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Could I ask you a favor?

英語を勉強している方のためのフォーラムです。練習のために英語の文章を投稿してもかまわなく、英語の文法・語彙に関する質問をしてもけっこうです。

Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby TJack » Sun 10.03.2010 8:39 pm

becki_kanou wrote:
Hektor6766 wrote:One day on a crowded bus, a man suddenly stood up and shouted, "My wallet's been stolen!" Immediately, an English teacher sitting nearby jumped up and shouted, "No! Someone stole your wallet!"


Am I somehow missing something really obvious? What is supposed to be wrong with "My wallet's been stolen!" ?


I think I have the answer. You know how those in the English field are just absolutely anal about not using the passive voice? I think that's the point here. "My wallet's been stolen" is in the passive, while "someone stole your wallet" is in the active voice.

Personally, I do not see what the problem is with using the passive. We have it for a reason, and the above example shows a great reason why we need the passive. The subject in the first sentence is about the wallet, who stole it is irrelevant. Putting it in the active focuses on someone, which changes the meaning, albeit slightly.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby becki_kanou » Sun 10.03.2010 10:08 pm

I thought that might be the reason.

It seems that some perfectly good advice for writing: i.e. "Don't OVERuse passives because they can make your writing sound limp" has been reinterpreted as "Don't use passives EVER!", which is just ridiculous. There are plenty of times when passives absolutely SHOULD be used.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby chikara » Mon 10.04.2010 8:40 pm

becki_kanou wrote:I thought that might be the reason.

It seems that some perfectly good advice for writing: i.e. "Don't OVERuse passives because they can make your writing sound limp" has been reinterpreted as "Don't use passives EVER!", which is just ridiculous. There are plenty of times when passives absolutely SHOULD be used.

Totally agree. Two such occasions for using passives, which "my wallet's been stolen" satisfies, are when it is more important to draw attention to the thing acted upon, in this case "my wallet", and when the actor in the situation is not important. It doesn't matter who stole the wallet it is still stolen.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby Hektor6766 » Tue 10.05.2010 6:31 pm

Yes to all the above!

Plus, a couple of other things:

A person accustomed to using passives more frequently, as Nilecat-san, may be unsure of the extent of passive use in English. Now, a strict grammarian may argue that the unfortunate man makes a declaration (indeed, a broad accusation), and, if not simply shouting "My wallet's missing!" should still use the active and accuse the unknown pickpocket. But "My wallet's been stolen!" sounds perfectly natural, for the very reasons Chikara-san mentions. And we do sometimes use the passive for polite indirectness.
Also, I was wondering how many people read right past the "Because" at the beginning of Nilecat-san's sentence with only a vague sense of unease before Sakeit2me-san (quite correctly) spotted it; because in everyday speech, we use it this way all the time. Language is a human system and sometimes the practice, if not the theory, is a little vague.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby TJack » Tue 10.05.2010 7:02 pm

Is because at the beginning of the sentence a really bad thing though? I did a little searching, and pretty much everyone, from a English website, to Grammar Girl, said that starting a sentence with because is okay, as long as it is a complete sentence.

I'd argue that that particular sentence by Nilecat, "Because I might be able to be helpful for someone through my studying English here!", is wrong not necessarily because of the "because", but because the sentence isn't complete, it's just a fraction of a sentence (I don't remember the terminology for this type of sentence!).

Someone even brought up an example of a famous poem that began with the word because: "Because I Could Not Stop for Death", by Emily Dickinson. How else would you write this sentence? "I could not stop for Death; he kindly stopped for me..."?

Here's an excerpt from a note about starting a sentence with because, which mimics most other sources I have found:

Somehow, the notion that one should not begin a sentence with the subordinating conjunction because retains a mysterious grip on people's sense of writing proprieties. This might come about because a sentence that begins with because could well end up a fragment if one is not careful to follow up the "because clause" with an independent clause.

When the "because clause" is properly subordinated to another idea (regardless of the position of the clause in the sentence), there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby Hyperworm » Tue 10.05.2010 7:56 pm

TJack wrote:I'd argue that that particular sentence by Nilecat, "Because I might be able to be helpful for someone through my studying English here!", is wrong not necessarily because of the "because", but because the sentence isn't complete, it's just a fraction of a sentence (I don't remember the terminology for this type of sentence!).
"Sentence fragment".(<- that's one too :D)
I'd agree with that. I don't think it's a big deal in casual writing/conversation, though.
(It would have been easily fixed by replacing the full stop before 'because' by a dash or comma.)
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby Hektor6766 » Tue 10.05.2010 8:16 pm

Harper's English Grammar (revised ed.) says:

Incoherence is frequently caused by the misuse of the conjunctive adverbs because, so, when, where, while. Because should be used only as an adverbial conjunction, not as introductory word to a noun clause. "Because you were elected does not justify your being superior in attitude" is wrong, as is also "The condemning fact about the man is because he is rich." In both sentences because introduces a causal idea, and therefore requires a causal clause, but the clause in each is given the construction of a noun--subject in the first and attribute in the second. The one should read "Your being elected (or "The fact of your election") does not justify your being superior in attitude" , and the other "The condemning fact about the man is that he is rich."


To my mind, this is saying that when because begins a sentence, it usually ends up modifying the subject noun instead of introducing the causal clause, which would be wrong. Similar to what you're saying, Tjack-san, but it has no example showing a correct usage at the beginning.

