The expression "I have a doubt..."

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The Masked Unmasker
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The expression "I have a doubt..."

Postby The Masked Unmasker » 2005-11-20, 22:45

Many people writing in this forum, mostly non-native anglophones, use this expression: "I have a doubt..."

For example, here's one I just read: "but since i have a huge doubt concerning pronunciation"


Is this a British English thing? In the US, we express the idea in some of the following ways:

1) I have a question about X (e.g. pronunciation, the use of present perfect in English, etc. etc.)

2) I have questions about X [obviously if you have many questions on a point]

3) I'm not sure about X [This expression may be closest to what people are trying to say with the "I have a doubt" expression. It expresses your uncertainties on a particular point.]


I don't think I've ever heard the expression "I have a doubt" with the singular A DOUBT until I started reading posts here. Normally, we use the expression (note the plural "doubts"):

"I have doubts about ..." but usually to express general reservations and negative feelings about something.

For example:

I have doubts about his ability to lead this company out of bankruptcy.


I have doubts about your decision to marry that girl.

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Re: The expression "I have a doubt..."

Postby Kirk » 2005-11-20, 22:57

The Masked Unmasker wrote:Many people writing in this forum, mostly non-native anglophones, use this expression: "I have a doubt..."

For example, here's one I just read: "but since i have a huge doubt concerning pronunciation"


I've noticed this mostly in native Spanish speakers who are incorrectly translating Spanish tengo una duda directly into "I have a doubt." In Spanish tengo una duda means something like "I'm unsure about" (literally, "I have uncertainty about") in English. Duda translates in English doubt sometimes but in this case it doesn't. Compare the usage in the following:

Spanish: Dudo que venga.
English: I doubt he's coming.

Spanish: Tengo una duda sobre esta palabra.
English: I'm unsure about/I have a question about this word.,

It's never *I have a doubt about this word in English but considering the similarity of doubt and duda and their (sometimes) overlapping usage in English and Spanish, it's not surprising native Spanish speakers would be inclined to make this mistake.
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Postby Gormur » 2005-11-21, 0:27

Daniel wrote:In Scotland, the word "doubt" means "think/believe" - false friend! :wink: :!:

So:

Scottish English: I doubt he's coming.
Standard English: I think/believe he's coming.


I doubt that is interesting! :) :lol: :wink:

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Postby greg-fr » 2005-11-21, 0:51

The Masked Unmasker : « Many people writing in this forum, mostly non-native anglophones, use this expression: "I have a doubt..." »
If the people you spotted are Francophones, then they probably use a syntactical calque as the French equivalent reads « j'ai un doute ». I do use such convenient calques regularly — I have not a single doubt about that...

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Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-11-21, 1:06

greg-fr wrote:
The Masked Unmasker wrote:« Many people writing in this forum, mostly non-native anglophones, use this expression: "I have a doubt..." »

If the people you spotted are Francophones, then they probably use a syntactical calque as the French equivalent reads « j'ai un doute ». I do use such convenient calques regularly — I have not a single doubt about that...

Might be a general problem for speakers of Romance languages, since Portuguese also has “tenho uma dúvida (sobre algo)”. I myself may've used it many times, since I can't remember having ever paid attention to it.
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Postby jonathan » 2005-11-21, 5:47

Hmm. I use it sometimes, and I've lived in Texas my whole life. Perhaps I've read it in books a lot? In any case, it doesn't sound strange to me.
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Postby The Masked Unmasker » 2005-11-21, 9:11

jonathan,

Could you give us some examples of how you'd use it?

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Postby jonathan » 2005-11-21, 18:06

The Masked Unmasker wrote:jonathan,

Could you give us some examples of how you'd use it?


The same way your example sentence was constructed. Something like "I have a huge doubt she'll make it tonight." I would say this just the same as "I doubt she'll make it tonight." Both sound normal to me. I probably use the latter one in most cases, but the former is not foreign to my ears.
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Postby Gormur » 2005-11-21, 18:10

jonathan wrote:
The Masked Unmasker wrote:jonathan,

Could you give us some examples of how you'd use it?


The same way your example sentence was constructed. Something like "I have a huge doubt she'll make it tonight." I would say this just the same as "I doubt she'll make it tonight." Both sound normal to me. I probably use the latter one in most cases, but the former is not foreign to my ears.


While in Tennessee, I heard "I am doubting what he told me" and "I am doubting my own judgement". Is this common in Texas as well?

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Postby jonathan » 2005-11-22, 6:23

Gormur wrote:While in Tennessee, I heard "I am doubting what he told me" and "I am doubting my own judgement". Is this common in Texas as well?


Maybe. It doesn't sound entirely strange to my ears, but I know I don't say it.

Another use of doubt not yet discussed: "I'm in doubt..." Common? Uncommon?
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Postby greg-fr » 2005-11-22, 11:22

Notre ami Google :

    I have a doubt : 70.900 = 26 %
    I have doubts : 197.000 = 74 %
    — total : 267.900 = 100 %.

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Postby ZombiekE » 2005-11-22, 14:48

I've used "I have a doubt about" a thousand times :O

I really can't remember having heard/read "I am unsure about".

It's probably a translation problem between Romance languages and English as Psi-Lord has said. But what I find surprising is that jonathan says it's pretty normal for him.
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Postby jonathan » 2005-11-22, 20:53

ZombiekE wrote:But what I find surprising is that jonathan says it's pretty normal for him.


