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Picture of Kalleh
posted
There was an interesting question on the BBC Ask about English Web site:
quote:
Why is it that many English people use a negative construction in the following example when a positive meaning is meant? For instance:

* "Let's go to town and see if we can't buy some new T-shirts" (what is actually meant is they want to see if they can buy some T-shirts)
The answer was that it gives emphasis to the sentence. Gareth Rees (the person who answered) also said that both ways are "grammatically correct." I might have doubted that, particularly if what the person really wants to know is whether they can buy T-shirts.

I guess I'll have a lot to learn in that grammar class, which, by the way, is tomorrow. Stay tuned! Wink
 
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Picture of arnie
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Well, it's certainly "grammatically" correct.

I think it is more a British English phenomenon, possibly rooted in the classic English psyche of doubt. Rather than the glass being half full, it is half empty to many English people. Instead of the American "Yes, we can!" attitude, we say, "Can we?".

Possibly related might be the English use of negatives: "Not a few" = "A lot", and so on.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Picture of shufitz
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
Possibly related might be the English use of negatives: "Not a few" = "A lot", and so on.
In Brit-speak, that construction is not uncommon?
 
Posts: 2623 | Location: Chicago, IL USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of arnie
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Not uncommon at all. Not a few people use it and not rarely. Mick Jagger for instance can't get no satisfaction. Pink Floyd don't need no education, and Dick Van Dyke (in his execrable Cockney accent in Mary Poppins) don't want to go nowhere.

That's a blend of sentences phrased in the negative, and double negatives. Perhaps we're a nation obsessed with negation? Cool


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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