Below you will find some tasks to help you with your grammar skills.
In the sentence pairs below there is a difference in grammar that brings about a difference in meaning.
Explain how the two sentences differ in meaning and try to relate this difference to whatever is different grammatically. This means that you have to draw on what you know about English grammar.
a I have been writing some letters.
b I have written some letters.
a We found it very easily.
b We found it very relaxing.
a She wasn’t told.
b She wasn’t too old.
a Do you think you could call her, Sofia?
b Do you think you could call her Sofia?
a Frankly, you’ve got to speak your mind.
b You’ve got to speak your mind frankly.
a In New York Norwegian students should visit its many wonderful museums.
b Norwegian students in New York should visit its many wonderful museums.
a The book is on the shelf in front of you.
b There is a book on the shelf in front of you.
a His job is making sure everything is properly fixed.
b He’s making sure everything is properly fixed.
a She didn’t want to go into detail.
b She didn’t want to go into the basement.
a It was in New York that the Binghampton shootings took place.
b The Binghampton shootings took place in New York.
a We had a little white lamb.
b We had a little grilled lamb.
a Once you know the rules, you can play the game.
b Once you knew the rules and could play the game.
a Dr. Watts remains amazingly steadfast.
b Amazingly, Dr Watts, remains steadfast.
a I can’t forget Susan, who used to be in the same class as me.
b I can’t forget the Susan who used to be in the same class as me.
a The family next door enjoys entertaining guests.
b The family next door enjoys entertaining books.
a We have breakfast in the kitchen.
b We’re having breakfast in the kitchen.
a We are so grateful to you for having taken her to the hospital.
b So, we are grateful to you for having taken her to the hospital.
a Which would you prefer?
b What would you prefer?
a The police officer looked calm to him.
b The police officer looked calmly at him.
a The dance meant a lot to him
b Dancing meant a lot to him.
Extra material on Grammar
1a means that the speaker has recently been writing letters and may not have finished his letter writing. In 1b he/she has finished the letter writing. The first sentence includes the progressive form (‘samtidsformen’) in the verbal have been writing, which implies that the activity may have just stopped or may still be going on.
In 2a the speaker says that it was easy for him/her to find something, while in 2b he/she thought some activity made her relax. Found means ‘discovered’ in 2a, and the sentence has this clause pattern: SVdOAdv. In 2b found means ‘thought’ and the sentence has this pattern: SVdOoP
3a means that nobody informed the subject she, while 3b means that the subject she was not very old/young enough for something…. The two sentences look and sound fairly similar, but their grammar is still very different. 3a is in the passive voice and has this pattern SV. 3b is an active sentence with the subject she followed by the verbal wasn’t and a subject predicative too old, inside which too is a degree modifier of the adjective old.
4a is a question addressed to a hearer, Sofia, who is present. The speaker wants Sofia to ring the person referred to by her. In 4b we do not know who is being addressed, but we know that the sentence expresses a suggestion to give somebody the name Sofia.
Grammatically, it is the function of Sofia that distinguishes the two. In 4a Sofia is the name of the person spoken to. It is not the subject, but rather a form of address, technically a vocative; in 4b Sofiais the object predicative after the direct object her.
In 5a the speaker signals that he/she is frank when advising the hearer to be honest.
When frankly is placed at the end after the phrase speak your mind, it refers to the way the hearer should speak, not how the speaker is, as in 5a. Frankly modifies the whole sentence in 5a, the phrase speak your mind in 5b.
The position of in New York changes and thereby also the meaning. In 6a in New York is an adverbial with the meaning ‘when they are in New York’; in 6b it is part of the subject and means ‘Norwegian students who are in New York’.
7a refers to a book which has already been mentioned, cf. the definite form the book, and tells us where it is. 7b introduces this book to the hearer by means of the anticipatory subject there and tells us where it is. Notice that we have a book, not as in 7a the book.
While 8a defines what his job consists of, namely to make sure everything is properly fixed, 8b tells us what the person he is in the process of doing. So we can say that making sure in 8b is the progressive aspect (samtidsformen’), whereas making sure in 8a is the verbal noun ‘det å passe på at alt er festet godt’.
The difference in meaning in this pair depends on the meaning of go into. In 9b it has the literal meaning ‘move into the basement’, in 9a it is a phrasal verb, an idiom which means ‘check/examine’. Into the basement in 9b tells us where she didn’t want to go and is therefore an adverbial. In 9b we must treat go into as a phrasal verb with its object detail.
It is a small shift of emphasis that distinguishes 10a from 10b. The first uses a cleft construction (‘utbryting’) to give extra emphasis to in New York; may be somebody has incorrectly claimed that it took place in LA. This special focus on the place is absent from the non-cleft in 10b.
Here the word grilled suggests that we are talking about a dish, white that we are talking about an animal, but even had acquires different meanings; in 11a ‘own’, in 1b ‘ate’.
More subtly, a little can be replaced by some and refers to quantity in 11b. In 11a a can be replaced by one, so here lamb is a countable noun (‘tellelig substantiv’).
Once means ‘as soon as’ in 12a and is a subjunction. In 12b it means ‘on one occasion’ and is an adverbial. Note also that tense is different; in 12a we find the present tense know, in 12b the past tense knew.
By moving amazingly about, 13a says that Dr Watts is so steadfast that it is amazing. In 13b the speaker is amazed that Dr Watts is steadfast. It sounds as if the speaker is surprised. For those who like syntax: 13a: Dr Watts (S) remains (V) amazingly steadfast (sP). 13b: Amazingly (Adv) Dr Watts (S) remains (V) steadfast (sP).
The difference in meaning here is that 14b indirectly refers to more than one Susan and the speaker remembers the particular Susan in his class. In 14a we get to know one Susan and the speaker says two different things about her: he always remembers her and she was in his class. In terms of grammar we have a non-restrictive relative clause in 14a. It adds more information about the same girl. The restrictive relative clause in 14b helps us keep one Susan apart from others by the same name.
The crucial difference here is in the interpretation of entertaining. In 15b it is an adjective that describes books; in 15 a, on the other hand, it may also mean that the family enjoys the activity of entertaining guests. Under that reading, entertaining means ‘det å ha selskap/sosial omgang med venner’. It is a verbal noun, technically a gerund.
The progressive form are having breakfast in 16b means that they are in the process of eating now. The simple present tense have breakfast means that they normally eat in the kitchen. That is their habit.
Here the position of so changes the meaning. So in front of grateful is a degree modifier and means ‘very grateful’; so at the beginning functions as an adverbial ( a conjunct) which links this sentence to what has been said before. It means something like ‘therefore we are grateful to you for…’
The different interrogative pronouns which and what imply that there is a choice between many in 18b, between two or a few in 18a.
Looked calm means that the police officer seemed to be calm. Here look is a copula/linking verb because it describes the subject. Calm is the subject predicative. In 19b looked calmly describes an action, how the police officer behaved when he watched him. That makes calmly an adverbial and the split verb look at a transitive verb, followed by its object him.
The definite form the dance may well refer to a particular dance, say the tango, while dancing refers to the general activity of dancing , ‘(det) å danse’.