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영어 바로쓰기-한국식 영어의 허점과 오류-작문편 (6)
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The idea of conditionality seems to present many problems to people using second languages, so it is no surprise that Koreans writing in English make many mistakes when describing conditional states. Consider this problem sentence:

1) xxx- Campus authorities are very much concerned about the possible eruption of violent student protests even after the presidential elections are over once the winner is not the candidate the students support. -xxx We know from out knowledge of the background of this news story that what the campus authorities are concerned about is how students might react if a certain condition occurs: if the candidate they support fails to win the election. The key concept here is suggested in the word, 'if': The condition being referred to is a possible situation that is being considered as a hypothetical condition. But the word, 'once' does not suggest conditionality or a hypothetical situation. When we say, 'once a certain event happens', we indicate that that event will definitely occur. But that is clearly not what the writer intended. Since he is referring to a hypothetical situation (in this case, one that is certainly likely, maybe even probable, but not certain) he must use some sort of conditional expression:

1a) ok- Campus authorities are very much concerned about the possible eruption of violent student protest even after the presidential elections are over if the winner is not the candidate the students support.

1b) ok- Campus authorities are very much concerned about the possible eruption of violent student protest even after the presidential elections are over should the candidate the students support fail to win.

Both 'if' and 'should' introduce conditional statements; but 'once' can only be used for things that have definitely occurred or are certain to occur in the future.

Along with conditionality, a major source of problems in English written by Koreans is transitivity. Consider these two sentences, taken from the same issue of the same newspaper:

2) xxx- Chun deplored the various illegal acts have been increasingly occurring of late. -xxx

3) xxx- Kim denounced that Roh is making desperate efforts to buy votes by distributing money through the heads of neighborhood units. -xxx

If you are a regular reader of this column, you should be able to apt the problems immediately because very similar sentences have been treated in previous months. The problem is that the verbs, 'deplore' and 'denounce' are both transitive verbs; they must be followed by direct objects and cannot be followed by 'that…' clauses. So, in #2, we could supply such direct objects as 'acts' or 'increase' or even 'fact':

2a) ok- Chun deplored the various illegal acts which have been on the increase of late.

2b) ok- Chun deplored the recent increase in various illegal acts.

2c) ok- Chun deplored the fact that various illegal acts have been occurring with increasing frequency of late.

[Please note the three improved versions of the unidiomatic expression, 'xxx- increasingly occurring -xxx'.

The verb, 'denounce', is also transitive, also requires a direct object, and also cannot be used with a 'that…' clause.

3a) ok- Kim denounced Roh's desperate efforts to buy votes by distributing money through the heads of neighborhood units.

3b) ok- Kim denounced the desperate efforts Roh has been making to buy votes by distributing money through the heads of neighborhood units.

However, we very commonly use a person as the direct object of the verb, 'denounce'. In this case, the pattern is 'to denounce (a person) for (noun or gerund):

3c) ok- Kim denounced Roh for his desperate efforts to buy….

3d) ok- Kim denounced Roh for making desperate efforts to buy….

The message is clear: when you learn a new English verb, you must learn not only its meaning, but also whether it is used transitively or not.

And besides conditionality and transitivity, what general areas cause problems for Koreans writing English? Well, take a look at these three problem sentences (all from the same issue of the same newspaper as the examples above) and see if you can see what kind of problem they have in common:

4) xxx- The president called upon the presidential candidates to vie for presidency in the spirit of fair play while maintaining the law and order. -xxx

5) xxx- He was over 170cm tall and slim. He wore beige suit. The woman in her 20s was in black clothes, and wore a black sunglasses during the flight.-xxx

6) xxx- She said most painful period of time in her life was when her husband staged a solo hunger strike for 23days in 1983. -xxx

All of these sentences have problems in the use of articles. And certainly the correct use of definite and indefinite articles is a major problem, not only for Koreans, but for all non-native users of English.

Sentence #4 refers to candidates who are vying for the specific office: President of the Republic of Korea. Thus, 'presidency' is not an abstract, universal term at all. Since he refers to a specific, concrete office, the writer should write 'the presidency'. But look at the expression, xxx- the law and order -xxx. Is the writer really referring to some specific, concrete 'law and order'? No. 'law and order' is a general, abstract, rather universal term describing a general state. So we do not use a definite article; we speak of 'maintaining law and order'.

4a) ok- The president called upon the presidential candidates to vie for the presidency in the spirit of fair play while maintaining law and order.

Now look at #5. 'Black suit' is a concrete singular noun, and it therefore requires some sort of determinative: an article, a possessive pronoun, or a demonstrative. A concrete singular noun without such a determinative word in front of it is grammatically 'naked' and therefore a problem. In this case, it is obviously the indefinite article which is called for: 'a beige suit'. Now, since 'black clothes' is plural, it does not require a determinative, and is okay as it stands. But what about the phrase, xxx- 'a black sunglasses', or "a pair of black sunglasses".

