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English grammar explanation
Thread poster: Fiona Gonçalves

Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:23
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 10, 2009

Hi everyone.

I need to explain to a non-native speaker of English why the word "mild" comes after "temperature" and not before in the following sentence:

"The substropcial climate keeps the temperature mild all year round."

Would anyone be able to help me?

Many thanks
Fiona.


 

Albert Golub  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:23
English to French
Just because of this pattern Jun 10, 2009

Pattern IX: subject (noun) + transitive verb + direct object (noun) + object compliment (adjective)



Examples:



The teacher considers the students intelligent.

The teacher made the quiz easy.

The boys painted their hockey sticks blue.

I consider roses beautiful.


 

Maria Vita Licata
Local time: 08:23
English to Italian
+ ...
Attributive and predicative Jun 10, 2009

Most adjectives can be used both attributively (a black dog) and predicatively (the dog is black).
So they can be placed (within limits) after the noun which they refers to.
There are some which are usually used as predicative ( the baby is afraid).....
As for the example under consideration "mild" can be used and has to be used in predicative position because of the meaning:
The substropcial climate keeps the temperature mild all year round." = It depends on the subtropical climate the fact that the temperature is mild.
If it were "the mild temperature", the fact of being mild would be a feature of the temperature.
There's a lot to say about adjectives, for example with some verbs as be, seem, appear, look (=seem) adjectives of quality (large, cold, mild) can be placed after the verb.
I'm sorry but it doesn't depend on transitive verb!!!!!! An adjective is simply a noun modifier.
I hope a native speaker will reply, but - sorry Albert, what you say really does not make sense!
Maria Vita


 

Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:23
Finnish to English
Structure with keep Jun 10, 2009

The structure with 'keep' (when it has this meaning) just goes like this, so here are some more examples

keep it clean
keep the wound dry
keep your money safe (in our bank [ha ha])

so I guess Albert is on the right track here

spencer


 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:23
French to English
+ ...
Hmmm Jun 10, 2009

Maria Vita, you should know that we English native speakers often haven't learnt formal English grammar as such, merely assimilated it as we've grown up! Not very helpful, I know, but the first time I consulted a book on English grammar was when I taught English abroad!

In saying that, I feel that this works here because the adjective goes with the verb, rather than the noun, which is probably what Maria Vita implied too. I.e. to keep sthg warm/cold/mild/cool. If you swapped the nouns, for example and said "The fans kept the dog cool", you can see that there's no way you could put the adjective in front of the second noun - "The fans kept the cool dog" just wouldn't work at all.

Hope this helps!

Claire


 

Lauren Butler (X)
Local time: 07:23
Russian to English
+ ...
explain it in terms of the verbal phrase Jun 10, 2009

Explain to your colleague that the verb in that sentence isn't 'to keep,' but rather the transitive verb phrase 'to keep [object] [adjective].'

Explain to your colleague that transitive verb phrases such as 'to keep [object] [adjective]' and 'to make [object] [adjective]' always have that word order.

You could go one step further and explain to her how important word order is in English. We don't decline our nouns, so word order is essential in keeping the logic of a sentence intact!




[Edited at 2009-06-10 15:31 GMT]


 

Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 03:23
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Really? Jun 10, 2009

Claire Cox wrote:
Maria Vita, you should know that we English native speakers often haven't learnt formal English grammar as such, merely assimilated it as we've grown up! Not very helpful, I know, but the first time I consulted a book on English grammar was when I taught English abroad!
Claire


Wow! I am a Spanish native speaker, and I must say that I did learn formal grammar in high-school. I didn't know that grammar was not a required subject in the UK.
Too bad, specially for those who work in the language industry.

Edit to add note:
In my opinion tying to explain to someone who is not a native English speaker that a different word order "just wouldn't work at all" wouldn't be very enlightening, so a proper grammatical explanation would definitely be better.

[Edited at 2009-06-10 16:05 GMT]


 

Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:23
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your help Jun 10, 2009

Unfortunately, Claire's right, and that was exactly my problem here. As a native speaker of English I was never taught English grammar at school the way I was taught the grammar of the foreign languages I learned or, indeed, the way my children, who were born and go to school in Portugal are taught the grammar of their native language. It's terrible, I agree. I was at a loss as to how to explain this to a non-native speaker who is picking holes in a translation of mine and has obviously learnt that in English adjectives must always come before the noun.
Thank you all very much for your help. I can now go back to the client with a better explanation than "it just does".


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:23
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Some like it hot Jun 10, 2009

The same structure applies here. As a German native I have no problem here because both languages (I guess most European languages) adhere to: Who Does What How.
Others have to learn by heart such phrases.

Regards
Heinrich


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:23
German to Serbian
+ ...
Explanation Jun 10, 2009

Fiona Gonçalves wrote:

Hi everyone.

I need to explain to a non-native speaker of English why the word "mild" comes after "temperature" and not before in the following sentence:

"The substropcial climate keeps the temperature mild all year round."

Would anyone be able to help me?

Many thanks
Fiona.



