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영어 바로쓰기-한국식 영어의 허점과 오류-작문편 (7)
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When writing in a foreign language, it is often difficult to maintain the correct relationship among tenses. Many non-native users of English regard the English tense system as exceptionally complex. However, the complexity is generally functional; English tends to be very precise in locating the relative positions of events in time. In any case, Koreans are not alone in having problems with the more complex tense relationships. Let’s consider two fairly typical problems:

1) xxx- Bus as more than five million votes were counted, most of the party members resigned themselves and focused their attention on whether Kim Dae-jung will beat Kim Young-sam.

This sentence appeared in a newspaper after the election was over and all the results were known. It is written in the past tense because it refers to events that occurred before it was written, that occurred, indeed, before the election results were fully known. The problem, then, is in the phrase, ‘whether Kim D-j will beat Kim Y-s’. That phrase would be correct if it were written in the present to refer to the future (“I wonder whether it will rain tomorrow.”) But in this case, the ‘future’ to which the sentence refers is actually in the past. To express this ‘future in the past’ time relationship, we use ‘would’, not ‘will’ (“When I was a little boy, I thought I would become a politician, but now I think I will become a doctor.”). Thus sentence #1 should be corrected as:

1a) ok- But as more than five million votes were counted, most of the party members resigned themselves and focused their attention on whether Kim Dae-jung would beat Kim Young-sam.

Now that you understand this kind of complex tense relationship and now that you are chronologically oriented regarding this news story, take a look at this sentence, from the same day’s newspaper:

2) xxx- Mutual acrimination and accusations in the last phase of the campaign period were believed to inflict a fatal blow to the opposition candidates.

I’m not familiar with the word, ‘acrimination’, and neither is the American Heritage Dictionary; I have a feeling the author had in mind either the word, ‘acrimony’, or ‘recrimination’. But what we’re interested in here is the tense problem. Again, this article was written after the election results were in, so the ‘fatal blow’ to which it refers is a ‘thing of the past’; it has already been inflicted. Since it refers to a past event, the infinitive structure, ‘to inflict’, is not correct. To make it refer to the past, we must write, ‘to have inflicted’:

2a) ok- Mutual recrimination and accusations in the last phase of the campaign period were believed to have inflicted a fatal blow to the opposition candidates.

And while we’re looking at post-election news, here’s sentence from an editorial of the same day. See if you can spot the problem:

3) xxx- Yesterday morning, we awakened to find a new president chosen after the most fiercest-ever campaign.

Hint: the problem involves the superlatives. See it? ‘Fiercest’ is a superlatives form of the adjective, ‘fierce’. Therefore, ‘fiercest’ means ‘most fierce’. But we cannot say, xxx- ‘most fiercest’ –xxx because it is redundant; the superlative ending, ‘__est’ means ‘most’. Therefore, we could say ‘the most fierce campaign ever’, or ‘the fiercest-ever campaign’, or ‘the fiercest campaign ever’. But we cannot use ‘most’ with a superlative adjective. And I don’t really think this was the fiercest campaign EVER; that would mean that it was the most fierce campaign to ever occur at any time in any country. Perhaps the author meant that it was ‘the fiercest campaign ever seen in Korea’, ‘the most fierce campaign ever conducted in modern Korea, or some similarly restricted sense of ‘ever’. So let’s make the correction:

3a) ok- Yesterday morning, we awakened to find a new president chosen after the most fierce campaign ever witnessed in Korea.

3b) ok- Yesterday morning, we awakened to find a new president chosen after Korea’s fiercest-ever presidential campaign.

Incidentally, this type of error, using ‘most’ with a superlative adjective, is very common among very young children who are native speakers of English. One often hears little American or British children saying, xxx- He’s my most best friend, -xxx or xxx- I’m the most tallest boy in the class. –xxx Unfortunately, what’s cute and adorable when we’re children is simply incorrect and foolish when we’re adults.

Whatever else the presidential election did or did not provide, it certainly brought a generous supply of problematic newspaper English. Let’s look at another problem:

4) xxx- Their parties deliberately inflated the size of the rallies in attempts to influence the sizable undecided voters who are inclined to ballot for whoever looks stronger.

