1. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0

    "understand" or "understood"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by linchpin, Sep 28, 2009.

    Hi there,
    May I ask you some simple questions?
    First of them is "understand" and "understood". After you bring out a question, you need to clear it with your audiences. Sometimes you choose to say "understand"; sometimes " understood". I know it may represent two different expressions as: "Do you understand?", and/or "Is that understood?". My question is whether there's any difference between them? Do they have some special meaning like respect or being officially?

    The 2nd one is likewise, at least seemingly.
    E.g., when dropping by a friend in a company, I would ask the receptionist: "I am looking for Mr.Taylor." Yet, you can also say: "I was looking for Mr.Taylor."
    Here comes my confusion: Why we can describe the same thing with two totall DIFFERENT tense? If these two statements are acceptable, why other tenses/moods not seen here? I.e, why "I have been looking for Mr.Taylor." "I look for Mr.Taylor" "I'd look for Mr.Taylor"
    these sentences do not make sense? Or, they do, but I don't know?

    The 3rd question is also an interesting one.
    I found people often use past tense in occasions my gramma books that you need to express it in perfect aspect.
    E.g., when asked whether you have seen John, you may answer: "I have not seen him yet", but it seems this is also right: " I didn't see him yet."
    May I ask why this usage is acknowledged?/ Or, not?
    Best Regards
    Linchpin
     
  2. witch wyzwurd
    Offline

    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Racine, Wisconsin
    "Do you understand?", and/or "Is that understood?".
    Same meaning.
    Understand is a verb
    Understood is an adjective in your example.

    I am looking for Mr.Taylor. is present-tense.
    I was looking for Mr.Taylor. is past tense.
    Problem here is that the latter is commonly used to mean the same as the former, but erroneously. I think people use the latter because they hope their search is over and Mr. Taylor will be found.

    I didn't see him yet.
    I did not see him yet.
    I do not see him.
    I can't find a definition for 'do' that coincides with this usage.
     
  3. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Witch,
    Good to see you again.
    I agree with you on your say of "understand" and believe you are right.
    But for "I was looking for sb.", I think your explanation is incomplete. My professor, who used to studied and worked in Indiana University, said this is a very polite expression, as the complete conversation may be like this: "Who were you looking for?" "I was looking for Mr.Taylor."

    And for the last instance, it is also a topic at issue among some linguists, not a development of mine; I just brought it out for debate.
     
  4. Mister Micawber
    Offline

    Mister Micawber Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Yokohama
    For #2: The past form is a common way of making the utterance slightly more polite ('I was looking for Mr Taylor [e.g. but perhaps you have already found him for me]')

    For #3: AmE speakers often use the simple past where BrE speakers will adhere to the present perfect.
     
  5. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Mister,
    Thanks for your answer.
    It seems that my professor does not have a good student. I thought #2 was a very polite way saying that. But your answer only makes the beginning. My emphasis is why the others do not make sense.

    For #3, is it officially accepted in AmE?
    Best Regards
    Linchpin
     
  6. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,032
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    The issue with uses like this is that they are difficult to define as regards AmE or BrE because the uses are not consistent even within the speaking regions. My "E" is definitely "Am," but all the different options you presented rolled smoothly from my tongue. I might just as easily use one as the other without regard to level of politeness.

    These concepts of polite forms are also going to suffer from the differences in emic and etic data. I was looking for so and so does have a slightly more polite sound to my personal ear. This does not mean that I actually use this phrasing in polite situations. But if you asked me (emic date) I might be prone to telling you that I used the syntax that sounds more polite in polite situations in order to give you the impression that I was a polite person. If you were to simply observe my usage (etic data) you might come to very different conclusions.
     
  7. witch wyzwurd
    Offline

    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Racine, Wisconsin
    This is an example of you only bringing up a part-question. You didn't mention that the phrase was an answer to a question.

    If someone asks "Who were you looking for?" (past tense), then the correct form of address would be "I was looking for" (past tense). Similarily, if someone asks "Who are you looking for" then the correct reply would be "I am looking for."

    Neither is more polite than the other. Usually people who can't face the present moment because of some sort of fear with confrontation will resort to speaking in past tense when the conversation calls for present tense. That is confused with politeness. Or more honestly, a way to hide that the fear exists.
     
  8. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    First of them is "understand" and "understood". After you bring out a question, you need to clear it with your audiences. Sometimes you choose to say "understand"; sometimes " understood". I know it may represent two different expressions as: "Do you understand?", and/or "Is that understood?". My question is whether there's any difference between them?

    ...not specifically...

    Do they have some special meaning like respect or being officially?

    ...the second is more often used in a somewhat rebuking way, or when issuing instructions that it's important for the other person/s to 'get' though grammatically, it can be used in the way you referred to, also...

    sorry, but that's just the vagaries of the english language and common usage, which often makes little to no sense... there's no rule there, just what people say... and either way is technically grammatical and means the same thing, when used in conversation...

    again, both mean the same thing, both are grammatically correct and both are correctly used in conversation, depending on the speaking style of the person ...

    if you're going to try to make sense out of the oddities in english, i fear you'll end up in a rubber room! ;-)

    love and hugs, maia
     
  9. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks all. Now I understand. I have to say that I have underestimated the freedom of English while learning Japanese defines me much with all kinds of polite ways.
     
