Monday, September 14, 2009

How It Looks/What It Looks Like

The above is from an article about a Singapore mail-order bride agency and its success in attracting overseas customers, owing to its use of English and the web (New Paper on Sunday, 13 September 2009).

Singapore English is often said to be economical and to the point, but this is not always so — how the girls look like has a superfluous like. The standard English expressions would be how the girls look or what the girls look like.

This distinction is obvious in the following excerpts, taken from the same article in the online version of the UK-based CAR Magazine:


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, can I ask a question? For the 2 sentences below, how are they different? If I'm not wrong, there's something wrong with the second one but I'm not sure how to explain the mistake. Hope you can help! Thanks. :)

1) Jackson always returns home very late from work.

2) Jackson always returns home from work very late.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hello,

What we're looking at are adverbials, 'very late' and 'from work'. The usual order is manner, place, and time.

(1) sounds better, but I wouldn't say that (2) is wrong -- it's just less good. Note that (2) actually follows the usual order: place before time. But my guess is that (1) is better because 'very late' is more informative hence comes closer to the verb 'returns' (which it modifies), whereas 'from work' is understood or implied so it's strictly not even necessary. It's only a guess, though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback. Oh so in that case, i guess it takes a well-read person to get a 'feel' of what sounds 'right'/'better'? If I'm teaching Lower Primary kids, it seem that there's really no proper grammar rule to exlain it. So grammatically I need to consider it correct...

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Yes, I suppose you really have to read a lot or watch/hear a lot of English to develop a sense of what's OK or not. Sometimes, the answer lies not in grammar but in meaning, or vice versa.

Ironically, linguists are often the worst people to ask about sentences like these -- that's because we're so used to seeing many permutations of the same sentence, to the extent that even the supposedly weird ones begin to sound OK! For this reason, when getting grammaticality judgments on sentences, it's always best to ask non-linguists.

Anonymous said...

the state of our world is really in decline to have a "bribe" agency! :p

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hmm, did you mean 'bride'? I checked but hadn't made a typo.