[Grammar] Bach's son, ...

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Kazuo

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Hello!

In London he met Bach's son, Christian, who was music-master to Queen Charlotte.

Does the sentence imply that Bach had only one son? :?:

Thanks in advance
 

Raymott

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Hello!

In London he met Bach's son, Christian, who was music-master to Queen Charlotte.

Does the sentence imply that Bach had only one son? :?:

Thanks in advance
No, context tells us that all the Bachs bred like rabbits. So it means the son of [J.S.] Bach who was called Christian.
You could change it to: "In London he met Bach's son Christian,..." but history renders it unnecessary.
 

SoothingDave

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Not a teacher.

Context tells us nothing here except that Bach had at least one son. I could have one son or twelve and I could still refer to my son, Christian.
 

Abstract Idea

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Not a teacher.

Context tells us nothing here except that Bach had at least one son. I could have one son or twelve and I could still refer to my son, Christian.

I guess what Raymott means by context here is the whole context of Human History.
That is, usually whenever one hears the name Bach, one recalls the famous family of musicians (exactly that one you are thinking about, which bred like rabbits).
 

Abstract Idea

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What if we changed it to

In London he met Doe's son, John, who was a great musician.


Does it imply now that Doe had only one son, namely, John ?
Although now it is more likely, still I don't think so.

For me it is clear that even in this non-contextualized version Mr. Doe may have more than one son.
 

Raymott

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I guess what Raymott means by context here is the whole context of Human History.
That is, usually whenever one hears the name Bach, one recalls the famous family of musicians (exactly that one you are thinking about, which bred like rabbits).
That's right. I mean the context of a man called Bach whose son Christian was music-master to Queen Charlotte identifies the Bach in question as being J. S. Bach, the famous German musician.
Naturally, if you've never heard of these Bachs, you wouldn't have the necessary context.

In any case, excluding such context, the sentence doesn't imply that Bach had only one son.



 

Tdol

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I think it would be better without the commas, which to me do imply (wrongly) that he had one son.
 

TheParser

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Hello!

In London he met Bach's son, Christian, who was music-master to Queen Charlotte.

Does the sentence imply that Bach had only one son? :?:

Thanks in advance

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

Hello, Kazuo.

(1) As some other posters have said, the rule is very clear:

As written, it means that the person had only one son.

(2) That is why many teachers try to explain to their students that

that the following sentence is "wrong":

Mr. Smith's wife Pamela is a physician. (This might be correct only

in a country where men are allowed more than one wife at a time.)

(2) English learners come to this website because they want to learn

the "rules." I think that the majority of them appreciate knowing that

the rule followed by you is correct and most helpful:

My sister, Mary, got married. = I have one sister. "Mary" is strictly

extra information.

My sister Mary got married. = It was my sister Mary, not my sister Mona.

***** Thank you for your question *****
 

Raymott

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

Hello, Kazuo.

(1) As some other posters have said, the rule is very clear:

As written, it means that the person had only one son.

(2) That is why many teachers try to explain to their students that

that the following sentence is "wrong":

Mr. Smith's wife Pamela is a physician. (This might be correct only

in a country where men are allowed more than one wife at a time.)

(2) English learners come to this website because they want to learn

the "rules." I think that the majority of them appreciate knowing that

the rule followed by you is correct and most helpful:

My sister, Mary, got married. = I have one sister. "Mary" is strictly

extra information.

My sister Mary got married. = It was my sister Mary, not my sister Mona.

***** Thank you for your question *****

I'll explain a bit further. Your rules are basically right.
If Bach has only one son, you write, "I met Bach's son, Christian."
If Bach has more than one son, you write, "I met Bach's son Christian."

However, if you do not know how many sons Bach has (and we've decided not to cheat by revealing that we know the historical context), you still have to write it with or without a comma.

How do your rules help now?

In this context, where the information is not known, and you have knowledge of only one of Bach's sons, it's more reasonable only to assume the one son you know of: "I met Bach's son, Christian."
Under your strict rules, you have to take a 50:50 chance of making a serious grammatical blunder. I'm merely asserting that, in such a case, a comma does not rule out that Bach has other sons.
 

Kazuo

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Hello, Teachers!

