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Dear teachers,

Here is another series of alternative answers. Are they grammatically correct ?

III/ One afternoon Chris and I went up the valley to the gold workings to search out wood for the boat he was planning. A century BEFORE (“before” here is an adverb or a preposition ?), the upper valley 1) a) HAD BEEN / b) WAS well populated with men looking for gold and above the stream bed we came upon a collection of derelict huts and their complicated arrangement of wooden parapets and sluices.
We worked on a sluice run until we 2) a) COULD FREE / b) WERE ABLE TO FREE (may be not “BE ABLE TO” since they could do it with EASE ?) its boards with ease, digging to loosen the framework from the earth. Then Chris stopped and stood up, he held in his hand a long tapered bone from which he shook the remaining traces of soil. “What's this ?” Leaning forward, he pointed the bone 3) a) AT / b) TO my chest; he 4) a) WAS FROWNING / b) FROWNED heavily. “You 5) a) ARE CONDEMNED / b) WILL BE CONDEMNED to take this boat we build and sail in her to the west for all eternity,” he said, and I said, “Don't joke, what kind of animal is it anyway ?”
We scraped at the earth at the base of the frame and came upon other bones, they 6) a) WERE LAID OUT / b) WERE LAYING OUT / c) HAD BEEN LAYING OUT (?) in a pattern that twisted in under the frame posts, and after a while Chris said, “I think it's a man. Maybe the miners 7) a) BURIED / b) HAD BURIED people alive under their buildings for luck, like the Melanesians.” But the skeleton was too large to be human, the bones of the legs were exceptionally long and AS (= subordinating conjunction ?) we uncovered more of it, we could see that the creature had a thin, curved neck like a swan, but much longer and more powerful. Then I said, “It's a moa.” We both stopped digging and sat back from the skeleton. “We shouldn't move it,” I said and Chris said, “But who is there to show it to ?” We sat and looked at the bones for a while, a little afraid aware that the great bird had remained undisturbed for a thousand years. Then Chris said that we 8) a) SHOULD COLLECT / b) OUGHT TO COLLECT the bones and take them to the house where we 9) a) COULD PIECE / b) WOULD BE ABLE TO PIECE the skeleton together again, it would be safer there though safer 10) a) AGAINST / b) THAN (?) what he 11) a) DID NOT SAY / b) WOULD NOT SAY.

A thousand thanks,
Hela
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Comments  
Here is a possibility, (including a couple of punctuation changes). There's one or two places where each of your alternatives seems viable:

One afternoon Chris and I went up the valley to the gold workings to search out wood for the boat he was planning. A century before, the upper valley HAD BEEN well populated with men looking for gold. Above the streambed, we came upon a collection of derelict huts and their complicated arrangement of wooden parapets and sluices.
We worked on a sluice run until we WERE ABLE TO FREE its boards with ease, digging to loosen the framework from the earth. Then Chris stopped and stood up. He held in his hand a long tapered bone from which he shook the remaining traces of soil. “What's this?” Leaning forward, he pointed the bone AT my chest. FROWNING heavily, he said, “You ARE CONDEMNED to take this boat we build and sail her westward for all eternity.” I said, “Don't joke. What kind of animal is it anyway?”
We scraped at the earth at the base of the frame and came upon other bones. They WERE LAID OUT / HAD BEEN LAID OUT in a pattern that twisted in under the frame posts. After a while Chris said, “I think it's a man. Maybe the miners BURIED people alive under their buildings for luck, like the Melanesians.” But the skeleton was too large to be human. The bones of the legs were exceptionally long. AS we uncovered more of the bones, we could see that the creature had a thin, curved neck like a swan, though much longer and more powerful. Then I said, “It's a moa.” We both stopped digging and sat back from the skeleton. “We shouldn't move it,” I said. And Chris said, “But who is there to show it to?” We sat, a little afraid, and looked at the bones for a while, aware that the great bird had remained undisturbed for a thousand years. Then Chris said that we SHOULD/OUGHT TO collect the bones and take them to the house where we COULD PIECE the skeleton together again. It would be safer there. Though safer THAN what, he DID NOT/ WOULD NOT say.
Thank you Davkett for your answer.

1) a) Would you please tell me though why in 1) "WAS populated" can't be used ?
b) Is "before" in "A century before" an adverb of time ?

2) Would you please tell me why "pointed TO my chest" is wrong ? Do we use "point to" in other contexts?

3) in 7) why "HAD BURIED" is incorrect ?

