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when it comes to defining -v - non defining relative clauses
Absolutely. But the quiz seemed to miss the point that both that and which/who can be used in the defining variety.

The example I give my students is:

 

The students that (or who) knew the teacher was ill stayed at home.

[=> some of them - the ones defined by the defining clause]

 

vs

 

The students, who knew the teacher was ill, stayed at home.

[=> all of them]

 

But... my spell-check software (apparently applying the same dubious distinction as the quiz) always queries my use of which in defining-clauses... which annoys me no end...

 

Some of my students overtly hate grammar this year... they don't seem bothered by the fact that their ignorance of it frequently renders their work either ambiguous or downright incomprehensible. Nor do they seem bothered when they make me feel like a freak for trying to get them interested in certain grammatical points.

 

(This should be in the "Have a rant!" thread, I know... sorry... :confused: )

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According to Bryan Garner in his Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style, "if you see a which without a comma before it, nine times out of ten, it needs to be a that. The other time, it needs a comma....Use that whenever you can." I'm pretty sure I followed that rule in answering the "which/that" question in the test.

 

Granted, this is American usage and style; you all might have another rule that you follow. I will say that I am a huge Bryan Garner fan. He advocates clear, straightforward writing, which I appreciate. He also engages in a spirited defense of "you all" (used above) and "y'all," which is definitely a regionalism in the U.S., but very handy.

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Absolutely. But the quiz seemed to miss the point that both that and which/who can be used in the defining variety.

Yes - I wasn't really meaning to relate the that/which controversy to the defining/non-defining point, sorry.

I like your examples for teaching def-v-non-def: I will use them.

 

My version of Word always wants a comma before which. This confuses my pupils when they are typing up work. When I tell them it's just that they understand English better than Microsoft, they look at me with the same amused disbelief which they show when I tell them that a word doesn't have to be in the dictionary to be a word. :P

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Was thinking back on my less than stellar showing in the quiz and it took me back to my school days. We had our English lesson divided into two categories, one for grammar which, as I remember, left me daydreaming and the other for literature which/that? I found really interesting. As a consequence I am baffled by conjunctive and sub-conjunctives, did know what a gerund was, however, a couple of the sentences which/that? looked perfectly reasonable to me were wrong grammatically. I'm pretty sure that I have dangled a few participles and I have started a sentence with 'but' and read somewhere that it was perfectly legal but maybe only in Canada. :) My score was a dismal 5/10. :rolleyes::dunce:

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I "learned grammar" during an unfortunate period in American education (at least in Miami, Florida) where they abandoned old-fashioned grammar and instead taught us something called "transformational grammar." It was based on the teachings of Noam Chomsky and I'm sure seemed like a great idea, but it didn't catch on and didn't teach me grammar much at all. And I certainly didn't learn to diagram sentences. I had a class in High School where we diagrammed sentences and I remember thinking, "I wish I'd learned grammar like this."

 

The main way I learned English grammar was by studying Spanish. I remember coming home and griping to my mother that Spanish had all sorts of verb forms that English didn't have, like something called "subjunctive." She was not amused.

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The main way I learned English grammar was by studying Spanish.

I learned more English grammar while attempting to learn Spanish than I ever did in my Grammar School days (and that was back in the fifties, when teaching was supposedly more rigorous).

If it hadn't been for my Spanish classes I wouldn't have been able to answer the Gerund question. :o

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7/10 for the grammar test. Not bad for a non-native speaker like me, eh? :D

 

Congrats - you did alright.

:)

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You always learn any grammar better when you learn a different country. Of course, some of us need to learn more grammar with our own language than others.

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Remember the very beginning of this thread? Of course you don't - I only do because I started it. Well, if you look back you'll see one of the things I mused on was France's somewhat obsessive protection of its language. Now it seems there are calls to lighten up a little and face reality - BBC News.

 

Seen much of this, jfp? Sea change a-comin', do you think?

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That's an old hat for us. A similar discussion has been going on in Germany and Austria for years since some universities have begun to offer individual courses in (often hard to understand) English. Not that Germany would lack an influx of students, though; matter of fact, most universities are overcrowded with locals.

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Is it really possible to protect a language?  English is a good example of an amalgamation of languages from various ways.  With new words are being invented all the time through modern culture, isn't it a natural progression? Germany recently added an English word in their dictionary (I've misplaced what is was... :wonder: ).

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Germany recently added an English word in their dictionary (I've misplaced what is was... :wonder:).

It was "shitstorm": used, as I recollect, with the specific meaning of stirring up online discussion. Angela Merkel used it in the Bundestag.

I have found that Germans are fond of English swear words, more than we are.

