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Hi,

I posted these generic sentences before and also asked many of my friends but the problem is that I get different answers about these sentences...specially about 1c, 2b&c and 3c. some said they are acceptable and some other said they are not acceptable and this really made me confuse who to listen.....I would just like to know if these sentences have one interpretation or it is hard to make a 100% guess about them....

[email protected] a. Whales are an endangered species b.The whale is an endangered species c. A whale is an endangered species.

all are acceptable generic sentences except C ..........but why C cant be generic??what is wrong with the term "species" that makes it not acceptable?? i really dont understand the meaning of species in general despite looking at the dictionary.....

what animals does the term species include here with A whale is an endagered species??

[email protected] a. Zebras have striped coats b. the Zebra has a striped coat c. A Zebra has a striped coat.



Again I think all are acceptable except C ....but some friends told me that C is acceptalbe as a generic sentence....but i think it doesnt sounds correct as a generic sentence....if it is acceptable then what is the difference between 1c and 2c????

[email protected] a. Liquids have no shape b. a liquid has no shape c. the liquid has no shape.

Also I think first two are correct and I dont think that C is correct...some of my friends said C is acceptable but again I don't think it feels ok.....If 3.C is not acceptable as a generic sentence then why 1b and 2b are acceptable??? What is makes (whales, zebras and liquids) different when they are used with generic sentences (definite,indefinite and zero article)...



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Comments  
Hi,

I posted these generic sentences before and also asked many of my friends but the problem is that I get different answers about these sentences...specially about 1c, 2b&c and 3c. some said they are acceptable and some other said they are not acceptable and this really made me confuse who to listen.....I would just like to know if these sentences have one interpretation or it is hard to make a 100% guess about them....

I'll try. Here are some comments.

[email protected] a. Whales are an endangered species b.The whale is an endangered species c. A whale is an endangered species.

all are acceptable generic sentences except C ..........but why C cant be generic??what is wrong with the term "species" that makes it not acceptable?? i really dont understand the meaning of species in general despite looking at the dictionary.....
To a native speaker, 'species' is a collective word, so it doesn't sound right to say 'a whale is a species'. It sounds like saying 'a soccer player is a team'.


what animals does the term species include here with A whale is an endagered species??

[email protected] a. Zebras have striped coats b. the Zebra has a striped coat c. A Zebra has a striped coat.



Again I think all are acceptable except C ..but some friends told me that C is acceptalbe as a generic sentence..but i think it doesnt sounds correct as a generic sentence..if it is acceptable Yes, sounds fine to me. It's like you are talking about 'any zebra'.

then what is the difference between 1c and 2c?? It was the collective word 'species' that was the basic problem.

[email protected] a. Liquids have no shape b. a liquid has no shape c. the liquid has no shape.

Also I think first two are correct and I dont think that C is correct...some of my friends said C is acceptable but again I don't think it feels ok..If 3.C is not acceptable as a generic sentence then why 1b and 2b are acceptable??? What is makes (whales, zebras and liquids) different when they are used with generic sentences (definite,indefinite and zero article)... I wouldn't absolutely say that C is wrong, but it sounds wrong to a native ear. I think that's because the word 'liquid' can be used in a non-countable sense, and to a native speajer it sounds like what you are saying should be 'Liquid has no shape'.

Clive
Clive I wouldn't absolutely say that C is wrong, but it sounds wrong to a native ear. I think that's because the word 'liquid' can be used in a non-countable sense, and to a native speajer it sounds like what you are saying should be 'Liquid has no shape'.

I am still confused with this...if a student asks me about this sentence (the liquid has no shape), should I say that it is an acceptable generic sentence?? And what if he asks why? If native speakers don't feel that it is correct than how can we claim that it is correct??Is there any rule that can explain why uncountable noun "liquid" can be used with definite article "the" as a generic sentence??

If we compare a whale is an endangered species vs the liquid has no shape...arent both similar in term of "'a soccer player is a team"



thanks
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Hi,
Clive

“ I wouldn't absolutely say that C is wrong, but it sounds wrong to a native ear. I think that's because the word 'liquid' can be used in a non-countable sense, and to a native speajer it sounds like what you are saying should be 'Liquid has no shape'. ”

I am still confused with this...if a student asks me about this sentence (the liquid has no shape), should I say that it is an acceptable generic sentence?? No, say it is not.
And what if he asks why? If native speakers don't feel that it is correct than how can we claim that it is correct?? Don't say it is correct.
Is there any rule that can explain why uncountable noun "liquid" can be used with definite article "the" as a generic sentence?? Not that I'm aware of.

