Seventy-five: Different Ways of Saying the Same Thing
Steve: Hi Jill.
Jill: Hi Steve.
Steve: How are you?
Jill: I'm great thanks, how are you? Steve: Good thanks.
We are doing this discussion today via Skype. We're not together in the same office so, hopefully, the sound quality is just as good. Jill, you had some things you wanted to talk about, something that a learner raised with you, what was it?
Jill: On our forum, our Ask Your Tutor Forum, there was a post about a particular word and how it was used in the sentence. The sentence is “it is important that the discussion be of interest to you, so that you really want to communicate your ideas.” The member asked why the word “be” was used and not the word “is”; “be of interest” instead of “is of interest”.
Basically, as many people probably know, in English there are often many ways to say the same thing. To me, I know we chatted about this a little bit and you think there's a slightly different meaning with is or be, but for me the sentence is the same whether you use is or be. They are both correct; they both make sense. You can say “it is important that the discussion is of interest to you” or you can say “it is important that the discussion be of interest to you.”
Steve: I mean the effect is the same; the effect is the same. If you say “it's important”, I think it works with important; it may not work with other words. Like if you said it is good that the discussion is of interest to you. It is good that the discussion be of interest to you. To me the difference is that when you say it is good that the discussion is of interest to you, we are in the discussion. If I say it is good that the discussion be of interest to you, we're talking about a discussion that could happen tomorrow. Don't you agree? Jill: Yeah, I can see that.
Steve: Whereas when we use…it's so funny, that's why I find that grammatical explanations are so difficult, because every situation in the language has evolved through usage. When we use important, “it's important the discussion is of interest to you”, “it is important the discussion be of interest to you”, almost there, I agree with you, there's no difference. Yet for some reason, when I choose a different adjective, “it is good that the discussion is of interest to you”, then it implies that the discussion is taking place right now. Whereas if I say “it's good that the discussion be of interest to you”, mind you, we wouldn't even say that. When we say it is important…I don't know. That's why we say don't get caught up in grammar theory, because you know, our brains are better at picking up on patterns and structures and similarities and not so good at remembering logical explanations. What I would do is I would save the word. I always say this I sound like a broken record, I would save the word “important” in LingQ and just see what example sentences show up and just get used to them.
Jill: I'll just mention briefly too that I explained to this person that you can write this sentence in other ways as well. For example, you can say “it is important that the discussion interests you” or you can say “it is important that the discussion is interesting to you”, so there are essentially four ways to say this same sentence.
Steve: And you know, we can make it even more complicated, because if I say “it's important that the discussion interests you”, then the emphasis is on the discussion. If I say “it's important that the discussion interests you”, as opposed to George, Bill or Mary, then again the emphasis is different. Just in how you use the voice the meaning can be different. It is important that the discussion interests you. It is important that the discussion interests you. I don't know. Jill: Well yeah, you could be using “you” as sort of the general you, meaning…
Steve: No, no, I'm saying that there's an emphasis on whether it's the emphasis on the discussion or on you. Anyway, it is important…
Jill: I don't think I make so much distinction; I don't see so much of a difference there, but maybe that's just a matter of opinion, I'm not sure. Steve: Right, okay. You know, do you have any other similar points that have been raised by our learners?
Jill: Well, nothing recently where there are many different ways to say the same thing, but there is something on the forum as well about it being common in English to say “I'd like to try that out” or “I'd like to test out a new game” or something using “test out” or “try out”. The person asked couldn't I just say “try” or “test” and I said well, yes you can and you can certainly say that. You can say “you should treat the opportunity to speak as a chance to test out your new words and as an incentive to keep studying” or you can say “you should treat the opportunity to speak as a chance to test your new words and as an incentive to keep studying” and they are both completely correct.
Steve: Right. You know, I think that the word “correct” is not a good word, because it implies that in the language there's this very clearly defined, correct way, to say things. The fact is that these things are constantly evolving and so you have what we would call acceptable usage and probably every individual has his or her own way, you know, of speaking based on whoever they've been talking to, the influences that they've had, the way their brain works, the phrases that they like to use, so we as native speakers we're not bothered by that. We know that certain people use certain expressions. As a learner, of course, that can be a bit confusing.
