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Sunday, September 25, 2016

EwR Word Usage - The Confusion Between using SOMEONE and ANYONE in a Question


Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting room with other people, and that you are all waiting for a meeting to begin.  You discover that you have forgotten your pencil, so you ask people that are with you, "Does someone have a pencil that I can borrow?"  The doubt here is whether or not it is correct to use the word "someone" in the previous question.  Or maybe it would be better to say "somebody".  What's more, perhaps you shouldn't use either of these two words since this is a question, and instead you should use the word "anyone".  Even further, the possibility exists to use the word "anybody" in a question as well.  So what do you say in this case?  Which of these four words should you use in the question above?

Let's resolve this dilemma once and for all by considering the following three main points: (1) the differences between "someone and somebody", and "anyone and anybody"; (2) the distinction between using "someone" and "anyone"; and (3) the correctness of using "someone" instead of "anyone" in a question.

Regarding the first point, the words "someone" and "somebody" have the same meaning, as do the words "anyone" and "anybody".  The only difference is in the formality of the words "someone" and "anyone".  These two words are generally used in written communication; whereas, the words "somebody" and "anybody" are used in speech.  Remember that written communication is considered to be more formal than oral communication.  Therefore, when you are speaking to others you would use the words "anybody" and "somebody". Think of it in the following way.  

When you refer to another person in an informal way, you are personally speaking to that person and you see their body.  Therefore, this might help you to remember to use the words "somebody" and "anybody".   And in the case of writing, you would use "anyone" and "someone" since "one" refers to another person in a more formal way.

With regard to the second point, a clear distinction can be drawn between the words "someone" and "anyone" based on the principles of limitation and existence.  The word "some" is limited to something more specific that exists than the word "any".  The latter word expresses a lack of constraint and reality.  For example, if you hear a noise in another room and say "Is someone there?", you are probably assuming that the possibility exists that the noise was caused by another specific person; for example, maybe you think there is a robber in your house.  However, if you say "Is anyone there?", you are not considering the existence of another unique person in the other room because maybe there are many people in your house, and it might (or might not) be any one of them.  Instead, in this last particular example, there is no constraint on who might be in the other room, and there is no limit to number of people who might have caused the noiseIn fact, maybe no one is in the other roomMaybe the noise came from somewhere else, and wasn't caused by a person at all.

Keep in mind that the general rule of thumb is that we use "anyone" in a question or a negative statement, and "someone" in a positive statement.  See the following example conversation.

Person A Do you know "anyone" who has a boat?       (question)
Person B:  Yes, I do know "someone" who has a boat.   (positive statement)
    (or)         No, I don't know "anyone" who has a boat.   (negative statement)

Don't forget that the words "anybody" and "somebody" can be used in place of "anyone" and "someone".  The only difference is in the informal usage of the first pair of words versus the formal use in the last pair of words.

Also remember that it is impossible for Person B to say "Yes, I do know "anyone" who has a boat.  This is totally incorrect!

The perplexity of whether or not the word "someone" can be used in the aforementioned question stated by Person A is what we are investigating here.  Therefore, let's continue to this next peculiarity.

Respecting the third and last point, let's examine whether or not it is correct to use "someone" instead of "anyone" in a questionThe response to this statement is positive, and the reason why shouldn't surprise you.  Let's find out why.

Recall the scenario introduced at the very beginning of this article.  Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting room with other people, and that you are all waiting for a meeting to begin.  You discover that you have forgotten your pencil, so you ask people that are with you, "Does someone have a pencil that I can borrow?"

The question posed from the very beginning was if the word "someone" can be used in the aforementioned question.  The answer simply put is "yes".  However, let's see why it's possible to say "Does someone have a pencil that I can borrow?

Everyone understands that it is always correct to use "anyone" in a question, but maybe you didn't know that it is also okay to use the word "someone".  Here's why.  If you are thinking in a positive way, then you use the word "someone".  On the other hand, if your thoughts are negative then you use "anyone". 

Let's look at the previous example again.  If you say "Does someone have a pencil that I can borrow?", then you believe that there is a possibility that one of the people in the meeting room with you does have a pencil. Maybe you see a pencil on the meeting table or in another person's hand.  You are not sure who the pencil belongs to, but you assume that its owner is probably in the meeting room with you.  "Some" is specific so you say "someone" in this case.

However, if you say "Does anyone have a pencil that I can borrow?", then you are not specifying a particular person because you don't know if there is a person who has a pencil or not.  Maybe you don't see a pencil in the meeting room, so you ask your question in an ambivalent way by using the word "anyone".  "Any" is unspecified, and therefore you say "anyone" in this particular case.  Out of all of the possibilities of people in the meeting room with you, it's feasible that at least one of them might have a pencil, but you don't know for sure.  You have doubts about the existence of a person who has a pencil.

