Friday (yes, I know it's Wednesday today, but read on...)
Hi James, and everyone else,
Well, I’m officially homeless now. Yesterday I took most of my possessions to a big storage depot, where they’ll stay until I’ve found a new and more permanent place to live. Until then, I’ll be living out of a suitcase at Lottie’s flat. In fact, there are three of us sharing this flat now – Lottie, me, and Friday the cat.
I could say that Friday is Lottie’s cat, but I don’t think that’s really accurate. Cats are such independent, free-spirited creatures, I’m not sure if humans ever really ‘own’ them. Friday comes and goes as she pleases, and does pretty much exactly what she wants, and Lottie feeds her, takes her to the vet, and so on. It might be more accurate to say that Lottie is Friday’s human.
I’m writing this blog at Lottie’s computer, and Friday seems very interested in the process – in fact, she keeps trying to ‘help’ by standing on the keyboard, and I keep having to shove her off the desk. Maybe she wants to write something. Let’s see. OK, Friday, what would you like to say to James and all the nice people out there?
There, that’s Friday’s comment, made by pressing her paws on the keyboard until she got bored and went off to terrorize some birds in the garden. I have no idea what ‘’’’[[‘oplllllllllllllllllllllllllllll88888888 means. If you’re curious, I suggest you ask a cat.
Anyway, let’s move on and talk about some grammar. Thanks to everyone who tried the homework questions. Jameel from Jordan’s answers were so good that I’d like to use them here as examples:
1- Practice: The BBC site advises foreign learners of English to practice listening to native speakers so as to improve their listening skills.
2- According to many people on this planet, appropriate measures should be taken in order to reduce CO2 emissions. Other wise, one day we will have to pack up our belongings and go to a new planet.
(Jameel, please note that I’ve made one small vocabulary change.)
Today I’d like to talk about a particular kind of grammatical error which is very common among students who speak Chinese (or related languages) as their first language – I guess this is because the grammar of Chinese is so different to English.
In order to make my point, I need to start by reminding you about clauses. As I explained to Ana Paula a week or two ago, every sentence in English must have at least one clause. For example:
‘I live in London.’
This sentence has one main verb (live), and therefore one clause.
‘Friday is chasing birds in the garden, but she hasn’t caught any yet.’
This sentence has two main verbs (is chasing and hasn’t caught), so it’s a two-clause sentence.
I’m sure this is quite familiar to you so far; certainly it’ll be familiar to anyone who’s been reading the blogs regularly.
Now, every clause has a main verb and a subject, but some clauses also have objects (note to grammar buffs - I’m talking about both direct objects and indirect objects). For example:
‘I like coffee.’
In this sentence, the noun I is the subject, the verb like is the main verb, and the noun coffee is the object. Now we come to the important point. A noun can be the subject of a main verb, or it can be the object of a main verb, but it can’t do both jobs at the same time. I’ll give you an example of the kind of problem I’m thinking about:
‘I live in London is a big city.’
Of course, this sentence is WRONG. I could say this:
‘I live in London.’
In this sentence, the noun London is the OBJECT of the main verb live. OR I could say this:
‘London is a big city.’
In this sentence, the noun London is the SUBJECT of the main verb is. However, the noun London CANNOT be the object of the verb live and the subject of the verb is at the same time. We can correct the sentence by adding the word ‘which’, like this:
‘I live in London, which is a big city.’
Now, please have a look at these sentences, James. You’ll notice that they both contain the kind of mistake I’ve been talking about.
1. ‘There were some westerners taught English in urban cities like Taipei.’
In this sentence, the noun westerners is trying to do two jobs at once – it’s trying to be the object of the verb were and the subject of the verb taught. It isn’t allowed to do two jobs at the same time!
2. ‘And there were no foreigners except priests taught English in my hometown.’
Here the problem is with a longer ‘noun phrase’ - no foreigners except priests. This noun phrase is trying to be the object of the verb were and the subject of the verb taught simultaneously. Again, this word isn’t allowed to do both these jobs at once.
Can you correct these sentences, James? I’m sure some of our other readers will be willing to try and help you.
By the way, thanks again to all the readers for your many comments, and particular thanks to everyone who sympathized with my housing problems and gave me their encouragement. As usual, I’m sorry I don’t have time or space to answer all your comments and questions, but here’s a quick note to Anna from Poland: Anna, in old-fashioned English (from several centuries ago), the standard ending for a third-person singular verb in the present tense was –th / -eth (instead of –s / -es in modern English). So, I would say, ‘Anna lives in Poland’, but my ancestors would have said, ‘Anna liveth in Poland.’ I hope that answers the question.
All the best,
A depot is a building where things are stored in large amounts.
The phrase living out of a suitcase is quite logical and easy to understand. If you’re carrying a few possessions with you in suitcases or bags, and you don’t have access to the rest of your things, then we say you’re ‘living out of a suitcase’. For example, we normally live out of a suitcase when we’re travelling.
‘Pretty much’ is an informal phrase meaning ‘more-or-less’. We use it with adjectives or adverbs.
‘To shove’ is an informal verb meaning ‘to push’.
If an animal has claws, then its feet are called paws. Friday has claws. I am certain of this, because last night while I was sleeping she attacked my feet.
To terrorize someone is to threaten them or make them feel frightened. It’s closely connected to a word which we see in the British media a lot at the moment, ‘terrorist’.
The informal noun buff is used for a person who knows a lot about a particular subject. We most often use it in the phrase ‘film buff’ – a person who knows a lot about films. I suspect Ana Paula is a bit of a film buff.
‘To sympathize with someone’ means to show that you understand that person’s problems, and you ‘suffer with’ that person.
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