wtorek, 5 listopada 2013

Tell him, say to him

In yesterday's post, we introduced a phrase including two common errors:

One of my teacher told to me ... 

We discussed the first error yesterday; the phrase should run

One of my teachers ... 

The second error involves the verb tell used with the preposition to. In most cases we don't use to after tell:

One of my teachers told me ... that I was failing his course.

Generally, when we use the verb tell to mean command, instruct, give information, etc., we do NOT use to.  Instead, we use the verb plus an indirect object, which in this case is usually a person's name, a noun, or a pronoun:

Tell John to get over here right away.
You should tell them to try another restaurant.
He told her what had happened.
Somebody needs to tell that obnoxious dog to stop barking.

On the other hand, when we use the verb say instead of tell, we should use to:

I said him that I was sick.  (WRONG)
I said to him that I was sick (OR I told him that I was sick.)

This opens up a whole can of worms (to use an English idiom!).  In other words, this introduces many new problems, such as the difference between speak, talk, say and tell; the different meanings of the verb tell; situations when we DO use to with tell; and what we should do with other verbs, such as explain, call, apologise, etc.  We'll look at these problems in the near future.

poniedziałek, 4 listopada 2013

One of these days

I very often hear my Polish students introduce a topic by saying something like:

One of my teacher told to me ... 

We've got two errors here, but right now we're only going to talk about one.  The correct phrase in English is:

One of + plural countable noun.

So the phrase should be One of my teachers, using the noun teacher in its plural form.  We can think about this in several ways. 

I have many teachers.  I'm going to talk about one of them.  One of my teachers ... 

Or let's take a similar phrase in Polish.

Jeden z moich ulubionych miejsc ... 

In Polish, the word miejsc is in the plural form--plural genitive, to be sure, but still plural.  This is one of those rare situations in which the logic behind Polish and English grammar is the same!

Here are some examples of how people use this phrase:

One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces (This aggressive example is from a Pink Floyd number!)

This is one of my favourite books.

Pollution is one of the worst examples of mankind's influence on the environment.

Are you one of those stupid people who throws trash in the street?

One of those children is my son.

(Here, we remember that some nouns - person/people, child/children - have irregular plural forms that do not end in s.)

It's one of those films that makes no sense the first time you see it.

Not one of them is any good!  or None of them is any good!  (note that we use a plural pronoun here, and in the second example we use none, meaning not one).

One of us is crying, one of us is lying ... (from an ABBA song)

Next time we'll look at the other error in the original sample sentence.