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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Just a doubt    

Just a doubt


Just a doubt
Dear friends, I need you tell me if both verb forms are correct and, if so, which is more usual. When I was a child, eating/ to eat boiled fish was unpleasant. Thanks! Hugs from northern Portugal

11 Nov 2017      

United States

When I was a child, eating boiled fish was unpleasant.
When I was a child, it was unpleasant to eat boiled fish.
In both cases, though, I would replace "was" with "I found":
  When I was a child, I found eating boiled fish unpleasant.
  When I was a child, I found it unpleasant to eat boiled fish.

11 Nov 2017     


When it comes to speaking reduce it as much aa possible. So first one is better for me. Even "As a child" may be more useful.

12 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

Dear Poppingdale,
1) "When I was a child, eating boiled fish was unpleasant."
2) "When I was a child, to eat boiled fish was unpleasant."
In my opinion, both of these sentences are acceptable, but I think that in the UK, sentence 1 is more common.
"A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language", page 1191, says:
Choice between the Infinitive and Participial constructions. 
Where both constructions ... are admitted, there is usually felt to be a difference of aspect or mood which influences the choice. As a rule, the infinitive gives a sense of mere �potentiality � for action, as in �She hoped to learn French �, while the participle gives a sense of the actual �performance � of the action itself. �She enjoyed learning French �. In the case of �try �, the double meaning is particularly clear:
1) "Sheila tried to bribe the jailor."
2) "Sheila tried bribing the jailor."
1) implies that Sheila attempted an act of bribery, but she did not manage it;
2) implies that she actually did bribe the jailor, but without (necessarily) achieving what she wanted.
To return to the examples under discussion.
1) "When I was a child, eating boiled fish was unpleasant."
2) "When I was a child, to eat boiled fish was unpleasant."
I suggest that they mean:
1) "When I was a child, thinking about eating boiled fish, was unpleasant."
2) "When I was a child, thinking about the fact that I might have to eat boiled fish, was unpleasant."
Bruce �Vanogator makes some useful additional remarks.
I don �t agree with my colleague, sozhan2o, who appears to suggest that you reduce your speaking.
Whilst I don �t advocate long-windedness, if you have an opportunity to speak English, I suggest that you USE IT, and use it wisely!
If you speak a simple sentence, with just one clause, that �s fine. But, if you can move on correctly to use multiple sentences, with more than one clause, that will be excellent. You will give the listener more information, you will sound more polite, AND you will be constantly improving your English.
I realise that sozhan20 was not suggesting one-word answers! 
However, when it happens to me, a question-and-answer session, with one-word answers from the student, becomes REALLY HARD WORK. I find it demoralising.

In my opinion, the following is the more usual construction of the 2 examples.

1) "When I was a child, eating boiled fish was unpleasant."
Poppingdale, I hope I have helped you a little bit.
Les Douglas

12 Nov 2017     


I might be totally ignorant but I have always thought that �eating � in the example above is not a Participle (Present Participle) but a Gerund...

12 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

Thank you. You are perfectly correct.
Professor David Crystal �s "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language" defines these words like this.
Gerund: A noun derived from a verb ( a �verbal noun �) especially as found in Latin grammar, or in grammars based on Latin (amandum �loving �).
Participle: In traditional grammar, a word derived from a verb and used as an adjective (smiling face, parked car); also applied to such nonfinite forms of the verb as "He �s smiling" (Present Participle) and "He has smiled" (Past Participle).
Les Douglas prefers to use the phrase, "The ing form".
-Ing Form: An abbreviated way of referring to the form of the verb when it ends in �-ing � (running).
I repeat, Gi2gi, you are perfectly correct!
Les Douglas 

12 Nov 2017     


�Thank you for the information!
However, I do not completely share the opinion that �Verbal Nouns � and �Gerunds � are exactly the same thing...��
The most prominent difference can be that the �Verbal Noun � has �more likeness � to a noun, i.e.� can be modified by an adjective, has a plural form, and can be used with an article,� while the �Gerund � has more �verb-like� properties- can be modified by an adverb and cannot be used with an article like a normal noun, etc...
�We admired the brilliant drawings � (Verbal Noun, plural, modified by an adjective, can be used with an article)
�Drawing well is something I �ve always wanted. � (Gerund, modified by an adverb, no article, can�t be plural) .
Would love to hear more about this.

12 Nov 2017     


Thank you all for your help. It �s clear now.
Best wishes.

13 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

Dear Giorgi, Gi2gi,

Thank you for your clear explanation regarding the difference between a Gerund and a Verbal Noun.

In the United Kingdom, from approximately 1750 to 1950, �traditional grammar�, for the majority of scholars, was a difficult, dismal, dreary task. It was a scholarly duty imposed by grammarians on unwilling children, (and I was one of those children). It had little relation to real speaking, real writing, or indeed, to real life itself.

Why was there this negative attitude?

It was because traditional grammar lessons were prescriptive in nature. The teachers insisted that only formal, correct, �proper�, language was worth studying.

Informal styles of speech were ignored, and were frequently condemned as incorrect. They were considered not worth studying.

In addition, the system of teaching used the grammar of the Latin language as a basis. Consequently, children in school were forced to use a classification system, and a terminology, which has little in common with the English language.

Why do I say this?

Because English is not a part of the Romance (Latin) family of languages, (like Italian, French, Spanish, etc.)

It is a Germanic language, (like German, Dutch, Icelandic, etc.).

Yet, in the past, teachers persisted in trying to pretend that, in some way, the two languages were almost identical.

English and Latin are as different as chalk and cheese.

In my senior school, in 1941 to 1946, attitudes in the classroom began to change. In English lessons, there was much less emphasis on formal grammar. Lessons began to include �ordinary English�, the language of the playground, for example.

I remember when my class was asked to write an essay in any local dialect. My friends in class read their essays in Scottish, Cumbrian, Yorkshire, and Cockney dialects. I read my essay in Geordie dialect � the language that I spoke in the street.

In a similar way, a new generation of education writers began to produce books which were less formal, but were still informative. They were usually much less prescriptive. Some authors began to drop ancient grammar phrases which often caused difficulties to scholars. In their place, they devised phrases which were much more appropriate to the English language.

In �A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language�, 1985, Professors Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvick, assisted by Professor David Crystal wrote:

Page 7: �� it is now less usual than in the past for teachers to attempt to make the local spoken variety (of English) conform with some educated spoken norm�.

Page 189: �This terminology, modelled on that used for inflectional languages such as Latin, can be misleading when applied to English ��

Page 1292: �For reasons that will now be plain, we do not find it useful to distinguish a gerund from a participle, but terminologically class all the -ing items in [5-14] as PARTICIPLES�.

�This lack of correspondence between the English gerund and the traditional use of the term can be advanced as a further reason for rejecting the term gerund in English�.

They continue with a full page of detailed arguments. I will not bore the Members with this.

I am with David Crystal, when he writes in his Encyclopedia of English, �The fundamental purpose of grammar is all to do with making sense --- to communicate intelligibly�.

In my opinion, it is irrelevant whether the individual knows grammar intuitively, or whether he/she has a detailed knowledge of grammar.

If a person can communicate intelligibly, for me, that is the end of the matter.

Best wishes,

Les Douglas

13 Nov 2017     

United States

Les, our pedantic grammarian, claiming a detailed knowledge of grammar is irrelevant?
This is a red letter day for my journal.
 :) (just having some fun Les, not trying to be offensive) :)

14 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

I hate David Crystal. Snooty, horrible stuck-up twerp. Just saying! 

14 Nov 2017     

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