The right tenses to use

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Fadzi­lah Amin tack­les sen­tence struc­ture.

Are the fol­low­ing sen­tences cor­rect? 1. Thanks for hav­ing helped me. (I want to mean that he helped me and I find say­ing “thanks for help­ing me” sounds present.)

2. Do we say “How about your­self?” in­stead of “How about you?”. When do we use “how about your­self?”?

3. Is this sen­tence all right? “You can ei­ther have it or not have it.” or should we say “You can ei­ther have it or not”?

–Jen­nyYoong 1. In the sen­tence “Thanks for help­ing me.”, “help­ing me” is an –ing noun phrase which is the ob­ject of the prepo­si­tion “for”. “Help­ing” there is not part of a present con­tin­u­ous verb, and it can be used for help that has al­ready been given.

It is not wrong to say “Thanks for hav­ing helped me.”, but the struc­ture is un­nec­es­sar­ily com­plex. The struc­ture “Thanks for _ing me” is used much more than the struc­ture “Thanks for hav­ing _ed me”, e.g. “Thanks for show­ing me the way.” vs “Thanks for hav­ing shown me the way.” or “Thanks for de­fend­ing me.” vs “Thanks for hav­ing de­fended me.”

One way to avoid us­ing an –ing noun phrase is to say “Thanks for your help.”, us­ing “help” as a noun.

2. We write “How about you?” if that ques­tion comes af­ter a state­ment like “I like trav­el­ling.” Thus some­one may say: “I like trav­el­ling. How about you?”

But we may have a con­ver­sa­tion that goes some­thing like the fol­low­ing:

A. How are you, B? Haven’t seen you for a long time.

B. I’m fine, thanks. And your­self? How are you?

We don’t say “How about your­self?” but we do say “And your­self? How are you?” in that con­text. See mean­ing 3 of “your­self” in the on­line Ox­ford Ad­vanced Learner’s Dic­tio­nary at:


3. It is a cor­rect sen­tence, but the shorter “You can ei­ther have it or not.” is more of­ten used. One of the few ex­am­ples of the for­mer avail­able on the In­ter­net (through Google Books) is found in Robert C. Greene’s book, Card­board Condo: How The Home­less Sur­vive The Streets:

“And I had a gift you know. You can ei­ther have it or you don’t have it.” (p.74)

Be­low are two ex­am­ples of the use of “You can ei­ther have it or not.” on the In­ter­net, from two schol­arly works:

“This gives a rather large num­ber of op­tions. For each top­ping there are two choices: you can ei­ther have it or not.”

(from a doc­u­ment made avail­able by the UK Open Uni­ver­sity)­lic/get­file.cfm?doc­u­ment fileid=13142

“One con­clu­sion con­sis­tent with this ob­served data is that the word that in English is op­tional. You can ei­ther have it or not.” (from the first chap­ter of a book by the US lin­guist An­drew Carnie)­wellpub­lish­ sam­plechap/Carnie_chap­ter_1.pdf

Gram­mar mat­ters

I WoulD like to know which is the gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect sen­tence.

1a) The chil­dren en­joy play­ing with lanterns dur­ing lantern fes­ti­val.

b) The chil­dren en­joy play­ing lanterns dur­ing lantern fes­ti­val. 2 a) Mon­keys have long tails. b) The mon­keys have long tails. –SooShyan 1. The gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect sen­tence is a) “The chil­dren en­joy play­ing with lanterns dur­ing the Lantern Fes­ti­val.” I have added “the” be­fore “Lantern Fes­ti­val” and cap­i­talised the “F” in “fes­ti­val” to in­di­cate that there is only one Lantern Fes­ti­val among the Chi­nese.

2. Sen­tence a) “Mon­keys have long tails.” is the cor­rect sen­tence here. It makes a gen­eral state­ment about all mon­keys, and so the plu­ral form of mon­keys is used with­out “the” be­fore it.

Sen­tence b) would be cor­rect if there was an ear­lier ref­er­ence to some mon­keys, as in the fol­low­ing sen­tences: “I can see some mon­keys on our neigh­bour’s rambu­tan tree. The mon­keys have long tails.” “The” then refers to the mon­keys seen on that par­tic­u­lar rambu­tan tree, and not all mon­keys.

Aim­ing for clar­ity

I Won­Der if these sen­tences are cor­rect. 1. She is wrap­ping a tro­phy on the ta­ble. 2. She is read­ing a book on the sofa. ( I know it sounds bet­ter to say, “She is sit­ting on the sofa”, “... read­ing a book”.)

–Sheila Sen­tences 1 and 2 con­tain some am­bi­gu­ity and may be mis­un­der­stood.

1. “She is wrap­ping a tro­phy on the ta­ble.” may be taken to mean that “she” is sit­ting or stand­ing on the ta­ble wrap­ping a tro­phy.

Sim­i­larly, 2. “She is read­ing a book on the sofa.” may be taken to mean that the book is on the sofa and she is read­ing it, but she is not nec­es­sar­ily sit­ting on the sofa: she may be seated on the floor or car­pet in front of the sofa, read­ing the book that is on the sofa. I would sug­gest writ­ing: 3. “She is stand­ing at the ta­ble wrap­ping a tro­phy.” in­stead of 1, and

4. “She is sit­ting on the sofa read­ing a book” (your sen­tence) in­stead of sen­tence 2.

Sen­tences 3 and 4 don’t just sound bet­ter; they are also clearer in their mean­ings.

‘As’ or ‘like’

WHICH sen­tence is cor­rect? 1. Just as she said, it’s beau­ti­ful. 2. Just like she said, it’s beau­ti­ful. 3. Just as/like what she said, it was beau­ti­ful.

–Ja­sonNg Sen­tence 1, “ Just as she said, it’s beau­ti­ful.” is cor­rect. When say­ing that things are sim­i­lar, “as” is used be­fore a clause, e.g. “she said”. The com­par­i­son here is be­tween your own im­pres­sion (of a place, per­haps) and what “she” told you about it.

You can, how­ever, use “like” in­stead of “as” in in­for­mal speech (as in Sen­tence 2). But in more for­mal us­age, “like” is fol­lowed by a noun or pro­noun, when used to say that things are sim­i­lar, e.g. “Her im­pres­sion of the place is just like mine (my im­pres­sion).”

Sen­tence 3 is in­cor­rect, be­cause we don’t use “what” in “just as/like she said”, whether for­mally or in­for­mally.

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