doesn't mean you have to go this far?

u-1

Senior Member
Japanese
Dear my teachers,

I have a question.

The ohter day, I made this sentence:

(1) Because I made one mistake,itdoesn't mean you have to go this far.

Then my American friend said I have to drop the subject "it".

(2) Becasue I made one mistake, doesn't mean you have to go this far.

I asked him why, but he just said that's how people say it.

I really want to know why my sentence (1) is wrong, and (2) is acceptable.

Please help me understand why I have to ommit the subject "it".

Thank you in advance.
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm afraid I don't like either of your sentences, U-1, because of your use of the because-clause.

    1. Because I made one mistake, it doesn't mean you have to go this far.

    Turn it round to make the difficulty clearer: it doesn't mean you have to go this far, because I made one mistake. This has us wondering what the it refers to. On the face of it the sentence means Something that you said earlier doesn't imply that you have to go this far because of my one mistake. I don't think that is what you wish to say. I think you wish to say The fact that I've made one mistake doesn't mean that you have to go this far.

    2. Because I made one mistake doesn't mean you have to go this far.

    Here you are trying to make an adverbial clause, because I made one mistake, into a noun clause, the subject of your sentence. You need a noun clause as the subject of the sentence, maybe a noun clause like the fact that I've made one mistake.

    So, you can see that I think you should rephrase the sentence to something like The fact that I've made one mistake doesn't mean that you have to go this far.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Both would be improved with 'just because' instead of 'because'. This gives a meaning more like "although" - you're not really giving a reason for something, but saying that although one thing is true, it doesn't mean another thing is. The 'just because' phrase can be the subject, in which case the verb follows directly (no comma):

    (2') Just because I made one mistake doesn't mean you have to go this far.

    Or it can be an adjunct (an additional phrase at the beginning), with an empty 'it' as subject:

    (1') Just because I made one mistake, it doesn't mean you have to go this far.

    Both are equally natural to me. (Except that I don't know what 'go this far' refers to - but that doesn't affect the grammar of the rest of it.)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Interesting, Entangled.

    I don't like either of those suggestions, for the reasons I gave. I wouldn't accept Although I made one mistake doesn't mean you have to go this far either.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I'm afraid I don't like either of your sentences, U-1, because of your use of the because-clause.

    1. Because I made one mistake, it doesn't mean you have to go this far.

    Turn it round to make the difficulty clearer: it doesn't mean you have to go this far, because I made one mistake. This has us wondering what the it refers to. On the face of it the sentence means Something that you said earlier doesn't imply that you have to go this far because of my one mistake. I don't think that is what you wish to say. I think you wish to say The fact that I've made one mistake doesn't mean that you have to go this far.


    Hmmm.. this is a common everyday use of "it doesn't mean" to me. I wouldn't use it in an academic paper but this is conversational English.

    "Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should." This is a common expression in American English
    "Just because I don't say 'I love you' every five minutes, it doesn't mean I love you less."


    Here's an entire paper on the construction: :)

    http://faculty.washington.edu/ebender/papers/bender_kathol01.pdf

    It classifies this construction as an idiom.
    "
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hmmm.. this is a common everyday use of "it doesn't mean" to me. I wouldn't use it in an academic paper but this is conversational English.

    "Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should." This is a common expression in American English
    "Just because I don't say 'I love you' every five minutes, it doesn't mean I love you less."


    Here's an entire paper on the construction: :)

    http://faculty.washington.edu/ebender/papers/bender_kathol01.pdf

    It classifies this construction as an idiom.
    "
    That's an interesting article, James. Thank you for it.

    The writers seem to me to take the view that because people say it means it's idiomatic, i.e. correct. I don't think that necessarily makes it grammatical, so I don't think my sentence previous to this one is grammatical. I like my writing and speech to be grammatical, which is why I, in normal circumstances, avoid the construction.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Do you avoid all idioms for the same reason?

    I don't think it argues that it is correct, only that it is idiomatic. There are many idioms that are not grammatical. In fact, isn't that a common distinguishing feature of idioms?

    As I said, I wouldn't use it in a formal setting, or even a busienss setting, but I would have no problem using it in an email to a friend.
     
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    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I think "idiomatic" means something most like "characteristic of a language as it is used by a certain population." So it has nothing to do with "grammatical correctness," but with whether or not most speakers in a population would feel that saying it was "natural" or "everyday" - as we know, since "ain't" and "come hell or high water" are idiomatic and ungrammatical, just as "the beaches on which I used to walk along" is unidiomatic and ungrammatical (it's unidiomatic because it's ungrammatical).

    This "Just because X (it) doesn't mean Y" is overwhelmingly common in AE. The best transliteration of that structure into other Englishes is the one proposed by TT: "The (mere) fact that X alone doesn't imply/mean that Y." But the best way to understand the situation is that "just because" is making a precise subordination in an idiomatic manner. Grammar doesn't enter into the question.

    I submit to TT that, if most people understand him when he talks and writes, he does so both grammatically and idiomatically. It is of course possible to be entirely grammatical and entirely unidiomatic (like a philosophy article, or Proust). I just think we should avoid assigning hard-and-fast values to any of these terms and thus privileging one over the other, because then we get in the way of giving ourselves a rich and dynamic variety of means of expression. I mean, Joyce is ungrammatical and unidiomatic, and that's why he's brilliant. Wilde, on the other hand, is idiomatic above all else - even if his writing consists of things that you would never ever say by yourself that sound and feel exactly like things that you would say - and that's why he's brilliant.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We do run into this problem occasionally. There's the danger that various forms of ungrammatical speech, because common, will be regarded as something we should endorse. A large number of BE speakers say 'I have went to Kilmarnock', but I'd not recommend the form to learners here, just because it's used by a large number of BE speakers. We are dealing here, I think, with a matter of degree rather than of kind.

    Having said that, I don't think it's a bad thing for learners to be familiar with commonly-used non-grammatical forms, and for us to discuss them seriously, and that means, in particular, indicating the usual register in which they are used.

    I realise that some of the members posting here are doing just that.

    Looking back at my first post, #3, I see that it doesn't use very extreme language; it doesn't say that I regard the expression as a savage abomination. I think I couched my distaste moderately enough, saying that I didn't like the expression, explaining why, and making a suggestion about possible rephrasing.

    I suspect the form may be as common in BE as it is in AE. I've certainly come across it before, and disliked it for a good many years.

    And no, I don't avoid all idioms for the same reason.
     
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