1. The sentence in question is from a biography of Mozart. Whenever I come to that point, I stop, thinking Bach must have had many children. The thread was posted to dissolve this feeling of “stop”.
2. I have never known the role of “commas” as explained this time. Now I’m pleased to know its role.

Thank you very much :)
 

Abstract Idea

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I think it would be better without the commas, which to me do imply (wrongly) that he had one son.

Do you mean "that he had only one son"?
I agree with strictly what you wrote, but not with what I think you meant.


(1) As some other posters have said, the rule is very clear:

As written, it means that the person had only one son.

I wasn't aware of this rule. And even considering it now, I think it is condemned not to work in practical usage.

My sister, Mary, got married. = I have one sister. "Mary" is strictly

extra information.

Do you mean "I have only one sister"?


In my opinion, if one does not state explicitly in the sentence the word only
it is really difficult to consider it implicitly.

TheParser, would you cite some references for this rule?
 

TheParser

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Do you mean "that he had only one son"?
I agree with strictly what you wrote, but not with what I think you meant.




I wasn't aware of this rule. And even considering it now, I think it is condemned not to work in practical usage.



Do you mean "I have only one sister"?


In my opinion, if one does not state explicitly in the sentence the word only
it is really difficult to consider it implicitly.

TheParser, would you cite some references for this rule?

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

Hello, Ymnisky.

(1) Thank you for your kind note.

(2) I thought that this rule was well-known and accepted.

(3) I will search my books and report back to you as soon as I can.

***** Thank you for your question *****
 

Abstract Idea

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If Bach has only one son, you write, "I met Bach's son, Christian."
If Bach has more than one son, you write, "I met Bach's son Christian."
This looks fine.
But even here, in the first sentence, I would say that it is likely that Bach has only one son (without any context, as agreed before).

Were it in Portuguese one would use the definite article:
(i) I met the Bach's son - I think ungrammatical in English, or at least not idiomatic
or
(ii )I met the son of Bach - not idiomatic?
These two above are somewhat literal translations from Portuguese.

Using the definite article "the" in Portuguese would for sure imply "only one" (definiteness).
 

Abstract Idea

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My sister, Mary, got married. = I have one sister. "Mary" is strictly

extra information.

My sister Mary got married. = It was my sister Mary, not my sister Mona.

If you take out the "extra information" Mary, and state simply:

My sister got married.

Is it implied that you have only one sister?

What about a dialog like this:
- My sister got married!
- Which one?
- Mary of course, the other ones are already married.
 

Abstract Idea

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

Hello, Ymnisky.

(1) Thank you for your kind note.

(2) I thought that this rule was well-known and accepted.

(3) I will search my books and report back to you as soon as I can.

***** Thank you for your question *****

Of course the simple fact that you say there is such rule is more than enough for me to believe it.
I just asked for a reference because since you always gifts us some really important ones, I thought you had it handy.
 

TheParser

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Of course the simple fact that you say there is such rule is more than enough for me to believe it.
I just asked for a reference because since you always gifts us some really important ones, I thought you had it handy.

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

Hello, Ymnisky.

(1) You are much too kind.

(2) When it comes to language, everyone should be super humble.

I realize that I know very little about my native tongue. That's why

grammar is my hobby.

(3) If I understand your question correctly, you want to know the

authorities who support such sentences as these:

(a) My brother, Tom, is a doctor. = I have one brother. He is a doctor.

The two commas indicate that the information is extra. If I said, "My

brother is a doctor," that would be completely correct.

(b) My brother Tom is a doctor. = I have at least two brothers. I could

not erase Tom without destroying the integrity of my statement. That is

why there are no commas. It is Tom (not George) who is the doctor.

(c) Tom, my brother, is a doctor. Here it is impossible to know how many

brothers that I have. As you see, if you erase "my brother," the sentence

is still true: Tom is a doctor. But I want you to know that Tom and I

are related.

*****Below are my sources. There are millions (OK! dozens) of such

sources. Yes, many of them are old -- as am I. But I doubt these rules

have changed. High school teachers still try -- with varying degrees of

success -- to explain those 3 types of sentences above.

*****All of the words (including the words in parentheses are the

authors'). [My comments are in brackets]

***** Appositives are set off with commas:

Her husband, Tom, arrived. (She has only one husband.)

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT [magazine] Stylebook, 1994.

