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12:24 AM
Like the name of the room says, this is my Language Overflow log.
What's it? If you asked me, I'd say it's sort of half-blog half-chat.
As a regular ELL user, I find myself thinking more clearly when I say it aloud (in this case, type it in a chat room), what I think about a question, an answer, a comment, etc.
Often, it helps bringing a good idea out.
And so I would post it as a comment when I think it's good.
Sometimes I post it as an answer, if I think it's really, really good.
(Though most of the time, I just enjoy reading ELL posts.)
This room is a gallery room (i.e., it's not public).
That doesn't mean that everyone is not welcome here.
But I'd like to focus on fruitful exchanges, which means that I'd invite only those who I think are able to sustain objective discussions and arguments well.
I don't mind people reading my thoughts. (As I said, it's a bit like a blog.)
I don't mind if this is going to be a bit like a monologue. (That's a good thing about SE chat rooms. They come with the chat log!)
When I started chatting on SE, I spent most of the time talking alone anyway. With snailboat sometimes.
So, let's say this is part of my brain, in real-time, only the part that's about language in general, and ELL in particular.
If you want to join this discussion, ping me in either of ELL main chat rooms.
Today's interesting question:
Q: Can I use simple present to explain how to do something now

GyonderI know I can use simple present for instructions. But, If I want to explain how to do something now, can I use the simple present? For example is it correct if I said "I show you how to do it." or only "I'll show you how to do it." is correct?

A quick note: it reminds me of that thought I had even before reading Leech's Meaning and the English Verb: the simple present tense should be called the plain tense.
The simple present is not really simple.
The simple present is not really about the present.
So, it's a bit unfortunate that its name is "simple present".
And no wonder that a lot of learners (non-native speakers) will tie this tense with the wrong thing (like "now").
1:04 AM
room topic changed to Language Overflow (Experimental): (no tags)
7 hours later…
8:06 AM
Fluent is a vague word.
When I see things like "being fluent in X months" (sometimes even X days!), I can't help thinking: what kind of fluency and how fluent they are talking about?
The only fair test is to have those authors try learning a completely unfamiliar language (i.e. there is a wide gap between this to-be-learned language and the languages they already know).
And see how "fluent" they can be after X months (or X days, depending on their book's titles).
It's not entirely absurd, though, to say that you can be fluent in a second language in X months.
Actually, I think anyone can be quite fluent in English within only a few months.
The trick is, we have to define the level of fluency for this first few months carefully.
Then, it can be done.
room topic changed to Language Overflow (Experimental): Random thoughts about language, language learning, learners, and their language (no tags)
8:43 AM
I just wrote this:
A couple good options: since, and nothing. — Damkerng T. 38 secs ago
And that comma reminds me of something...
Most style guides or comma usage rules mention only the case of serial commas when there are three or more items in the list...
What if we have only two?
Like in my case?
The usage of comma is one of the things in English I want to pin it down neatly.
in The English Learning Cabin, May 22 at 1:13, by Damkerng T.
One day I'm gonna find out the exact rules of English comma. When should we use it? When should we not? When is it optional, and in what dialect? etc. :-)
to be continued...
Ah, welcome to the room! @Man_From_India
I've just added you to the access list.
4 hours later…
12:49 PM
Nice eye-catcher. It's was typo and I've changed it. — Rok Sim 2 mins ago
Though it could be half-mistake-half-typo, I believe that this kind of mistake/typo needs no correction.
Actually, a lot of learners are really good at spelling. I'd say that I was one of them. I can't spell really good on computers or devices anymore. I think the OP is mostly fine with this error.
Which means nothing much...
Just that native and non-native speakers see the same thing differently.
I speculate that most native speakers (of English) who don't hesitate to give this kind of correction aren't teachers.
(Read: they haven't been trained for dealing with errors made by non-native speakers.)
So they can see the trees, but miss the forest.
Come to think of it, perhaps it's the same for native speakers of any language.
(Not that they don't want to help; it's just that they focus their help on the wrong places.)
Then again, this could happen to anyone.
Spending time wondering how often I do that... help, but the wrong way...
The question itself is interesting...
Q: The difference between two: Like it that-S vs Like that S

Rok SimNative speakers often use ``dummy pronoun it'' between like and that. I am curious about whether there is any nuance difference between two sentences. If not why do natives put it? a. She liked it that her friends boasted about her. b. She liked that her friends boasted about her.

