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It was vs They were Options
Koh Elaine
Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 8:22:49 AM
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Joined: 7/4/2012
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John and Peter rescued a dog which was almost killed by a tiger.

The question: Who were the people who saved the dog?

Answer: a) It was John and Peter.
Answer: b) They were John and Peter.

Is a) or b) the correct answer to the question?

Thanks.
NKM
Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 8:42:28 AM

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Since the question was "Who were the people … ?" we could answer with either form, but most of us would probably say "It was John and Peter."

If the question were "Who saved the dog?" we would answer with the "It was …" form.

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 6:30:35 AM

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In fact, the answer would normally be (from anyone who naturally speaks English):

- "Who were the people who saved the dog?"
- "John and Peter."



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Koh Elaine
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 6:35:00 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/4/2012
Posts: 2,142
Neurons: 8,781
Thanks, DragOnspeaker, the question is in relation to a comprehensive exercise. It's not related to conversation.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 7:38:06 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 26,242
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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Koh Elaine wrote:
Thanks, DragOnspeaker, the question is in relation to a comprehensive exercise. It's not related to conversation.

Hi!
Yes - but even in school, in a written exercise, the answer would be "John and Peter."

The 'omission of data already known by both speaker and listener' is a feature of standard English - not particularly conversational English. I think it is similar in other languages - but maybe not all languages.

I learned in a course I did many years ago that there are two major types of language, and this is one way to recognise the difference.
Machine language/Computer language/Artificial language always says in a sentence everything needed with no unstated references to earlier sentences or necessity for the recipient to reason.
Natural languages assume that the recipient has general knowledge, contextual knowledge and reasoning ability.
There are some languages which have been created deliberately, but for general use (Interlingua, Esperanto, Latine Sine Flexione etc) - these are called 'Naturalistic languages'. They are not natural, but act like natural languages.

**************
examples:

'natural language'
John told Mary that he had seen her before, but didn't know where.
Though he was now retired, his memory for faces was good.
He said that he went to St George's school in Manchester and then Salford University but didn't think that he had seen her there. Had she ever worked in the electronics industry?
She didn't think it was that - did he remember taking dancing classes fifteen years ago?


****************
'Artificial language'
John told Mary that he had seen Mary before, but John didn't know where he had seen Mary.
Though John was now retired, and consequently was quite old, his memory for faces was good, despite the fact that memory often deteriorates with age.
John said that he went to St George's school in Manchester when he was young, many years ago, and then John went to Salford University, in his early twenties, forty years ago, but didn't think that he had seen Mary there.
John asked Mary whether she had ever worked in the electronics industry, as that was John's trade before he had retired.
Mary replied that she didn't think that they had met at any time while working in the electronics industry. Mary asked John whether he remembered taking dancing classes fifteen years ago, as that was one place where they may have met.




Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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