it's a wrong observation

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Let's imagine an online conversation between two people (Mr A and Mrs B):

A: I can see that your English has much improved since the last time we talked
B: You're being very kind, so thank you, but I'm afraid it's a wrong observation.

Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:
observation/ɒbzəˈveɪʃn/
▶noun
  • 1 the action or process of closely observing or monitoring.
(...)

  • 4 a comment based on something one has seen, heard, or noticed.
Here the word "observation", as I understand it, is used in the 4th sense. I would like to know if using it in in such context as the one given above is fine.

But if it isn't, I'd be grateful if you could suggest some better, more idiomatic terms that could replace the bolded phrase in italics.
 
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  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    'wrong' can have an accusatory tone. I suggest 'inaccurate'. EDITED to correct a typographical error

    However I would say "...but I'm afraid it's not true."
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Well, it's a bit too big a word for a casual conversation but other than that, it's fine. In a regular conversation, I'd be more likely to use the word "impression".

    it's a wrong impression.

    Also, "though" is out of place in your sentence and and I'd reconsider the use of "must" :)
     

    papakapp

    Senior Member
    English - NW US
    Since the forum rules are sometimes very fussy :p I had to make another thread, similar to the previous one, but this time a much more specific (which I hope will satisfy the mods).

    Let's imagine an online conversation between two people (Mr A and Mrs B):

    A: I can see that your English has much improved since the last time we talked
    B: You're being very kind though, so I must thank you, but I'm afraid it's a wrong observation.


    Here the word "observation", as I understand it, is used in the 4th sense. I would like to know if using it in in such context as the one given above is fine.

    But if it isn't, I'd be grateful if you could suggest some better, more idiomatic terms that could replace the bolded phrase in italics.
    I can't think of a single instance where we would conjoin "wrong" with an indefinite article. I can't say that it's wrong. But it is virtually unheard of. One would expect to hear "the wrong observation" or "an incorrect observation" Why don't we have "a wrong observation"? I have no clue.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can't think of a single instance where we would conjoin "wrong" with an indefinite article. I can't say that it's wrong. But it is virtually unheard of. One would expect to hear "the wrong observation" or "an incorrect observation" Why don't we have "a wrong observation"? I have no clue.
    Either I've misunderstood - very possible - or this is astonishing. Don't Americans ever take a wrong turning, then? There are 988 (that's a lot) of examples of a wrong in the COCA, and nearly 2,000,0000 on Google, of which many will be duplicates, of course, but still...
     

    papakapp

    Senior Member
    English - NW US
    Either I've misunderstood - very possible - or this is astonishing. Don't Americans ever take a wrong turning, then? There are 988 (that's a lot) of examples of a wrong in the COCA, and nearly 2,000,0000 on Google, of which many will be duplicates, of course, but still...
    hmm... I guess you're right.
    Well then all I can say is "a wrong observation" still sounds wrong, but I can't explain why.
     
    Yes, I agree with you. Observations can be accurate or inaccurate but not right or wrong.
    OK, so I guess they cannot be incorrect/correct either?

    It's interesting, because in Polish we informally say that someone's observation is incorrect/wrong when it's result or its implications are false.

    So, in the example I gave before it's not that the observation itself is wrong, but its conclusion is, ie. B's command of English has not actually improved.

    Of course, it's not something that would often occur in a casual conversation, but it isn't something that is "absolutely prohibited by the sacred rules of the Polish language", so to speak ;)

    And what I'm curious about, is whether the phrase such as "a wrong/an incorrect observation" is complely impermissible here. If it is, I'd like to learn from you, what other terms I could use, that would convey a similar meaning to the one I described.
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    OK, so I guess they cannot be incorrect/correct either?

    It's interesting, because in Polish we informally say that someone's observation is incorrect/wrong when it's result or its implications are false.

    So, in the example I gave before it's not that the observation itself is wrong, but its conclusion is, ie. B's command of English has not actually improved.

    Of course, it's not something that would often occur in a casual conversation, but it isn't something that is "absolutely prohibited by the sacred rules of the Polish language", so to speak ;)

    And what I'm curious about, is whether the phrase such as "a wrong/an incorrect observation" is complely disallowed here.
    I have changed my original answer because I typed 'incorrect' instead of 'inaccurate'. I agree with the others.

