Thursday January 19, 2012
Your Questions Answered by FADZILAH AMIN
I HAVE some questions about the use of the definite article “the”. When referring to a race in general, we say, for example:
a) The Chinese enjoy good cooking.
b) The English are different from the Welsh. (referring to the people)
c) The Malays are in the south. (to refer to all Malays in general)
Why is the noun in sentence (c) – “Malay” – in plural? Why not leave out “the” as in:
d) Malays are in the south; and
e) Malaysians lack of reading.
f) The Malaysians live in Malaysia. (to refer to all Malaysians in the country)
Are the meanings different in sentences (c) and (d) and sentences (e) and (f)?
Can we also say “The Malay are in the south” to refer to all Malays in general?
Are these sentences correct?
g) The Malay are nice people. (to refer to all Malays)
h) The Malaysian live in happiness and prosperity. (to refer to all Malaysians) – Khairul Anuar
Some words denoting members of a race or nationality taken collectively do not have different singular and plural forms. These are usually names that end with -ese and -ss. That is why we say “a Chinese” to refer to a person and “the Chinese” to refer to people who live in China, come from China or whose ancestors come from China. This also applies for example to “a Portuguese” and “the Portuguese”, “a Swiss” and “the Swiss”. The words “Chinese”, “Portuguese” and “Swiss” are also adjectives: thus we can say “The film is about the last Chinese emperor.”
Some other words, usually those ending with -ch -sh, are used only for the collective forms and adjectives, but not for single individuals. Thus we use “the English” for the people of England or of English descent, and “English” also as an adjective, e.g. “an English footballer”. There is a different form for an individual in this group, i.e. “an Englishman or Englishwoman”. Similarly, we use “the French” for all the people of France, and “French also as an adjective, e.g. “a French film”. For an individual, we say, “a Frenchman or Frenchwoman”.
The word “Malay” can refer to an individual or be an adjective, but as a noun, it has a plural form, “Malays”. So we can say “a Malay” (an individual), or “a Malay pantun” (where “Malay” is an adjective). “The Malays” refers to all Malays collectively. The majority of words denoting race or nationality are used in this way, e.g. “the Malaysians” “the Greeks”, “the Iraqis”, “the Egyptians”, “the Peruvians”, “the Nigerians”, etc.
The reason I think the English language doesn’t have a plural form for races or nationalities ending in -ese, -ss, -ch and -sh is because it would sound very awkward to say “Chineses”, “Swisses”, “Frenches”, “Englishes”, etc.
Some of the proper names I have used above denote races (e.g. “Malays”, “Chinese”) and some denote nationality (e.g. “French”, “Peruvians”, “Malaysians”). Patrice Evra, for example, is described as a French footballer, although he is of Senegalese descent, while Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru, is a Peruvian of Japanese descent.
Having made my explanations, let me answer your questions.
I have answered your question about why we use the plural form “Malays” to talk about the people in general: you do that in your sentence c). But the sentence is not a good general sentence about Malays (south of what?). A better sentence would be something like “(The) Malays put a lot of chillies in their cooking.” With a plural noun like “Malays” you can use or not use “the” before it when speaking about Malays in general, but the sentence sounds better without “the”. But you cannot leave out “the” before nouns indicating race or nationality ending in -ese, -ss, -ch and -sh. You can’t say, for example, that “English are different from Welsh.” or “Swiss are different from Dutch.” But you can say either “Malays are different from Greeks,” or “The Malays are different from the Greeks.”
Your sentences c), d) and f) are grammatically correct, but as I said before, “(The) Malays are in the south.” is not a good general sentence. And sentence f) states the obvious, i.e. “The Malaysians live in Malaysia.” Why not choose a trait of Malaysians and have a sentence like “(The) Malaysians are generally friendly people.”
Your sentences e), g) and h) are ungrammatical. Sentence e) has no verb, while in g) and h) you wrongly use the singular forms of “Malay” and “Malaysian” to refer to all Malays and Malaysians respectively.
What is the origin of “Churchill moment” as mentioned in this audio clip?
downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/worldservice/bizdaily/bizdaily_20111228-0900a.mp3 – sm
The phrase “a __ moment” is believed to have originated with “Kodak Moment” first used by the Eastman Kodak Company in 1961 to advertise their photographic films and cameras. Later, a tag line was introduced: “These are the moments. Kodak moments.” The advertisements showed meaningful moments in people’s lives that need to be caught on camera and preserved, like a baby taking his first steps. Because of the immense popularity of Kodak films and the attractiveness of the advertisements, the phrase “Kodak Moment” became well known.
