Viewpoints

Published: Thursday August 4, 2011 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday August 6, 2013 MYT 9:54:11 AM

Reason for the doubt

IS the phrase “... the reason is because ...” correct? I consulted two books and the first one said it was incorrect while the second one did not give a clear-cut answer.

The phrase is commonly used and even on Bloomberg TV, where it is one of the favourite phrases of one of the presenters on the economic desk at Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London. She is Asian, and the only presenter who seems to use the phrase. – Kee

There are two opinions on the use of “the reason is because” or “the reason ... is because”. Robert Burchfield, the editor of A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary (1986), in his revised 3rd edition (or rather rewriting) of Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1998), does not consider the expression standard English. What he has to say about this structure is interesting:

“Though often defended, the type the reason ... is because (instead of the reason ... is that) aches with redundancy, and is still inadmissible in standard English as it was when H.W. Fowler objected to it in 1926.” (p.100) and “... for the present at any rate, its absence from the works of our most talented writers and scholars is more significant than its presence in more informal printed work.” (p.656) [bolding mine]

The online Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has the same view, and under its entry for REASON has the following sentence as one of the examples, with “not standard” written before it:

“not standard The reason I walked out was because I was bored.”

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2004, revised 2009), however, has this note below its entry for REASON:

“Many people object to the constructions the reason why ... and the reason ... is because, and feel that the phrasing the reason that ... is more logical and elegant. However, all three expressions are generally accepted in standard English.”

I agree with Burchfield and the online CALD. The sentence in the CALD, “The reason I walked out was because I was bored.”, contains a redundancy. “Because” means “for the reason that”. So the sentence means: “The reason I walked out was for the reason that I was bored.” The phrase “for the reason” is obviously redundant. It would be better to write: “The reason I walked out was that I was bored.” Or, if we don’t want to focus on “the reason”, we can simply say: “I walked out because I was bored.”

Pronouncing ‘won’

1. May I know how to pronounce “won” (past tense of “win”)? Is there a British and American way of pronouncing this word? Some of my friends say it could be pronounced as “one” or “worn”.

2. Which sentence is correct: “Article 95 of the Company’s Articles of Association”; or “Article 95 of the Articles of Association of the Company”? – Curious

1. “Won” as the past tense and past participle of “win” is pronounced like “one” in both British and American English. If you go to the following web pages and click at the right places, you can hear the pronunciation:

www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/won

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/win

There is another word, though, also spelt “won”, which is the base form of an archaic verb meaning “dwell” or “abide”. This word is also pronounced like “one”, but has an alternative pronunciation that sounds like “waun”. This may be what your friends are referring to. You can hear the two pronunciations on the following web page:

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/won

2. You can write EITHER “Article 95 of the Company’s Articles of Association” OR “Article 95 of the Articles of Association of the Company”. If you do a search for “the Company’s Articles of Association” and “the Articles of Association of the Company” on the Internet, you will find a lot of companies using one phrase or the other. Some companies use both.

Let me quote from a website of the Rolls Royce company:

“Explanatory note of principal changes to the Company’s Articles of Association” (p.10)

“... subject to the restrictions contained in the Articles of Association of the Company....” (p.2)

Incorrect words

I refer to the article in the Sports section of The Star (July 18, p.5) entitled, “Relief for Rajagopal”.

1. “Rajagopal said he was happy to see Safee at his beat again.”

Shouldn’t the word beat be best?

2. “I was worried about fielding Safee as he had just recovered from an injury but he past the test with flying colours.”

Past should be passed?

3. “We didn’t caved in after the early penalty ...”

Caved should be cave. An infinitive should be used after “did”, shouldn’t it? – T. Sathyaseelan

You are correct on all three counts. “Beat” should have been “best”; “past” should have been “passed”, because a verb is needed here, and “past” is not a verb; and “caved” should have been “cave” for the reason you gave. Here, it is the negative form of the word “did” that is used, and the past tense verb is “didn’t cave”. Since “didn’t” is already in the past tense, “cave” does not have to indicate the past again.

Unreal situation

On the front page of The Star (July 11), there was a small headline which read, “If she was a dish” in reference to Thailand PM-designate Yingluck Shinawatra.

Since she can never be a dish, shouldn’t the verb “were” be more appropriate than “was” in the above context. – Felicia

In writing about an unreal situation using “if” with the “be” verb, “were” is often used instead of “was”. But “was” is acceptable as well, because the past tense indicates impossibility or unreality, although some people consider “was” to be less formal than “were”. Here are two examples of the use of “was” with “if” in respectable British newspapers:

“If Michael Phelps was a one-man nation, he would have stood at number five in the Beijing 2008 medal table as of Wednesday evening.” (telegraph.co.uk, Aug 13, 2008)

Carola Long: “If she was a young actress today, Grace Kelly wouldn’t dress as conservatively as she did in the Fifties” (independent.co.uk, April 10, 2010)

However, if the pronoun used is “I”, the use of “was” with “if” would sound much more informal. We usually say “If I were you ...”, not “If I was you ...”, although I have heard working-class English people use the latter expression.

‘Would’ not always for the past

Are the following sentences correct?

1. It would be great if he is coming. (At the time of talking)

(“would” and “is” are used, but “would” is in the past tense, isn’t it?)

2. Be careful when you walk.

3. Be careful when you are walking. – Ahmad

1. Since you are using an “if” clause, you need to use a past tense there with “would”, and write “It would be great if he came.” You write this when there is little possibility of his coming. But if there is a real possibility of his coming, you write: “It will be great if he comes.” If you are certain that he is coming, you write: “It’s great that he’s coming!”

“Would”, however, is not just used as the past tense of “will”. If you look up any advanced learner’s dictionary, you’ll find many different uses of “would”.

2 & 3. Both sentences are correct. Here are two excerpts from the Internet to illustrate their usage:

And you must learn to balance things

Upon your shiny nose;

And, Spitz, be careful when you walk,

To turn out well your toes.

(From a children’s song “Spitz’s Education” by Mrs Charles Heaton. Spitz is a dog.) www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/our-childrens-songs/our-childrens-songs%20-%200156.htm

“Perth and Kinross Council are responsible for clearing the snow from all these areas in Fairfield ... this has not happened ... Please be careful when you are walking or driving anywhere.” (Part of a New Year greeting from a housing cooperative to residents.)

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle

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