A box with a book(or books) in it

jakartaman

Senior Member
Korean
When someone asks "What's in the box?"

Does any of these four constructions sound unnatural to answer that?
1. A book is. (or Books are.)
2. A book is in it. (Books are in it.)
3. It's a book. (or They're books.)
4. There's a book. (or There are books.

#1 and #2 sound odd to me but look OK as far as grammar is concerned.
#3 and #4 seem to work fine.

Thank you for help :)
 
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I don't think either option in #3 works as a response to that question, but I suspect most native speakers would just say "A book" or "Books".
     

    jakartaman

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I don't think either option in #3 works as a response to that question, but I suspect most native speakers would just say "A book" or "Books".
    I'm looking for an answer in a complete sentence.
    So you mean that #4 will be the only good one out of those four?
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I'm looking for an answer in a complete sentence.
    So you mean that #4 will be the only good one out of those four?
    No: if you have to do the answer in the form of a complete sentence, then #4 is probably the most idiomatic, but either #1 or #2 would work.
     

    loghrat

    Senior Member
    British English / Danish
    I agree with DonnyB that the options are not natural English. As Donny says, native speakers would simple answer 'A book' or 'Books'.
    In my opinion, the only English sounding answer - if you have to have a sentence - is 'There is a book in the box' 'There are books in the box' - but that wouldn't normally be said.
     

    jakartaman

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Thank you, loghrat but ...

    But wouldn't you say "It's a ..." or "They are..." if someone asks, "Hey, what's in your hand?" or "What's on the table?"

    (Again, I'm looking for a complete sentence)
     

    loghrat

    Senior Member
    British English / Danish
    No, not always, jakartaman.
    I just noticed right now that my husband had something in his hand and I called out to him, "What's in your hand?" and he answered, "Money." (True story. There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth, as we say.)

    However, if someone asked, "What's that big parcel on the table?" the answer could be "It's a present for you."

    There must be a pattern here. Sorry I don't have time to try and work it out at the moment.
    Probably somebody else will let you know.
     

    jakartaman

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I really appreciate your help, loghart. :)

    I think I got the pattern.

    What is it in the box? or What is it on the table? .... It's a book.

    What's in the box? or What's on the table? .... A book (is).


    Hope it's right :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's as loghrat says: if the question contains "What's that" we answer with ''it's".
    What's that in the box? - It's a book.
    What's that on the table? - It's a book.

    I couldn't easily say a sentence of the type: "What is it in the box?" There would have to be a special reason for phrasing it like that.
     

    jakartaman

    Senior Member
    Korean
    It's as loghrat says: if the question contains "What's that" we answer with ''it's".
    What's that in the box? - It's a book.
    What's that on the table? - It's a book.

    I couldn't easily say a sentence of the type: "What is it in the box?" There would have to be a special reason for phrasing it like that.
    OK, so I should say "What's that in the box(or What's in the box)?" not "What is it in the box?" in a usual conversation. Thank you.
     
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