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embedding questions

English translation: A: "B?" or "C?"

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:Embedding questions
English translation:A: "B?" or "C?"
Entered by: R. A. Stegemann
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05:44 Dec 30, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
/ sentence structure and style
English term or phrase: embedding questions
I have a terribly rountine question about style for which I would like to receive thoughtful feedback. So, provide good explanations with your answers. This said, please examine the sentence below and offer stylistic alternatives, unless of course you feel that the sentence is already properly styled.

"If a friend were to tell you that you could have as much of something you want free of charge, your first reation might be: what is the special occasion, or what nice thing have I done to deserve this?
R. A. Stegemann
Saudi Arabia
Local time: 13:07
slight changes
Explanation:
If a friend were to tell you that you could have as much of something AS you want, free of charge, your first reaction might be: "What is the special occasion?" or "What nice thing have I done to deserve this?"


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Note added at 2003-12-30 14:39:31 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I believe it would also be correct to say, as much of something as you wanted, as Ailish suggests.

Happy New Year to all!
Selected response from:

Refugio
Local time: 20:07
Grading comment
Well this is how the sentence was finally rendered:

If a friend offers you something for nothing, and tells you to take as much as you want, your first reaction might be: "What is the special occasion?" or "What nice thing have I done to deserve this?"

I would like to thank everyone for the great discussion this question generated -- especially Dusty. As Ruth pointed out, however, it was the embedding of the questions that was truly at stake. In the end I have completely abandonned the use of the subjunctive, because it would have meant treating nearly a half of the essay, as if it were merely conjecture, when it fact it represents something with which we are confronted everyday.

By the way, Dusty, the free hand-outs are from the Hong Kong government in the form of univeral English language training. Please look forward to an article entitled "Hong Kong's Window Dressers" coming soon under My Region on Viewpoint at .
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +8slight changesRefugio
4 +3SEE COMMENT
Tony M
3 +3punctuation onlyRHELLER


  

Answers


6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
punctuation only


Explanation:
If a friend were to tell you that you could have as much of something you want, free of charge, your first reaction might be, "what is the special occasion?" or "what nice thing have I done to deserve this?"

RHELLER
United States
Local time: 21:07
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 1252

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  airmailrpl: good
33 mins
  -> thanks

agree  Rahi Moosavi
1 hr
  -> thanks Rahi

agree  Jonathan Spector
1 hr
  -> thanks Jonathan

neutral  xxxLia Fail: all conditional (were, could, might), so I would say YOU WANTED not 'you want', also 'something' (concrete) or 'anything' (at all)?
1 hr
  -> as much of something you "desire"-the issue here is not the tense of want - it's about a state of mind
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22 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +8
slight changes


Explanation:
If a friend were to tell you that you could have as much of something AS you want, free of charge, your first reaction might be: "What is the special occasion?" or "What nice thing have I done to deserve this?"


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-12-30 14:39:31 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I believe it would also be correct to say, as much of something as you wanted, as Ailish suggests.

Happy New Year to all!

Refugio
Local time: 20:07
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 485
Grading comment
Well this is how the sentence was finally rendered:

If a friend offers you something for nothing, and tells you to take as much as you want, your first reaction might be: "What is the special occasion?" or "What nice thing have I done to deserve this?"

I would like to thank everyone for the great discussion this question generated -- especially Dusty. As Ruth pointed out, however, it was the embedding of the questions that was truly at stake. In the end I have completely abandonned the use of the subjunctive, because it would have meant treating nearly a half of the essay, as if it were merely conjecture, when it fact it represents something with which we are confronted everyday.

