1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Grammar What are the separate items and what does the first sentence actually mean?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Apr 4, 2015.

    Hello, everyone.

    Yesterday, I read on a webpage the following paragraph:

    "The underlying quality determinants" suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer independently of category or class of the product, establishment, facility or service sophistication. They establish the minimum level of consumer protection under which quality, or total quality, is impossible to achieve, or when failing to meet any of such determinants will significantly reduce the quality of tourism experience.

    My several questions are about the underlined part of the first sentence. The first and most difficult problem for me is, which are the parallel items(by parallel items I mean separate items of a list that run parallel to each other and at the same level in terms of meaning and structure) in this part of the sentence? So, which one of A and B correctly lists the parallel items? :

    A. the consumer independently of category or class of the product; establishment; facility; service sophistication
    B. the consumer independently of category or class of the product; establishment; facility or service sophistication

    OR

    C. Could it be that "the consumer" is not parallel to anything in this sentence and it is modified by what follows it in the sentence and that only in what follows "the consumer" there are the parallel items: category or class of the product; establishment; facility; service sophistication?

    OR
    D. Could it be that only toward the very end of the sentence there are parallel items and they are: the product;establishment; facility; service sophistication?

    This paragraph is what I came across while browsing an Egyptian website which aims to promote Egyptian tourism. Do you native speakers of English agree with me that "independently" in this first sentence should be changed to "independent"? And if you native speakers of English express the whole idea conveyed by the first sentence, would you put it differently and how?
    I am totally confused about these these problems. Please help me out. Thanks a lot.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure of the independent/independently question. "Independently" would be the adverb form, I assume, and I'm not quite sure what verb the word would be modifying in the current structure... "are", I guess: 'irrevocable criteria of quality which independently are vital for...'. So maybe independently is right, but I think I would have used independent anyway.

    I would definitely exclude "the consumer" from being part of the parallel structures.

    Part of the problem with the rest is the Oxford Comma (serial comma) debate - if we would just DECIDE whether it's appropriate, we'd at least know whether it was used here or not. If I were asked to clarify this sentence, I'd probably use semi-colons, as you did.

    That said, I'd start the parallelism later than you did...

    ...the consumer, independently of category or class of the: product; establishment; facility; or service sophistication.

    But that still doesn't make sense. I mean, I'm getting the general idea of this sentence, so it's fine that way, but if we were going to parse it down really closely, like if this was a legal document, I'd want it reworded. Because ideally in parallelism, you should be able to take any word out from the list, place it next to the introductory phrase, and have it make sense, and I can't really make that happen here.

    Like, if we start the parallelism where you did, before "category", we end up with 'independently of establishment", which doesn't really make sense to me without the "category or class" part to make it "independently of category or class of the establishment". So that's why I'd want to start the parallelism earlier.

    But then by the end, if we start the parallelism where I propose, we'd end up with "category or class of the service sophistication, which makes no sense.

    Ooh, maybe:
    ...the consumer, independently of category or class of the product, establishment, or facility, and independently of service sophistication.

    I feel like that conveys a meaning, but I'm not sure if it's the intended one.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am a native speaker.

    I see the parallel items, if I were to unfold them, as

    - category of the product
    - class of the product
    - the establishment
    - facility sophistication
    - service sophistication

    As I read it, the sentence is saying that a minimum quality is required, to be judged independently of the things in that list. That minimum quality is for the benefit of the consumer.

    I agree that "independently" should be "independent" though I can't state what rule of grammar tells me so.

    I would not put the idea this way in a website about tourism. I might put it that way in a much more formal document, but even then I think I'd break the idea up into two or three sentences. My first cut would be:

    Sometimes we judge quality based on context. For example, the hamburger that you just ate might be seen as very good if sold for six dollars in a fast food establishment, but entirely disappointing if sold in a fine-dining restaurant for forty dollars. But there are certain elements of quality that are mandatory, no matter what the context. In the case of the hamburger, for example, it must be fresh and sanitary enough to be safe.

    That leaves out the list. I'm not sure that the list is helpful.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You are correct. There is an elided (or understood) copular verb here: ...which are vital for the consumer, [being] independently of category or class of the product...
     
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  5. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot for explaining your understanding in detail and I love your interesting rephrasing of the sentence.

    I have also noticed that you added "the" before "establishment". My Oxford dictionary may mean "an organization, a large institution or a hotel" and it seems in this situation "establishment" has this sense and then it is a countable noun. So, is this the reason you thought of adding "the" before it? Similarly, "product" is definitely a countable noun and before it there is already the article of "the" before it. In contrast, "sophistication" is uncountable, and so there is no need to have any article before it or at the very beginning of the noun phrase. Is my understanding correct?

