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Show me how to do it

This 'Show me how to do it' quiz deals with reporting (indirectly) words that other people have spoken.

How good are you at slipping smoothly from the 'telling' of the outer story, into relaying what was previously said ~ yet without repeating it word-for-word?

  1. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    She told me last week she ... ... to Aberystwyth for the weekend.
    ... because at the time she told me so, she WAS going to go.
    (Her actual words, back then, were presumably: 'I am going ...' ~ but it was in the past that she said so.)
  2. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    The reporter told us that the number of cases of this disease ... ... steadily over the past two decades.
    ' ... Has been rising ... ' is better than 'Have ... ' because 'number' (itself) is singular. Using the Present Tense helps to suggest that the rise is continuing even now (perhaps only a few hours or days after the report). If we had said ' ... HAD been rising', it would suggest that we understood what he told us, but we believed the rise had now stopped ~ hence the use of the Past Perfect (or 'Pluperfect'), expressing action two steps back into the past (1 step for the report, another step for the facts that went into it beforehand).
  3. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    The government expressed doubts as to whether the campaigners ... ... their research impartially.
    Again (cf. Q.2 above), the Pluperfect is best here, since the research is one step further back into the past than the government's later response.
  4. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    We were just wondering whether or not Brunel ... ... a cigar when that famous photograph was taken.
    The verb should be past-continuous, since it probably took him longer to smoke the cigar than the photograph took to be taken. (There was much discussion in Brunel's 150th anniversary year, about whether or not modern reproductions of this famous picture should have the cigar 'edited out' ~ as it set a bad example to children, somehow suggesting that smoking and success were linked!)
  5. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    If it hadn't been for my uncle Charlie, I would probably never ... ... with a corkscrew.
    'Without his help I would not have known ...' (or even 'could not'!).
    In English we know 'what to do' with a machine or gadget; not 'how to make', or any other such version.
    (We English are sometimes surprised at how many other languages use one same word for 'doing' and 'making' [French: faire; German: machen] when these are, to us, two quite distinct ideas. We 'do some cooking' [= an activity] but 'make a cake' [= a tangible product]. Come to that, we have separate words for 'wearing' and 'carrying' [Fr: porter; Ger.: tragen] which aren't quite the same thing either: you might take off a raincoat and hang it over your arm or shoulder, if the rain stops and the weather turns warm and perhaps rather humid. On the other hand, these two and many other languages distinguish between different types of 'knowing' ... knowing things we've deliberately, schematically learned [such as languages, sports and how to play musical instruments], and 'just knowing' people and places that we've come up against as we make our way through life. Perhaps that is a distinction worth drawing!)
  6. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    A sign in big bold red letters beside the gateway warned visitors ...
    Warnings are also given in English 'against doing something' ~ or, more simply as here, 'not to do' it.
  7. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    You forgot to ask me how many people ... ... in the audience this evening.
    Answer 1 was wrong because 'people' are plural; 2 is wrong because the Present Tense may have applied during the evening itself, but the event is now over so we need a Past form; similarly with Answer 3.
  8. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    If you're very lucky, you'll find a nice clear booklet somewhere inside the packaging, and that'll show you in step-by-step detail how ... ... set this thing up and get it working.
    Good little old 'to' is all we need here. There does not need to be any further future verb element, even though the assembly of the thing hasn't yet begun and therefore does lie in the future.
  9. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    According to this article, they ... ... build a new tram system in our city by 2023.
    Presumably 'this article' is more or less current, and 2023 remains in the future, so 'are going to' fits best here.
  10. Choose the Answer which completes the sentence in the best, clear, accurate English.

    One young man, clearly very agitated and lacking in self-control, leapt up in the middle of the speech and told Dr Sawbones where he ... ...
    This is the use of 'could' in a rather exaggerated sense, presumably meaning that the young man wanted the Doctor to put it somewhere fairly unprintable (probably inside his [= the Doctor's] own body) because the young man disliked, distrusted or despised it in some way ~ and felt that the most appropriate way of dealing with this would be for the Doctor to 'have a taste of his own medicine' (as the old phrase puts it).
    The 'could ' is obviously theoretical ~ as the Doctor probably had no intention of applying the 'invention' (whatever it actually was!) to himself; or at least, not in quite such a way as the sentence suggests. The young man's actual words were presumably along such lines as 'Go away, Doctor, and you can take your invention with it and stick it ... [wherever] ...'; the 'could' in Answer 2 is the reported version of that 'can'.
    More than enough on this, we feel!

Author: Ian Miles

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