Grammar Guru: He’s always leaving his dirty socks on the floor

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Is this good English or bad English?


7 Responses

  1. Hi Phil, one of my students was asking me about this, and I read it out to him in the right tone of voice.

    He always leaves his dirty socks on the floor.
    He’s always leaving his dirty socks on the floor!

    Then we made a series of sentences about what bugs us (was uns ärgert), and what we complain about (worüber wir uns beklagen), and had a good laugh.

    Do any of you readers have a pet peeve, something that raises your blood pressure every time it happens? This example is mine 😉

  2. I like the way you taught this in class. Now I’m trying to think of other ways in which we use grammar for ironic effect.

  3. Hi Mark,

    I don’t really think this is ironic. Using the present continuous to express frustration or anger or exasperation (Frust, Genervtsein, Erbitterung) – it seems to be negative emotions, mostly, or can you think of situations where you would use it to express joy? – seems to open us up. That would be much too ‘dangerous’ if we were being ironic.

    Your idea is totally intriguing. The shortest ironic phrase in my book is “Right.”
    Modals could express irony… and sarcasm.
    “Of course. You would have to go and tell him!”
    “You could have tried harder, you know.”
    “Oh. I should have known.”
    “I might have been a little late, but, hey…”
    We use over-the-top indirectness for irony, I think, don’t we?

    But for irony the grammar itself is not enough, any of those phrases could be read ‘straight’. That’s why we use emoticons, right, or formatting. So intonation is key.

  4. It’s bad English to leave your dirty socks on the floor, i tell my kids ALWAYS put them in the dirty washing basket.
    Do they listen?
    I think it’s bad in other nations too.

  5. Hehe: both complaining and hectoring (einschüchtern) are forms of “bad” English, even if you get the grammar 100% right!

    Men drop socks, women drop shoes, according to my inofficial studies. Shoes hurt more when you stumble over them barefoot. So perhaps I should just… stop complaining!

  6. Final tally:

    He’s always leaving his dirty socks on the floor

    * This is good English (80%, 12 votes)
    * This is bad English (20%, 3 votes)

    Total voters: 15

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