Hi Fiona,

Here is the explanation:

In English, there is a set expression /structure ( it means fixed) with this pattern:

keep + object + adjective

It's just a set rule in the English language:
to keep something somehow(adj.). ( maintaining the state or quality of something)

" the subtropical climate" is an agent or a doer, it's an activity. That's why the adjective is AFTER the temperature. It *makes* it mild, it's not mild by itself ( static). That's the crucial semantic implication here. When it's static, the adjective commonly precedes the noun.

This a very anglophone structure and we have something similar in Serbian, but not quite the same. In this particular context, I'd have a 1/1 equivalent in Serbian, but in many cases with "keep+adj" there aren't perfect equivalents. Not sure about Portuguese, so I can't make a comparison. I generally like to explain English grammar notions to people by comparing them with their mother tongue, as that's the best way to actually grasp them.


 

B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:23
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
But it does work and how it works proves the point! Jun 10, 2009

Claire Cox wrote:

Maria Vita, you should know that we English native speakers often haven't learnt formal English grammar as such, merely assimilated it as we've grown up! Not very helpful, I know, but the first time I consulted a book on English grammar was when I taught English abroad!

If you swapped the nouns, for example and said "The fans kept the dog cool", you can see that there's no way you could put the adjective in front of the second noun - "The fans kept the cool dog" just wouldn't work at all.

Hope this helps!

Claire


I love Claire's example. "The fans kept the cool dog" gives us a different meaning of "fans", (i.e. music or football loving people instead of whirly, breeze-making machines) and a jazz freak dog with shades!

It demonstrates the reason for the word order, i.e. that the condition "cool" in the first sentence is an effect produced by the subject (the fans) on the object (the dog) and the adjective should not come between the verb and the object, or it becomes an attribute of the dog. Put the sentence into the passive voice: "The dog was kept cool by the fans" and "to keep cool" becomes a phrasal verb.

I would be giving my age away by letting on that when I went to school we did learn grammar in English schools. Indeed, I went to a grammar school where we did clause analysis and other such useful things, but it was all a long time ago and I've forgotten most of it. We didn't go into the sort of detail about conjugations of English verbs that we did for French verbs; that was probably because the English ones are so much simpler since we dropped the second person singular and since the verbs "to be" and "to have", for example could be used without worrying about "wert" and "wast", hath and hast.
icon_wink.gif BDF


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:23
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Grammar explanation Jun 11, 2009

Placing 'mild' in front of 'temperature' would produce a noun phrase, 'the mild temperature'. The verb 'keep', in the sense being used here, is a verb taking the valency pattern subject + verb + direct object + object predicative, so the adjective 'mild' is serving the grammatical role of object predicative rather than being used as an attributive adjective, i.e. functioning as a premodifier before a noun in a noun phrase.



[Edited at 2009-06-11 00:50 GMT]


 

Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 15:23
Japanese to English
A negotiation rather than a grammar problem? Jun 11, 2009

Fiona, it sounds as though what you have there is a negotiation problem rather than a grammar problem.

To which an appropriate response might be, "I'm paid to be right. Go look it up yourself."

I too went to an English "Grammar" school where the only people who tried to teach me grammar of any sort were my native French teacher and my permanently disappointed Latin teacher.


 

Alan Frankel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:23
German to English
Skeptical that teaching grammar would make a difference Jun 11, 2009

It's hard for me to imagine grammar being taught in such a way in school that it would
allow people who had studied it decades ago to definitively answer a case arising from such a subtle question asked by a nonnative speaker. After all, many people are unable to recall ANY of the algebra they learned in high school, let alone the algebraic techniques they used to solve word problems.

What I remember from the grammar I learned in school (and remember, I'm a language "geek" like the rest of you) was a little bit about diagramming simple sentences and a little bit about parts of speech. In both cases, we bailed out when the subject became at all complex. Questions like "what part of speech is 'can't'?" or " should 'the' be considered an adjective?" were brushed aside. These are just the kinds of boundary cases that are interesting to an adult, but it takes a truly skilled teacher to both understand and communicate this kind of complexity to students who are not adults and not particularly interested in the subject.

I'm not lamenting the fact that grammar wasn't taught in greater depth in school, particularly if it would have displaced some other subject. Though I am a native English speaker, I picked up an understanding of the subtleties of English grammar as an adult. After having studied other languages, I was able to come to my native language with material for comparison, fresh eyes, and renewed interest. I would imagine that many others here have done the same.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:23
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Compare it with the structure used in Portuguese, perhaps? Jun 11, 2009

I don't speak Portuguese, but I imagine that its grammatical structure is usually similar to that of Spanish.
Why not compare the problem sentence with the way it would be similarly expressed in Portuguese - assuming Portuguese is the student's native tongue?
In Spanish, your sentence would translate as something like: El clima sub-tropical hace que la temperatura quede benigna todo el año.
In other words, the adjective "benigna" occupies the same position in the sentence as "mild" does in English - so, no problem.
I used to teach French and Spanish to British girls who had never been taught English grammar because in those days teaching grammar was virtually taboo, being thought too restrictive of self-expression, and all that guff.
When trying to explain French and Spanish grammar, I often found it helped to compare and contrast the way the same thing was expressed in English, either because it was similar or because it wasn't, if you see what I mean.
I'm glad those exhausting days are over! ¡Viva la traducción!
Best wishes,
Jenny


 
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