5a) ok- He was over 170cm tall and slim. He wore a beige suit. The woman in her 20s was in black clothes, and wore black sunglasses during the flight.

And can you spot the article problem in #6? Well, the word, 'most', is a superlative, and by definition, a superlative indicates one specific item (There can only be one 'most painful' period in a life, just as there can only be one 'most beautiful' woman in a class.). Therefore, we always use the definite article before a superlative: 'The most painful…’ But I have another complaint about sentence #6. What is the difference between a ‘period of time in one’s life’ and a ‘period in one’s life’? As far as I know, a period is always a period of time, so ‘period of time’ is redundant. Let’s make both corrections:

6a) ok- She said the most painful period in her life was when her husband staged a solo hunger strike for 23 days in 1983.

Yes, I know the English article system is difficult. But those three example should help to remind you of some general principles: always use the definite article with superlatives; avoid ‘naked’ concrete singular nouns; pay attention to whether a noun is being used in an general-abstract or concrete-specific sense.

So… conditionality, transitivity, articles… what is another very common kind of error in the English written by Koreans? Well, here is a classic example, taken, incidentally, from the same issue of the same newspaper where all the above error sentence were found:

7) xxx- Terrorists can bring specially made composite bombs through x-ray checks unnoticed because they elude the check if not carefully conducted.

In one word, the problem here is REFERENCE. The subject of the sentence is ‘terrorists’, so when we encounter the pronoun, ‘they’ in the phrase, ‘they elude the check’, we naturally assume that ‘they’ refers to the terrorists. But it is not the terrorists who elude x-ray checks (Airport security does not include x-ray checks of human beings!), but rather the composite bombs. But this is not clear from the pronoun, ‘they’. But the reference problem gets even worse as the sentence goes on. To what does the phrase, ‘if not carefully conducted’ refer? Well, you might assume it refers back to the pronoun, ‘they’, which, as we already saw, is lacking in clear reference, but this is not true at all! The phrase, ‘if not carefully conducted’ is meant to refer to the x-ray checks. But without any sort of pronoun or noun, that phrase simply lacks adequate reference. See what you think of this version:

7a) ok- They said terrorists can bring specially made composite bombs through x-ray checks unnoticed because such weapons elude checks which are not carefully conducted.

Do you see how much more clearly this version refers subjects to predicates? The phrase, ‘such weapons’, by restating ‘composite bombs’, makes it absolutely clear what the subject of the verb, ‘elude’ is, and by following ‘checks’ with a relative clause, we have eliminated any ambiguity in that reference.

You may or may not find it reassuring to know that this type of reference problem is also very common in the English written by native speakers; even the best writers are occasionally guilty of such errors. My advice is simple: whenever you write a pronoun, check back to make sure the reference is crystal clear; whenever you write a subjectless phrase (like ‘if not properly conducted’) check back twice!

Let’s conclude with a pair of problems that should be fairly easy for you to spot. These sentences, by the way, are taken from the exact same issue of the same newspaper as all the other example in this month’s column!

8) xxx- The name of the second daughter was Mayumi, the same name with that of the woman suspect now in a serious condition after swallowing poison in Bahrain. –xxx

9) xxx- They seemed not to understand either Korean and Japanese. –xxx

For some reason, Koreans have a lot of trouble with the word, ‘same’. I think all the problems will disappear if you simply remember to precede ‘same’ with the word, ‘THE’, and follow it with the word, ‘AS’. That’s all there is to it. So, in #9, the writer should have written ‘THE same name AS…’

There is another, more subtle problem in #9. The common, idiomatic expression is ‘in serious condition’; we don’t use an article before this expression.

8a) ok- The name of the second daughter was Mayumi, the same name as that of the woman suspect now in serious condition after swallowing poison in Bahrain.

The problem in #9 is also, unfortunately, rather common, but is equally easy to avoid. The word, ‘either’, is used to introduce two alternatives, which are separated by the word, ‘OR’:

9a) ok- They seemed not to understand either Korean or Japanese.

Alternatively, we can use the word, ‘neither’ to introduce two alternatives which are both negated, and separate the alternatives with ‘NOR’. And this is certainly most appropriate in this case, since the two alternatives, Korean and Japanese, are both being negated (They could NOT understand them):

9a) ok- They seemed to understand neither Korean nor Japanese.


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15 영어 바로쓰기-한국식 영어의 허점과 오류- Writers' Clinic #5: Definiteness Part II 이영재 2683 2011-10-06 
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