English lessons

Discussion in 'OT (OFF Topic) Forums' started by Alex, Jul 17, 2011.

  1. Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Hi

    I have a few things I need to clear up as I'm not 100% sure how to use them and when! I'm talking about grammar. I will be adding some more to this thread every now and again in a hope that others could enlighten/correct me!

    Many thanks and here's the first batch:

    A. I've been driving a car, when the engine died.
    B. I was driving a car, when the engine died.

    Q1. Which one is correct (if any)?
    Q2. Is 'has died' more appropriate here? When would I use that?

    C. I drove a car
    D. I've driven a car

    Q: What's the difference between these?

    Sorry if it sounds silly. I didn't study too well and it was another country! :doh:
     
  2. renault12ts

    renault12ts MB Club Veteran

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    B is correct. C and D are incorrect because you have no full stop in either case. If you want to put in full stops or add further to the sentences I'm sure we can help.

    MOCAS will be along soon.;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
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  3. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    So it's context dependent then? How about now:

    I drove a car to Dover.
    I've driven a car to Dover.

    Also, to develop A/B further, I subconsciously used 'a car' and 'the engine'. Was it a/the right combo? Can I not just say 'when engine died'?

    MOCAŠ is welcome as well as everybody else!
     
  4. MOCAŠ

    MOCAŠ MB Club Veteran

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    Regarding C and D...

    C is past tense, whereas D is the past participle.

    Perhaps the best way to explain the difference is with some examples:

    If you'd just been to Scotland and someone asked how you got there, you might say "I drove" or "I flew". (Past tense)

    However, if at some point in the future someone asked you whether you'd ever been to Scotland, you might say "Yes, I've flown there twice and driven three times."
    (Past participle)

    The past participle is generally used for speaking generally about completed actions, while the past tense is more often used to refer to specific, recent actions.

    If you'd arrived in Scotland and someone asked you got there, you'd say "I drove" or "I flew" rather than "I've driven" or "I've flown". However, English being English, if you'd very recently completed the journey you could say "I've just driven up" or "I've just flown up".
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  5. MOCAŠ

    MOCAŠ MB Club Veteran

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    Regarding "a car" and "the engine"...

    "a" and "an" are known as indefinite articles, and refer to things in general.
    "the" is the definite article, and refers to a specific thing.

    You would say "I have a car" or "My car has an engine" (indefinite article), but "I've put some petrol in the car" or "The engine is overheating" (definite article).

    If you leave out the definite or indefinite article altogether when using nouns, your English will sound broken, eg: "I have car", "I've put some petrol in car".
     
  6. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    MOCAŠ, thanks for stepping up but I feel I may bore you to death with my questions!

    Talking about example above, what would be correct way of saying the following:

    I drove to Scotland last summer
    I've driven to Scotland last summer

    Can I indicate specific time with past participle at all?

    Or is it going to be 'I had driven to Scotland last summer?'

    Thanks again.
     
  7. renault12ts

    renault12ts MB Club Veteran

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    I drove to Scotland last summer...is correct.

    You would never say the second one.

    You might say the third one in response to a question.
     
  8. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Does my example with 'a car' and 'the engine' sound alright then? Or if I start with an 'a' I should keep to it throughout the sentence?
     
  9. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    So is it considered a specific, recent action then?

    What question would that be?

    Thanks.
     
  10. MOCAŠ

    MOCAŠ MB Club Veteran

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    No problem.

    In your example above it would be "I drove to Scotland last summer" because, although it's not particularly recent, you are still referring to a specific instance.

    Similarly, you might be referring to something that happened many years ago and still use the past tense because it is specific. For instance, a divorcee might say "I was married from 1992 to 2008," (past tense) or just "I have been married." (part participle)

    You can also make the past participle specific by adding an extra clause to the sentence; eg: "I've been married twice; 1992-1999 and 2002-2007," or "I've driven to Scotland; that's how I got there when I went last summer."
     
  11. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Also, do I always have to use articles in my speech? Say, you omitted one of them below:

    What's the rule of thumb when using them not to sound broken and not to overuse?
     
  12. MOCAŠ

    MOCAŠ MB Club Veteran

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    Your example is correct if you're not referring to a specific car.

    You would never say "I was driving a car when an engine died" if you were referring to the engine of the car you were driving (and it only had one). However, the pilot of a twin-engined plane might say "I was flying a plane when an engine died".

    If you'd already referred to the car previously in the conversation, you would then use the definite article, eg: "I hired a car for the journey. I was driving the car when the engine died." (Alternatively, you could say "I was driving it when the engine died." Here, "it" is a pronoun, taking the place of "the car".)

    Also, you could refer to the car in possessive terms to indicate that it was yours (or that you had the use of it), eg: "I was driving my car when the engine died."
     
  13. MOCAŠ

    MOCAŠ MB Club Veteran

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    That's a tricky question, as you can sometimes get away with omitting articles in speech (especially allowing for dialect) even if it would be wrong to do so in written English.

    As a rule of thumb, nouns referring to tangible things should always be preceded by an article, though there are probably exceptions to this rule.
     
  14. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Not that it all is perfectly clear to me, as a lot depends on the situation, but I guess I will have to let it settle in my head and come back with more in future.

    Many thanks to renault12ts and MOCAŠ.
     
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  15. MOCAŠ

    MOCAŠ MB Club Veteran

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    One of the things that can make English so difficult to learn if it is not your first language is the fact that there are often various correct ways in which to say the same thing, as well as plenty of incorrect ways.

    Constant practice and interaction with native-speakers is the best way to learn. Of course, most of them will tend to make lots of minor grammatical errors in their spoken/written English, so while you'll develop an ear for what sounds right, you won't necessarily learn strictly correct usage that way. But most people won't notice. ;)
     
  16. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I think you've (?) nailed it on the head about multiple right ways of saying the same. Knowingly or not I translate every sentence before firing up. A lot less often than when I flew here 6 years back, but still. Speaking two tongues before taking on English doesn't help it either!
     
  17. SPX

    SPX MB Club Veteran

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    Where are you from originally Alx?

    I wouldn't worry too much about your grammatical skills, I'm no expert, but as long as everyone understands the content that's all that matters.

    Believe me, I couldn't tell that English wasn't your first language.







    (I'm just waiting for Mocas or Renault12ts to rip my post apart now:D)
     
  18. renault12ts

    renault12ts MB Club Veteran

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    Can't think why...you rote that perfect.
     
  19. jepho

    jepho Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Indeed! My wife is Japanese and after studying for 10 years in the USA and then living 11 years in the UK, her use of the English language is still essentially Japanese in character. (doing nothing to disturb the harmony of society is an important characteristic of Japanese societal interactions)

    My understanding of Japanese language is that it does not appear to require every 'i' to be dotted and every 't' to be crossed. The context is derived because a particular person happens to be speaking. This causes Mrs Jepho's spoken and written English to lose essential conjunctions and all information about ownership (who said what) and possession (who owned the item being discussed) The net result is a truncated form of pidgin English that appears as awkward to read and aurally, it sounds quite broken on occasion.
     
  20. OP
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    Alex

    Alex Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Well, thanks for that. I come from a cold, cold land that defeated Hitler and sent first man into the space but is now a mere shadow of it's former self!
     
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