As for Emily Dickinson, she passed the exam for her poetic license, so she can break the rules. :)
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby TJack » Tue 10.05.2010 9:30 pm

Adverbial conjunctions? Casual clauses? I'm totally lost on some of the words in that paragraph. Your excerpt confused me a little, Hektor6766san :sweatdrop:...but I think I get the gist of it. I now remember why grammar lessons always gave me a pain the rear...

Does that mean I was basically right though? As long as the "because clause' is complete, the sentence is correct? The following sentence with because doesn't start a noun clause, but just a regular sentence.

Because I had a lot of money, I went to Las Vegas.

I went to Las Vegas because I had a lot of money.

These are both right...right?

But a sentence like this:
"Because I had a lot of money from my friends." isn't right because it is a sentence fragment. (Thanks Hyperworm, I had a brain fart there! :P )

Well, off to search for adverbial conjunctions and the like.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby Hektor6766 » Tue 10.05.2010 9:54 pm

Well...

"Because I had...money,...' is a supportive clause to "I went to Vegas." It works for me, but I'm not an authority. If there are any English teachers out there to play 3rd base umpire, please weigh in.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby chikara » Tue 10.05.2010 10:56 pm

NileCat-san will wish he never asked. This thread is getting confusing even for native English speakers. :blush:
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby NileCat » Wed 10.06.2010 5:18 am

It is fascinating to me.
We are not living a world where people speak only like a textbook. The border between being incorrect and being acceptable has to be difficult to define in any language.
I'm glad to hear various opinions of you native speakers.
Thank you.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby Hektor6766 » Wed 10.06.2010 11:03 am

lol

I think Tjack-san is right. As long as you use "Because" at the beginning of a compound sentence showing cause and effect, you're okay. Another revision of those sentences could be:

"Because I can help others with their Japanese as I improve my English here, this site is like a paradise to me."

BTW, I saw an earlier thread of yours that asked about the sentence "The word isn't the object." The context isn't clear, but I think they're using "object" as "focal point of attention", as in "The word is not what is important (something else is)."
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby chikara » Wed 10.06.2010 10:19 pm

NileCat wrote:..... We are not living a world where people speak only like a textbook. The border between being incorrect and being acceptable has to be difficult to define in any language. .....

Language is also constantly evolving and both written and spoken English which an older person such as myself views a incorrect is these days seen by many as totally acceptable.

There has been a big kerfuffle here recently because the Federal Government wants to reintroduce the teaching of grammar to the English curriculum. The majority of teachers are opposed to this as they themselves never learnt grammar and therefore would have to learn it before they can teach it. :blush:
Last edited by chikara on Wed 10.06.2010 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby Hektor6766 » Wed 10.06.2010 10:58 pm

In America,...Oh, I'd better stop there.
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Re: Could I ask you a favor?

Postby SakeIt2Me » Fri 10.08.2010 11:32 am

I think the question to ask NileCat-san is:
Do you want corrections on how the English should be written, or spoken? If wanting to learn how it is spoken, you can get away with nearly anything and still be understood. Many native English speakers themselves do not speak anything close to "textbook English."
As an example, here is something I hear several times every day:
"I seen a show." This is horrendous. It should be "I saw a show." There are many people around who are still learning English, and take their cues from these people, so that they are learning to speak incorrectly--but this is how native English speakers are speaking, so it is seen (not saw!) as correct.
Grammar was not taught very effectively in school here--it is something I had to study on my own to grasp (not to say I understand everything). English has a very complex system for learning grammar in my opinion. Basically, either you learn it through use or you never learn it.

I apologize for the lack of explanation on "because". Because I want to flog a dead horse, I shall state yet more information. :D The phrase "because I want to flog a dead horse" is a subordinate clause to the major idea in the sentence, which is "I shall state yet more information".
If you are going to start a sentence with "because", you must ensure that you do not write a subordinate clause and then leave it on its own (without the major idea, or independant clause).

"Regarding my self-study, this forum is like a paradise to me. Because I might be able to be helpful to someone through my studying English here"

"Regarding my self-study, this forum is like a paradise to me" appears to be the major idea, so if you wanted the sentence to start with "because", you should do this:
"Because I might be able to be helpful to someone through studying English here, this forum is like a paradise to me regarding my self-study."
But, that's not necessarily what you want to say, since it is so long and the emphasis is diverted away from the main idea...

"Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me." Emily Dickenson, of all people, certainly did not break the rules!!!
A good way to check your sentence structure and practice grammar is to re-arrange sentences. "Death kindly stopped for me, because I could not stop for him."
If you put the "because..." phrase at the end of the sentence, and it still makes sense, then you can be sure that starting the sentence with the "because phrase" is fine.

And a note about Passive Voice:
A few of my friends speak English as a second language. They overuse the passive voice (The ball was hit by that boy.) so much that it sounds out of character the few times they use the active voice (That boy hit the ball.).
The passive voice is appropriate when you want to emphasize the receiver of the action (the ball), or minimize the importance of the actor(that boy).

From Diana Hacker's "A Canadian Writer's Reference": "Use the active voice unless you have a good reason for choosing the passive." (Italics mine.)
Some of the most beautiful things I've ever read in English used passive voice. Yet, they used it skilfully. It's important to know the difference between active and passive, and choose which to use, not simply use one or the other consistently.

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