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Please can/may I borrow your book!


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#61 marklaspalmas

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 04:52 PM

Untrue, you could also ask "Could I borrow...?" but it would have nothing to do with the past tense or ability. Most modal verbs have multiple meanings that sometimes have little or nothing to do with each other.


Quite, although I believe Tony's assertion that 'May I' sounds more formal than 'Can I'.

Modal verbs are indeed a fiendish minefield to teach.

'Might I borrow your book?' could also be used.

 

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#62 longboard

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 05:03 PM

I suppose the ultimate arbiter in language is usage, and usage is dynamic and evolving and it is subject to fashion. An essential element of the debate on language use, grammar, punctuation and the rest, is the desire of some people that English, retains the capacity for precision in standard day to day conversation and other forms of communication. It helps if we can use language precisely, as it aids the expression of ideas, thoughts and opinions. One of the best qualities of English, however, is its flexibility, which will surely mean that new usages, neologisms, backward constructions and the rest will keep happening.

A bit of dialectic concerning usage may help retain precision. Many of us get a bit irritated with how some words are used, with punctuation being wrong and with wonky syntax etc, but there is little point in getting worked up about our particular obsessions. :)

It looks like Mr Gove wants the use of grammar, punctuation and syntax to be given more weight in the marking of exams in the future. Time will tell whether this has any impact.


"I was like...... and he was like........." Aaaaaaarghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

"I'm loving this band." Eh?

"Sort of like, you know." Yeeuurrgghh.

" Ve free frushes went to Frum Hall." Do you have a problem with your teeth?
("The three thrushes went to Thrum Hall?")

#63 Northern Sol

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 05:17 PM

Quite, although I believe Tony's assertion that 'May I' sounds more formal than 'Can I'.

Modal verbs are indeed a fiendish minefield to teach.

'Might I borrow your book?' could also be used.


Not just more formal but also more appropriate for "big requests".

"May I borrow 10p?" would be ridiculously over polite if you were talking to a friend given that you are asking for a relatively small favour.

#64 JohnM

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 06:46 PM

.

'Might I borrow your book?' could also be used.


isn't that conditional, though?

#65 marklaspalmas

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 07:06 PM

isn't that conditional, though?


Hardly. It's a request.

A conditional: Would you lend me your book if....?

 

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#66 gingerjon

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 07:21 PM

So the future pluperfect?
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#67 Northern Sol

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 07:23 PM

No such thing.

#68 Saint Billinge

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 08:21 PM

"Experts" in grammar often disagree. In truth, who is right or wrong when it can be perplexing?

#69 Northern Sol

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 09:28 PM

"Experts" in grammar often disagree. In truth, who is right or wrong when it can be perplexing?


Not these days. Grammar is based on computer analysis of written language and to a lesser extent speech. It's much more objective than you suggest.

#70 gingerjon

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 06:19 AM

Not these days. Grammar is based on computer analysis of written language and to a lesser extent speech. It's much more objective than you suggest.


Has any of this changed how grammar is taught or the 'rules' of any languages?
Cheer up, RL is actually rather good
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#71 Northern Sol

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 07:28 AM

Has any of this changed how grammar is taught or the 'rules' of any languages?


Yes, it has.

Few people would be taught today that "I will" is incorrect and you should say "I shall" instead.

#72 Saint Billinge

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 07:45 AM

Yes, it has.

Few people would be taught today that "I will" is incorrect and you should say "I shall" instead.


This one is interesting. I have always said "I'll call later". Like someone said, it is evolving all the time.

#73 Northern Sol

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 08:30 AM

This one is interesting. I have always said "I'll call later". Like someone said, it is evolving all the time.


It is though tbf the contracted form of both "I will" and "I shall" is "I'll" so you would still have been right even from the perspective of a grammar pedant.

Mind you said pedant would probably have objected to contractions as well.

#74 JohnM

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 08:31 AM

Of course that would be bolox.


True enough. I don't have any friends, which is why, like you, I post on here. :)

#75 Northern Sol

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 08:33 AM

True enough. I don't have any friends, which is why, like you, I post on here. :)


Friends are over-rated. Your only true friend is a grammar book; preferably one written in about 1930.

#76 JohnM

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 08:36 AM

I believe you are an EFL teacher,


That explains his familiarity with leather elbow patches. :D

#77 Saint Billinge

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 08:51 AM

It is though tbf the contracted form of both "I will" and "I shall" is "I'll" so you would still have been right even from the perspective of a grammar pedant.

Mind you said pedant would probably have objected to contractions as well.


My mistake as I should have said "I will see you later".

#78 marklaspalmas

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 09:06 AM

Has any of this changed how grammar is taught or the 'rules' of any languages?


Totally.

For me, Michael Lewis' The English Verb was ground-breaking in terms of how we regard our language in EFL teaching.

Edited by marklaspalmas, 30 September 2012 - 09:08 AM.

 

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#79 tonyXIII

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 02:27 PM

Untrue, you could also ask "Could I borrow...?" but it would have nothing to do with the past tense or ability. Most modal verbs have multiple meanings that sometimes have little or nothing to do with each other.


Not untrue. (You accept the point in a later post, by the way) I was referring to the degree of formality. "Could I have a beer, please?" is a more polite (formal) way of asking for a beer than "Can I have a beer, please?" We don't normally use formal English in an informal context, for example when using the spoken language rather than the written one, or talking to a friend rather than a respected elder. The informal language is very relaxed about usage and only a complete idiot (or pedant) would pick up on his friends use of "Can I borrow your book?" rather than "May i borrow your book?"

The only time we need to be careful is when precise expression of an idea is essential, as when framing laws or expressing scientific or medical points. (Longboard's post alludes to this aspect) In these circumstances, we use formal language because we need the precision which it allows. I don't know if it is as a result of this, but it is odd that the subjunctive form (perhaps the most formal of grammatical constructs) only really survives in such situations. Outside of the law, it is pretty much a pointless anachronism which is, rightly, dying out. If it was up to me, we wouldn't use it at all. ;)

Edited to restore a semblance of original intended usage - sweary filter is annoying.

Edited by tonyXIII, 30 September 2012 - 02:29 PM.

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#80 gingerjon

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 03:06 PM

Totally.

For me, Michael Lewis' The English Verb was ground-breaking in terms of how we regard our language in EFL teaching.


Is that a book normal people would enjoy or is it only for the saddest of anoraks?
Cheer up, RL is actually rather good
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