a proper English

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Sasha Ivanov

Senior Member
Russian
Why we can't say "He speaks a proper English"? It' is a proper noun. Or what is it?
We say "A happy John was standing by the door." Why not "a proper English"? A bad English, a poor English.
 
  • elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think the difference is that with John, you're describing his current state (as sound shift suggests).

    Similarly, you can say

    I came home to a war-torn Berlin. [You're describing the current state of Berlin (at the time).]

    But "English" in your context is not a thing that undergoes different states.

    When you say "He speaks proper English," you mean "He speaks the English language properly." You are not describing the current state of "English"; you are describing his command of English.
     

    Sasha Ivanov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "He speaks a poor English". Isn't that a current state that might change? Maybe I'm omitting "version". "A poor version of English"? "A poor example, specimen of English"?
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    If your original sentence,
    "He speaks a proper English"
    doesn't work,

    I don't see how this one
    "He speaks a poor English".
    can.

    You might argue in theory that it should work because "A happy John was standing by the door is possible" but it's not a sentence that would be said by people who speak the language.
    Isn't that a current state that might change?
    Logic doesn't enter into it. It's not used.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Some people might think that there is only one "proper" version of English (their version), but many, many poor ones (everyone else's versions).
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think it's not used because it's not needed. It's superfluous.

    He speaks a poor English. :thumbsdown:
    He speaks poor English. :thumbsup:


    It's needed in this context. There is no one named happy John. It needs to describe him.

    I encountered happy John when I met him at his office. :thumbsdown:
    I encountered a happy John when I met him at his office. :thumbsup:
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "He speaks a poor English". Isn't that a current state that might change?
    Spoken English is not a single entity (like John or Berlin). There are many, many individual iterations of it, so while this person’s command of English might change, we would not say that “English” as a whole were changing.
     
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