    Besides, according to your explanation about what are parallel items, I would like to reword the first sentence of that paragraph as follows by adding the words in red. Do you think this rewording sounds good to your native ear?

    "The underlying quality determinants" suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer, independent of the category or class of the product, the establishment, facility sophistication, and/ or service sophistication.

    By the way, in my Oxford dictionary there is an example sentence of "independently" listed going "The two departments work independently of each other." I find it extremely hard to figure out whether "independently of each other" is a collocation. If not, then what is the relationship between "work" and "of each other"? In contrast, I have no difficulties in understanding the example sentences my Oxford dictionary gives like "The police force should be independent of direct government control", "Students should aim to become more independent of their teachers" and "It was important to me to be financially independent of my parents".

    Looking forward to your further help. Thank you!

    Richard
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  6. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you very much for your help.
    Would you please take a look at post #5? Thanks.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know if I would go so far as to call it a collocation, though there is a strong drive when using independently to speak about plural things or concepts to exclude a possible misunderstanding as to the scope of the adverb.

    1) Independently - the items within a set compared to one another. [(1),(2),(3)]
    2) Independently - a complete set of items compared to items or sets outside the initial set. [1,2,3] (5), (6), [7,8,9]

    If we think of it as a collocation, it would be of the free combination sort, not a bound collocation, and certainly not a frozen idiom.
    The two departments work independently of each other.

    Even if we don't think of it as a collocation, the prepositional phrase (of each other) serves only to modify the scope of the adverb, just as in the other examples where the verb is a copular verb, the propositional phrase serves only to define the scope of the adjective modifying the verb. It has no direct contact or relationship with the verb itself and serves only the adverb (or adjective, as the case may be).
     
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  8. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Great answer. Thanks.
    This is what I also asked you about:
    Besides, according to your explanation about what are parallel items, I would like to reword the first sentence of that paragraph as follows by adding the words in red. Do you think this rewording sounds good to your native ear?

    "The underlying quality determinants" suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer, independent of the category or class of the product, the establishment, facility sophistication, and/or service sophistication.

    OR
    Could this revision be the best possible if I do not want to express the same idea in totally different words?:

    "The underlying quality determinants" suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer, independent of the category or class of the product, the establishment, and/or facility or service sophistication.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    From the two examples, I take it that sophistication is the key item shared by the final two components of facility and service, yes? If that is the case, my personal choice of phrasing would be:

    ... , and/or sophistication of facility or service.

    (btw, it's always "and/or", never "or/and")
     
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  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If that rewording is not an available option, then the second example you provide is not one I would choose because the meaning is altered and sophistication is no longer an understood component of facility, only of service. If sophistication is a component of both items/ideas, then I would stay with the first option even if it be a bit clumsy for wordiness.
     
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  11. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot, Wreybies. I thought that in my second revision in post #8 "facility or service sophistication" is the last item of the list under discussion with "sophistication" as the head of the noun phrase and that both "facility" and "service" modifies or restricts the meaning of "sophistication". Certainly I was not and now am still not sure of this word arrangement. Your "sophistication of facility or service" is the best way to avoid any possible ambiguity.

    By the way, in this situation, which conjunction is better, "and sophistication of facility or service" or "or sophistication of facility or service"? Or is it that in this situation either of them will do here and there is no difference?

    Lastly, do you agree with me that it is right or there is a need to add "the" before "establishment" as shown below?:

    "The underlying quality determinants" suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer, independent of the category or class of the product, the establishment, and/or sophistication of facility or service.

    Looking forward to your reply. Thanks!!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I do not feel that the article the is needed, but it doesn't cause any detraction either. This is a case of either/or. Both are fine. As to the question concerning or vs. and in the other construction, they could both serve, but having seen your original offer of facility sophistication / service sophistication, I think or serves to keep the two ideas more separate, more sovereign, even though they are both subordinated beneath the idea of sophistication.
     
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  13. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for your time and patience.

