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2011年7月18日 星期一

Spare No Effort


上星期六有人問古德明這樣的一個問題:

問:讀貴欄,見到 spare no efforts(不遺餘力)這說法。但《牛津高階英漢雙解詞典》 spare條有以下一句: He spared no effort to make her happy(他力求她快樂)。然則 spare no efforts是不是應改為 spare no effort,那 effort作不可數名詞( uncountable noun)用?

答:拙欄說過, no之後文法上用單複數名詞都可以,例如: No student/ students volunteered for the job(沒有學生自願做這工作)。同樣,「不遺餘力」可以說 to spare no effort,也可以說 to spare no efforts Cambridge International Dictionary of English spare條下例句可供參考: The police promised to spare no effort(s) in their search for the missing child(警方答應不遺餘力搜尋那失蹤孩子)。

個人認為劍橋那例子是有商榷餘地的。首先,名詞effort雖然可以是countable noununcountable noun,而determiner no後面也可跟單數或複數名詞,但我傾向於認為spare no effort是一個fixed expression,當中effort這字應以單數形式出現。

查一下手頭上的六大高階學習型詞典,皆一致只載spare no effort這條目,而並沒有spare no effort(s) 這寫法。而同類的expression “spare no expense” 也是沒有眾數的。其實在2003年的第二版Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (CALD)中,古德明所引用的上述例子已被删去,代之而來的例句是:

e.g. We will spare no effort to find out who did this. (Cambridge, 2/ed, p. 1215)

注意 ”spare no effort” 後面接to-infinitive或是prep+noun/gerund, i.e. in (doing) something都可以。除了字典上的例句,我們也看看現實生活裡的人們又是用那一個寫法的。以下是一些著名英、美報章雜誌的新聞標題:

President On Shootings : “We Will Spare No Effort In Learning How This Outrageous Act Took Place”.

New York Daily News

Congress will ‘spare no effort’ in helping Japan after quake

USA Today

Obama Pledges to ‘Spare No Effort’ to Help the Gulf Cope

Business Week

Bowlers spare no effort to help others

Herald

Obama pledges to spare no effort in oil clean-up

Financial Times

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to Gansu after receiving news of the disaster. He told officials to “spare no efforts to save lives”.

BBC News

基本上,除了最後BBC News那個標題外,所有的人都是用spare no effort的。那BBC News為什麼是例外的呢?我猜原因可能有二個。首先,大家有留意括號內的字嗎?括號內的是 “spare no efforts to save lives”,而不是 “spare no efforts”,看上去像是引述某些人的講法,這和USA TodayBusiness Week的標題旨在只強調「不遺餘力」不同。在中國大陸,“spare no efforts” 這用法相當普遍,而這段新聞恰巧又是關於大陸的,所以有可能是因為轉述的問題。另一個可能性則是外國記者在諷刺大陸救人時未盡全力,所以才特意括著 “spare no efforts to save lives” 這部份。

無論怎樣也好,我覺得 “spare no efforts” 是種non-standard的寫法,大家在寫作時應該仍是以 “spare no effort” 為依歸較為妥當。我想劍橋的編輯也是因為留意到這點,所以才在新版的CALD中將那個舊例子删去。其實十多年前出版的Cambridge International Dictionary of English,質素並不是十分理想,我在下一篇網誌會談談劍橋這本字典。另外,我提議古德明可以趁現在書展換一換手頭上那些較舊版的字典,與時並進。反正有打折嘛!

 

PS A recent discussion with Chris Fox showed that the spare no efforts pattern is also possible, but it is much less common than spare no effort. The original controversy is that some dictionaries, like Longman and Macmillan, consider that effort, when meaning physical or mental energy used, is an uncountable noun and there is no plural form. It should be noted, however, this sense used in plural form is getting more common now and therefore cannot be considered wrong.