Students are rummaging the book to look for the answer.

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EnglishBug

Senior Member
Chinese
In our last class, the professor asked us a question and said he would reward those who could answer the question. Then all of us began to look through the textbook hastily, trying to find the answer. I am wondering how to describe what we did. Are the following sentences OK? Thanks.

"The students are looking through the textbook hastily, trying to find the answer."

"The students are rummaging through the textbook, trying to find the answer."
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I would be inclined to use the verb peruse in this case.
    peruse /pəˈruːz/
    vb (transitive)
    1.to read or examine with care; study
    2.to browse or read through in a leisurely way
    The students' action here is neither careful nor leisurely.

    'Rummaging' suggests rooting through a lot of physical objects, be it lumber in a store room or papers on a desk.

    I would say, e.g., 'leafing hurriedly through the book' or 'hastily leafing through the text'.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    In our last class, the professor asked us a question and said he would reward those who could answer the question. Then all of us began to look through the textbook hastily, trying to find the answer. I am wondering how to describe what we did. Are the following sentences OK? Thanks.

    "
    The students are looking through the textbook hastily, trying to find the answer."

    "
    The students are rummaging through the textbook, trying to find the answer."

    Both are grammatically OK, but what context do you want to use the sentence in?
    Using the present tense suggests you are describing something you can see now to someone who cannot see it. If you want to describe what you did (past tense) then you need to use past tense (were) in your sentence.
    Also the adverb "hastily" can be omitted or, if included, would be better placed after the verb it relates to:

    "
    The students are looking hastily through the textbook, trying to find the answer."

    "
    The students are rummaging hastily through the textbook, trying to find the answer.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I agree with wandle that "to rummage through" would involved a bunch of physical objects, and doesn't really apply to paging through a book.

    In American English, I'd probably say "... paging frantically through their textbooks".
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I agree with wandle that "to rummage through" would involved a bunch of physical objects, and doesn't really apply to paging through a book.

    In American English, I'd probably say "... paging frantically through their textbooks".
    Or, even less formally, "...flipping frantically through their textbooks."
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'Frantic' seems to me to be overdoing it. There would be no time to take anything in.
    Now, if you had left a banknote between the pages, you could flip through frantically and still find it.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't want to be too esoteric, but the first word that came to mind that had a sense of hurried search about it was "rifle": "The students rifled through their textbooks, trying o find the answer."
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I was quite pleased with the example, "The students are rummaging through the textbook, trying to find the answer." as a good use of English.

    To rummage often does involve material objects moving about but this is by no means essential: OED
    1864 J. H. Burton Scot Abroad I. v. 305, I am inclined to concur in Pasquier's silence, having rummaged his ‘Recherches de la France’.

    1975 Gen. Syst. 20 108/1 The search for causes must first rummage the material factors, not the social-organizational or ideological factors.
    A search for rummage in the BNC will provide many more examples.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I was quite pleased with the example, "The students are rummaging through the textbook, trying to find the answer." as a good use of English.
    To rummage often does involve material objects moving about but this is by no means essential: OEDA search for rummage in the BNC will provide many more examples.
    Certainly, it may be used in a metaphorical as well as a literal sense.
    However, Paulq's examples do involve two elements not present in the situation of the original post.

    (1) What is being rummaged through is expressed as a plural ('Recherches' and 'factors').
    (2) The action is not hasty: and in fact, in the metaphorical sense, haste is, if not excluded, at least unlikely.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I agree with wandle that "to rummage through" would involve a bunch of physical objects...
    That is not what I said, actually.
    'Rummaging' suggests rooting through a lot of physical objects
    'Suggest' does not mean 'require', whereas 'involve' does.

    We may say that in the literal sense, 'rummage' involves going through a lot of physical objects, whereas in the metaphorical sense it suggests doing so.
     
    Last edited:

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    ...Then all of us began to look through the textbook hastily...
    "The students are riffling through the textbook hastily, trying to find the answer."

    "The students are rummaging through the textbooks, trying to find the answer."

    Do all the students have the same textbook? And do all the students have only the one textbook each? If so then rummaging is not as appropriate as looking or riffling.
    However, there are many students and thus a number of books, so the overall impression of the class would still be one of people rummaging.

    << Changed formatting to put altered sentences outside of quotation, to avoid possible confusion. >>
     
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