    But if you agree that after "independent of the category or class of" the separate or parallel items are:1. the product; 2. establishment; 3. sophistication of facility or service, then why do we need to have "the" before "product", which is a countable noun, while having no need to also have a "the" before "establishment", which is also a countable noun just like "product" in this situation? Incidentally I think of this: Could it be that when we focus on a conception and want to merely mention that conception caring about nothing else, we can use the singular form of a countable noun without having "the" or "a/an" before it in order to emphasize this conception? I remember (my memory or my feel for English may be wrong, though) this is especially true when we define things. For example, we may ask someone in person or ask ourselves in our writing, "What is teacher?" or "What is smartphone?" That said, I still feel that now that in this sentence we have already said "the product" to refer to tourist products generically rather than a specific tourist product, then we need to be consistent by also saying "the establishment". Is my reasoning tenable or ludicrous?
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What's happening in this case, the reason the subsequent definite articles (the) can either be used or done without in the case of countable nouns, isn't related to conceptual vs concrete items; it is only an artifact of the list in which they are arranged. One could also use the articles throughout and it would be perfectly fine:

    ... independent of the category or class of the product, the establishment, and/or the sophistication of the facility or the service.

    There is no alteration of meaning in this new sentence, but idiomatic tendencies make this feel overly wordy. In such a list, the first article (in red) happily serves the subsequent items and is much more the common mode of expression.
     
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  15. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you very much, Wreybies. You have helped me to get to some depth of knowledge about the English language which cannot be found in books. I feel great to finally come to thoroughly understand this aspect of the issue under discussion when I hear you say "In such a list, the first article (in red) happily serves the subsequent items and is much more the common mode of expression". You are great at explaining things. Thank you!!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
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  16. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    When I first read your post several days ago, I, as a nonnative speaker of English, felt it difficult to follow you. But yesterday evening I reread it carefully and found your explanation is great. I am not clear about the intended meaning of the original sentence either and this is why I came here for help. I think it is now certain that the writer of this sentence wrote in a careless way. That is, there's a lot of chaos and ambiguity in it. After reading your detailed explanation, I realize that "the catorgory or class of service sophistication" really makes no sense. However, to be frank, your last revision "...the consumer, independently of category or class of the product, establishment, or facility, and independently of service sophistication" seems to me to be a bit clumsy structurally. Based on your reasoning, I am now thinking about whether we can combine your two revisions of the sentence by saying the following:

    ...the consumer, independently of (A) service sophistication, and (B) the category or class of the (B1)product, (B2)establishment, or (B3)facility.

    What do you think of this further revision? And should I change the added conjunction "and" in red to "or"? By giving these labels, I mean " (A)service sophistication" and "(B) the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility" are at the same level while "product", "establishment", and "facility" are at a lower level and are all part of (B) and they share the definite article "the". By the way, isn't "facility" usually used in its plural form?

    Lastly, would you please tell me why you do not think "independently of" better be changed to "independent of" as all others in this thread do?

    I am so eagerly looking forward to your reply. Thank you.

    Richard
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  17. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Hi, Wreybies. Sorry to bother you again.
    I have just reviewed all the posts in this thread and found what BayView said in post #2 makes sense and ChickenFreak's catergorization of "- category of the product- class of the product- the establishment- facility sophistication- service sophistication" seems to be convincing. As Bayview said in post#2, "category or class of the service sophistication... makes no sense. Taking anything I can get from this thread into full consideration, I would like to rephrase the sentence as follows:

    ...the consumer, independent(ly) of (A) service sophistication, and (B) the category or class of the (B1)product, (B2)establishment, or (B3)facility.

    What do you think of this further revision? I am curious to notice that BayView in post # 2 did not change "independently" to "independent" as you and some others did. And should I change the added conjunction "and" in red to "or"? Is it again a case of "either/or"? By giving these labels, I mean " (A)service sophistication" and "(B) the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility" are at the same level while "product", "establishment", and "facility" are at a lower level and are all part of (B) and they share the definite article "the" as you said. By the way, isn't "facility" usually used in its plural form?

    Sorry for giving you so much trouble! I am a lover of English, and I always want to know more about how to construct English sentences. Incidentally, I am a Chinese teacher of English writing for English major sophomores at a small university in eastern China.

    Looking forward to your reply. Thanks.

    Richard
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  18. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Hi, Wreybies. Sorry to bother you again.
    I have just reviewed all the posts in this thread and found what BayView said in post #2 makes sense and ChickenFreak's catergorization of "- category of the product- class of the product- the establishment- facility sophistication- service sophistication" seems to be convincing. As Bayview said in post#2, "category or class of the service sophistication... makes no sense. Taking anything I can get from this thread into full consideration, I would like to rephrase the sentence as follows:

    ...the consumer, independently of (A) service sophistication, and (B) the category or class of the (B1)product, (B2)establishment, or (B3)facility.

