Category: Contrastive Analysis

Comparing various aspects of the English and Chinese grammars which behave differently from each other.

Buy a pie for the spy

3 Jan 2009 In: Contrastive Analysis, Phonetics, Phonology


During the holiday I spent much of my time on a local discussion forum, reading and discussing topics regarding the English language. One question that was raised again and again by local students was this: Why does the ‘p’ in spy sound somewhat different from the ‘p’ in pie, and in fact, for Chinese speakers, the same as ‘b’ in buy?

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Tense and Tensibility

5 Dec 2008 In: Contrastive Analysis, Morphology, Syntax

Anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language in school can tell that in a typical language course, much of the time is actually spent on learning how to use verbs. In the case of English, learning how to use the different tenses is a particularly important task, and a unique challenge to speakers of Chinese, which is a practically tenseless language.

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I very like it

11 Oct 2008 In: Contrastive Analysis, Syntax

I very like it.

It may sound somewhat weird to native ears, but a lot of my Chinese students produce sentences like this one. What is weird here is simple. First, the adverb “very” seems to be misplaced. It should either be moved to the end of the sentence, or be replaced with another adverb like “really”. Second, if it is moved to the end, it cannot simply stand there alone but requires another word “much” to follow, as in:

I like it very much.

As usual, this can easily be discarded as an error in grammar, but what is more interesting is the cause of this error.

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Even though vs even if

4 Aug 2008 In: Contrastive Analysis, Semantics, Syntax

Yesterday I had private lessons with two students who were in form 6 and 7 respectively, and were thus reasonably advanced learners. Nevertheless, both students failed to distinguish between the meanings of even though and even if when they encountered them in an article. Therefore, I think it is justified to create a new category under the title “Contrastive Analysis,” dedicated to comparing various aspects of the English and Chinese grammars which differ from each other, as it will be of practical uses to Chinese learners of English, and possibly to English learners of Chinese as well.

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