> a. She liked it that her friends boasted about her.
b. She liked that her friends boasted about her.
The OP asked, "I am curious about whether there is any nuance difference between two sentences. If not why do natives put it?"
I think that we can argue either for or against the idea that both versions have the same meaning.
The subtle difference is probably about information delivery.
to be continued...
In linguistics, morphology is the structure of an individual word, and syntax is the structure of a sentence or any multi-word utterance. Morphosyntax covers both. German relies more heavily on morphology to convey meaning, and English more on syntax. Not sure that's specifically what you're asking about, but I thought it worth mentioning. — Dan Bron 1 hour ago
Oh, I know a bit more about German!
2 hours later…
3:10 PM
Q: 'act up' - how did it get its meaning and what does "up" mean?

redkey88Act up: If a machine or part of the body acts up, it does not work as it should To make somebody annoyed by behaving badly, trying to get attention, etc. The kids started acting up. The car's acting up again. I would like to know how act up came to get its meaning. Also, what is the me...

Though I think Laure's answer is fine, I don't think it's really about emergence, or completion, or improving...
I think it's about something "not down" or "not at rest".
(Which is why it makes perfect sense to tell a kid who is acting up to calm down.)
3:55 PM
@StoneyB I also agree with you. In these sentences that or to have doesn't mean because. But the problem is sometimes that can mean because for example in this sentence - "I am glad that you came.". So the question for a learner is when and at what circumstances that can mean because? — Man_From_India 1 hour ago
A very, very good point.
Now the question is "when?"
Actually, this sentence:
> The cellular phone set we purchased last year is awesome that it has many switches.
can be rephrased with because, with no real loss in meaning. (I think)
"How is it awesome?" (or "What makes it awesome?")
"It has many switches."
"Why is it awesome?"
"Because it has many switches."
Besides commas, I also want to know (know-know) how to use units in plural and the ending period properly.
When (or in what dialect/style) to use the same form for both singular and plural, when the first letter should be capitalized, when we should add a period at the end.
Oh, and when we should have a space between the amount of the unit.
(E.g. 71.25 Kgs. or 71.25kg or something else? and when?)
4:57 PM
Q: "Task names" or "tasks names"?

SantiBailorsIf I am looking at a list of tasks and I want to say "names of the tasks", is it wrong to say "tasks names" ? I usually see "task names", but how do you know that that means "the names of the tasks" instead of "the names of the task" (a task can have more names) ? The choice of "task" and "name"...

Another interesting question!
It's quite easy for any fluent speaker to see that task names is correct.
I remember vaguely that I had a similar discussion about "<noun> list" before.
Should <noun> be in the plural or singular?
A corpus search seemed to suggest that "<singular-noun> list" is more common.
Some "<plural-noun> list" do exist.
(I remember one example: enemies list)
1 hour later…
6:16 PM
A: What is different between "for" and "to"?

oerkelensYes, the use of 'to' or 'for' usually does change the meaning of your phrase, and the difference can be quite big. To look at your examples: The place is important for/to me. Here the difference is possibly the smallest. Without having any definite answer on this, I say I feel that in this...

