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영어 바로쓰기-한국식 영어의 허점과 오류-작문편 (10)
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There are many problems attending the use of negation in English sentences. These problems crop up in writing by native speakers of the language, so it is only to be expected that they frequently occur in English written by Koreans. But since such errors can lead to genuine confusions of meaning, it is important to consider them carefully. First, let's look at this newspaper item:

1) xxx- All local brands of cigarettes priced at less than 500 won per pack will not be produced from next year.

The subject of the sentence is "All brands" and that the verb, "will not be produced", is in the negative. In English, we always avoid using negative verbs if the subject is "all", "every", or "both". The reason has to do with logic.

Imagine that I say to you:

A) xxx- All of my friends are not Americans.

What does that mean? It might mean that:

A1) I do not have any American friends.

Or it might mean:

A2) It is not true that all my friends are American (although some are).

In fact I wanted to express the idea of A2), but can you see that the meaning is completely ambiguous, and therefore extremely confusing? That is the reason that we never use a negative verb with "all", "every", or "both".

But if I say, "All of my friends are non-Americans," my meaning is unambiguously the meaning of A1. If I say, "Not all of v friends are American," my meaning is unambiguously A2).

Now, our problem sentence tells us that xxx— All local brands of cigarettes will not be produced... This could mean that production of all brands will be stopped (as in Al), but it might also mean that starting next year, not all the local brands will be produced, although some will. In fact, the author intended to express the former idea, but because he used a negative verb with the subject, "all", his meaning is ambiguous. Can you think of any way to remove the ambiguity?

Why don't we change the negative verb into an affirmative verb? Instead of saying that cigarettes "will not be produced," let's say that "production of cigarettes will be discontinued," or "production of cigarettes will cease". As long as our verb is not negative, we are free to use "all" in the subject without the risk of ambiguity.

It should now be clear how to correct this sentence, but as long as we're making improvements, let me suggest another small touch: I think it is more economical and elegant to say "priced under 500 won..." than "priced at less than...".

1) ok— Production of all local brands of cigarettes priced under 500 won per pack will discontinued from next year.

1b) ok— Starting next year, production of all local brands of cigarettes priced under 500 won per pack will cease.

Again, to avoid this kind of confusion, NEVER use a negative verb if the subject of the sentence includes, 'all', 'every', 'the whole', 'the entire', 'both', etc.

To solidify your understanding of this important point, consider these sentences:

B) xxx— All of the countries in Europe are not communist.

B) ok- Not all of the countries in Europe are communist. [Only the ones in Eastern Europe].

C) xxx- All of the countries in Western Europe are not communist.

C1) ok- All of the countries in Western Europe are non--communist countries.

Now here's a sentence illustrating another type of negation problem:

2) xxx- Police suspect that Soh has tried to cover up something because his statements about the kidnappers are not consistent and insufficient to explain how he was kidnapped and kept captive.

Here we have a negating word, 'not', followed by two adjectives: 'consistent', and 'insufficient'. Logically, then, we must assume that the author means us to understand the sentence as negating both of those adjectives.

The negation of 'consistent' is 'inconsistent', and the negation of 'insufficient', is 'sufficient'. So, as it stands, this sentence tells us that Soh's statements are inconsistent and that they are sufficient to explain how he was kidnapped. Obviously this is not what the author wishes to convey.

In fact, he only wanted to negate the first adjective, 'consistent'; he did not intend the negation to extend to the second adjective. He did not mean to write, "...are not consistent and insufficient...". Instead he meant

that the statements "...are not consistent and are insufficient..." I trust you can see the vital difference in meaning.

So, as you can see, to make it clear that the negation only applies to the first adjective, we must 'cancel' the negation by repeating the affirmative verb, 'is / are', before the second adjective:

ok- Police suspect that Soli has tried to cover up something because his statements about the kidnappers are not consistent and are insufficient to explain how he was kidnapped and kept captive.

But don't you think that having one adjective negated and then another adjective presented with an affirmative verb is somewhat inelegant? Why don't we stick to the use of the affirmative expression by changing 'are not consistent' to 'are inconsistent'?

2b) ok- ...his statements about the kidnappers are inconsistent, and insufficient to explain how he was kidnapped and kept captive.

As long as we're examining ambiguities related to adjectives, take a look at this sentence:

3) xxx- So far unearthed during the investigation is the handling of about 10 billion won of dubious nature.

Referring to the younger brother of a former president, this sentence concerns the 'questionable', or 'suspicious' nature of certain financial transactions. And certainly 'dubious' is a perfectly good adjective to use in such situations. But if you look carefully at the sentence, you will see that the adjective, 'dubious', or rather the attributive expression, 'of a dubious nature', is being applied to the word, 'won'. Is this accurate? There is nothing particularly 'dubious' about those 10 billion won themselves; they probably look like any other 'won' in Korea. What is 'dubious', in this case, is the handling of those won! Can you see how the adjective, 'dubious', could be placed to make this clear? A much less ambiguous version would be:

3) ok- So far unearthed during the investigation is the dubious handling of about 10 billion won.

The lesson from this example should be clear: always be careful to link adjectival expressions with the nouns they are meant to modify.

