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英语语法:157 Always, Never, Usually, Often, Most

时间:2010-07-03 01:48来源:互联网 提供网友:飘絮330813   字体: [ ]
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by Mignon Fogarty

Today we'll discuss words you should never use and words you should always avoid--or something like that.
As many of you know, before I was Grammar Girl, I was a science and technology writer. Even as an undergraduate, my instructors1 said I was especially good at that kind of writing. My secret was that I hedged everything I wrote. I wouldn't write anything as definitive2 as "Scientists found life on Mars." I would write "Scientists appear to have found life on Mars," or "Scientists report that they have found signs of life on Mars."
In scientific writing, those kind of distinctions are important because knowledge changes as new data comes in. What looks like life on Mars today, could turn out to be an instrument malfunction3 tomorrow. Coffee seems good for you in one study, but bad for you in the next study that looked at different populations or parameters4. But keeping absolute statements under control can also keep your everyday writing honest.
Using Always and Never
Some of the most dangerous words you can throw around are "always" and "never." They almost beg people to ask, "Really? Never? Not even if aliens take over the world and change the laws of physics with their super-advanced technology?"
If I were to write, "Always italicize foreign words," I'm certain that within 12 hours someone would write in with an exception. If I were to write, "Never start a sentence with a lowercase letter," someone would remind me that Scandinavian last names such as "de Heer" start with lowercase letters and might come at the beginning of a sentence or that the "p" in "pH" must be lowercase when referring to the acidity5 or alkalinity of a solution whether it's at the beginning of a sentence or not.
If you go out on a limb and use "always" or "never," be darn certain there aren't any exceptions.
When Should You Use Usually and Often?
So what about fudgy words such as "usually" and "often"? They aren't horrible. When you're tempted6 to write "always," "usually" can be a safer choice: In English, we usually italicize foreign words.
The problem is that sometimes people use these words without any real knowledge of whether something happens often or usually.
I was tempted to write "people often use these words without any real knowledge," but really? Is it often? I know I see it done, but when I think about it carefully, I'm not willing to commit to "often." "Sometimes" is more accurate.
What is the Difference Between Many and Most?
People have asked about the difference between "most" and "many." OK, it was only one person, so it wasn't really "people"; it should have been "someone."
Both "many" and "most" indicate a large, indefinite amount. Technically7, "most" is more than "many." "Most" is a superlative that means "in the greatest degree" or "in the majority of instances," so you could argue that it's only correct to use "most" when you're talking about more than half of something. For example, "most of the time" would have to be at least fifty percent of the time, although in practice, I suspect most people [get it?] don't strictly8 adhere to that definition.
When Should You Use “Most” and Many”?
My advice to careful writers is to avoid using "most" and "many" unless you have evidence that what you're talking about is a lot--a lot of people or more than half the time, for example. It shouldn't just be your opinion. The thought "I believe snails9 are adorable and make great mascots10" floating through your head shouldn't lead you to write "Many people believe snails are adorable and make great mascots."
Going back to my opening paragraph, how did I know that many of you know that I used to be a science writer? I didn't. Although I've mentioned it in a bunch of interviews, I have no idea how many of you already knew that I was a science writer. So I shouldn't have started out with "as many of you know." It's pure speculation11 (and unnecessarily wordy).
As an aside, you can learn more about "more" and "most" in episode #124 in which we talk about using "more" to comparing two things (this painting is more spectacular than the last) and "most" when something is the best of more than two things (this painting is the most spectacular one we've seen all day).
A Quick and Dirty Tip: Name Your Sources
Finally, make your attributions clear. I don't consider "some say" or "critics have asserted" to be meaningful. Name your sources. Earlier when I said "Someone asked me about the difference between 'most' and 'many,'" it would have been better to name the person: A reader named John T. asked about the difference between "most" and "many."
Audible

Get a free audiobook when you sign up for a free trial at Audiblepodcast.com/gg. This week I recommend King of Hearts.

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

I'm Mignon Fogarty, author of the New York Times best-seller, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Here's what a recent buyer, Michelle Cimino, had to say in a review: "I've used your book many times to make sure I don't make a fool out of myself--especially since grammar is not my strongest suit! I highly recommend this for anyone who needs a little help here and there...or for people like me who need a LOT of help." Thanks, Michelle!
You can pick up a copy of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing at most major bookstores. More than half of the bookstores I've checked carry it, so I believe that was a legitimate12 use of "most."

