I have some questions

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LifeDeath
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2020-11-24, 11:25

Thank you both for answering!

I just thought that the "I think" part was used to express an opinion, in the same way as we use "I guess", "I suppose", etc. That's why I expected something after "therefore I am".


Today I had an English class where I had an argument with a teacher, so I wanted to ask you about it. I had written an annotation for a research article (as prescribed by my study plan) and she checked it today and said a couple of things were wrong and tried to explain to me why. So, I've wanted to debunk her ideas because I intuitively feel that I'm correct, yet I can't express it in terms of grammar, nor do I have authority of being a native English speaker.


The first sentence I'd like to ask about is "This type of behavior is not appropriate for neural network simulation where millions and sometimes billions of iterations need to be applied to a structure."
The teacher marked the word "need" in red. She said that in this context only a passive form of "need" could be used, i.e.: "Billions of iterations are needed to be applied to a structure", or that I should have used a different verb instead of "need". She said that "are" is the best option in the given context and some other verbs are possible, too, like "should" and "must". Since I was writing the annotation myself, I used "need" and not any other verb for a reason. I just want you to tell me if it's correct as is. I suspect this has something to do with the middle voice, but I'm not sure.


The second sentence was "Cycle after cycle, this force slowly stretched the nanoparticles out until they smeared into a very thick uniform film of single vanadium pentoxide molecules without the potential energy centers which completely inhibited its ability to conduct, as ? was observed on a voltmeter screen" where she put a question mark before the word "was" in the second part. I'm not sure what she actually meant there, so I just want to know if such phrasing is fine (without anything put in before the "was"). I'm struggling to recall which grammar topics I should read on it, but I feel this is correct anyway, though I'm not totally sure now that it's been corrected. (I even think that in a lower register the "was" could be dropped off completely and we'd still be left with a legitimate sentence, with a little exception that the fact that the observation took place namely in the past would now be a bit unclear).

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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2020-11-24, 18:05

LifeDeath wrote:I just thought that the "I think" part was used to express an opinion, in the same way as we use "I guess", "I suppose", etc. That's why I expected something after "therefore I am".

Naw, in this case it's used exceptionally in its core meaning of "to have thoughts, to cogitate".

LifeDeath wrote:The first sentence I'd like to ask about is "This type of behavior is not appropriate for neural network simulation where millions and sometimes billions of iterations need to be applied to a structure."
The teacher marked the word "need" in red. She said that in this context only a passive form of "need" could be used, i.e.: "Billions of iterations are needed to be applied to a structure", or that I should have used a different verb instead of "need". She said that "are" is the best option in the given context and some other verbs are possible, too, like "should" and "must". Since I was writing the annotation myself, I used "need" and not any other verb for a reason. I just want you to tell me if it's correct as is. I suspect this has something to do with the middle voice, but I'm not sure.

Your version sounds better than any of her suggested substitutions. Insisting on a passivisation is especially odd because "be applied" is already passive and this leads to a double passive construction that is supremely awkward.

It shouldn't be too hard for you to find a citation from a journal where a native speaker uses a "need(s) to be" construction parallel to yours.

LifeDeath wrote:The second sentence was "Cycle after cycle, this force slowly stretched the nanoparticles out until they smeared into a very thick uniform film of single vanadium pentoxide molecules without the potential energy centers which completely inhibited its ability to conduct, as ? was observed on a voltmeter screen" where she put a question mark before the word "was" in the second part.

Before we get to this, two minor observations:

1. "Smeared" is a rather informal verb for this context. I would simply say "formed".
2. "Single" sounds a bit off, since the film is formed of multiple molecules. "Individual" works better (because the point I assume you're making is that they're not bonded to other molecules, not that the film is only a single molecule thick).

LifeDeath wrote:I'm not sure what she actually meant there, so I just want to know if such phrasing is fine (without anything put in before the "was"). I'm struggling to recall which grammar topics I should read on it, but I feel this is correct anyway, though I'm not totally sure now that it's been corrected. (I even think that in a lower register the "was" could be dropped off completely and we'd still be left with a legitimate sentence, with a little exception that the fact that the observation took place namely in the past would now be a bit unclear).

Dropping the "was" doesn't affect the register. It changes a nuance, but it's hard to put into words exactly how. Maybe "was observed" puts a little more focus on the process than just "observed", which sounds like little more than an indication that a voltmeter was used.