    What do you think of this further revision? And should I change the added conjunction "and" in red to "or"? Is it again a case of "either/or"? By giving these labels, I mean " (A)service sophistication" and "(B) the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility" are at the same level while "product", "establishment", and "facility" are at a lower level and are all part of (B) and they share the definite article "the" as you said. By the way, isn't "facility" usually used in its plural form?

    Sorry for giving you so much trouble! I am a lover of English, and I always want to know more about how to construct English sentences. Incidentally, I am a Chinese teacher of English writing for English major sophomores at a small university in eastern China.

    Looking forward to your reply. Thanks.

    Richard
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmmm.... I see the point being made by Bayview, but writing like this can be as much careless as burdened by "jargon". I once worked for a man who spoke only in jargon, in "buzz-words". He would say things like "we need to ratchet up", and "this idea needs to be revisited". He was a tedious man.

    The last offering you give makes good sense. It should still be independent rather than independently if there is no change of a verb prior to this segment demanding an adverb. If there is none, then the understood copular verb is still driving the structure. Facility is fine in the singular and matches in number with the rest of the items listed since we are speaking "one choice out of the possible choices of this item".

    And I know who you are, Richard. :bigwink: You have a longstanding relationship with our forum. :agreed: I appreciate the questions you ask because you look at things the same way I do as regards foreign languages. Most of my interpreter coworkers are happy to just know which word in Language X plugs in for the word in Language Y. That is never enough for me. I need to know what structures are associated with the word, what verbs can I expect to see, what prepositions. Does a change of preposition change the meaning, and if so, how and when? :bigoops: That's me!
     
  20. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    I love this forum very much because of a lot of guys like you who are very kindhearted and willing to help English learners like me with things some native speakers may dismiss as meaningless or even stupid at first glance and if they do not take into account difficulties nonnatives encounter in learning this language totally different from their mother tongue. By the way, as regards foreign language learning, we are of the same type.

    I love your example sentence of "this idea needs to be revisited" uttered by the man you worked for. It seems a lot of academics would write or speak the way that guy did. This afternoon I read part of a chapter of an academic book on ELT (English language teaching) research and when I was reading it, I felt uneasy because of its tendency to use too much of so-called cold scientific language.

    I hope the following one is my last question in this thread. The first sentence I quoted in my original post goes, " 'The underlying quality determinants' suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer independently of category or class of the product, establishment, facility or service sophistication." I agree with you that "independently" should be changed to "independent". Then my question is, what is independent of service sophistication, and the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility? To my understanding, it is common, irrevocable criteria of quality (rather than the customer) that are independent of service sophistication, and the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility. Am I right in this understanding? I forgot to ask you about this earlier.

    I beg you to give me an answer to this last question in this thread. Thanks a million.

    Richard
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  21. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    May I ask you to take a look at post #20? Is it that mine in that post is a silly question or something meaningless or something which does not need to be asked? If so, I will drop it.Thanks.
     
  22. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I used to work in quality assurance, and in response to the question posed as the topic, I'd boil down the first sentence to "All goods and/or services must be fit for use, regardless of price." This is a common expression of the term "quality" in Australia. There are many ways of rewriting the sentence, and I expect they've all been covered by now.

    Someone mentioned a hamburger: it is reasonable to expect that the $2 hamburger may not have the same ingredients, packaging, condiments, etc., as a $50 hamburger, but both must be edible, have at least meat, bun, and condiment. A $50 motel room must have the same basic services like bed, window, and so forth as the $500 motel room. There can be no "You want a roof over the room? That's not something we provide," because there is some unwritten expectation that there be a degree of shelter from the elements.

    I had no trouble reading and understanding the first sentence but it seems to me that the writer has either targeted a specific audience or at least partially neglected the lay audience.
     
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  23. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot for your participation in this discussion, Mike.

    I also love ChickenFreak's hamburger example.

    NowI, as a nonnative speaker of English, have been a little bit confused about and wants a confirmation or negation of my understanding of this remaining question: If I reword the first sentence of the quoted paragraph in my original post as suggested by some in this thread as

    'The underlying quality determinants' suggest that there should be common, irrevocable criteria of quality which are vital for the consumer, independent of service sophistication, and the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility.

    Then to your understanding, what is independent of service sophistication, and the category or class of the product, establishment, or facility, "common, irrevocable criteria of quality" OR "the consumer"? My answer to this remaining question is the former of "common, irrevocable criteria of quality", but I am not sure of it and do not know how to explain why.

    Looking forward to your reply. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015

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