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It was "shitstorm": used, as I recollect, with the specific meaning of stirring up online discussion. Angela Merkel used it in the Bundestag.

I have found that Germans are fond of English swear words, more than we are.

That was it!  I knew it was profanity related.  I was taken back to hear the Germans and Austrians swear so much, however, when I was there, their politeness and friendly nature made their swearing seem more natural (not the best way to describe what I mean...)

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It was "shitstorm": used, as I recollect, with the specific meaning of stirring up online discussion. Angela Merkel used it in the Bundestag.

I have found that Germans are fond of English swear words, more than we are.

 

I think it's about having different weights atached to different words. In German, a schoolkid can say Scheisse in front of the teacher and there would be no problems. But if the schoolkid called the teacher a Schwein it would be seen as very rude. Anything equating people to animals is strongly taboo. I don't remember (but maybe I have had a sheltered life) Germans using body parts as swearwords. Actually, that's not true - Arschloch is rude, but it's the only one I can think of. Hand gestures can be extremely offensive - to the point that it was made an offence to touch your temple with your index finger to a policeman.  

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. Anything equating people to animals is strongly taboo.

The same is true in many Arab countries.

An Arab student is insulted if called a goat, yet calls his children kids.  Once he has lived among English-speakers, however, he’ll not mind being called ‘a lucky dog.’  But I doubt if his sister would appreciate being called ‘a lucky bitch.’ 

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I have had enormous difficulty in getting Amazon to publish my review of Red Or Dead. I had thought it might be because it was too long, so I tried various ways of shortening it, to no avail. In the end, it turned out the problem was that I had mentioned Scunthorpe. Apparently this place is so awful, Amazon is unable to publish any mention of it.

 

I've never been there, but it can't be that bad, can it? Indeed, I see from searching on Google that it is an industrial garden town which sounds quite attractive.

 

Scunthorpe.jpg

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One would think Amazon would have an intelligent filter. At work we have been using one for a couple of years now that allows Scunthorpe and other similar words but still blocks obvious efforts to post obscenities.

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Never knew there was a Scunthorpe problem - had to go to Google to find out about it and other 'no-no' words in cyberspace. Feel like I've been living in an alternate universe!

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I think it's about having different weights atached to different words. In German, a schoolkid can say Scheisse in front of the teacher and there would be no problems. But if the schoolkid called the teacher a Schwein it would be seen as very rude.

 

Actually, that's because since the 1970s when the word first appeared on stage there has been such an overdose of "Scheisse" in all areas that it has lost all significance as a swearword and is now perceived as a rather everyday expression of anger. This has happened before: calling someone a "Schelm", which today simply suggests that he is pulling your leg, would have been answered with a claim for a duel 200 years ago.

 

That seemingly strange liking for English swearwords is due to the fact that they sound much less rude to us when pronounced in a foreign language than their meaning would in fact suggest. We also use French "merde" which means just the same as, but is considered milder than, "Scheisse".

 

(In turn, when a Slovenian gets really angry, he may start talking German - our harmless word "Dreck", simply meaning any kind of dirt, has become their equivalent of "merde".)

 

Anything equating people to animals is strongly taboo.

Matter of fact, animal names can also be a sign of affection between lovers, especially when they come in diminutives: "Mäuschen" (little mouse) is a frequent nick for one's wife, for instance, especially in her presence. And no one here has ever considered Eddie the Eagle a deliberate offense.

 

I don't remember (but maybe I have had a sheltered life) Germans using body parts as swearwords.

If you haven't heard about them, praise to your hosts! Oh, there are such words, especially for the nether section of either sex. Some media here felt rather awkward when they tried to render the meaning of "Pussy Riot" in German.

 

It is true, though, that we have few swearwords with sexual content, but a lot that revolve around excrements. And Bavarians use religious terminology for swearing, preferably in endless concatenation. No kidding.

 

Hand gestures can be extremely offensive - to the point that it was made an offence to touch your temple with your index finger to a policeman.

Or to any other person, for example another car-driver.

 

It was "shitstorm": used, as I recollect, with the specific meaning of stirring up online discussion. Angela Merkel used it in the Bundestag.

 

 

That is not a good rendition of the meaning. A "shitstorm" is a concerted aggressive attack of many internet users who publish rude comments about a common target, which may be an individual person or an international business group. Merkelina was at an utter loss here, for there is no less offensive German translation of the word, the act itself being rather offensive. The literal translation, "Scheißsturm", could not be used because of its ambivalence: this would probably be misinterpreted as simply meaning "darn thunderstorm". But since everyone is used to the notion that online terminology is Denglish all over, one anglicism more or less hardly matters.

Edited by Romanike

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