Thursday May 19, 2011
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED By FADZILAH AMIN
SOMETIME ago, I asked if there is a past tense form for “that is” (=that is to say). You replied that there isn’t.
Recently, I came across “that was” in two books by Stephen King (my underlining):
1. Skeleton Crew (from the story “Gramma”, p.477): “All were married, that was, except Ruth.”
2. It (Chapter 3, p. 60): “The couple could have been a poster on the wall of the travel agency where Carol Feeny worked, that was how perfect they were. Except, that was, for the fact that they were both wearing glasses.”
I couldn’t find “that was” in the dictionaries that I consulted. Your comments, please. – MOE reader
When you asked me about “that is” (=that is to say)”, I assumed that you meant what the abbreviation i.e. stands for. According to the online Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, i.e. or “that is (to say)” is “used to explain exactly what the previous thing that you have mentioned means. The dictionary gives an example of usage in the sentence:
“Some poems are mnemonics, i.e. they are designed to help you remember something.” (I have bolded the “thing” before i.e. that is explained after it.)
Other online dictionaries give similar examples:
“The hotel is closed during low season, i.e. from October to March.” (online Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)
The film is only open to adults, i.e. people over 18. (online Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)
There is a difference between the above sentences and the sentences you quoted from Stephen King’s works:
“All were married, that was, except Ruth.”
“The couple could have been a poster on the wall of the travel agency where Carol Feeny worked, that was how perfect they were. Except, that was, for the fact that they were both wearing glasses.”
In your quotations from Stephen King, the phrase “that was” is used either before or after “except”. Instead of explaining exactly what comes before it, “that was” seems to be emphasising the exception or the qualification (sense 3, OALD) to the general statement before it. In the first sentence, “All were married” is the general statement, and “Ruth” is the exception. In the second sentence, “that was how perfect they were” is the gist of the general statement, while “the fact that they were both wearing glasses.” qualifies their perfection.
Thus I don’t see Stephen King’s “that was” as being the past tense of “that is (to say)” or i.e.
Plural for ‘read’?
Does the noun “read” have a plural form, for example in the sentence, “This book is a good read”?
All dictionaries that I have checked (Cambridge, Oxford, Longman, Collins) say that this word ONLY has a singular form.
Can I say, “His books are indeed good reads” or “I have a lot of good reads”? – Jacky Khor
This word is an informal word, but fairly widely used nowadays. Although some online dictionaries state that it has only a singular form, it is used in the plural by a lot of very respectable websites. Here are some examples from the Internet:
Sports books: Five new football books produce damned good reads (telegraph.co.uk, May 5)
Bad characters, good reads
I’m not quite sure why, but it’s fiction’s mischief-makers I always find most interesting and attractive. (guardian.co.uk, April 24)
“Your library is full of great reads, here you can find your next good book and talk about what you’ve read.” (Peterborough City Council, UK)
“Recent Good Reads for KS3 [Key Stage 3]” (on the website of The Lancashire Grid for Learning)
Gerund, not infinitive
In an article in The Star (May 7, p. N4) entitled, “Young adults worry over loan repayment”, there was a line which stated:
Young adults are looking forward to buy their first home ...
I think it should read: Young adults are looking forward to buying their first home ...
What do you say? – T. Sathyaseelan
I agree with you completely. The expression “looking forward to” should be followed by a gerund like “buying” or a noun phrase, not an infinitive like “buy”.
‘Oriented’ and ‘orientate’
What is the difference between “oriented” and “orientate”? How do you use the words? – Nori
The original word is “orient”, which is a noun from French, meaning “east”. But “orient” can also be used as a verb in English. Its earliest meaning is “To place or arrange (anything) so as to face the east,” used especially when building a church.
However, its most common meanings nowadays are expressed in the reflexive verbs “to orient oneself”, meaning “to put oneself in the right position or relation; to ascertain one’s bearings, find out where one is.” (Oxford English Dictionary) and “to make oneself familiar with a new situation.” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
Orientate came into the English language in the 19th century, by back-formation from the word “orientation”, about a hundred years after “orient” came into the language from French. “Orientate” has the same meaning as the verb “orient”, so “orientated” has the same meaning as “oriented”.
Oriented is the past participle of “to orient” and is used most often as an adjective. It means “Having an emphasis, bias, or interest indicated by a preceding noun (usu. joined by a hyphen) or adverb” (OED).
Below are some examples of how it is used as such adjectives in sentences:
1. “We simply must produce managers in the future who are design oriented.” [design oriented = interested in design or emphasise design]
2. “Parents can create a child-oriented home by keeping potentially harmful objects out of reach of children and providing furniture that is convenient for the children to use.” [child-oriented = emphasising the well-being and needs of children]
And here is an example of its use as a past participle in a passive verb:
“The program is oriented toward the long-range goal of providing small power sources, automobiles included, with nonpolluting synthetic fuels.” (OED quotation under the entry “orient, verb”)
In the above examples, “orientated” can be also used instead of “oriented”.