And why not 'keep it in the family' by considering this problem sentence from a 'News in Review' column concerning the older brother:

4) xxx- As accounts of alleged wrongdoings of him gush forth these days, people feel ashamed of having had him as president.

To begin with, 'wrongdoings' strikes me as a somewhat awkward word; I much prefer 'misdeeds'. But the real problem is in the expression, of him'. It is obvious that the writer intends this as a genitive, possessive structure, to link 'him' with the 'misdeeds'. But surely 'him' isn't the pronoun we use to show possession; we use 'his'. The obvious correction, then, would be:

4) ok- As accounts of his alleged misdeeds gush forth these days, people feel ashamed...

You may ask why I prefer to write 'his misdeeds' rather than 'misdeeds of his'. In fact, the ‘___ of ____’ possessive, genitive structure is generally not used if the possessing agent is a human being. So, we tend to say "Daniel's pencil", not "pencil of Daniel's". This is also the basis for preferring 'his misdeeds' to 'misdeeds of his'. However, we do often use the of (possessive pronoun.' structure in cases where we are referring to one possession ambling a group of similar such possessions, i.e., an 'indefinite' noun. So, it would be very natural to say, 'A friend of mine' to mean 'one of my friends'; 'a story of his', to mean 'one of his stories'; 'a neighbor of ours', to mean 'one of our neighbors', etc. Note the use of an indefinite article in each of these examples. So, if the writer were referring to one misdeed from among the general class of his misdeeds, it would be reasonable to write, 'a misdeed of his'. But when speaking of the entire class, (i.e., not using an indefinite article., it is far more natural to place the possessive pronoun first: 'his misdeeds'.

The final problem sentence, taken from the same article as #2, illustrates an idiomatic problem that is very common among Koreans, but not native speakers:

5) xxx— A police investigator said yesterday that the investigation had focused on finding out any clue proving the company's complicit in the case.

Can you find the problem in this sentence? Here is a pair of sentences which will give you a hint:

D) xxx— I searched for hours, but I couldn't find out my friend's house.

D) ok— I searched for hours, but I couldn't find my friend's house.

The problem is in the expression, 'find out'. Korean speakers of English do not understand the precise use of this idiom; they think:: it can be used in any situation where we use the verb, 'to find'. This isn't the case.

The verb, 'find', is a very general word with a wide range of meaning.

But the expression, 'find out', has a more restricted meaning; it corresponds to only one of the meanings of 'find'. To 'find out' means to learn by inquiry, research or experience, to determine or ascertain; the result of 'finding out' is always INFORMATION. We never use 'find out' if the result of the inquiry, research, etc. is simply concrete thing. That is the reason why sentence D is incorrect; a house is a thing, not 'information'. We could, however, say, "I looked at a map in order to find out where his house is located," because the expression, 'where his house is located,' refers to INFORMATION, and, of course, looking at a map is a form of inquiry or research. Here are some examples to show how we can use 'find out':

a. When I talked to my cousin, I found out that he intends to go abroad next year.

b. I always read the weather forecast in the morning to find out whether I will need an umbrella.

c. Scientists are conducting experiments to find out how that virus is transmitted.

Notice that in each of these examples, the thing that is 'found out' is INFORMATION, not a specific THING. Now consider a sentence that appears very similar to example "c":

ks' Scientists are conducting experiments to find a care for that virus.

I did not use 'find out' in this case because a 'cure' is a specific thing, not INFORMATION. The difference may seem very subtlest you, may seem like no more than a matter of word selection, but, it is quite firmly established in the language used by native speakers. In any case, it should now be clear that our problem sentence should be corrected as:

5) ok- A police investigator said yesterday that the investigation had focused on finding any clue proving the company's complicity in the case.

We must make this correction because a 'clue' is a THING in the same sense that a 'cure' is. But notice that we could use 'to rind out' if we wrote, "...the investigation had focused on finding out whether the company had conspired in the case," In that case, the result of 'f('clue'..t' would clearly he INFORMATION, rather than a specific THING ('clue').

I realize this is a difficult distinction for non-native speakers. But fortunately, it is generally easy to avoid the problem entirely. As I mentioned before, 'find out' is a special case of the general expression, ‘find’. Therefore, in most cases where 'find out' can be used, the word, 'find' is also correct. So, if you are in doubt about which expression to use, it is much more safe to use, 'find'; it is the more general expression. A few more examples to help you master this point:

E) xxx- When I visited Taegu, I found out an old friend whom : hadn't seen in years.

F) xxx- I will read over this manuscript to find out any spelling mistakes.

A 'friend' is very concrete indeed, and a spelling mistake is also a specific 'thing', not some abstract information. So, both of these examples are cases of 'finding', not of 'finding out':

E) ok- When I visited Taegu, I found an old friend whom I hadn't seen in years.

F) ok— I will read over this manuscript to find any spelling mistakes.

But notice that it is possible to change the sentences in ways that make the object of inquiry INFORMATION rather than mere 'things', and then it is possible to use, 'find out':

E2) ok— When I visited Taegu, I found out that an old friend of mine is living there.

F2) ok— I will read over this manuscript to find out if I have made any spelling mistakes.

But once again, when in doubt, use 'find', not 'find out'.


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