This kind of problem is rather interesting. There is a difference between the size of things and the size of the number of those things. Think about ants, for example. If you said, ‘There were sizable ants in my kitchen this morning,’ you would be conveying information about the physical size of the individual ants: BIG ANTS! But if you said, ‘There were a sizable number of ants in my kitchen this morning,’ you would be conveying information about the size of the number of ants: MANY ANTS! If you understand this, you will immediately see the problem in sentence #4. By writing, ‘sizable undecided voters’, the author is telling us that each individual undecided voter is a BIG PERSON. But surely that isn’t what he means to convey. Obviously, he means to tell us about the ‘sizable number of undecided voters’, the author is telling us that each individual undecided voter is a BIG PERSON. But surely that isn’t what he means to convey. Obviously, he means to tell us about the ‘sizable number of undecided voters’. Incidentally, the word, ‘sizable’ means ‘quite large’, and is perfectly appropriate in this sentence. However, since the word, ‘size’ appears in the same sentence, I would prefer to replace sizable with another word, such as ‘large’, or ‘substantial’ or ‘considerable’. I would make this change for stylistic reasons: I try to avoid repeating the same word in one sentence. This stylistic principle is called ‘elegant variation’; it is not a hard-and-fast rule, but simply a tendency or preference you will note among good writers. So, let’s rewrite #4:

4a) ok- Their parties deliberately inflated the size of the rallies in attempts to influence the substantial number of undecided voters who are inclined to ballot for whoever looks stronger.

Now some people, myself included, might object to the use of ‘whoever’ in sentence #4 on the grounds that ‘who’ is nominal pronoun, while the objective pronoun, ‘whom’ should be used as the object of the phrase, ‘to be inclined to vote for ___’. This objection certainly has a grammatical basis. However, in current written English, one often sees ‘whoever’ used in places where ‘proper’ grammar dictates the use of ‘whomever’. Therefore, I would allow ‘whoever’ to remain in sentence #4, though I, myself, would probably have used ‘whomever’. This reflects the difference between ‘ordinary writers’ and ‘English teachers’, I suppose.

See if you can find the error in this sentence:

5) xxx- Kim Jong-pil and Hong Sook-ja have yet to request for police security guards.

Once more we have a problem of transitivity. ‘Request’ is a transitive verb: used as a verb, the word, ‘request’, takes no preposition. Therefore, we should eliminate the preposition, ‘for’, from sentence #5:

5a) ok- Kim Jong-pil and Hong Sook-ja have yet to request police security guards.

But the word, ‘request’, is also a noun, and when used as a noun, it often goes with the preposition, ‘for’. “The teacher granted the student’s request for an extra week to complete his term paper.” Many speakers, native and non-native alike, run into problems when trying to use the word, ‘request’ to express the idea of person’s asking someone for something. Again, we do not use ‘for’ with the verb, ‘request’, xxx- I requested for Fred to give me the book. –xxx Instead, we can say: ‘I requested Fred to give me the book,’ or ‘I requested that Fred give me the book,’ or ‘I requested the book from Fred.’

The next problem is interesting because it is not a grammatical problem and it is peculiar to Korean-English. In an article about criticism of television coverage of the election campaign, the author wrote:

6) In covering the audience at Roh’s stumping rallies, they show the overall crowd and some energetic young supporters in focus, while zooming in on disinterested grandmas and grandpas at rallies for other candidates.

The interesting problem that doesn’t involve grammar and is peculiar to Korean-English concerns the use of ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’. These are very informal, personal words that children use in addressing their own grandparents. They are INFORMAL terms. One might, in an affectionate way, call one’s own grandmother, “Grandma”, but one would refer to her as ‘my grandmother’; ‘grandmother’ and ‘grandfather’ are the standard terms. But the problem in #6 is more interesting than that. Koreans use the words, ‘grandmother’ or ‘grandfather’ to refer to any old person. They do this as direct translation of ‘halmoni’ and ‘halabeoji’. But in English, the words refer to specific family relationships; one’s grandfather is the father of one of one’s parents; a grandmother is the mother of someone’s father or mother. They are NOT generic terms for any elderly person. These are many elderly people who are grandparents; many elderly people are not even parents; indeed these are elderly people who have never married. So, in #6, the author should say simply ‘old people’ or ‘elderly people’.

There is another problem in #6, and this one is not at all specific to Korean-English; one frequently encounters the same mistake in English written by (poorly educated or careless) native speakers. It concerns the word, ‘disinterested’. ‘Disinterest’ means an absence of self-interest, that is, a ‘disinterested’ person is free from management couldn’t agree on the terms of a new contract, so they asked a committee of disinterested advisors to decide on a reasonable salary.’ But the author of #6 didn’t mean that the old people lacked selfishness or partiality. He simply meant that they lacked interest. The correct word for ‘bored’ or ‘indifferent’ is ‘uninterested’. The difference between ‘disinterested’, meaning impartial or unbiased and ‘uninterested’, meaning indifferent or bored is very important. Too many native speakers confuse the two words. Please don’t follow their bad example.

6) ok- In covering the audience at Roh’s stumping rallies, they show the overall crowd and some energetic young supporters in focus, while zooming in on uninterested elderly people at rallies for other candidates.


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