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Grammar expertise sought

Discussion in 'English' started by Principal-Skinner, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. Principal-Skinner

    Principal-Skinner Occasional commenter

    Hello folks in English world. I've popped over here from my usual forum to ask for some help.
    We're in the process of writing reports and there has been a little bit of a dispute regarding prepositions.
    Which do you think is correct and why?
    "John Smith produced work to a good standard." or "John Smtih produced work of a good standard."
    Does it depend on the circumstances and are there times either could be used?
    All feedback gratefully received, and a virtual pint for all contributors. [​IMG]
     
  2. roamingteacher

    roamingteacher Occasional commenter Forum guide

    First perhaps suggests there is a 'standardised' standard; 2nd that the work is of a good standard according to the writer's judgement perhaps. But it's rather splitting hairs. Both are fine for the context of a report, though I'd favour the second. Both, to me, suggest the person in question could have done better though. (I think 'good' is rather wishy-washy-waffly...)


     
  3. Principal-Skinner

    Principal-Skinner Occasional commenter

    Yes, splitting hairs a little, but I'd like to have a standardised approach. I prefer the first; as you say it suggest a set standard whereas the second is more generalised / obtuse / judgemental to
    no exact standard.


    Have your pint: [​IMG]
     
  4. keyboard2

    keyboard2 Established commenter

    "Of" is correct. "For" is not necessarily incorrect but more suitable for the desired comment.
    Hope this helps. English specialist, by the way.
     
  5. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Agreed. The adjectival phrase is "of a good standard".
    The phrase "to a good standard" is adverbial. So, "He has worked to a good standard" is standard English.

    "His work is to a good standard" and "He has worked of a good standard" are not standard.
     
  6. I agree with point 2 and I doubt that the majority of parents would even notice.
    But there is a far more serious error here.
    Unless John Smith is dead, it should be 'has produced work' and not 'produced work'.
     
  7. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Yes, we do use the present tense like that in British S.E.
    The past tense wouldn't have to mean he'd expired, though - not if there were a specific time frame for his work of a good standard.
    "John Smith produced work of a good standard in the first two terms/last week/until he broke his arm."
    (I've had an over the net discussion with an American who tells me that in the USA, they do use the past tense where we would have the present. E.g. it is now 4.20 in the afternoon and so I would say, "I have marked thirty scripts this afternoon." (Present tense). However, my American cyber buddy assures me that in U.S. standard English, "I marked 30 scripts this afternoon" is fine - when it is still the same afternoon.)
    It's a funny old language!
     
  8. 'I've marked' isn't normally used in US English but in British English its gramatically correct.
    I don't follow your first sentence as this is a past tense, not a present tense.
     
  9. keyboard2

    keyboard2 Established commenter

    Your friend is wrong. In fact, your friend is speaking utter garbage, there is no such thing as an alternative form in American English: a tense is a tense. Mandarin, for example, has alternatives along with, for example, French.
     
  10. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    No, they're not, I agree. They are the same tense, though. ("Perfect" refers to the aspect, not the tense.)
    I didn't want to puzzle people and so I did use a rather old fashioned term there. The tense/aspect of "He has worked" is usually called "present perfective" nowadays and I didn't want to bring "aspect" into it. Suppose I should have been more precise.
    No grammarian would dispute the fact that the tense of "He has worked" is present and not past. How can it be past tense? The past tense of "has" is "had".
    ("He had worked" is past perfective.)
     
  11. keyboard2

    keyboard2 Established commenter

    You are spot on here. "He has worked" is certainly the present form, not past. It is an awkward though but rather obvious when one considers the past tense form of "has" is "had".
     
  12. The present perfect is used either to describe actions which continue into the present or which have recently finished.
    For this reason, you can't call it a present tense. It has aspects of both the present and the past.
    'Has' is confusing you. The tense of 'has' is present simple but in the present perfect, has is used as an auxiliary verb. You're right that the past tense of has is had, but 'he has had enough', show that the present perfect is a combination of both the present and the past. 'Has' is the auxiliary verb and 'had' is the past participle. The main verb is the past participle.
     
  13. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Sorry but "has" isn't confusing me at all. Of course it's an auxiliary verb here. It's the auxiliary that sets the tense of the verbal group.

