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I need comments from native English speakers (willing and able to give good advice to learners)

 
 
Jaqen
 
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2016 08:09 pm
Hello, I'm sorry if I'm asking too many questions... but I have another >.<
Someone wrote:

"I've received a notice about the free lunch this semester as well.
What is this letter requesting its payment about?"

Situation: You had received a notice that lunch will be free this semester. Then you receive another letter telling you to pay for it.

I think the second sentence in bold is wrong but I can't quite pinpoint.
I find 'its' in 'its payment' weird too.
I suggested (while keeping the original wording as intact as possible)

"What is this letter requesting payment for?"

Then the sentence writer said:

Learn the expression: [What is this all about?].
We use this expression when doubting the reason/necessity/legitimacy of something. And [its] refers to [of lunch].


If 'its' meant 'of lunch' then it was basically:

"What is this letter requesting lunch payment about?"

I think it's still weird. I don't know whom he meant by 'we' but if that's what he tried to do with 'what is ~about', I think it should be:

What is the payment this letter is requesting about?

Am I wrong? I just don't think the original sentence makes sense.
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Type: Question • Score: 2 • Views: 1,028 • Replies: 18
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View best answer, chosen by Jaqen
engineer
  Selected Answer
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2016 08:38 pm
@Jaqen,
Jaqen wrote:

I think the second sentence in bold is wrong but I can't quite pinpoint.
I find 'its' in 'its payment' weird too.
I suggested (while keeping the original wording as intact as possible)

"What is this letter requesting payment for?"

Your suggestion is excellent.

Jaqen wrote:

Then the sentence writer said:

Learn the expression: [What is this all about?].
We use this expression when doubting the reason/necessity/legitimacy of something. And [its] refers to [of lunch].


Quote:
What is this letter requesting its payment about?"

The sentence is poorly written, but I read "its" as a possessive refering to letter. Its means "the letter's".
Jaqen
 
  0  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2016 09:41 pm
@engineer,
Thanks ~
0 Replies
 
Tes yeux noirs
 
  0  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 02:34 am
Quote:
What is this letter requesting its payment about?

Except for the 'its', this is perfectly normal in British informal conversation. It is not standard formal English though. 'About' or 'all about' can be used idiomatically in a query about the reason for or meaning of an action or utterance etc, especially when it is unexpected. The speaker believed lunches were free and was surprised to get a letter requesting payment.

My father started shouting at me when I had nothing wrong. What was that about?

Jaqen
 
  0  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 10:37 am
@Tes yeux noirs,
I don't think this is a matter of standard vs. informal English. I think it's a structural issue. I do understand what you're saying '(all) about' being used in a question about the reason for something unexpected. The sentence in discussion doesn't have the same structure as 'what was that about?'.

What is /this letter/ all about?
What is /this request for payment/ all about?
What is /the payment this letter is requesting/ all about?
etc.

I get it.

But

Quote:
What is this letter requesting its payment about?


looks like a combination of multiple sentences, almost like in 'before & after' fashion:

1. what is this letter requesting?
2. what is this letter requesting its payment for (instead of 'about')?
3. what is this letter about?
...

You know what I mean? If you define informal speech as any types of mis-spoken sentences that are understandable due to contexts, pretty much all mistakes become informal speech. I'm afraid your definition is too broad.

I've asked quite a few questions by now. Most people agreed that many of my examples are not good English - they're either grammar errors or just too weird and awkward for use. You're the only one who said they are okay in either formal or informal British English. Are you British?
Tes yeux noirs
 
  0  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 12:52 pm
@Jaqen,
Quote:
But
Quote:
What is this letter requesting its payment about?

looks like a combination of multiple sentences, almost like in 'before & after' fashion:

1. what is this letter requesting?
2. what is this letter requesting its payment for (instead of 'about')?
3. what is this letter about?

It is a perfectly normal sentence like "What is that poster in the park warning against spitting about?" (Why are the officious park authorities warning people not to spit? Surely we know already it is a bad thing?)

Quote:
You know what I mean? If you define informal speech as any types of mis-spoken sentences that are understandable due to contexts, pretty much all mistakes become informal speech. I'm afraid your definition is too broad.

Informal speech is not "wrong"; it is just not the standard school-taught version of the language. I never said all mistaken speech is to be considered informal.
Quote:
Are you British?

I am a native British English speaker.