4) "as" in "But the skeleton was too large to be human, the bones of the legs were exceptionally long and AS we uncovered more of it, we could see that the creature had a thin, curved neck like a swan, but much longer and more powerful." is a subordinating conjunction indicating time ?

5) "we COULD SEE (and not WERE ABLE TO SEE ?) that the creature had a thin, curved neck like a swan, but much longer and more powerful. Then I said, “It's a moa.” We both stopped digging and sat back from the skeleton. “We a) SHOULDN'T / b) MUSTN'T MOVE it,” I said and Chris said, “But who is there to show it to ?”

6) Are both prepositions correct in 8) "We should / ought to collect the bones and take them a) TO / b) INTO the house"?

7) In 9) are "could piece" and "would be able to piece" correct ? And what about "MIGHT PIECE"?

Thanks a million,
Hela

PS: MrP may I have your opinion too, please?
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You're welcome.

But I'm not a professional grammarian, so I'm not able to explain the technical reasons for the choices I made. There are many contibutors to this site who can explain their own choices, such as Mr Pedantic, whom you've invited to respond.

I think 'was populated' and 'had been laid out' and 'had buried' and 'to the house' and 'into the house' and 'might piece' are all grammatically legitimate. To me, these options have only slightly different connotations, and definitive choices probably can't be made without the full context of your story.

I was hoping, too, to see other responders to your text, whether they agree with my choices or not. Getting this post back to the top might flush out the experts.
Dear Davkett,

Would it be asking too much from you to explain the different connotations these alternatives have ?

Kind regards,
Hela
I'll try.

The past perfect tense of 'had been populated' suggests that the area is no longer well populated, giving the reader an impression that the area is now abandoned. That impression seems to fit the intended atmosphere of your story.

'Pointed the bone to my chest' puts emphasis on your chest, where 'pointed the bone at my chest' emphasizes the pointing action itself.

'Had buried' sounds wrong, but I don't know how to explain it. Maybe because the bones were still buried when they were found. Same goes for 'were laid out', that is, they were found in the same condition as originally arranged by the miners of old.

'Able to see' suggests that they had the capacity to see, (good eyesight), where 'could see' means they actually perceived the character of what they were viewing. It's a little bit different from the earlier 'could free/were able to free' (the boards with ease) in that, though freeing up the boards was apparently accomplished with ease, 'able to' emphasizes the capabilty required to do it with ease.

'Shoudn't move it' simply suggests concern for possible consequences, where 'Must not move it' suggests fear of grave (no pun intended) consequences. It depends on the intensity you want.

'Into the house' is too specific, placing the piecing together of the bones inside the house. But I don't know where this house is. It didn't seem like you were referring to one of the derelict huts. So 'to the house' suggests that Chris wants to transport the bones out of the area, which he feels is an unsafe place. 'To the house' implies, in this interpretation, 'take them home to work on them in the house.'

I wouldn't advise the use of 'might piece' because it sounds like... 'if we're motivated enough, we might try to piece them together'. I don't think there is any doubt about their intention.

Sorry not to be able to give better reasons.
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Dear Davket,

On the contrary, your explanations are very helpful indeed. Thank you very much for your help.

Best regards,
Hela
Dear Davkett and all the other teachers,

Some more questions if you wouldn't mind.
One afternoon Chris and I went up the valley to the gold workings to search out wood for the boat he was planning. A century BEFORE (“before” here is an adverb or a preposition ?), the upper valley 1) a) HAD BEEN / b) WAS well populated with men looking for gold


1) In "A century before" is before here an adverb of time or an adjective in a postpositive position ?

2) In 1) you preferred "HAD BEEN populated" to "WAS populated"; but could "WAS populated" still be used or is it improper ?
“What's this ?” Leaning forward, he pointed the bone 3) a) AT / b) TO my chest; he 4) a) WAS FROWNING / b) FROWNED heavily. “You 5) a) ARE CONDEMNED / b) WILL BE CONDEMNED to take this boat we build and sail in her to the west for all eternity,” he said, and I said, “Don't joke, what kind of animal is it anyway ?”


3) In 4) Could "WAS FROWNING" and "FROWNED heavily" both be used or not? If yes, what's the difference between them?

4) Same question for 5) i.e. a) ARE CONDEMNED and b) WILL BE CONDEMNED.

I would appreciate if you could give me an answer as soon as possible (to this post and to post entitled "alternative answers 1"). Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

Best regards,
Hela
I believe most, if not all, of my choices had to do more with appropriateness rather than grammatical correctness. Though I may not be qualified to say it, I believe, writers in any language recognize that statements can be grammatically correct or feasible and at the same time be less appropriate than other grammatically correct or feasible options.
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