I think there, as we always say, try to find people whose way of speaking or even whose voice you like listening to and listen to it often and imitate it and try to speak like that person. I think there's nothing wrong if people are listening to you and they like the way you speak or they listen to me or to Mark or to any of our tutors and they like the way they use the language then just imitate that. There's actually a fair amount of latitude, you know, a fair amount of tolerance in terms of what is acceptable usage. I think that, of course, even native speakers will use, you know, phrasing that's not correct. Like you can't say “I would have went” and you hear that today from native speakers. That is incorrect, I said you shouldn't use incorrect, but that's not acceptable usage, in my opinion. Jill: No, it's definitely not acceptable usage. Steve: No, so the thing is to make sure that the person you are imitating is someone who is well educated and who uses the language properly.
Steve: That includes everyone at The Linguist, right?
Jill: Well, of course.
Steve: Well, of course. You know…go ahead.
Jill: No, no, you go ahead.
Steve: No, I was going to change the subject here. One of the things we've been talking about is to what extent do you need to put pressure on people to study, okay, because studying is all about self-improvement. People want to improve and they like to improve in different ways. People might go running or they might exercise and so forth and they know it's good for them, but some degree of coercion. Like if you have a regular session, let's say that you have three friends that you meet with three times a week to go running, you are more likely to run three times a week if you have a group that you meet up with. If you rely entirely on your own willpower and discipline, you will end up doing it less and less often.
Jill: And it depends on the person. Some people are very disciplined and have a lot of self-motivation and are able to do it all on their own and don't need the added motivation of having a group to run with, for example, but I think the majority of people do need that extra motivation. Steve: That's right. Jill: Even me, somebody who loves being outdoors and I enjoy exercising and how I feel after, there are a lot of days that I don't feel like exercising. I'm tired and I'd rather do something else, but because I've made a commitment to meet my husband at the gym or I've made a commitment to meet up with a friend to go for a run after work, I don't feel like I can just cancel, so I force myself to go and I'm always happy that I did. I think the same thing goes with language learning.
Steve: Absolutely and there is this element of paying for something. For example, if I give you a book and I say read this it's really interesting, you may or may not read it, but if you buy the book at the store, you paid for it, I think you're more likely. You may still not read it, but you're more likely to read it. These are some of the little subtle ways, either it is peer pressure or you have an appointment. You know, here again, if you're taking language lessons from a teacher and it's every Wednesday at ten in the morning, you have to be there. Jill: Right.
Steve: That A, forces you to be there and B, your teacher, you don't want to disappoint her or him, so this also helps to add pressure to an activity, which you probably enjoy doing anyway, but if you don't have that extra pressure of having to see your teacher you might say ah, I won't study tonight. I'll watch a movie. Jill: I'll do it tomorrow or I'll do it next week. Steve: And, of course, the reason that we're discussing that is that we have this issue now with LingQ, as we moved over from The Linguist, where in The Linguist people paid for the month and we found that there was much more participation. Now in LingQ when you can basically carry your points over to the next month people, even though they start out with the best of intentions, they say well, I won't do it this month. I'll do it next month. Jill: There's no pressure to submit writing or join discussions, because they're not going to lose their points, so if they just don't feel like doing it this month…and I've had numerous people tell me this, the members. Steve: Our own learners tell us that. That they find themselves…and they're almost unhappy that we are allowing them to be lazy. Jill: Right.
Steve: They are asking us please, get a little tougher on me, so we may just have to do that.
Jill: We've got something in the works. Steve: We've got something in the works, because a number of people have mentioned it and we've notice, you know, the lower level of activity, which is not what we want. We want people to get active and to improve.
Jill: Exactly and talk to us and communicate with each other.
Steve: Well, exactly, but we've got some really good ideas along those lines, which people will be hearing about in due course, which, I think, addresses the issue of activity at LingQ and also addresses the issue of how to properly compensate people who are contributing content or transcribing audio files or in other ways helping out our community. So, yeah, it's something we've been talking about, we're not going to divulge the details, but we're just going to let those people who are listening today, make them aware, that these things are coming down the pike, as we say; coming down the turnpike. Alright Jill, I hope this sound file recorded well and if people find that the quality of the sound is not good enough they can let us know but, hopefully, it's going to be good enough. Jill: Alright.
Steve: Okay then.
Jill: Talk to you next time.
Steve: Okay, bye.
Jill: Bye, bye.