In summary, if you ask a question about another unknown person, and you anticipate that the answer to your question is "yes", then you use the word "someone" in your question ("Does someone have a pencil that I can borrow?").  On the other hand, if you are expecting to get a negative response to your question where the answer is "no", then you use the word "anyone" in your question ("Does anyone have a pencil that I can borrow?"). 

The formal usage of the word "someone" can be substituted by the informal word "somebody".  Likewise, "anybody" can be used instead of "anyone".  The difference is that "someone" and "anyone" are generally used in writing, and "somebody" and "anybody" are used in speech.

Now I would like to conclude by asking my readers the following question.  "Is there anyone who has doubt about using the word "someone" in a question?"  I'm assuming that no one has a doubt about the fact that you can use the word "someone" in a question, and that's why I chose to use the word "anyone" here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

EwR Commentary - Every Speaker of English Has Their Own Unique "Word Power"


Each individual who uses the English language, whether they are a native person or a second language user, has a unique "word power" base. Words have power which give a person leverage to communicate in any manner that they want. No two people develop "word power" in the same way since their experiences are never obtained using the exact same approach. And since words have power, it is essential for a non-native user of English to think about what words they want to dominate in order to communicate properly using English as a second language.

The words that a person chooses to use during speech and writing say a lot about who that person is.  Therefore, it is important to learn how to properly cultivate "word power" and develop a solid base of words to use in English.  Hence, we are going to explore the following important aspects of "word power", especially for those who use English as a second language: namely, (1) the meaning, elements, and purpose of "word power"; (2) the different kinds of power that words have; (3) how second language users of English establish their own unique "word power" base; and (4) what a person's "word power" says about them as a unique person.

Foremost, it is essential to understand what is meant by the term "word power", to recognize what elements it actually consists of, and to be aware of its purpose.  "Word power" is the set of vocabulary words that you have mastered as of today, and that you use for both oral and written communication skills.  It gives you the control that you need in order to express yourself effectively for informal and formal contact with others.

Let's turn our attention to the essential elements of "word power".  It is not a pretentious concept.  It's not marked by an attitude of superiority, instead it demonstrates a serious desire to master and dominate a personalized collection of specific vocabulary for all facets of your life which are of unique importance to you, including - but not limited to - work, family and friends, free time, school studies, travel, adventure, and personal and professional development.  "Word power" requires an active experience by its achiever, and isn't acquired through a passive process. 

The purpose of achieving your own unique "word power" should be obvious.  It helps you get ahead in life and explore all aspects of the world that we live in that are appealing to you as a unique human being.  Your personal experiences from the past, present and future are all dependent on the word power that you possess.

Next, let's discover why words have power in the first place, and identify what different kind of power words have.  Vocabulary words are the foundation of written and oral communication among humans.  It is especially important to have sufficient words in order to understand others and express your own thoughts and ideas.  D.A. Wilkins (1972) stated that "... without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed ".  This is the inherent power that words have.  Thoughts and ideas are converted into written or oral words which are arranged in a specific way in order to convey the writer's (or speaker's) meaning during communication.

A word also has power through its simple image.   For example, the word "stop" on a traffic stop sign is understood practically by everyone in the world who drives.  This word has visual power which doesn't require any audible sound.

This leads us to the next power in which a word has; that is to say, detectable power.  Let's look at an example of this using the aforementioned word "stop".  Imagine that you are driving a friend somewhere in your car.  While you are looking at the road ahead of you, your friend suddenly shouts out the word "stop".  Your sudden impulse is to immediately stomp on the brake and stop the car.  You immediately detect how to respond simply by hearing this one word, and without seeing your friend who shouted it out to you.

On the other hand, if you are both listening to the radio, and you hear the radio announcer shout out the word "stop" at both of you, you won't be inclined to put your foot on the brake of the car at all.  In this situation, we are talking about discernible power because you are able to distinguish the difference in the source and tone used when the word "stop" is simply heard on the radio versus when it is pronounced by someone in your actual presence.  Your reaction in each of these two different circumstances is very different.

Furthermore, words have the power to influence other people's reactions in a positive, neutral or negative way.  For example - words expressed by a comedian can invoke the audience to laugh; words delivered by a President can capture the attention of the public; and words shouted out by a leader during a protest can cause demonstrators to riot.

Consequently, words have influential power to: activate, advise, answer, argue, assert, authorize, bargain, console, control, convince, defend, demand, describe, entertain, evaluate, explain, inform, inspire, mediate, motivate, negotiate, persuade, probe, problem solve, question, and stimulate.  Words used during any of the aforementioned purposes of written or oral communication influence how a person thinks and can cause one to take action accordingly.  A psychological connection is built between the writer (or speaker) and their reader (or listener).  Words create images in your mind, make impressions on you, and stimulate personal expectations.  They have the power to connect influence with results.

