Jade
Question about the "why do you think..." construction. Sentences like "why do you think I did that?" or "why do you think I love you?" seem to have two kinds of meaning, I'm not talking about the contexts for the sentences, but the literal surface of themselves. If I want to say: Do you know why I did that? It seems like I can use another sentence "Why do you think I did that?" to express instead. And both of them imply that I have actually done something and am about to give a reason to someone why I did that. But if I didn't do that, I would say:" Why you think that I am the one who did that?" In this case, it seems like I can still use the sentence "Why do you think I did that?" instead, but it doesn't imply "I have done something" any more. Likewise, if I want to say:"Do you know why I love you?" or "Do you know what attracts me to you?", it seems like the sentence "Why do you think I love you?" also works here. And I assume I say: Why you think that I have falled in love with you which is not true? What if I say "Why do you think I love you?" here instead? Will that make any misunderstanding? Like: "oh, that you love me is true!"... I am not sure if I have mastered "why do you think..." construction properly. It's very important to English learners because it can really make a serious misunderstanding... please help me with some explaintion, thanks!!
Feb 12, 2012 8:03 AM
Answers · 12
It's all about intonation and the emphasis of words. Slight alterations change the meaning.
February 12, 2012
You are right in all cases! If I say: Why do you think I did that? Depending on tone and context, it can mean: 1. What do you think my reason was for doing that? 2. Why do you think that I am the person who did that? When spoken, if I said (with asterisks meaning emphasis): *Why* do you think I did that? It would mean the first, whereas if I said: Why do you think *I* did that? It would mean the second. When written, you would need to rely on the context of the surrounding narrative / dialogue / etc. to help you determine which one was intended. It should usually be clear, if the author has done his or her job correctly, which one he or she meant! English has many, many ambiguities and strange things. I think it is a very illogical language in many ways and I'm glad it is my first language, so I don't have to ever go through the hassle of learning it as a second language! Think of the sentences: 1. I'm going to sleep. Does it mean: "I'm trying to fall asleep right now," or does it mean, "In the future, I will attempt to sleep." 2. They are hunting dogs. Are "they" currently in the act of hunting for dogs, or is the sentence talking about dogs that are used for hunting?
February 12, 2012
It's a pretty obvious difference when speaking, but I see your point if the sentence is in an sms (for example). YES there can be misunderstandings, but you'll find the correct meaning from the context of the whole conversation/situation. If you think such a sentence can be misinterpreted, then there's a simple solution: rewrite it!
February 12, 2012
Not the same as in any other languages?
February 12, 2012
Using a different tone can give it a totally different meaning, they sound completely different to my ears!
February 12, 2012
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