I don't get what her issue is with this sentence either, since it's totally idiomatic to me. Maybe that there's no explicit subject? But this is one of the rare cases in English where you don't need one.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2020-11-27, 17:33

Thank you. Indeed, those corrections you suggested are fine. I didn't know "smear" was rather informal, but I felt like "single" wasn't the best option.


There's the song "No Favors" by Big Sean ft. Eminem and there's this line in it:
"If she was flavor, I won't save her".
At first, it seemed just fine but then I remembered standard classification of conditional sentences and doubted a bit. I think most English learners would expect "If she was flavor, I wouldn't save her" because this is what we're taught. If + past, then + would. But I thought that the actual use of tenses can be more flexible than those written into books of grammar and I should get the meaning just from looking at the sentence. What it seems to me is that he compares his expression of a woman to flavor, like figuratively. He didn't like the woman, so he wanted to have her (save) in his collection of other flavors if she was a flavor as well. But then, why not "wouldn't save her"? I thought this might be because he's deciding it as he's saying the sentence. Right at the moment's of speaking he's not willing to save her, that's why he says "won't". But then, since he's thinking about it and it has bearing on the present moment, why isn't it "If she has been flavor"?
I'm not sure if such logic can work in English at all, so I want to show another example. Let's say you're visiting some country and going out to try local beer that you've heard is good. Let's say you don't like it at all, so while you're still at the counter you can say to your friend "If that's been their best beer, I won't even taste their medium" (I think that just "that is their" in the first part would be best, but I'm trying to show logical reference to that sentence above). But if you didn't have this conversation at the bar, but, let's say some hours later in a hotel room, then, if your friend asks you what you think of the beer you tasted that day, you can say "If that was their best beer, I won't even taste their medium" using the past in the first part, and future in the second. But I don't see how this logic might correlate with the sentence I'm asking about. The songwriter, as it seems to me, just says what he thinks about that woman he's seen. So why isn't it "If she is flavor, I won't save her" or "If she was flavor, I wouldn't save her"?

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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2020-12-08, 14:32

I wanted to add another simple question.
Here I posted a recording of me reading a book. Many people said that I sounded like I was from the Southern US having that regional accent. Can you give it a brief listen and corroborate or dispute their impression? There were even people from the South of the US (as they claimed) who confirmed that I had a Southern accent, which is ABSOLUTELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE to me because I have no idea where I could pick that accent, I've watched American TV shows, like Friends, The Office, Lost. And seven years ago, when I was beginning, I listened to a couple of audiobooks read by Stephen Fry, but I wasn't even able to tell the American accent from the British at the time, which I learned only a couple of years ago. And anyway, now I can hear if that's an American accent other than a British one, but I still absolutely unable to distinguish regional US accents (unless they are overdone, as for comical reasons).

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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2020-12-08, 18:13

LifeDeath wrote:Here I posted a recording of me reading a book. Many people said that I sounded like I was from the Southern US having that regional accent. Can you give it a brief listen and corroborate or dispute their impression?

It's your /ai/. The way you say "Tyler"--with centralisation and smoothing--is very characteristic of Southern American English.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2020-12-10, 15:58

LifeDeath wrote:There's the song "No Favors" by Big Sean ft. Eminem and there's this line in it:
"If she was flavor, I won't save her".
At first, it seemed just fine but then I remembered standard classification of conditional sentences and doubted a bit. I think most English learners would expect "If she was flavor, I wouldn't save her" because this is what we're taught. If + past, then + would. But I thought that the actual use of tenses can be more flexible than those written into books of grammar and I should get the meaning just from looking at the sentence. What it seems to me is that he compares his expression of a woman to flavor, like figuratively. He didn't like the woman, so he wanted to have her (save) in his collection of other flavors if she was a flavor as well. But then, why not "wouldn't save her"? I thought this might be because he's deciding it as he's saying the sentence. Right at the moment's of speaking he's not willing to save her, that's why he says "won't". But then, since he's thinking about it and it has bearing on the present moment, why isn't it "If she has been flavor"?

The use of the present perfect construction is pretty limited in colloquial American English. It doesn't work here at all.

There's either a pun here on "savour" (to enjoy a flavour) or that's the actual lyric and someone misheard it. "Wouldn't" can also sound like "won't" in rapid speech.

LifeDeath wrote:So why isn't it "If she is flavor, I won't save her" or "If she was flavor, I wouldn't save her"?