Jaqen
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 06:49 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
Quote:
Informal speech is not "wrong"


That's not what I said.

Quote:
I never said all mistaken speech is to be considered informal.


You never did. That's just my impression I got from many of your comments.
You wouldn't personally use broken, archaic, or badly constructed sentences yourself - but they're perfectly ok for learners of English to use. That's not kind of advice I'm looking for.
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 07:31 pm
@Jaqen,
I could not agree less. Don't start playing around with the language until you have learned it thoroughly.
Jaqen
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 07:57 pm
@Setanta,
I'm not playing with English. I don't know where you get that. I wish I was fluent enough to play with it. That's why I'm trying to ask questions to native speakers. engineer said it's badly written and open for misunderstanding. Tes yeux says it's perfectly ok. I was confused. Then again, that has been the pattern. Something is deemed inappropriate by most posters and s/he comes in, declaring that it's perfectly fine in various versions of British English. I don't know how different British English is from American's but frankly I doubt any well-spoken Brit would say "What is this letter requesting its payment about?" in any situations, formal or informal. And I don't think it's helpful for my thorough learning of English.
0 Replies
 
Jaqen
 
  -2  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2016 08:27 pm
@Setanta,
Would Tes yeux ever say 'what is this letter requesting its payment about' when informally chatting with his/her British friends? I hardly think so. Then why is s/he advising it's okay to say so to someone who's struggling to learn English?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 03:32 am
@Jaqen,
Carelessness, perhaps . . . but if you want to play the hotshot and think you can learn to run before you walk, help yourself.
Jaqen
 
  -3  
Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 04:14 am
@Setanta,
I don't understand why you're saying I want to play the hotshot. I have no such interest... What does that mean anyway? Are you saying it because I didn't agree with a native Brit when s/he said the above sentence is perfectly good English? So that's just carelessness on his/her part and me disagreeing is trying to play the hotshot? If someone is trying to learn Korean and asks me questions about expressions that are either grammatically wrong or archaic (c. 1930), I would never be like, oh it's okay, I don't use these expressions myself of course, but these are totally understandable, who cares, I just said that to my wife and she understood, so it's good, they may be even perfectly fine standard grammar among upper class Koreans in the west, etc. I've encountered this kind of reactions a few times and I think it's a bit condescending.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 04:21 am
When you start arguing with native speakers of English, it seems to me that you're playing the hotshot, as though your English were good enough to tell some who lives in England how native speakers there would speak.

A hotshot is an expert, a master of a topic. My use of the term is sarcastic. You didn't like Tes yeux response, so you argue with him, and tell him you don't believe that's how a speaker of British English would say something. You must be an expert, huh?
Jaqen
 
  -3  
Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 04:40 am
@Setanta,
I don't think one has to be exceptionally fluent in English to see that there is something off with the above sentence. I don't think one has to think s/he is an expert (*sarcasm*) to see that.

I didn't dislike Tes answer. I didn't quite believe it. I'm sorry, but I think he was making that story up. How can it be a style of speech of a certain group of people? Honestly. Do you think it makes sense? It's just a random mismatched sentence.

I didn't say I know about British regional or class dialects. Since Tes lives in the UK, everything he says about English is supposed to be true?

I'm a native Korean but does that mean whatever I say about Korea and Korean is trustworthy? I may fabricate things just to confuse people who have no clue.
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 04:44 am
@Jaqen,
There are at least dozens of regional dialects in the UK, quite apart from class distinctions. There are dozens, perhaps more than a hundred regional dialects in the United States, but few distinctions having to do with social classes. People in one part of a state (and there are fifty of them) will frequently speak differently than people in another part of a state. Although i am a native speaker of English, i would never suggest that Tes yeux is making up stories about how English is spoken in Britain. Have fun, hotshot, i will trouble you no more.
Jaqen
 
  -4  
Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 04:54 am
@Setanta,
I have no desire to play that silly thing you call the hotshot, whatever. To me, you seem to be the one who is obsessed with the idea, so you have fun playing that hotshot game. People like you are the reason I ended up here after looking for more credible sources. I may not speak English but I can tell when someone is trying to fool and talk down on the confused, spinning bs stories and yelling, I know everything, you know nothing, how dare you?
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oristarA
 
  -3  
Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2016 07:21 am
This is a thread that is worth a moment of reflection.
0 Replies
 
 

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