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2016年1月30日 星期六

動詞doubt的用法分析


最近有網友問我一個英語專欄的分析,我不看右派報紙已久,不知出了這樣的一個專欄。作者說劉家傑是他的偶像,我一看,就覺得他的想法落了下乘!劉家傑的英文無疑是很不錯的,比古大師客觀和正統很多,但也不是全無瑕玼!我認為無論學什麼東西,都不能為自己先設一個門檻,這樣我們才能有機會看出別人的不足,青出於藍!

專欄作者取了唐太宗諫官的名字作其筆名,他在最近的一篇文章中提到:

商業機構的好幾位高層跟我學英語,不約而同搞錯以下三個字的意思,值得說明這三個字的多重用法。

第一個字是 doubt,即是懷疑。例如有個人遲到,你於是話:我懷疑佢會唔會嚟。如果用英文講,就係 I doubt whether he will come。記住記住,喺呢個情況,一定要用 whether 呢個字喺 doubt 嘅後面。如果你一個唔小心,講咗 I doubt that he will come,意思就係我覺得佢唔會嚟。簡單嚟講,I doubt whether 就等於 I am not sure,而 I doubt that 就等如 I dont think,兩者絕對有分別。

我的英語水平只是一般,不會有大公司的高層找我為他們補習,但我看見他的解說似乎跟自己所學有所出入。驟眼一看,作者寫得很簡單清楚,斬釘截鐵,但他所教的東西正確嗎?查一查著名的學習型字典如牛津、劍橋、朗文等,你會發覺在相關的詞條解釋下,這幾個連接詞基本上都是可用的。我不好說作者的說法是錯,但它也不完全算是對的!事實止,doubtdoubtful後面接什麼conjunction這個問題基本上可以分兩個層面來看。

首先,當我們要說對一些事物有所懷疑或不確定時,動詞doubt後面其實接whetherifthat都可以,這跟作者所說的截然不同。我們來看看Collins English Dictionary裡面的一段的usage note怎麼說:

USAGE  Where a clause follows doubt in a positive sentence, it was formerly considered correct to use whether ( I doubt whether he will come ), but now if and that are also acceptable.

簡言之,當你想表達不確定時,動詞doubt後面的clause可用whetherthatif接上,說明這三個連接詞是可以互換使用的。作者說只能用whether是不正確的,他很可能是受了一些古舊的語法書所影響。看到這裏,有人就會問,那這三個連接詞在意思上有分別嗎?答案是有的。美國大型字典American Heritage Dictionary每十年都會進行一次語法調查,而在2008的調查中他們發現:

When the expectation for the outcome is negative, that tends to be used. Some 86 percent of the Panel prefer that in the sentence I doubt [that/whether/if] it will rain tomorrow (where the expectation is that it probably won't rain), with whether getting the preference of only 6 percent and if getting 7 percent.

的意思是,當你說話帶有強烈的否定意味時,絕大部份的專家都傾向用that這個字,反而用whetherif的人加起來也不到20%,這表達了現今人們對這用法的偏好!但即便如此,我們也不能像專欄作者般說:當說話有否定的意思時,只能用that,用其他的conjunction都是錯的,畢竟這個調查還是以美國人為主的。相對而言,英國人怎樣用我不好說,但我不會教人whether和that分別代表兩種意思,而這也是唯一可接受的用法。

現在我們看看作者沒提到的第二個用法。

In negative statements, doubt is followed by that: I do not doubt that he is telling the truth. In such sentences, but ( I do not doubt but that he is telling the truth) is redundant. (Collins English Dictionary)

在否定句或rhetorical questions中,that是必然之選,例如:

e.g.  Still, I could not doubt that my vision had occurred, even though I had no way to verify it. (LDOCE)

e.g.  I didn't doubt for a second that she was telling the truth. (OALD)

在這裏I didn't doubt that等同於I was certain that,這用法有點像作者所說的第二種用法,但這必需是否定句式,而非他所言的肯定句,大家要留意這點。同樣地,在rhetorical questions(注意不是一般的查詢問題)中也會這樣用,例如:

e.g.  Do you doubt that you will be paid?

            ---> Surely you believe that you will be paid. (AHD)  

有關doubt的句型,在衆多的學習型字典中,解釋得最好的是Macmillan English Dictionary

1.  to think that something is probably not true or that it probably does not exist

           doubt (that) e.g. I don't doubt you're right, but I still disagree.

2.  to think that something is unlikely

           doubt (that) e.g. He promised to come but I doubt he will. 

           doubt whether/if e.g. I doubt very much whether we can change it now.

它清楚地並系統地解釋了這兩種甚至連老師都很容易搞亂的用法。說了那麼久,相信大家對doubt這個字已有一個重新的認識。現在我們用著名的Fowler's Modern English Usage的一番話來總結一下doubt這個動詞的二種用法:

doubt (verb)  I doubt whether he'll come and I doubt if he'll come are the standard constructions when doubt is used in the affirmative to mean 'think it unlikely' when doubt is used in the negative to mean 'think it likely', a that-clause is normal : I don't doubt that he'll come.  The logic behind this difference is that when doubt is in the affirmative it implies uncertainty in the following clause (which is consistent with use of whether or if), , whereas when it is used in the negative it implies probability in the following clause (which is more consistent with that).

這個作者教的英文雖然不算準確,而且很多都是老調重彈。但無論如何,這總比男神所教的那些不知所謂的東西要好很多,至少能啟發我們對英語運用的思考,我們有機會再談。

 

同場加映

男神最近幫人改寫英文,寫了以下這一句:

The Management has decided to suspend the sales of books ...

過了幾天,他又讚揚Daniel Redcliffe寫的訃文,以下是頭三句:

Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with.

He is also, one of the loyalest and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry.

He was so encouraging of me both on set and the years Post Potter.  

這些英文有些什麼問題,大家不妨自己研究一下!