    If you say someone made a wrong observation, you are criticizing them for making the observation.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I see. So, what word could I use in that context from the 1st post instead of the "observation"?

    Is dreamlike's suggestion "it's a wrong impression" fine here?
    Well, there exist better ways of saying it, that's for sure, but I guess it's better than "it's a wrong observation".
    You're better off with "it's not true", as suggested by Biffo.
     
    Yes, but I just want to hear from the natives some more examples. I guess when you learn some language it's best to know as many equivalent ways of putting some idea as possible. ;)

    So, we have so far:
    A: I can see that your English has much improved since the last time we talked
    B: You're being very kind, so thank you, but I'm afraid it's a wrong observation/your impression is wrong/not true/???.

    Is there anything else that could be said and have a similar meaning in such situation?
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I have "rewritten" a part of the linguos' original post to make it easier to understand. I don't think I have changed the meaning.

    I think the new version is quite clear.

    Heavily Modified quote
    A. I can see that your English has much improved since the last time we talked
    B. You're being very kind, so thank you, but I'm afraid it's a wrong observation that's wrong. It hasn't improved.
    GF..

    Some words can get in the way of understanding.....
     
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    ThomasTompion said:
    Yes, I agree with you. Observations can be accurate or inaccurate but not right or wrong.
    I agree that this distinction is at the heart of the matter :thumbsup:
    OK, so earlier in this thread I was told by a few native speakers that in English observations cannot be correct/right or incorrect/wrong, ie. that "observation" means only the act of observing and not the result thereof. (at least, that's how I interpret these replies...)

    Yet today I notice another native speaker, who is renowned for being always very careful about his speech and who said something like this:
    Your observation is correct - the reader is not aware of how many shoes have been bought, or even if the shoes are in pairs (unless further sentences contain some information/context.)
    To me it sounds perfectly all right, but I thought that some of the previous posts in this thread stated clearly that such a (or similar) statement is completely unidiomatic in English and if used at all, then only by non-native speakers.

    I hope that you'll see why I feel completely lost at this point. :(
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Ah! there are (at least) two meanings to "observation" (i) the act of observing (ii) a remark or comment. I was using observation in the second sense.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ah! there are (at least) two meanings to "observation" (i) the act of observing (ii) a remark or comment. I was using observation in the second sense.
    But so was the OP in his first example. Or, at least, a good case could be made for "observation" being used in this sense.

    edit: cross-posted with linguos. I'm glad we agree, altough it might have something to do with the two of us being Poles...
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Ah (again)... my apologies. I saw your name and I saw "observations" and I thought this was an earlier thread (by you?) that also had questions on "observations."

    Your example is:
    A: I can see that your English has much improved since the last time we talked
    B: You're being very kind, so thank you, but I'm afraid it's a wrong observation.

    Here wrong observation = incorrect (comment by way of) deduction or = a faulty viewing of the evidence. The adjectives incorrect and faulty are much better in all the cases.

    Although I realise that you are creating an example, the style is also somewhat unnatural because wrong and observation do not collocate well.

    As I said in the earlier thread, a wrong observation would mainly be used as in, "I told you to look at the gas in tube B. You have made the wrong observation, you have been observing the flashing light!" (and even that sounds a little strange :))
     
    I'm not sure which other thread you are referring to but I'm happy with your explanation.

    So, if I understand it correctly, statements such as:

    - Your observation is correct.
    - Your observation is not correct
    - Your observation is incorrect.
    - Your observation is faulty.


    are all acceptable in English, right? It's only the adjective "wrong" which doesn't ring well with "observation"?

    I must admit it's hard for me to wrap my head around it as I though that "wrong" means basically the same as "incorrect", but I'll try to memorise this "rule".
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Think of it this way: Would you say "It's a right observation" (right being the opposite of wrong)? Maybe that will help you remember.

    "Wrong" also means unjust, dishonest or immoral, so that's why people think of wrong as a harsh or judgmental kind of word.

    "Incorrect" merely means mistaken or not factual; there are (generally) no morality issues associated with "incorrect."

    Hope that helps! :)
     
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