

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I think I might ask "What survival skills will you have (acquired)?"
    I can only assume that the speaker intended to use the phrase ability to survive, which sounds fine to me.

    GoodTaste—please give us more context and tell us whether this utterance was made by a native speaker.

  5. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    I love the student's answer, but the reporter's question is highly unnatural.

    1. There shouldn't be any if about graduating tomorrow. Next year, sure, but tomorrow? You can't not know whether you're graduating tomorrow.

    2. And the second part is wordy and awkward. A more likely question might be: How will you survive?

    But it depends on context. Jutfrank is right: We need to know more.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  6. teechar's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    If the reporter is presupposing or implying that the student might struggle to survive independently, then a more natural question might be:
    How will you survive after you graduate?

    Otherwise, they may ask:
    What will you do for a living after you graduate?

  7. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    GoodTaste, it looks like you translated a dialogue directly from Chinese to English, keeping the idioms intact. You suggested several possible other translations:

    "What will you do for a living?" is natural.

    "How
    will you survive?" is correct grammar but not natural. Better: "How will you make a living?"

    "What
    will you do to survive?" is correct grammar but not natural. Better: "What will you do for work?"

    The verb survive suggests a life-or-death situation, like climbing the Himalayas or hiking across a desert or living through a volcano eruption or going to war.
    Last edited by GoesStation; 25-Oct-2020 at 00:21. Reason: Fix a typo.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  8. Key Member
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    #8

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    The dialogue between the reporter and student is all what the piece of the video offered with Chinese text counterpart.

    The reporter intended to solve a myth: If these cheerful Chinese collage/university students have to graduate tomorrow, can they independently make a living?

    It is long said in China that Chinese students are good at dealing with countless examinations, while Western students are good at solving practical problems about the life and the society. So the reporter has had a preoccupation: If W students have to graduate tomorrow, they will be okay to make a living; but if C students have to graduate tomorrow, their survival will be a great challenge for them.

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    #9

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    Whatever expression is used, the verbs need to be in different tenses. We are talking about hypothetical situations here,

    Quote Originally Posted by GoodTaste View Post
    The reporter intended to solve a myth: If these cheerful Chinese collaege/university students have had to graduate tomorrow, can could they independently make a living?

    It is long said in China that Chinese students are good at dealing with countless examinations, while Western students are good at solving practical problems about the life and the society. So the reporter has had a preoccupation: If Western students have had to graduate tomorrow, they will would be okay to make a living; but if Chinese students have had to graduate tomorrow, their survival will would be a great challenge for them.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #10

    Re: what ability do you have to survive?

    I would also add this correction.
    Quote Originally Posted by GoodTaste View Post
    while Western students are good at solving practical problems about the life and the society.

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