By the way, Dusty, the free hand-outs are from the Hong Kong government in the form of univeral English language training. Please look forward to an article entitled "Hong Kong's Window Dressers" coming soon under My Region on Viewpoint at <http://homepage.mac.com/moogoonghwa/earth/viewpoint.html#regional>.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  cendrine marrouat
9 mins
  -> Thank you, Cendrine

agree  airmailrpl: also good
17 mins
  -> Thanks, Airmail

agree  xxxOso: ¶:^)
44 mins
  -> Thanks, bear-man

agree  xxxsarahl
59 mins
  -> Thank you, Sarah

agree  Richard Benham: Adding "as" is essential. The quotes are technically required, but can be considered cluttering and are often omitted in practice, especially in literary contexts.
1 hr
  -> Agreed, Richard, thanks

agree  Gordon Darroch
2 hrs
  -> Thanks, Gordon

agree  anglista: AS
4 hrs
  -> Thanks, Anglista

agree  David Knowles: with Richard, but "wanted" rather than "want" to keep the conditional sequence.
4 hrs
  -> Thank you, David
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4 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
SEE COMMENT


Explanation:
"If a friend were to tell you that you could have as much of something as you wanted for nothing, your first reaction might be to wonder what the special occasion might be, or what kindness you could have done to deserve this."

Personally, I agree with Richard, that 'as' is essential, at last if you read it that way we both have 'as much as you want of something'; if, however, it is meant to be '...of something you really wanted', then the first part of the sentence would need re-casting.

Please, let's avoid 'nice thing' --- this is horrid English, and sounds like something out of a children's reader! I've opted for 'kindness', since that might be one of the many 'nice things' that could deserve a reward.

I favour the use of an indirect question style here, tidying the punctuation and allowing the use of 'wonder', which I favour over 'ask oneself' (sounds too close to a French orginial for me!)

And I think that 'for nothing' is more appropriate between friends than 'free of charge', which sounds very shop-like, and again, too similar to a French original; if you realy don't like 'for nothng', then I would opt for simply 'free' on its own; it rather depends if the friend is, for example, taking you to a bar and saying "you can drink what you like and I'll pay" (in which case 'free' might be appropriate), or if you were being offered to help yourself to something, like from their wardrobe or something (where there was no question of ANYONEs paying)

Have fun! (and please introduce me to this generous friend!)


:-)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 5 hrs 48 mins (2003-12-30 11:32:38 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Thanks, David for your kind comment. In answer to one of your points, I felt justified in \"straying from the style of the original\" simply because I didn\'t think it HAD very much! To me, it sounds like a classic first-attempt translation from a French original, and whilst sticking close to a literal interpretation of the original CAN sometimes be the best thing to do (as so often reiterated in these pages), in cases like this one, I prefer to stray (as far as possible!) from expressions like \'nice thing\' --- so often a lame attempt to translate that often thorny problem of an adjective being used in French as a noun.

So I guess it all depends on the real context --- but then, doesn\'t it always?!

Happy New Year to all our Readers!

:-)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 8 hrs 16 mins (2003-12-30 14:00:39 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I agree in principle about the use of direct rather than indirect, but on balance I think I prefer it here, for these \'inner thoughts\'; otherwise, sometimes, the \'direct\' version can get very clumsy. I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestion to drop the redundant \'or\'; anything that helps streamline this sentece is welcome!

Tony M
France
Local time: 05:07
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 3261

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  David Knowles: This is very thoughtful (as requested), but I think it strays too far from the original, and changes the style somewhat. I do agree with "free of charge" jarring slightly, and I would change "want" to "wanted" as you've done.
35 mins
  -> Thanks, David! With me 'thoughtful' usually means 'long-winded'! Please see added comment above...

agree  Richard Benham: Very well thought out. I agree with everything you say. My only reservation is that you've changed from direct to indirect speech in the "reaction". School teachers often recommend this, but you lose vividness in the process. You could also drop the "or".
1 hr
  -> Thanks a lot, Richard! I value your opinion greatly. Please see my added response to your comments.

agree  Refugio: I do think, however, that the asker was concerned here with a very specific style problem about embedded questions, rather than the best way to express the thought.
4 hrs
  -> Thanks Ruth --- a very good point! I hope that working through a case example like this may help Asker for future instances...
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