Help with English

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Saint, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, this is a better sentence:
    When Christianity first came into existence, its followers did not yet have a complete Bible.
     
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  3. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    1. The basic morality is do to others what you would have others do to you.
    2. The basic morality is do to others what you would expect others do to you.
    3. The basic morality is about doing to others as what you want others do to you.
     
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Just a point that I don't think has been raised (I won't address the areas Fraggle already has) - the "like we do" lends itself to ambiguity.

    Just taking the first example: "...early Christians did not have a complete Bible to read like we do" can be interpreted in two (possibly more) ways:
    1. early Christians did not have a complete Bible to read whereas we do now have a complete Bible; or
    2. early Christians did have a complete Bible but they read it in a different way to the way that we read it now.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    We call this "the Golden Rule" in English. It has arisen in every culture. Europeans attribute it to Jesus, who is quoted in Matthew 7:12 saying, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is the King James translation of the Bible used in many Protestant churches, so the language is archaic.

    However, the way it is customarily rendered in English, when it's not intended to be a Biblical quotation is: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Even this is archaic language, no one says the word "unto" any more, or even writes it.

    Your first sentence is the best, although it needs a couple of corrections.

    One is in composition. "The basic morality..." is an awkward phrase. "Basic morality..." sounds better, or perhaps "The basis of morality..." or "The essence of morality..." or "The first rule of morality..." or something like that.

    You will continue struggling to decide when to use "the" and when not to. All foreign students do. There's no rule, you have to take each type of sentence individually. When we stop telling you you're wrong, then you'll know you've reached a milestone in your study of English.

    The second error is in the way the sentence is formed. "The essence of morality is do to others..." You can't stick two verbs ("is" and "do") together like that. (Although it is okay to put them together in other ways, this is something else you have to learn by experience.)

    You have to put an infinitive in there: "The basis of morality is to do to others what you would have others do to you."

    As I said, this is old-fashioned language and we don't talk like this any more. But if you want to stick with the old-fashioned language, you should use the original structure of the sentence and say ". . . do to others as you would have others do to you." Otherwise, what you're saying is that you want other people to do exactly the same things to you that you do to them. If you want someone to give you a ride tomorrow, then you should give him a ride today. If you want someone to feed your dog while you're on vacation, then you should feed his cat while he's away at a training seminar.

    But this is too strict. All you really want is for people to treat you kindly, fairly and honestly, and you hope to encourage that by being kind, fair and honest to them. The details don't matter. So "as" is better.

    The way we would say this today is: "The basic principle of morality is that we should treat other people the way we want them to treat us."
     
  8. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    3,373
    This sounds better like modern English:

    The basic principle of morality is that we should treat other people the way we want them to treat us.
     
  9. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    3,373
    1. He looks as if he knows the answer. (= He seems to know the answer, and he probably does.)
    2. He looks as if he knew the answer. (= He seems to know the answer, but he doesn't.)

    Can you explain why the different tenses between 1 and 2 would have rendered the different meaning?
    I quote this from an English website.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I don't think their explanations are very clear, and for #2 I think they are simply wrong.

    "He looks as if he knows the answer." This is a shorter way of saying, "He looks as if he is confident that he knows the answer," or "He looks confident about knowing the answer," or various other ways of saying the same thing.

    The problem with the short sentence in the original example is that it leaves out several words. This is not a problem for native speakers, but it may mislead non-natives.

    To say, "He looks as if he has been working too hard," expresses the observation that he is sweating, moving slowly, and generally acting exhausted. This is an empirical observation. But to say, "He looks as if he knows the answer," expresses not an observation but an assumption. We have no way of knowing whether he actually knows the answer. What we really mean is that his appearance suggests to us that he believes that he knows the answer. If we agree with this belief, if we also believe that he knows the answer, this is our assumption.

    In other words, this sentence means that he looks confident about it. This is actually rather sloppy English, but nonetheless we all talk that way because we understand what we mean.

    But the second sentence, "He looks as if he knew the answer"? That is not just awkward, it's difficult to understand. It says that he has the appearance of a person who used to know the answer, but has forgotten it. What, exactly, does that person look like? Is he grimacing, grinding his teeth and squinting his eyes in an effort to dredge up a memory that is temporarily lost? If I were actually trying to describe that scene, I would be much more descriptive, and include the words I just wrote in my preceding sentence.
    He looks as if he once knew the answer to this question and is frustrated by his inability to recall it, wracking his brain to extract it from his memories.​
    A note: "as if" is colloquial English. It's fine in conversation and even in casual writing. But it's more proper to say, "He looks as though he knows the answer." If you're ever writing a formal paper, be sure and use that wording.
     
  11. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    You said that you seldom use "nonetheless"?

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  12. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    1. He used to having breakfast in this restaurant every morning.
    2.He used to have breakfast in this restaurant every morning.
    3. He is accustomed to having breakfast in this restaurant every morning.
     
  13. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    1. I feel pity for his failure to restore relationship with his girlfriend.
    2. I emphatize with him for failing to restore relationship with his girlfriend.

    Do both mean the same?
     
  14. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    3,373
    1. He wrote so good an essay that he won the prize.
    2. He wrote such a good essay that he won the prize.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Sometimes I use formal English. I'm a professional writer so I'm in the habit. Sorry!
     
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    This is wrong.
    This is correct. It means that he ate here regularly in the past, but does not do so anymore.
    This is also correct, but it has a different meaning. It means that he is still doing it.
     
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    to restore a relationship, or to restore his relationship.
    empathize
    Very close, but not quite. Empathy is the ability to experience the same feelings as someone else, or at least to simulate the experience. This can come from being a very sympathetic person who naturally feels what others feel, or it can come from training, for example as a psychotherapist or a marriage counselor. When you feel the same as someone else, it makes it easier to help them solve a problem.

    But to feel pity for someone is not quite the same thing as experiencing their feelings. It is to feel your own sorrow over the plight of another person. You can feel pity for someone who is dead, and therefore has no feelings at all!
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Number 2 is correct. You might see a sentence in the form of number 1 in a poem, but not in prose.
     
  19. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    3,373

    If I do not want to use the word nonetheless, how should I write the above sentence instead?
     
  20. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    The phrase "used to" is idiom, right?
    It means a habitual action.

    Or shall I say:

    He is used to having breakfast in this restaurant every morning.
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Just leave it out.
    This is actually rather sloppy English, but we all talk that way because we understand what we mean.​
    Yes. A former habitual action. However, the regularity of the action may not be due to habit; it could have an external cause.
    I used to look out my window every morning and see children walking to school. Now their parents fear for their safety, so they drive them to school.​
    This does not have the same meaning. "To be used to" something means to be accustomed to it, to take it for granted, to expect it. And it doesn't have to be a verb.
    I have lived here so long that I am used to the weather.​
     
  22. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    I used to come across words like:
    vis-a-vis,
    modus operandi,
    modus vivendi etc.

    Are they good to be used instead of more vivid English words which mean the same?
     
  23. Saint Valued Senior Member

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    3,373
    1) take in = understand: "I still can't take in the news."

    2) take in = deceive someone: "He really took me in with his hard-luck story."

    3) take in = provide refuge: "She took the old couple in."

    Can "take in" also mean consuming?
    I take in some vitamins every day.
     

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