  10. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0

    Hi Wreybies,
    Could you tell me under which circumstances those usages could alter with one another, or, it would be better, you can give me a conclusion of situations that you express yourself with different tenses/moods/aspects but under the same meaning.

    I have already got two:
    1) I was looking for him. => I am looking for him.
    2) I haven't seen him yet. => I didn't seen him yet.

    Actually I have another intance
    3) Do you know where he is? => Did you know where he is?
    But here it seems another usage, and you are welcomed to compare it with the others.

    You are expected to give me more. Thanks
    Best Regards
    Linchpin
     
  11. A2theDre
    Offline

    A2theDre Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2009
    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Australia
    Maia and Wrey.

    In regards to "I haven't seen him yet" and "I didn't see him yet", to me, the latter sounds completely off. "Didn't" indicates a point in time, whereas "haven't" shows a span of time. The word "yet" also indicates a span of time because it's opening the time frame up to the future. If you were to say "I didn't see him yet" are you not using a word to indicate a point in time, but then also indicating a span. Perhaps this is why it doesn't sound right to me.

    Further to that, I can't imagine any instance where you would say "I didn't see him yet" where "I haven't" would be much more fitting.

    Edit: Please correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  12. witch wyzwurd
    Offline

    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Racine, Wisconsin
    P.s. Not polite. Very demanding and disrespectful. I'm sure it's a translation problem though.
     
  13. witch wyzwurd
    Offline

    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Racine, Wisconsin
    I still can't see how a form of the word "do" has meaning. Don't see him?
     
  14. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    If someone walks up to a receptionist saying "I was looking for Mr X." I would assume that the person had stuck his head into a few offices and found himself lost before the receptionist craned her neck and asked "Can I help you?"

    Or atleast entered the building and paused in the hall, before deciding that the reception would be the place to go.

    "I was looking for Mr X." sorta implies that the person will feel lost without assistance.

    "I am looking for Mr X." could include the following submessage "If you don't find him for me, I will find him myself." and in the wrong tone of voice it could sound more demanding.

    All of this is just according to my own (non-native) english ear.
     
  15. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    a2... you're right...

    horus... i agree...
     
  16. witch wyzwurd
    Offline

    witch wyzwurd Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Racine, Wisconsin
    Anything in the wrong tone of voice can sound impolite. Neither is more polite than the other.

    If the person is currently seeking someone, then using "am" is correct.

    It's a question of confodence in the speaker. Do they back down as a form of submission, which causes them to resort to speaking in past tense.

    Imagine if you got caught stealing a pencil, and somebody said to you: "What are you doing?"

    Most people will resort to lying and say something like: "I was just going to borrow it."

    Not many people would be honest and say: "I am stealing it." They will resort to speaking in the past to not confront their own actions.

    Speaking in past tense when meaning the present moment reveals that a character is shifty.
     
  17. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    "Didn't" is awkward here. . .

    It should be. . .

    "I hadn't seen him yet." I had not yet seen the man at that time, but since then (presumably), I have seen him.

    Or,

    "I haven't seen him yet." I never saw the guy, but I'm still looking for him or expecting/hoping to see him at some point.

    Or simply,

    "I didn't see him." A flat statement; you never saw the guy.
     
  18. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Sorry to Wraybies. I didn't know there's such an indication here
    But some of my English-speaking friends would say: I expect you to join our dinner. I can't see any demanding there. Is that just because of the passive voice?
     
  19. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Grammatically speaking, you are right. That's why I want to bright out this issue. Yet I do have seen many Americans speak English in that way, even in some movies.
     
  20. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks Horus, this kinda make some sense. Maybe we have to go in this way
     
  21. MiltonClemens
    Offline

    MiltonClemens Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2009
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Jakarta, Brisbane
    If you want to use understand, I think it's best if you would say
    "DID you understand" rather than "do you understand".
    A slightly different thing goes for understood. Understood is an adjective by nature and it is considered a past tense. SO you wouldn't want to say "Did you understood" as it would be totally wrong. I agree with you in using "Is that understood", but you might want to prefer "Did you understand" in lectures.
     
  22. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The problemn with trying to formulate exact rules for this kind of construct in English is that you are ignoring the connotations of idioms. "Is that understood?" has a connotation of a rebuke that doesn't arise directly from the syntax.

    Many times, the only good answer to "Why is this friendlier than that?" is "Because it is."

    The more you burrow into the theory and structure of the language, the more you will encounter shades of meaning in phrases that don't make literal sense in analysis.
     
  23. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    yup!
     
  24. linchpin
    Offline

    linchpin Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    When seeing 24 hours(last season), I found another interesting instance:
    Tony:"Do you understand?"
    Jack:"Understood."
    Anyone can help me explain it?
     
  25. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    That's a little clumsy when you analyse it (technically, it should be in the same tense), but its an example of common usage...since "it is understood" and "i understand" both have the same meaning, they are used interchangeably in response to the various questions "do you understand?"/"is that understood?". So while the sentence should correctly remain in one tense, it isn't really surprising to see them become confused, as long as the meaning remains clear, which it does here.
     

Share This Page