Much later, in 1996, “a senior moment”, a variation of the above phrase, was used by Evelyn Weinstein who attended a conference on memory at Queen’s in New York City. She worked for 35 nursing homes and said: “I really want to learn what I can for our people. And I’ve had a few ‘senior moments’ myself.” (Daily News, New York, Nov 15, 1996, as quoted by Word Spy; www.wordspy.com/words/seniormoment.asp)
A “senior moment” means a temporary lapse of memory among senior citizens, like when we sometimes can’t remember a friend’s name. It was named Word of the Year by Webster’s New World Dictionary in 2000, and has since been commonly used. (as.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-310847.html)
Other “moments” were then created by speakers of the language, like “eureka moment” and “blonde moment”. I hadn’t heard of “a Churchill moment” until I listened to your clip, but can try to work out what it means in the context of the discussion in the clip. The person who used that phrase (Mark Anderson) may have been the person who coined it. The British statesman Winston Churchill did many things in his 90-odd years or so on earth. However, those who know about him would probably agree that his true greatness lay in what he did for Britain as its prime minister during World War II. He managed to prevent a Nazi German land invasion of Britain in 1940 by increasing the country’s preparedness for the Battle of Britain (an air battle) and the morale of the forces and the public. This he did through creative war planning (e.g. fast-track fighter plane manufacturing and fighter pilot training) and rousing rhetoric, both in parliament and radio broadcasts. In local terms he successfully promoted the “Britain Boleh” mentality at a most challenging time in the country’s history, and refused to concede defeat to or agree to an armistice with Nazi Germany.
“A Churchill moment” can therefore be interpreted as a creative and inspiring determination to overcome a difficult challenge. In the audio clip, the challenge is “the biggest challenge facing humanity: tackling climate change.” For this to be successful, Anderson says that people have to be weaned from using fossil fuels to using renewable energy, like solar energy, wind energy, biofuel, etc. He insists that this is possible if people have the will and the determination to do it, as Churchill had in WWII. And people must be persuaded to believe that “this is a Churchill moment” – we must act now, or lose the war against climate change.
1. In this sentence, “Government claims that there is no poverty are belied by the number of homeless people on the streets.” shouldn’t it be “Government’s claim that there...” instead?
2. Is it “I was sitting there for five minutes.” or “I’ve been sitting there for five minutes”? – Jenny
1. The first sentence is correct. “Government” there is a noun modifier, a noun that functions like an adjective, as in the term “government jobs”. The plural “claims” is often used in reports, presumably because whoever makes the claim has made it more than once.
The sentence you suggest needs “the” before “government” to make it correct. The noun “government” usually has the definite article before it (i.e.“the government”). But it is all right to use the singular “claim” if the government has made the claim only once.
Here are some examples of the use of both “government claims” and “the government’s claims” from BBC websites:
A top Syrian legal official who resigned his post has said government claims that he did so under threat of violence were “utterly false”. (BBC website, Sept 1, 2011)
The government’s claims that severe spending cuts are necessary to reduce the public deficit are based on a “false argument” according to economist Dr Noreena Hertz. (BBC website, Feb 4, 2011)
2. The second sentence, “I’ve been sitting there for five minutes” is in the present perfect continuous/progressive tense.” This tense is used to indicate “the duration of an activity that began in the past and continues to the present” (Betty S. Azar, Understanding and Using English Grammar, p.36). But for the sentence to make sense, “there” must be replaced by “here”, because “I” cannot be sitting there now. “I” am always “here”. So the sentence should read: “I’ve been sitting here for five minutes.”
The first sentence is in the past continuous/progressive tense. That tense does not usually indicate duration, but is often used to describe an action that was in progress in the past when another action began. Below is an example from a BBC website of the use of this tense:
“I was sitting there in the class and all of a sudden it dawned on me that if that Trojan horse copied itself into other programs, then all those programs would be infected ...”
This is an extract from an official letter:
“Please note that although the progress payment has been reversed from your account, you are still principally liable to pay the said sum and interest will be charged until our receipt of the same from the end-financier (bank).”
1. Which is better? Please note or Please take note ...
2. Is the word order correct for you are still principally liable?
3. Is our receipt of the correct expression or should we change it to we receive ...? – MOE Chinese reader
1. “Please note that ...” is fine.
2. “... you are still principally liable ...” is the correct order of words, with the adverb “principally” coming just before “liable”, which is the adjective it modifies.
3. It would be better to change “our receipt of” to “we receive”, because that would make the meaning clearer.
The whole sentence should then read: “Please note that although the progress payment has been reversed from your account, you are still principally liable to pay the said sum, and interest will be charged until we receive the same from your end-financier (bank).”