Tags:
  1. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9

    How to pronounce it?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Nov 11, 2009.

    Hi,everyone.
    Yesterday afternoon my colleagues and I sat in on a new teacher's lecture. After the class, every member of our teaching and research group was required to make a comment on the teacher's teaching and a professor, who teaches English writing, criticized the new teaching for using "How to spell the word?" in her teaching. I also teach the course of English writing and use the same coursebook as this professor does(We teach the different classes of the same year). The coursebook we two use tells us that "How to operate this computer?" is a wrong sentence and should be changed to "How do you operate this computer?" or "How should this computer be operated?" But in my opinion, the structure of "How to spell/pronounce it?" is frequently used as a complete sentence in conversations and we usually do not think of it as something incorrect, but certainly we should avoid using it in writing, which demands relatively formal English.

    Just now I retrieved my transcription of a video teaching programme where one of the teachers says "The problem with “How to spell____?” is that the question lacks the subject you. English grammar requires that we include it; or else it sounds strange. " However, I have noticed that these days at CBS5 there is a video clip promoting a site where a jounalist interviews people on the street at random and asks a lady "How to pronounce it?"

    So, here I would like you to give me your views on how people(yourself included) actually use "How to do something?" in speech and writing. I hope to learn how to use it properly in different situations with your help.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  2. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    Saying "how to pronouce it?" is always wrong, and the only times I've ever heard it used are either slips of the tongue or mistakes made by non-native speakers. The sentence does lack a subject and is therefore incorrect. It is something that non-native speakers tend to say quite often (I go to school with a large number of Asian non-native speakers) but it is not correct at all unless a subject is added. So, if you plan on speaking English, you will never, ever use that sentence construction.
     
  3. dgraham
    Offline

    dgraham Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2009
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Okaya, Nagano, Japan
    Yeah, "how to pronounce ___" is definitely wrong (for the reason you stated in your post). The same is true for the construction "how to VERB". it is always wrong.

    I have never heard a native speaker say that EXCEPT to make fun of, or to parody non-native speakers. Sadly, your link doesn't work for me, it just says page not found, otherwise I would comment on the video.
     
  4. dgraham
    Offline

    dgraham Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2009
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Okaya, Nagano, Japan
    Oh wait, here is the correct url: <link removed>

    At 0:28 he clearly says "how d'you pronounce it?" (contracting "do you" into "d'you" in fast speech is very common)

    I can see why it might sound like "how to pronounce it". Especially, if you are a native Chinese speaker (you are right?). In Chinese and English, the way that we mark the distinction between voiced (b, d, g...) and voiceless (p, t, k...) sounds is very different, and your brain is probably just miscuing.

    Basically, what (in pinyin) is written with the letter "b" sounds like what in English is written with the letter "p". What is written in English with the letter "b" is not like any Chinese sound, and what is written with the letter "p" in pinyin is like the way that "p" in English is pronounced only sometimes (like in the word "pen").

    (Also, apologies if you're not a Chinese speaker and I was way off base. Although my explanation for your mishearing could still apply for other languages as well)
     
  5. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    Yes, it is wrong.

    That structure is only useful for titles. The titles of books, movies, etc. are usually kept as short as possible. A title doesn't have to be a complete sentence and it isn't expected to be grammatically constructed as such. You'll see some book titles along the lines of "Learn how to tie knots", but more often it will just be "How to tie knots". The latter is the better phrasing for a title because it's short and to-the-point, and because it's only natural to assume that the title reflects what the book is about. The subject couldn't possibly be anything other than the book, so there's no chance of confusion.

    In daily conversation, however, there are numerous ways to interpret such an ambiguous phrase (depending on context). There's really no benefit to dropping the "you" in day-to-day speech, and no reason at all to do so, except laziness. Some people do talk that way, but they are a small minority and usually reserve such speech for people who know them well. If you were to say that to a stranger, it might be considered somewhat rude, as if he weren't worth the time it would take to express yourself clearly.

    So you should never use that construction except to title something.
     
  6. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Yes, and if you do use a 'How to...' as above for a title, remember it doesn't have a question mark.
    e.g. How to Write a Good Term Paper
    BUT How do you Write a Good Term Paper?
     
  7. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    As dgraham explained, I realize that I mistook the question the journalist doing the interview on the street for "How to pronounce it?" but that actually it is "How d'ye pronounce it?" If you'd like to take the trouble, you may just find the website of cbs5 using google. These days, whenever you go there, the first video played automatically (if you do not click on any of the video clips listed on the right of the window) is that one I mentioned. You can't miss it.
     
  8. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    So, you mean there are really some native speakers who have the tendency to say "How to + verb+ noun/pronoun?" to ask others questions, right? I will take your advice and never use this construction, but I am eager to know what the full picture is concerning this structure.
    Thanks.
     
  9. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
     
  10. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    I wouldn't say they have a tendency. It would be in special circumstances, like if they're in a hurry or thinking out loud. More likely, they would just make an attempt to pronounce something and say it as a question.

    If I wasn't sure how to pronounce "phenobarbital", I might just say, "feh-no-barb-ih-tahl?" And a friend might answer, "fee-no-barb-ih-tahl". In that case, I haven't even bothered to phrase anything. I just expect my friend to pick up on my distress. And that's something natives tend to do often with friends. If I were talking to someone I didn't know, I would probably ask my question in a full sentence so as not to be impolite.

    So no, the structure in question isn't something any native speaker would say often, but it isn't unheard of. As another poster mentioned, this is more characteristic of non-natives, because they're unwittingly following the grammatical rules of their own language, not English.
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what's wrong is making it a question, when it isn't one... to be a question it definitely does need 'do you' or 'does one' added, to make it:

    but as a title for anything, that still wouldn't make sense, since 'it' is too general and as worded, you're asking how to pronounce 'it' as a word... so, for a title, you'd need to leave the word off and do it like this:

     
  12. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I have to admit that I think that dgraham may be on the right track when it comes to how the sentence was presented to you, Richard.

    How to pronounce it and How do you pronounce it when spoken in colloquial native English the two portions in bold sound so close, one to the other, I can see how someone might have mistaken one for the other.

    I work as an interpreter, Richard, and I hear this kind of error all the time. Native speakers tend to speak a bit less precisely than we should and the non-native ear can have difficulty with our sloppiness.
     
  13. dgraham
    Offline

    dgraham Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2009
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Okaya, Nagano, Japan
    Hey, don't worry about it. It was some explanation that was generally unnecessary. If you're interested I can send you an email or something with a more detailed explanation, or you can do some research of English and Chinese phonetics/phonology.
     
  14. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    After I posted my question and got responses from several other members, I watched that video clip and listened extremely carefully and found that it is really "How d'ye pronounce it?", rather than "How to pronounce it?" It is not your "sloppiness" that causes the trouble; it is my non-native ears haven't gotten enough training.
    Thanks for explaining the reason for my mishearing from this unique perspective.
    Richard
     
  15. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hi,there.
    Thank you all for responding to my request.
    Richard
     

Share This Page