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Hi,everyone. When we ask others what their preference is, we ask, "Which do you like better, A or B?" My question is: Can we change reorganize the sentence and say "A or B, which do you like better?" Are these two variations both allowed in English?I mean, Can they be used interchangeably?

This morning I came up with this question when I was proofreading the final test papers set by my colleague. She wrote in the directions for the last part of the test:

Education should be equally devoted to enriching the personal lives of students and to training students to be productive workers.” Do you agree or disagree with the statement? Personal enrichment or job preparation, which do you think is more important? Write an essay of about 350 words to explain your position. You should supply an appropriate title for your essay. (40%)

Personally, I don't think the underlined sentence reads well. Besides, I reckon that "Do you agree with the statement" suffices and there is no need to add"or disagree" to the question.

I would appreciate it if you could give me your views on these questions.

Thanks.
Richard
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Hi,

I believe both versions are quite common, but I'd be inclined to use a dash in the second.

I think the underlined section reads well.

While "disagree" may not be necessary, some people may feel that "to disagree" is a stronger position that "to not agree."

Hopefully the teacher knows her students and what she hopes to achieve by the test. She may or may not wish to make understanding spare instructions a part of the test. Tests make some students nervous. She may want to make the instructions "super clear," and let the students apply their skills to the main course.

P.S. - "add to" or "disagree with"

Best wishes, - A.
Thanks. Then how about the following version, which is slightly modified:
“Education should be equally devoted to enriching the personal lives of students and to training students to be productive workers.” Do you agree with the statement? Or rather, which do you think is more important, personal enrichment or job preparation? Write an essay of about 350 words to explain your position. You should supply an appropriate title for your essay.
Thanks.
Richard
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Hi, Richard. Sorry to keep shooting you down. Nothing personal. I'm sure plenty of people will disagree with me.

It seems like you should try to set the examinee to work with a spirit of confidence, or at least, cautious optimism. It's not so much the essense of what your instructions convey, as the style. It seems unfriendly and unsure. The "or rather" in the context of "official" instructions makes it sound like you're confused, or can't make up your mind. In another context it would be fine.

I'm afraid a nervous student would say to himself, "Wait a minute, did he change his mind? Am I supposed to answer both questions, or just pick one? - or only the second one?"

Unless you have some devious purpose, (eg., a trick question) it's of primary importance that the instructions be crystal clear rather than spare, IMO. It doesn't hurt to put something a couple of different ways, since not all students will read a thing the same way.

Your instructions are less two ways of expressing the same thing than two alternate approaches to framing the answer. This is fine, but you might find a better way to make that clear.

You're not the one who's being tested, (I don't think), so it's not necessary to prune all the dead wood (every word that might be done without).

- A.
Thanks, Avangi. Supposing that you are my colleague, what would your instructions be like?
Thanks.
Richard
Essay subject

“Education should be equally devoted to enriching the personal lives of students and to training students to be productive workers.”

Please think about this statement and try to formulate an opinion about it. Try to take a clear position, such as , "I agree"; "It depends upon the individual student"; "Earning a living is more important than personal enrichment"; or vice versa; or any other position which you feel you'd like to take.

Then write a well organized essay of approximately 350 words, explaining and defending your position.
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Thanks. To be honest, your version seems to be a little bit wordy. Perhaps sometimes we are likely to make things too complicated while trying to be accurate in expression. Sometimes we get others confused and finally get ourselves confused about our intended meanings.

Please don't feel offended. I'm just telling you my impression of your version, though I may wrong there. If we never care so much about accuracy, there would be fewer problems for us. But as I am a teacher of English writing, it is my job to be clear about such thorny issues and many times it just gives me a big headache--- as a non-native speaker, I find it so hard to figure out so many linguistic issues. But I always tell myself to press ahead, to know more about English and English writing.

If you don't feel offended, please give me some advice on how to alleviate this big headache.
Thanks.
It is wordy. That was my point. It's more wordy than your colleague's example which you criticized. You seemed determined to create a masterpiece of understatement. There's surely a place for that. But I think if you want to make the instructions simpler for nervous test-takers, you should first make the test simpler. "Write a 350 word essay explaining your feelings about this statement."

My understanding was that you wanted to coach the student in various approaches or positions he might take.

Hey, I'm too old to be offended. No problem. - A.

Edit. Oh yes, I did object to the "or rather," feeling it might be ambiguous to the student as to whether you intended it as a "correction" of your instructions or as an alternative approach to the essay. Offhand, I think it's more commonly used as a correction in that way.
Hi,Avangi.

Thank you for your patience to answer my questions and pointing out my mistakes. As a non-native speaker, I often construct my English sentences according to grammar rules or by going to my dictionaries and imitating example sentences there. I went to the Longman dictionary for "or rather", and it told me that this phrase is used to correct something that you have said or to give more specific information. Perhaps my understanding of the explanation of this sense might be inaccurate. I know to construct sentences according to grammar rules or imitating example sentences is not the best way to learn to express ideas in English, but oftentimes I feel at at a loss as to what the way out is. I now try to seek help from native speakers by visiting online language forums, but sometimes due to my lack of linguistic intuition, I find it a little bit difficult to fully understand the other members' answers. And this is why I asked you so many questions and I know it has given you so much trouble. Besides, I admit that to a great extent, my English reflects my Chinese thinking, which may cause you more trouble in understanding me.

By the way, you seem annoyed about my response to your previous comment on the test instructions. I had thought of concluding this thread by simply saying thanks to you, but then on second thought, I decided to get 100% clear about this issue. In your current reply, you said, "You seemed determined to create a masterpiece of understatement. There's surely a place for that." My understanding of the former sentence in the quote is that you are criticizing me for not making instructions clear enough. But what does the latter sentence mean? Please enlighten me.

Thanks again.

Richard
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