*****"They ate dinner with their daughter Julie. (Because they have

more than one daughter, the inclusion of Julie's name is critical if the

reader is to know which daughter is meant.)

"They ate dinner with their daughter Julie and her husband, David."

(Julie has only one husband. If the phrase read "and her husband David,"

it would suggest that she has more than one husband.)

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STYLEBOOK, 1994.

*****A word in apposition is usually set off by commas

Jeanne DeLor dedicated the book to her only sister, Margaret.

[Just as you said, the word "only" would certainly make things

clearer.]

If the appositive has a restrictive function, it is not set off by commas.

My son Michael was the first one to reply.

Walpole had borrowed the bread slice from his friend Teetering.

THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE, 1993 [This book used by many

professionals.]

***** However, "Henry Little, my cousin," implies neither restriction

nor nonrestriction.

MODERN AMERICAN USAGE by Wilson Follett, 1980.

*****

As usual, it would be a pleasure to read any comments that you may

have. I believe that some of the in-house experts are professional

writers, so they can do a much better job than I in explaining this.

***** Thank you SO much *****:)
 
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Abstract Idea

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Thank you very much TheParser, for the rules, the references and your kind work to explain them. I am sure I am far from being the only one who benefits by reading yours posts.

I think I understand it now. But I still do not agree with 100 % of it.
I have to think deeper about it.

But I would like to comment a piece of it:

(3) If I understand your question correctly, you want to know the

authorities who support such sentences as these:
Yes, that was exactly what I was asking.

(a) My brother, Tom, is a doctor. = I have one brother. He is a doctor.

The two commas indicate that the information is extra. If I said, "My

brother is a doctor," that would be completely correct.
OK, everything written above is fine. My concern is with the word only, which is not mentioned above. If I say "My brother is a doctor," I guess it is not implied that I have only one brother.


Her husband, Tom, arrived. (She has only one husband.)

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT [magazine] Stylebook, 1994.
Would it work if you changed the word "husband" to "friend"?
If you say: "Her friend, Tom, arrived." Does it mean that she has only one friend?
And if you state simply: "Her friend arrived." The same question: Does it mean the poor lady has only one friend?
 

TheParser

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Thank you very much TheParser, for the rules, the references and your kind work to explain them. I am sure I am far from being the only one who benefits by reading yours posts.

I think I understand it now. But I still do not agree with 100 % of it.
I have to think deeper about it.

But I would like to comment a piece of it:


Yes, that was exactly what I was asking.


OK, everything written above is fine. My concern is with the word only, which is not mentioned above. If I say "My brother is a doctor," I guess it is not implied that I have only one brother.



Would it work if you changed the word "husband" to "friend"?
If you say: "Her friend, Tom, arrived." Does it mean that she has only one friend?
And if you state simply: "Her friend arrived." The same question: Does it mean the poor lady has only one friend?


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

Hello, Ymnisky.

(1) Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

(2) It's very good that you do not agree 100%. I hear that grammar

experts do not agree on everything. They say that at the university

level, there are often some very nasty disagreements.

(3) "My brother is a doctor." Does it or doesn't it imply that I

have only one brother? I do not know.

Sue: My brother Ralph is a doctor. (Sue has three brothers.)

Tom: Oh, yeah? Well, my brother is a doctor, too. = ??? My only brother is

also a doctor./ One of my brothers is also a doctor.

*****
Your second question is also difficult.

Her friend, Tom, arrived. = She has one friend.

Her friend Tom arrived. = She has a million dollars and a million friends.

Tom was the one who arrived.

Her friend arrived. = ??? Her only friend has arrived./ One of her friends

arrived.

HOPEFULLY, ONE OF THE IN-HOUSE LANGUAGE EXPERTS WILL ANSWER

YOU. If not, you might just start a thread with these two questions, and

then perhaps someone will give you an informed answer.

***** Thank you so much *****:)

P. S. I guess in "real life," a person might not say "My friend is coming

to visit me," for that could imply that he has only one friend. So maybe

he would say "A friend is coming... ." or --of course -- "One of my friends

is... .

P. P. S. Here in the States, sometimes when a person wants to be

friendly, s/he might greet you with "How are you today, my friend?"

In that case, the greeter is definitely NOT implying that s/he has

only one friend.
 
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