    "I am losing." The auxiliary "am" is present tense and so the tense of the clause is present.
    "I was losing." Past tense.
    "I do lose." Present.
    "I did lose." Past
    "I have lost." Present.
    "I had lost." Past
    It's the same with modals. If there's a modal before the main verb, the modal sets the tense.
    "I may play tomorrow." Present.
    "I might play tomorrow." Past
    "I shall play." Present
    "I should play." Past
     
  14. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    "The present perfect is used either to describe actions which continue into the present or which have recently finished.
    For this reason, you can't call it a present tense. It has aspects of both the present and the past."

    Of course you can. Any grammarian would.
    The confusion is yours, Ellen. You are confusing time with grammatical tense.
    English has two tenses called "Present" and "Past". This is misleading you into thinking the tenses have to be in agreement with actual present and past. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't.
    There was a caption under a picture of a rider falling from his horse in a newspaper a couple of weeks ago. It read "Johnson falls yesterday".
     
  15. I'm afraid the confusion isn't mine.
    The present perfect is neither present nor past, its a combination of the two. The time described can be either present or past, depending on whether or not the action is finished.
    He has worked there for a year - present, time not finished.
    Finish your breakfast. But I've already finished it. - past, time is finished.
    The examples you've given show confusion with other forms, too.
    In 'I have lost', the action is finished.
    'I may play' and 'I might play' are conditionals. The time referred to is future time but the emphasis is on whether or not the action takes place and not the time itself.
    'I shall play' is future time but again the emphasis is on whether or not the action takes place. In parts of the UK, 'will' is used instead of 'shall'. This indicates that the time in which the action takes place is future time.
    'I should play' isn't past. 'I should have played' is past but your own sentence isn't. The emphasis here isn't on the time but on the feelings of obligation experienced by the speaker. The time could either be present or future depending on the context.
     
  16. Obviously tenses don't have to, as you put it, be in agreement with the actual present and past.
    'Johnson falls yesterday' is describing the action in the photograph rather than the event in real time.
     
  17. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    'I may play' and 'I might play' are conditionals.
    What does that mean? Yes, there's an impied element of condition but that's semantics, not grammar. You're not imagining that English gas a conditional tense, are you? Some languages do but everyone knows that English doesn't. "May play" is Present and "might play" is past Tense. That's the simple grammar of it.
    Of course "I should play" is in the past tense. What tense could it be?
    The present perfect is neither present nor past, its a combination of the two.
    All finite verbs are either past tense or present - there are no others and they must be one of the two. There's no "combination of the two" tense. (There are variations in aspect, voice and mood, yes, but that's another matter.
    "He has worked." The tense is present and the aspect is perfect (or "perfective" as it's more commonly known nowadays.
    'I shall play' is future time but again the emphasis is on whether or not the action takes place. In parts of the UK, 'will' is used instead of 'shall'. This indicates that the time in which the action takes place is future time.
    "I shall play". Is it present tense or past tense? Of course it's present. "I will play." Again present, whether it simply means expectation or whether it expresses determination.
    The English teacher attempting suicidde says, "I will drown and no one shall save me."
    The pessimistic English teacher, who has fallen into the water by accident, has time to say, "I shall drown. No one will save me."
    All the modals are present tense. So all the clauses are in the present tense.


     
  18. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    If you turned the above into reported speech, the verbs would be past tense - you'd have "woulds" and "shoulds".
    It's like direct speech - Boy: "I can play football on Friday." (Present tense)
    As reported, it's - The boy said he could play football on Friday. (Past tense.)
     
  19. Its

    Its New commenter

    If you really are a Principal, then you shouldn't have to ask this question.
     
  20. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Regarding the disappearing "shall" mentioned earlier: seems to me that it's not simply a geographical issue. When I'm marking scripts, I put a little tick when I see "shall" used correctly. It's quite a rare bit of language knowledge these days.
    I don't think many teachers are teaching the shall/will distinction. Indeed, there may be many teachers who themselves have never been taught the viable difference between "I shall drown" and "I will drown" Consequently, it's being lost. I did think, when the NC gave the vital focus on modals that "shall" would have a good chance of survival.
    Shame, really, as it always is when words that have served us well in the past become moribund. But, there you go!
     

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