English Usage & Grammar Notes

May 28, 2006

Which or That

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:12 am

Is there any rule regarding the use of 'which' vs 'that'?

The answer is yes, but it is not set in stone. There are some exceptions, of
course.

The rule(s):

We use 'that' for restrictive clauses, and 'which' for nonrestrictive ones.
In other words, if a sentence cannot be understood without a given clause,
use that, and if it can be understood just fine, thus without the clause,
use which:

Examples:

Martha broke the vase that I just gave her. (You don't know which vase
without the that- clause.)
Marha  broke her vase, which I just gave her. (The first part of the
sentence could stand alone, but you add the second part because you're angry
about it.)
However, as I just said, the rule about nonrestrictive clauses isn't really
that strictly imposed upon us, mortals.
The mix-ups start because which and that are both relative pronouns – words
that stand for a noun, and relate information in a clause back to the
subject of a sentence. Of these pronouns (that, which, what, who, whom, and
whose), that is the oldest (early Middle English), and it used to be used in
any context, restrictive or nonrestrictive. After which entered the language
(14th century), it was used pretty much interchangeably with that, and both
were used instead of who as well – think of all the "He thats" and the "Our
father, which art in heaven" of the King James Bible (1611).
In modern English (beginning of the 20th century)  the restrictive-only use
of that was fixed. Which, however, does get used for restrictive clauses as
well, more often in Britain than in the U.S. For instance, the U.S
lexicographers I worked with in Boston would define a leaflet for a
learner's dictionary as 'a piece of paper which gives information about
something', rather than using '…that gives information.'
The choice of which or that in restrictive clauses is more a matter of
style –what you think is clearer, what sounds more dulcet. Sometimes,
however, the choice is pretty darned obvious: The line "That which does
not kill me makes me stronger" would be ludicrous as "That that."

Note:
Set in stone/Carved in stone: unchangeable; fixed.

HKEOL
Learning and Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

May 21, 2006

Some Synonyms

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 3:11 am

b. Synonyms for Many and Much
In questions and negative statements, the adjectives many and much are commonly used in both formal and informal English.
e.g. Question: How many museums have you visited?
      Negative Statement: He does not have much confidence.

In affirmative statements, the adjectives many and much are commonly used in combination with words such as as, so and too.
e.g. I have read twice as many books as you have.
      He has so much money he can buy whatever he likes.
      There are too many possibilities to consider.

However, in affirmative statements not containing words such as as, so and too, the adjective much is rarely used in either formal or informal English, and the adjective many is rarely used in informal English. Instead, synonyms are used.

The phrases a great deal of, a lot of, and lots of are used as synonyms for much. The phrase a great deal of may be used in formal English, and the phrases a lot of and lots of may be used in informal English. The phrase lots of is more informal than the phrase a lot of.
e.g. Formal: He has a great deal of confidence.
      Informal: He has a lot of confidence.
      More Informal: He has lots of confidence.

In informal English, the phrases a lot of and lots of are used as synonyms for many. The phrase lots of is more informal than the phrase a lot of.
e.g. Formal: There are many possibilities.
      Informal: There are a lot of possibilities.
      More Informal: There are lots of possibilities.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon- Hong Kong

2799 4728

dwjo@netvigator.com

May 14, 2006

The Use of Some and Any

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 3:15 am

The determiners some and any have slightly different meanings. The use of the wordsome generally implies a belief in the existence of the object or objects under consideration, whereas the use of the word any may imply a doubt about the existenceof the object or objects under consideration.

The words some, somebody, someone, something and somewhere are used in affirmative statements, as well as in polite questions and questions expecting an affirmative reply.
e.g. Affirmative Statement: I saw some birds in the park.
      Polite Question: Would you like some tea?
      Affirmative Reply Expected: You seem worried. Is something wrong?

In contrast, the words any, anybody, anyone, anything and anywhere are used in questions and negative statements, as well as in affirmative statements referring in an indefinite way to a type of object, without specifying a particular object.
e.g. Question: Did you see any birds in the park?
      Negative Statement: I do not know anyone here.
      Indefinite Reference: Any drug store can supply you with aspirin.

