flesl.net paired stories: grammar & meaning notes: Abdul Shanwaz

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• grammar and vocabulary notes for ‘Abdul Shanwaz’

one- “Before Abdul Shanwaz went to Canada, he had been a political prisoner for three years”

• The past perfect is preferable here because the event being referred to (Abdul’s time as a political prisoner) happened earlier than the previously mentioned event (Abdul’s coming to Canada.) In other words, the normal order of narrative is reversed. Although the past perfect is preferable, it is not absolutely required: even if the simple past were used, the order of events would still be made clear by the use of the conjunction before.

one- “he went blind in one eye”

• The meaning of this sentence is the same as the meaning of He became blind. The difference is that the first is less formal (more ‘colloquial’) than the second, and it is also much more common in speech at least. The verb go is not normally ‘intensive.’ (In other words, it does not normally take a subject complement.) It does, however, take a very limited number of adjectival subject complements. Some of these are concerned with permanent or temporary disability, for example, go blind, go deaf, go senile, go limp, go weak. Several others are concerned with mental illness: go mad, go insane, go crazy (and the synonymous slang expressions: go nuts, go bananas, go bonkers). In addition, there are at least two which have an impersonal meaning: go silent and go dead (when speaking of batteries, phone lines, etc.).

two- “an illegal drug, heroin

• ‘Heroin’ is the common name of the addictive drug diacetylmorphine. It is a derivative of the drug, morphine, itself a derivative of another drug, opium, which is obtained from opium poppies. (Both opium and morphine are also addictive, but not so strongly as heroin.) Heroin is widely used around the world as a medical pain killer and for recreational purposes. Because it so highly addictive and so damaging in its effects, it has been made illegal in many countries except for carefully controlled medical use. Diacetylmorphine was discovered in 1874 and in 1898 it was marketed by the German pharmaceutical company, Bayer. They called their new product "heroin" because, they said, it made people who used it feel heroic. They claimed that it was a cure for addiction to morhpine. It was discovered later, however, that when heroin was taken into a person’s body, it quickly turned into a stronger and more addictive form of morphine. Bayer stopped selling heroin in 1910.

three- “He had sold it four times to a policeman who was pretending to be a drug addict.”

• The first verb phrase here is in the past perfect and the second is in the past continuous. The past perfect is really required here; if the simple past (he sold it) were used, it would make it seem that the selling had happened after the arrest, even though this wouldn’t make sense. This is because the two verb phrases would then follow the normal narrative order: simple past followed by simple past. In the second verb phrase, the past continuous is appropriate because each of the several actions of selling is enclosed in a larger action of pretending to be a drug addict. Here again, the correct verb tense (the past continuous) clarifies the meaning by emphasizing the way the events are connected in time. This sort of clarification is desirable when, as here, the normal narrative order (one event following another) is not adhered to.

three- “she said he would suffer in jail”

• The modal auxiliary would is used here because this sentence is an “implicit conditional.” In other words, it is a conditional whose “if-clause” is only implicit (not actually stated). If the if-clause were present, the complete conditional would be: She said, if Abdul was sent to jail, he would suffer. Items like the one in the text can be described as “real implicit conditionals” because there really is a condition in the background, one which is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be stated (made explicit). Real implicit conditionals could be contrasted with “formal” implicit conditionals such as Jill said she would like a cup of coffee where there is no real condition in the background. Of course, it is always possible to suggest one and in this way to make the implicit conditional explicit. For example: Jill said she would like a cup of coffee if one was available or Jill said she would like a cup of coffee if it was not too much trouble. But, generally, when this form is used, there is not any such conditional in the background; the implicit conditional is used merely for the sake of politeness. (The verb phrase that follows—would bring back—is also an implicit conditional.)