If we compare a whale is an endangered species vs the liquid has no shape...arent both similar in term of "'a soccer player is a team"
I think you need to reread my comments. For a start, 'species' is a collective term, but 'shape' is not a collective term.

Here's some advice from one teacher to another. The hardest question a student can ask is usually 'why?' Your decision about whether to try to explain something is yours, but you need to consider a number of factors. eg
How old are your students, and what is their level of English?

Is this the time to explain, or do you first want to simply show them what is normally said?
Do you have time right now to explain, if the matter requires a great deal of discussion?

You also have to realize that some aspects of English are simply idiomatic. ie we say it that way becaise we say it that way. You have to use your judgement to identify such situations. It's not always easy, evevn for native speakers.

Clive
Thanks Clive..

Ok..now I will say " the liquid has no shape." is not acceptable as a generic sentence and I willl explain the reason is that "liquid" is an uncountable noun so not acceptable with "the" in generic sentences.....would this be a good response???

Honestly I did read your comments about species but it is still not clear in my mind (I feel stupid now but I have to admit this concept is not fixing in my head).

If we can't use "A whale is an endangered species." because "A" cannot go with "species" So why " The whale is an endangered species" is acceptalbe? Isn't "the" indicating that whole species of whales are endangred?? Aslo A whale is an endangered species refering to whole species of whale same as we use it with the....

I would be grateful if you can explain what you mean by "species" as a collective word..

Finally I would like to know you qualifications as this will help me feel better....

Thanks and sorry for alll this
EvilsEyeIf we can't use "A whale is an endangered species." because "A" cannot go with "species" So why " The whale is an endangered species" is acceptalbe? Isn't "the" indicating that whole species of whales are endangred?? Aslo A whale is an endangered species refering to whole species of whale same as we use it with the..
If I may butt in, I think you need to be sure you understand what a species is. (I will sacrifice strict zoological and botanical accuracy to get this point across.)

All the sparrows in the world form the species called "sparrow".
All the tigers in the world form the species called "tiger".
All the oak trees in the world form the species called "oak tree".

A species name is a group name. A species is a classification.

If you see a single sparrow, you can't say that you have seen the species "sparrow".
You have only seen one example of all the creatures that belong to the sparrow species.

If you see a single tiger, you can't say that you have seen the species "tiger".
You have only seen one example of all the creatures that belong to the tiger species.

If you see an oak tree, you can't say that you have seen the species "oak tree".

You have only seen one example of all the plants that belong to the oak tree species.

Every plant and animal you see belongs to an entire class of plants or animals of the same kind, and this plant class or animal class is called a species. There are hundreds of thousands of species in the world, but there are far more individual plants and animals which belong to these species.

CJ
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wow..now it is in my 100% thank you very much...

ok so it is the term species that makes the use of A unacceptable in generic sentences....

If I say.. a whale is an endangered animal. Is it an acceptable generic sentence??

and what about... "the liquid has no shaple" ? do you know any rule regarding its being acceptable or not as a generic sentence with the definite article "the"?

regards and thank you very much for you demonstration of species..
EvilsEyeIf we can't use "A whale is an endangered species." because "A" cannot go with "species" So why " The whale is an endangered species" is acceptalbe? Isn't "the" indicating that whole species of whales are endangred??
If you are sure you understand what a species is, then the next thing to work on is the meaning of indefinite expressions like "a whale", "a zebra", "a tiger".

"the whale", "the whales", "the tiger", "the tigers", and so on, are definite, not indefinite, expressions, so we are talking about cases that do not use "the".

Here's how an indefinite expression works as a subject. Note the idea that no matter which individual you choose, the same predicate applies:

A whale has a weight of many tons.
=

No matter which whale you choose, that individual whale has a weight of many tons.
___

A cheetah runs more than 40 miles an hour during a typical chase.
=
No matter which cheetah you choose, that individual cheetah runs more than 40 miles an hour during a typical chase.
___

A rose bush has thorns.
=
No matter which rose bush you choose, that individual rose bush has thorns.
______________________________

Note the case at hand: A whale is an endangered species. This says something that is impossible. It says

No matter which whale you choose, that individual whale is an endangered species.

If you understood the previous post, you know that an individual whale (or sparrow, or whatever) is not a species. That's why A whale is an endangered species is impossible. It's not generic, and it's not non-generic either; it's just meaningless nonsense.

CJ
EvilsEyea whale is an endangered animal
The substitution of "animal" for "species" doesn't help because the reader will take it to mean "an endangered animal species". The standard combination is "endangered species", and anything that sounds close to that (like "endangered animal") will be taken to mean the same thing.

CJ
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