Good answer.
For vs. to is a common problem, I think.
3 hours later…
9:40 PM
@DamkerngT. Quite so. This matter of reasonable intelligible nomenclature has been on my mind a lot. I'll happily buy into plain form (not tense, cause it's not always a tense); so what are we going to call the 3sg inflection; and the other finite form miscalled "past", the "-ed" form; and the -ing form and the "-en" form?
@StoneyB Great point!
I remember that Leech has a similar idea about this "plain" tense/form thing. Not sure what term he used.
One thing I like about his book is that he chose to adopt conventional terminologies but capitalize them when we talk about grammatical categories (e.g. the Simple Present), and write it plainly when talking about the meaning (e.g. the present time).
Ahh... he didn't suggest any new name, just a comment, "It is a notorious fact, for instance, that the English Present Tense can refer not just to present time, but to past and present time as well." (entry 4, p.3)
It seems like we have three related things: forms, grammatical categories, and meanings.
I don't know Leech, but CGEL calls it the plain form. Back in the 70s the guys who were rewriting Eh grammar and insisting that Eh has only two tenses distinguished 'past' and 'non-past'; but of course 'non-past' is just as problematic.
By the way, I'm personally fine with both sets of terms for the forms, perhaps because I'm used to the past, the present participle, and the past participle forms.
@StoneyB Oh! That makes me speechless!
goose bumps
9:55 PM
Well, my problem with PaPpl is that it's often not a past participle but a passive participle; and the PrPpl has no temporal reference, it's an active or continuous participle--except of course when it's a gerund!
I've tended over the last year or so to refer to the forms, however many words are involved, as 'constructions', and to avoid the word tense altogether by speaking of past/present/future reference. But I'm afraid it doesn't make things any clearer, it just makes my sentences longer!
I'm afraid so!
I keep thinking we need to junk the whole apparatus and come up with an entire new set of terms drawn from ordinary English.
Before buying Leech's Meaning and the English Verb, I had an idea about separating tenses from time (which could sound a bit confusing 'cause I was conflating the terms). Looking back, I think I was stumbling upon something important.
@StoneyB I'm a big fan of the two-tense system.
A new set is welcome if it's along the same lines. I mean, it simplifies things a lot!
10:03 PM
Plain form, -ed form, -en form, -ing form has some currency and is clean; but how many learners will grasp the difference between -ed and -en, or understand why we call it -en?
Indeed. The -ed form and -ing form are much easier to grasp.
Disentangling 'tense' (form) from 'time' (reference) is essential. But how do you get around the installed base? English speakers and teachers and learners won't just abandon the old terms overnight the way programmers abandoned procedural languages.
They won't climb on board; we (meaning you and me) need to give em something so transparent and self-evident that they fall on board.
I still have no good idea at the moment, though I think "meaning" should be a key factor.
I mean, I feel much more comfortable with English tenses after adopting the two-tense system and aligning my thinking about time to English tenses.
But the forms are not 'monosemous'. There's not a meaning to each form, but a whole bunch of essentially unrelated 'meanings'. Or 'uses'.
10:14 PM
ooh - a thought just occurred to me: not names but models. The DO form, DID form, DONE form, DOING form.
Oh, that's really good!
Genuinely "paradigmatic"!
It's also much better than calling them the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd forms, which is quite common over here and probably in many other countries.
(The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd forms of a verb are corresponding to the DO, DID, and DONE forms.)
Yes; it's particularly common in French grammars. ... and then the constructed forms fall into place: the HAVE DONE form, the BE DOING form, the HAVE been DOING form &c.
It's sorta self-documenting.
10:23 PM
But oh ... how do you then notate forms with do support? DO is now ambiguous.
I was thinking about that, too. (Some other verbs, such as GO-WENT-GONE, crossed my mind.) But I think writing DO-form should work.
DO-form and DO-support.
No, cause ya gotta provide for paradigms of questions. DO Subj DO?
Oh, true!
Does this workDO Subj Vᴅᴏɴᴇ?
Another idea is to use five terms for classifying all these verb forms: the plain form, the past form, the perfect form, the active participle, and the passive participle. With a note that the perfect form and the passive participle are identical in spelling.
10:37 PM
But: you need the inflected forms too, and be is gonna screw you up. Starting with be itself.
Indeed. The plain form for other verbs also has two sub-forms: singular and plural.
Be is the only verb, I think, that has that many forms!
The idea still needs work, but I have to retire to my bed for now.
Thank you very much for a very nice discussion.
Sleep tight!
Thanks, and good night!

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