three- “Abdul was not making money

Make money can be regarded either as a “collocation” or as a “multi-word verb.” In other words, the combination of the verb, make with the noun, money could be explained simply as two semantically separate words that happen to “go together” not as a matter of grammar, but as a matter of custom. (We speak, for example, of a heated discussion but of a bitter argument even though there is nothing really incorrect, from either a grammatical or a semantical point of view, in speaking of a bitter discussion or a heated argument. Regarded as a collocation, make money would be semantically complex: a customary association of two words each retaining its own identity. Looked at as a multi-word verb, however, make money is semantically simple: Two words which do have their own meaning in other contexts are here fused together into a single semantic unit. It seems to me that the second approach is preferable, from a pedagogical point of view in any case, because it is easier to remember a single “chunk” of meaning than it is to remember two separate pieces and, in addition to that, to remember the fact that these two pieces are customarily used together. (There are other considerations which seem to indicate that the multi-word approach is not only pedagogically preferable but also more accurate: (a) there are no other words that could be substituted for either make or money which would be perfectly correct even though non-customary, and (b) many of the adjective-noun combinations that are regularly offered as examples of collocations, sprawling city, for example—have a distinctly clichéd ring to them, whereas make money does not have this quality.)

num- “house arrest

• This is a “compound noun.” It refers to the practice of punishing someone by making them spend all or most of their time in their own home. House arrest belongs to a class of compound nouns that can be understood as combinations of a verb and an adverbial in the form of a prepositional phrase; in other words, it can be understood as an abbreviation of: arrest in a house. Other members of this group are compound nouns are: field-work, moon walk, daydream, gunfight and telephone call. (Notice that some compound nouns are spelled as two separate words, some as one hyphenated word, and some as one solid word.)

three- “electronic surveillance

Surveillance means watching, especially watching someone who has committed a crime or who is suspected of committing a crime or of planning to commit a crime. Electronic surveillance is surveillance carried out with the aid of some sort of electronic device. A small radio transmitter called an anklet is often placed around the ankle of someone who has been sentenced to house arrest. This anklet sends regular radio signals to the police telling them where the prisoner is and so preventing him or her from leaving home without permission. More recently electronic surveillance has come to refer to the surveillance of a whole population by means of “security cameras” in buildings or on the street. The idea is that if someone commits a crime in such a place, the police will have a photographic record of what happened. etymology: The word surveillance comes from the French word surveiller meaning to watch (sur (over) + veiller (watch)) and that word, in turn, comes from the Latin word, vigil meaning awake or watchful. It is connected therefore with the English words vigil, vigilant, invigilate and, of course, survey.

three- “probation

• If a person who has been convicted of a crime is put on probation or sentenced to some period of probation they are allowed to go free on the condition that they follow certain rules; if they do not follow the rules, they are sent to jail. The word is also used to describe the situation of someone who has just started a job; they are on probation for a certain period of time. If they show over that period that they are able to do the job well, they will become a permanent employee; otherwise, they will lose the job. The word can also be used in an educational context: a student who has failed a course but is given another chance to pass is on probation. etymology: probation comes from the Latin verb probare meaning to test or to show [something] to be good. It is thus connected with the English word, prove. In present-day English the word is usually used in a slightly different way, with the meaning of showing something to be true as in Harry proved he had not been in the city at the time of the murder. It is still used in a sense closer to its original meaning, however, in sentences like: It took a long time for Dick to prove himself to Harry but he finally did so. And it is also used (in its noun form) in the older sense in the proverb: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

four- “the government appealed

• In many legal systems, if someone is convicted of a crime, they have the right to appeal. This means that this person can have their conviction reconsidered, usually in a higher court. If their appeal is upheld, they will be free. Legal decisions (judgements) made in civil cases (i.e. lawsuits) can also be appealed. etymology: The word appeal comes from the Latin appelare which means apply to or address (in the sense of speak to). Appeal is used in at least two other senses in English: to refer to an urgent request as in: After the earthquake the government appealed to other countries for help; or to describe an attraction of some sort as in: Jane told Jill that Ted was always trying to persuade her to play chess, but the game didn’t appeal to her at all. There is also the compound adjective, sex appeal, used to describe a person who is thought to be sexually attractive as in: Jane told Jill that, in her opinion, even though Tom is very good looking, he really doesn't have any sex appeal.