Just poetic licence, I guess. I really can't see a specific motivation for it.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2020-12-10, 18:11

Thanks. :y:
I've been puzzling over it a lot over the last week.
Here's the video where the first line is the one I was asking about. Even if it's playing with the alike-sounding "savor", I think it shouldn't affect the verb form, it doesn't even change the rhythm.
linguoboy wrote:Just poetic licence, I guess.

That's is one thing that is hard for even advanced learners. You never know where the boundaries are, nor do you know if it's a real grammatical structure you happen to have skipped for some reason or just a fancy made up part of a lyric.

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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2020-12-14, 9:17

I wanted to ask another question about my work's correction. Here's what was corrected by the teacher. The sentence is "Moreover, not only can molybdenum be used for such applications, some other metal dichalcogenides can, too, including selenium and tungsten."
I want to elucidate it for me if that's truly incorrect or not. I'm pretty sure the teacher marked that part in read because she didn't like the "not only" construction. I've read that this is rather formal phrasing, which makes it even more appropriate for formal contexts. So is this correct? (given what's written below)
But then I looked at the sentence once more and started to doubt a bit. Indeed, I've read that "not only" should always be accompanied by "but also", which is not true for my sentence. Logically, I feel that if "but also" part is prominently meant in a sentence, it can be omitted. In my case, "but" is just omitted there, and "also" is substituted by "too". But what it turns out now to me is that the second part is not logically connected to the first. That is, if I stared to talk about some properties of molybdenum in "not only" part, I should add something to it in the "but also" part. Like "Not only can molybdenum be used for such applications, but it can also be used for other applications." But instead, I started to talk about some other materials in the second part, leaving a logical gap between the two parts. I'm pretty sure the teacher didn't mean this, the reason she marked it, as I said, is the use of "not only" itself, and maybe hinting that "but also" must explicitly present in the second part. But let's say the second part is used correctly, would it still be a mistake? (Or maybe the whole sentence is correct as is, but not excellent sounding, I just want to categorize it as really incorrect grammatically or not).

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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2020-12-14, 20:37

LifeDeath wrote:I want you to elucidate it for me if that's truly incorrect or not. I'm pretty sure the teacher marked that part in read because she didn't like the "not only" construction. I've read that this is rather formal phrasing, which makes it even more appropriate for formal contexts. So is this correct? (given what's written below)

We're now leaving the realm of what's "correct" from a grammatical point of view and getting into questions of stylistics. I suppose this is a "formal" construction compared to "not just...also" (e.g. "I didn't just correct it, I also gave suggestions.") but it's not at all stilted.

LifeDeath wrote:But then I looked at the sentence once more and started to doubt a bit. Indeed, I've read that "not only" should always be accompanied by "but also", which is not true for my sentence.

Again, this is a stylistic rule. We were taught it in high school composition class. It's useful for making the structure clear in an essay, but not strictly necessary.

LifeDeath wrote:Logically, I feel that if "but also" part is prominently meantimplied in a sentence, it can be omitted. In my case, "but" is just omitted there, and "also" is substituted by "too". But what it turns out now it seems to me is that the second part is not logically connected to the first. That is, if I stared to talk about some properties of molybdenum in the "not only" part, I should add something to it in the "but also" part. Like "Not only can molybdenum be used for such applications, but it can also be used for other applications." But instead, I started to talk about some other materials in the second part, leaving a logical gap between the two parts. I'm pretty sure the teacher didn't mean this, the reason she marked it, as I said, is the use of "not only" itself, and maybe hinting that "but also" must explicitly present in the second part. But let's say the second part is used correctly, would it still be a mistake? (Or maybe the whole sentence is correct as is, but not excellent sounding, I just want to categorize it as really incorrect grammatically or not).

To reiterate: It's fine grammatically. This is all stylistics.

To me, the contrast works as long as the reader places the emphasis in the right place. That is, the desired reading is "not only can molybdenum be used for such applications", contrasting molybdenum with the other listed metals to follow. But if you read the sentence with neutral emphasis, then the reader is more likely to expect a contrast with other applications that molybdenum can be used for.

I don't think this is much of an issue, but if you do want to restructure the sentence in order to avoid it, there are ways to do that. Perhaps the simplest is just to move "can", i.e. "not only molybdenum can be used for such applications...". In my opinion, that's a little awkward and it sounds better as a cleft sentence, i.e. "Moreover, it is not only molybdenum that can be used...". This heightens the contrast, however, which may not be the effect you want.
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