soldiers don't go there but sailors do

Discussion in 'English Only' started by azz, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. azz Senior Member

    armenian
    a. Soldiers do not go to that bar but sailors do.
    b. Doctors do not use these equations but engineers do.

    c. Cats do not attack big rats but dogs do.


    I think in (a) it is obvious that only some sailors go to that bar and not all sailors.

    It seems to me that (b) does not necessarily imply that all engineers use these equations.

    Does (c) imply that all dogs attack big rats?

    Many Thanks.
    Azz.
     
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    >> Does (c) imply that all dogs attack big rats?

    No.
     
  3. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    This isn't really a question of language. Based on experience, we know that there are many sailors so they would not all go to one bar. We know that there are many types of engineers so they would not all use the same equations. Most of us don't know much about dog psychology, though. Are dogs likely to share the instinct of attacking rats? Maybe, maybe not. I agree with Beryl that sentence (c), taken as a language unit with no context, does not necessarily imply that all dogs attack big rats - but many people would take it to mean that, because they will think that it reflects a characteristic that dogs share.
     
  4. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    When you see a statement of <no article><plural noun>+ <verb> + <something/attribute> it really means, "As a generality/In general, <no article><plural noun>+ <verb>"

    "Swans are white." = "As a generality/In general, Swans are white." because we know there are black swans.
    "Dogs have 4 legs." = "As a generality/In general, Dogs have 4 legs." because we know that some dogs have lost a leg and only have three legs.
    "Birds fly." = "As a generality/In general, birds fly." because we know ostriches and penguins do not fly.

    etc.
     
  5. azz Senior Member

    armenian
    A big 'thanks' to all of you!

    I think I agree with all that has been said here. In general statements such the ones in my question are general statements, but there are cases when they function otherwise. I wanted to find cases where they did so.

    Take the following conversation:

    You are worried about you dog getting a cancer, but not your chameleon.
    Well, that is because dogs do get cancer, but chameleons don't. (I do not know if that statement is scientifically valid or not. I am just interested in the grammar of it.)

    If one interprets that sentence literally, one would conclude that it means all dogs get cancer. But I think the sentence works in that conversation and it means 'dogs can get cancer'. I am not sure it would work in formal English.

    Your verdict?

    Many Thanks.
    Azz.
     
  6. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    Well, that is because dogs do get cancer, but chameleons don't. => Dogs can get cancer + chameleons never get cancer

    I think it's a slightly futile exercise to attempt to consider language in isolation from the world in which it evolved. As JungKim observed, 'language is not math', and amusingly enough, even if it were, we'd still find it pointing back at the world of cats, dogs, and chameleons. But it's fun to pretend.
     
  7. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    But I think there is a linguistic rule here. When we use a plural without the definite article, we do not (unless we indicate otherwise) include strictly all members, we discuss the typical example. There is a difference between "cats" and "all cats". There are many ways to indicate otherwise: for example, if we are making up rules we sometimes assume, as a matter of natural justice, that they will apply to everyone. Visitors must not pass this point.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    To be a little more accurate, I would say that "Dogs get cancer" = All dogs can get cancer.
     

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