Thirdly, there are many different ways that a second language user of English can establish their own unique "word power" base in order to have a sufficient set of vocabulary necessary to carry out personal and professional endeavors and interests.  Example courses of action include the following - studying in a school (e.g., elementary, middle, high school, college, university, private academy); participating in language classes sponsored by your work place; taking individual private lessons from a language academy or freelance teacher; learning on your own with books, CDs, or the Internet; and going abroad to an English-speaking country in order to learn and practice the language.

The choice you make in order to build your own personal "word power" base depends on circumstances that are related to your individual, academic, or professional needs.  For example, if you are planning on visiting a country where English is spoken, then you might take a minicourse for travelers.  If, on the other hand, you are studying at a university in order to become an English teacher, then you would study classes which include a lot of vocabulary related to the language and teaching.  In the case of satisfying your professional needs, you might study vocabulary related to the concepts that you use at work.

Voltaire supposedly said that, “language is very difficult to put into words.  Consequently, it is important to plan ahead and assess what your actual requirements are so that you choose the most efficient method of learning the vocabulary words that you need for your particular purpose in mind.  After you learn how to use these words properly, they become part of the foundation of your current "word base". 

Second language learners of English need to program how to build their "word power" more carefully than that of native users since their control of the language is more restricted.  It is important for non-native users to choose the vocabulary words that are going to empower their "word base" needed for both written and oral communication skills.

 The last important aspect is about the consequential effect that a person's "word power" has on them. In other words, the foundation of your current "word power" that you possess right now, says a lot about who you are as a unique person. This might sound strange to you, but let's see why "word power" has such an effect on us.

Whenever you want to express yourself, either in written form or orally, you need to choose words from your actual repertoire of vocabulary that you possess in your current "word power" base. Concepts and ideas are expressed by using vocabulary words. Therefore, how you choose to put words together in order to say what you mean, unveils the real person that you are as of that moment. You are constantly changing every day with new experiences that you are living; and accordingly, your "word power" base is also continually readapting to those changes.

Your "word power" reveals your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, perspectives, and opinions which are all part of who you are as a person. No two persons have the same "word power"; and for this reason, no two people are alike nor express themselves in the same way. Each person has their own particular speech patterns which reveal their true personality. And speech patterns are derived from the "word power" that you currently dominate. Obviously then, your choice of words, how you arrange them, and how you say them, all reveal your personality.

Let's look at the following video for an example of how one story can be told in two different ways. Each storyline is basically the same except for the ending and for the tone that is implicated by the different music used in both stories. The difference in music establishes a contrasting mood and interpretation of what actually happens. Think of the first storyline as Person A, and the second storyline as Person B. No words are spoken in either of these two stories, but watch the complete video before reading the following explanation.

What you have seen are two people's different versions of what really took place. If the first storyline were actually put into words, Person A would describe it with their own set of specific wording using a mysterious tone as illustrated by the music. However, Person B would elaborate their story in a much happier tone, as enhanced by the music in the second plot. The endings of each of these two stories would be told differently by Person A and Person B based on the different scenes indicated at the end of each storyline.

Let's get back to the issue of "word power". A verbal or written description of what actually happens in each of these stories would contain a different arrangement of words based on Person A's and Person B's thoughts, feelings, attitudes, perspectives, and opinions. No two persons use the same exact set of words in order to describe what really happens in a given event. This is the consequential effect that a person's "word power" has on them. Perceptions are never the same between two different individuals. Persons A and B in this example would reveal their different personalities according to their choice of words, speech patterns, and intonations that they use. Hence, "word power" helps to shape who you are.

Now let's recap the main aspects of "word power" from the point of view of a second language learner of English. "Word power" is like a computer's database of certain information; and in the case of a language learner, it is a person's entire listing of vocabulary words that they have memorized and know how to use correctly. Words have five different kinds of power including inherent, visual, detectable, discernible, and influential. These powers enable a language user to reveal their thinking, sensitivity, behavior, way of looking at things, and beliefs about all aspects of their personal and professional life.

Since English language vocabulary is so extensive and varied, an individual has a multitude of options when choosing a word to include in a statement or a question. Not only that, but a speaker of English can add stress, intonation, and inflection to a word (or words) in order to convey different meanings. Even a writer can choose words that convey a colloquial, informal, or formal message. The sky is the limit in order to choose wording that conveys what and how you want to say or write something.

With the ever-changing characteristic of new English language vocabulary words, a second language student has an endless job of finding ways to strengthen their "word power" so that it meets the modern challenges of today's world. For example, the Internet has made it much easier to learn new vocabulary words instead of using a physical dictionary book like in the past. An English language learner has unlimited language learning resources available to them, more than ever before. With discipline and enthusiasm, you can increase your daily "word power" in order to meet the demands and choices you make in your everyday life. Your personal "word power" gives you the ability to control your present and future life, and obviously helps to mold your individuality.