The words some, somebody, someone, something and somewhere usually cannot be used in a negative statement. If it is desired to change a clause beginning with the word some so that it expresses a negative meaning, some may be changed to no or none, depending on whether an adjective or pronoun is required.

In the following example, some is used as an adjective modifying the noun books. In order to change the sentence to express a negative meaning, some is replaced by the adjective no.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Some books were left on the shelf.
      Negative Meaning: No books were left on the shelf.

In the following example, some is used as a pronoun. In order to change the sentence to express a negative meaning, some is replaced by the pronoun none.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Some of the visitors arrived late.
      Negative Meaning: None of the visitors arrived late.

Similarly, if it is desired to change a clause beginning with somebody, someone, something or somewhere so that it expresses a negative meaning, these words may be replaced by nobody, no one, nothing and nowhere, respectively.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Someone left a message.
      Negative Meaning: No one left a message.

      Affirmative Meaning: Something has happened.
      Negative Meaning: Nothing has happened.

A sentence containing the word some, in which some does not occur at the beginning of a clause, can be changed to express a negative meaning by changing the sentence to a negative statement using not, and by changing some to any.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: I bought some potatoes.
      Negative Meaning: I did not buy any potatoes.

      Affirmative Meaning: We will copy some of the recipes.
      Negative Meaning: We will not copy any of the recipes.

It is possible to use no or none in such sentences instead of the construction with not … any.
e.g. I bought no potatoes.
      We will copy none of the recipes.
However, in modern English, the construction with not … any is more often used than the construction with no or none.

Similarly, a sentence containing the word somebody, someone, something or somewhere, in which the word beginning with some does not occur at the beginning of a clause, can be changed to express a negative meaning by changing the sentence to a negative statement using not, and by changing the word beginning with some to the corresponding word beginning with any.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: I met someone I used to know.
      Negative Meaning: I did not meet anyone I used to know.

      Affirmative Meaning: We will buy something.
      Negative Meaning: We will not buy anything.

In such sentences, nobody, no one, nothing or nowhere may be used instead of a negative statement with not and the word anybody, anyone, anything or anywhere.
e.g. I met no one I used to know.
      We will buy nothing.
However, the construction with not is more often used.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowlooon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

2799 4728

May 7, 2006

Using the articles A, An, and The

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:21 am

The Cantonese language doesn't use any 'articles' and that is the reason that many Hong Kong people omit them so often in speech and writing. Here are some pointers for their correct use.

The Rules

"A" is used before singular words beginning with a consonant or a word beginning in "h" where the letter is pronounced; "an" is used before singular words beginning in a vowel or with a "silent h":

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." "A historian gave us a hand for an hour when we were planting an heirloom rose bush in a hothouse. It was an honorable thing to do, so we sang a hymn of praise."

  • "A" or "an" precede words that refer to general things; "the" comes before words referring to specific things. Imagine two policemen having a conversation:

"Are you sure this is the man who stole the car?" "No. A witness saw a man, but the man we arrested is not the one." "Well, he confessed to stealing a car." "That's true, but was it the car we picked up on Plum Street?"


Exceptions:

  • Sometimes these straightforward rules can get confusing. Consider these examples:

"That is a book you borrowed last month." "That is the book you borrowed last month."

Note that both are correct! In the first example, the second speaker implies that the other person may have borrowed more than one book last month. In the second example, there is no doubt: last month the first person borrowed one book from the second person.

  • Some general words take no article at all.

Plural words:

"Maybe he steals cars for a living." "Maybe he wears disguises; thieves can do that."

Words signifying things that cannot be counted easily. Words such as "sand, milk, fruit" and other things that are measured in quantity can be preceded by a measurement (eight cans, a gallon, a pound):

"We found sand in the car." ("the sand" if it was some specific sand that was being discussed). "Where was the sand? In the trunk or on the carpet? Did you find anything else?" "We found beer in the trunk." "How much beer?" "Eight cans of beer."

Words signifying abstract concepts, ideas, or subjects:

"I'm studying biology this year." "What are you doing in philosophy?" "We're studying the history of knowledge." (a specific type of history, but not "the knowledge"–knowledge is a general concept).

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

2799 4728

dwjo@netvigator.com

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