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Hi, I have a question about the sentences and their contexts in (1) and (2) (contexts are in italics).

I'd like to know whether or not each sentence is good under the contexts given. (The a-contexts are related to direct perception, while the b-contexts are related to report or hearsay.)

I guess (1a) and (2a) are good but (2b) is bad. But I can't tell whether (1b) is good or not.

This is just my intuition as a non-native speaker so I'm really not sure, which is why I thought I'd ask.

(You might think there're better alternative sentences, but I have to examine these sentences in particular.)

Thank you in advance.


(1a)

John works at a nursery school. Children are currently watching an MLB game on TV, and he sees boys getting excited and imitating players’ moves. John says:

Every boy seems like he wants to be a professional baseball player.


(1b)

Mary works at a nursery school. Children are currently watching an MLB game on TV, and she sees boys getting excited and imitating players’ moves. She then gets a phone call from John, and reports to him how the boys are doing. Then John says as a reply:

Every boy seems like he wants to be a professional baseball player.


(2a)

John and Mary are in a meeting, listening to presentations by other committee members. But for some reason, their voice sounds different from usual. Then John says to Mary:

Everyone sounds like they have a blocked nose.


(2b)

Mary just finished a meeting. In the meeting, she listened to presentations by other committee members. But for some reason, their voice sounded different from usual. Mary calls John to tell him the topics the members discussed, mentioning that the members sounded different from usual. Hearing this, John says:

Everyone sounds like they had a blocked nose.


[Note: I'm aware that there's a debate on whether we should use a plural pronoun to refer to noun phrases modified by "every".]

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Sentences 1a and 1b are not natural to an American English speaker.

Sentences 2a and 2b are fine, but I would say a "stuffy nose".

Comments  
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YukiKanda(You might think there're better alternative sentences, but I have to examine these sentences in particular.)

If they are no good, they are not really sentences, so I don't understand this. Just telling you "good" or "bad" will not help you much. I am inclined to propose revisions if only to illustrate whatever problems I see. You must admit that goodness and badness are quite broad criteria.

YukiKandaEvery boy seems like he wants to be a professional baseball player.

This is unremarkable colloquial English. If I were writing in a formal context, I would not be happy with applying "seem" to the boys. Strictly speaking, each boy doesn't seem like he wants it, it seems like each boy wants it, "It seems like every boy wants to be a professional baseball player." But that may just be my hair-splitting nature.

YukiKandaEvery boy seems like he wants to be a professional baseball player.

I don't like this so much because John can't see them. He can't really comment on every boy. He could say my revision above, but I would expect "It sounds like …" in place of "It seems like …" because he is commenting on her report.

YukiKanda John and Mary are in a meeting, listening to presentations by other committee members. But for some reason, their voices sound different from usual. Then John says to Mary:
YukiKandaEveryone sounds like they have a blocked nose.

Good. See, I did it.

YukiKandaEveryone sounds like they had a blocked nose.

Same problem as with the boys. John can't hear them. Also, they are not talking now. If she describes the sound well, he could say "It sounds like everyone had a blocked nose."

YukiKanda[Note: I'm aware that there's a debate on whether we should use a plural pronoun to refer to noun phrases modified by "every".]

I would say that that debate is about using singular "they".

Anonymous, thank you so much for your detailed explanation. That really helps!

AlpheccaStars, thank you for your reply.

Anonymous's answer got me thinking about something, but do you accept 2b in the reading of "It sounds like everyone had a stuffy nose"?

I just thought 2b might be ambiguous between this interpretation and "That's perhaps because every had a stuffy nose" (although in the second interpretation the sentence must be "Everyone sounded like they had a stuffy nose" ).

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YukiKandaAnonymous's answer got me thinking about something, but do you accept 2b in the reading of "It sounds like everyone had a stuffy nose"?

Yes.

AlpheccaStarsYes.

Thank you!