Well, you have to consider the fact that I read a lot of literature from all over the world, and hang out with mostly foreign/non-native English speakers, so that may account for something...
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Postby ZombiekE » 2005-11-23, 15:11

jonathan wrote:
ZombiekE wrote:But what I find surprising is that jonathan says it's pretty normal for him.


Well, you have to consider the fact that I read a lot of literature from all over the world, and hang out with mostly foreign/non-native English speakers, so that may account for something...


We're like a virus getting our Romance structures into English.

Romance languages domineishion! :D

This reminds me of what a friend told me about another friend. A girl was speaking an wanted to say "de repente" (suddenly). She didn't remember the word, so she tried what we most do when we want to make an English word up: delete the last letter (or doing some tricks with some dyphthongs). She said: "bla bla bla... and... DERREPENT...".

Everytime my classmate tells me that story, it makes her helpless with laughter.
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Postby lu:ka » 2005-11-23, 15:29

Psi-Lord wrote:
greg-fr wrote:
The Masked Unmasker wrote:« Many people writing in this forum, mostly non-native anglophones, use this expression: "I have a doubt..." »

If the people you spotted are Francophones, then they probably use a syntactical calque as the French equivalent reads « j'ai un doute ». I do use such convenient calques regularly — I have not a single doubt about that...

Might be a general problem for speakers of Romance languages, since Portuguese also has “tenho uma dúvida (sobre algo)”. I myself may've used it many times, since I can't remember having ever paid attention to it.


I "doubt" (Scottish meaning :) ) you're right Psi, also Italian has the expression "Ho un dubbio"

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Postby Gormur » 2005-11-23, 16:47

jonathan wrote:hang out with mostly foreign/non-native English speakers


Same here. My speech has most certainly changed and become more "internationalized" as a result of trying to speak all these languages and most of the people I live with/am in contact with are non-native English speakers (they're IEP students - Intensive English Programme Students).

I've found myself making constructions such as "I go to store" and confusing "this" for "that", as well as many other things characterized by Spanglish, Chinglish, Japlish, and Koreanlish, to name but a few. :lol:

To be honest, the only native English speakers I'm ever in contact with nowadays are profs and 2 Canadians in residence (whom I hardly ever see nowadays). It just crossed my mind at this moment...

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Postby jonathan » 2005-11-23, 18:31

Gormur wrote:
jonathan wrote:hang out with mostly foreign/non-native English speakers


Same here. My speech has most certainly changed and become more "internationalized" as a result of trying to speak all these languages and most of the people I live with/am in contact with are non-native English speakers (they're IEP students - Intensive English Programme Students).

I've found myself making constructions such as "I go to store" and confusing "this" for "that", as well as many other things characterized by Spanglish, Chinglish, Japlish, and Koreanlish, to name but a few. :lol:


Yes yes! It's funny, because I'm an English major, and a lot of my foreign friends look to me as their English guide— but the problem is, when I hang out with them so much, I start to feed off of their bad English. It's crazy to catch myself saying things like "I not go to sleep yet" or "I'm watching movie"... It's not that I'm trying to dumb down my English for them to understand. I just do it every now and then because I hear them do it so much. And sometimes it makes me very afraid :shock:
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Postby ZombiekE » 2005-11-23, 23:11

jonathan wrote:Yes yes! It's funny, because I'm an English major, and a lot of my foreign friends look to me as their English guide— but the problem is, when I hang out with them so much, I start to feed off of their bad English. It's crazy to catch myself saying things like "I not go to sleep yet" or "I'm watching movie"... It's not that I'm trying to dumb down my English for them to understand. I just do it every now and then because I hear them do it so much. And sometimes it makes me very afraid :shock:


There was a year in which I learnt a lot of English and used it a lot every day. I remember I started to use some English structures in my Spanish speech and sometimes I had trouble with finding the Spanish word for things that weren't strange at all. Sometimes it just happens that I'm on the bus, thinking, and I don't realise all my thoughts come in English or I can't remember whether I spoke about something in English or in Spanish.

I don't know if this can happen with several languages at a time as English and Spanish are the only ones in which I have a significant command, though English is a Foreign Language for me but as I started to learn it at the age of 6 it has got some kind of "Second Language" status in my mind.

However, I try to keep both languages separate, especially for Spanish's sake, because of the influence of the English language.
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Postby Brenda » 2005-11-24, 2:01

Wow, ZombiekE, I wish that were happening to me too. At least that means that one has an incredibly good command of both languages. I am so far from being in your situation because I almost never speak in English... I just write it.
The thing that occurs to me from time to time is starting to read something in English and not noticing that it was in English until after having read several paragraphs. As I said, I'm so used to dealing with written English, but when it comes to speak I'm really in trouble :mrgreen: .

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Postby Gormur » 2005-11-24, 2:06

It's funny I've never had trouble switching between English and Norwegian or mixing them. It's more of a behavioral thing, I suppose, and I automatically switch from one to the other when the situation arises (talking to family vs talking to non-family, speaking to friends, etc) --but I have more or less grown up bi-lingual in that sense. And nowadays I have to be careful not to forget Norwegian, since I only have one Norwegian friend on-campus that I hardly get to talk to these days....I still talk to my mom and grandmother a lot tho. Sometimes the relatives in ND phone...

I never want to lose it tho...I'll move to Norway to make sure it doesn't happen. :)


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