 


点击收听单词发音收听单词发音  

1 instructors 5ea75ff41aa7350c0e6ef0bd07031aa4     
指导者,教师( instructor的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • The instructors were slacking on the job. 教员们对工作松松垮垮。
  • He was invited to sit on the rostrum as a representative of extramural instructors. 他以校外辅导员身份,被邀请到主席台上。
2 definitive YxSxF     
adj.确切的,权威性的;最后的,决定性的
参考例句:
  • This book is the definitive guide to world cuisine.这本书是世界美食的权威指南。
  • No one has come up with a definitive answer as to why this should be so.至于为什么该这样,还没有人给出明确的答复。
3 malfunction 1ASxT     
vi.发生功能故障,发生故障,显示机能失常
参考例句:
  • There must have been a computer malfunction.一定是出了电脑故障。
  • Results have been delayed owing to a malfunction in the computer.由于电脑发生故障,计算结果推迟了。
4 parameters 166e64f6c3677d0c513901242a3e702d     
因素,特征; 界限; (限定性的)因素( parameter的名词复数 ); 参量; 参项; 决定因素
参考例句:
  • We have to work within the parameters of time. 我们的工作受时间所限。
  • See parameters.cpp for a compilable example. This is part of the Spirit distribution. 可编译例子见parameters.cpp.这是Spirit分发包的组成部分。
5 acidity rJyya     
n.酸度,酸性
参考例句:
  • This plant prefers alkaline soil,though it will readily tolerate some acidity.这种植物在酸性土壤中也能生存,但硷性土壤更加适宜。
  • Gastric acidity would not prevent the organism from passing into the gut.胃的酸度不能防止细菌进入肠道。
6 tempted b0182e969d369add1b9ce2353d3c6ad6     
v.怂恿(某人)干不正当的事;冒…的险(tempt的过去分词)
参考例句:
  • I was sorely tempted to complain, but I didn't. 我极想发牢骚,但还是没开口。
  • I was tempted by the dessert menu. 甜食菜单馋得我垂涎欲滴。
7 technically wqYwV     
adv.专门地,技术上地
参考例句:
  • Technically it is the most advanced equipment ever.从技术上说,这是最先进的设备。
  • The tomato is technically a fruit,although it is eaten as a vegetable.严格地说,西红柿是一种水果,尽管它是当作蔬菜吃的。
8 strictly GtNwe     
adv.严厉地,严格地;严密地
参考例句:
  • His doctor is dieting him strictly.他的医生严格规定他的饮食。
  • The guests were seated strictly in order of precedence.客人严格按照地位高低就座。
9 snails 23436a8a3f6bf9f3c4a9f6db000bb173     
n.蜗牛;迟钝的人;蜗牛( snail的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • I think I'll try the snails for lunch—I'm feeling adventurous today. 我想我午餐要尝一下蜗牛——我今天很想冒险。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Most snails have shells on their backs. 大多数蜗牛背上有壳。 来自《简明英汉词典》
10 mascots aecb9f35e21335e20c5eb14a9f5e4d45     
n.吉祥物( mascot的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • One of the mascots was the platypus. 吉祥物一是鸭嘴兽。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Information on all things Olympic, including logos, mascots, venues,and bid candidates. 所有事情奥林匹克,包括的标识语,吉祥物,地点,和出价候选人的信息。 来自互联网
11 speculation 9vGwe     
n.思索,沉思;猜测;投机
参考例句:
  • Her mind is occupied with speculation.她的头脑忙于思考。
  • There is widespread speculation that he is going to resign.人们普遍推测他要辞职。
12 legitimate L9ZzJ     
adj.合法的,合理的,合乎逻辑的;v.使合法
参考例句:
  • Sickness is a legitimate reason for asking for leave.生病是请假的一个正当的理由。
  • That's a perfectly legitimate fear.怀有这种恐惧完全在情理之中。
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TAG标签:   英语语法  Always  Never  Usually  Often  Most
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