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ESL forum > Ask for help > inversion and "have got" structures; people vs persons    

inversion and "have got" structures; people vs persons



chenchen_castrourdiales
Spain

inversion and "have got" structures; people vs persons
 
Hi everybody,
 
I dunno if u can help me with these two questions. First, is it true that inversion sentences are not frequently used in everyday English? Some of my workmates told me that it is useless teaching my students this structure which is just used by lawyers and in literary contexts. Is it true? Do we just use inversion sentences in formal contexts? Or are they also used in other contexts or with other purposes? Do English native speakers use this structure in their everyday English? (Inversion sentences after negative adverbials I mean)
My second questions deals with the structure "haven ´t got" vs " don ´t / doesn ´t have". Which one is better to use, because another workmate told me that the first structure is just just in the queen ´s speech. Is it true?
And my last doubt: I know that the plural form of "person" is "people" but I feel it is getting more and more frequent the use of "persons" rather than people even by journalists. When getting on a lift I saw a sign " no more than 4 persons". What is your feeling about it?
Thanks in advance.

13 Jun 2010      



Ailsa.
United Kingdom

Hello,
 
I can help you with two of your queries...
 
Re 2nd query: neither "haven ´t got" nor "don ´t have" are just the queen ´s English, they are both used daily and frequently by native speakers, in the UK at least. I think it ´s important to teach both.
 
Re 3rd query: The Concise Oxford English Dictionary explains that while ´people ´ and ´persons ´ are both plural for ´person ´, ´persons ´ is used in more formal contexts, such as the example you cite in your query. You could be right about it becoming more common in every day usage - perhaps people are doing this to add emphasis to their words, by making them seem more formal - just a thought.
 
As for your first query, if nobody comes up with anything better then my advice would be if you ´re not sure if it ´s used - don ´t teach it. In three years of teaching beginners to advanced I can ´t say that I ´ve taught that specific grammar point (inversion after negative adverbials). But maybe I ´ve been missing something - who knows.
 
By the way, a great grammar reference book is: ´An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage ´ by Leech, Cruickshank and Ivanic. It ´s great for up-to-date usage, examples and explanations.

13 Jun 2010     



sulekra
Australia

I rarely use inversion in spoken English, but it ´s definitely useful when reading texts and the news. I ´ve only ever taught it during certificate classes that could possibly be tested on it it, but never in conversation classes...

13 Jun 2010     



lshorton99
China

Ailsa answered your second and third queries brilliantly.

Regarding inversion of negative adverbials, it is basically a formal construction, which I teach at advanced levels (it is frequently tested in Cambridge exams). This being said, it is a fundamental part of the English language and I don ´t think you should ignore it. It is common in literature and there are certain constructions that we use in speech as well, if infrequently, particularly constructions with ´only ´.

Having said this, I found this interesting article which completely disagrees with me!

http://www.usingenglish.com/speaking-out/teaching-inversion.html

Lindsey

13 Jun 2010     



chenchen_castrourdiales
Spain

thanks for your useful answers. This site is simply awesome. So there ´s no difference between these pairs: Do you have any brothers? Have you got any brothers? // I don ´t have any brothers. I haven ´t got any brothers.

Although I taught my students that the word "persons" is getting more and more familiar among English native speakers nowadays my workmates tell me that they can not write that word in an exam, for instance when sitting their fce writing task `cause it will be considered as a mistake. Am I doing wrong when not correcting them?
 
Ailsa, do you know where I can have a look at that book on the internet before buying it? As far as I have read on the web it has wonderful reviews but just its old version not its new edition.

13 Jun 2010     



lshorton99
China

´People ´ is the standard plural form of ´person ´ and that is what you should teach your students. ´Persons ´ is more commonly used in legal and police language - ´The crime was committed by person or persons unknown ´ would be the example that first comes to mind. Basically it is only used in official or legal English.

Another good link:

http://www.english-test.net/stories/84/index.html

Lindsey

14 Jun 2010     



ballycastle1
United Kingdom

I agree with the explanations given above by Ailsa, Sulekra and Lindsey.

I use both pairs you have given with no difference intended or understood.
 
Re people/persons, in conversation I would never use persons as a plural for people and don ´t know anybody who would either. Persons is certainly used in a legal context (e.g. in a marriage ceremony, the registrar calls upon ´those persons here present ´ who have any objection to the marriage taking place, to speak) or in the lift example you give above, but I can ´t think of any other instance at the moment.
 
As for inversion sentences after negative adverbs, these are, as Lindsey says, common in certain works of literature but less frequent in conversational English. You could use them to express disgust or commendation:  ´Rarely have I seen work of such poor quality/exceptional standard ´.

14 Jun 2010     



Ailsa.
United Kingdom

Here you go!
 
And yep, it ´s true that the examples you gave are used in the same way.

14 Jun 2010     



douglas
United States

I tend to use "persons" when I want to focus on the individuals and "people" when I am focusing on the mass.

14 Jun 2010     



joy2bill
Australia

I find my students love to learn some new constructions at the higher levels. Therefore I always include inversion in my lessons.
 
My understanding is that a learner has three levels:
a: can recognize a construction when they see it.
b: can use a construction
c: can explain a construction.
 
Much of what they learn never gets past Stage A. Inversion is one of these.
However I found a couple of examples that I would consider normal speech.
 
No sooner had he finished dinner, when she walked in the door.
 
Such is the stuff of dreams.
 
Not only do I enjoy soccer, but I also have a season ticket to all the matches.
 
Cheers Joy

14 Jun 2010