Question a parent can change a/the baby's diaper

Discussion in '英語勉強フォーラム - Learning English' started by hirashin, May 29, 2018.

  1. hirashin

    hirashin Sempai
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    Dear native English speakers,
    I have a little question.
    (a) There is a table on which a parent can change a baby's diaper.
    (b) There is a table on which a parent can change the baby's diaper.
    (c) There is a table on which a parent can change their baby's diaper.
    (d) There is a table on which parents can change their baby's diaper.

    (a) is from the textbook. But how about (b), (c) and (d)?

    Thanks in advance.
    Hirashin
     
  2. Julie.chan

    Julie.chan Sempai

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    B wouldn't be used because using a definite article ("the") makes it sound as if there is only one baby that could be relevant.

    C is good. It utilizes singular "they".

    D is almost good. The only problem is that because "parents" and "they" are plural, "baby's" and "diaper" need to be changed to plural as well:

    "There is a table on which parents can change their babies' diapers."
     
  3. hirashin

    hirashin Sempai
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    Thanks for the help, Julimaruchan. Are you making progress with your Japanese studies?
     
  4. Michael2

    Michael2 Kouhai

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    But the plurals in D are different nouns so why shouldn't one be plural and one be singular? They are mutually exclusive surely. You can have many people doing one thing, or vice-versa.

    For me they are all acceptable because A-C have a degree of formality about them that makes the articles acceptable. Using "a baby" or "the baby" makes it sounds impersonal and very formal, and I can imagine being said by a snotty upper-class person.

    Using "on which" is most un-natural to me. I would use "where".
     
  5. Julie.chan

    Julie.chan Sempai

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    Because they're linked together. The sentence talks about multiple parents, so there are multiple children. And if there are multiple children, there are multiple diapers. If you say "parents can change their baby's diaper", it sounds as if you're talking only about the parents of one particular child, yet "parents" is not specific (no "the", "these", "those", etc), so that's disjointed.

    Yeah, ever so slowly.
     
  6. Michael2

    Michael2 Kouhai

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    But it would be understood in the sense of "each one" - each parent's baby. In another example you would have to say, "Hikers should bring a bottle of water on the trip", not "bottles", otherwise they would be overloaded with water. Equally here, each mother or father has one baby.
     
  7. Julie.chan

    Julie.chan Sempai

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    Of course it would be understood, but it's incorrect grammar and tested for on standardized tests. Furthermore, speaking like that, mixing up singular and plural forms, makes you sound uneducated. You can claim that speaking properly makes you sound "snotty" if you like, but unless you're making a point of correcting people or trying to show them up, I don't think anyone is going to get mad at you for not mangling the English language the same way they do.
     
  8. Michael2

    Michael2 Kouhai

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    I think you are getting confused between the answers. I said A-C would be all be acceptable because some people, who are usually uppper-class and speak more formally, use articles in that way. You had previously said B would be unacceptable.

    As for mixing singular and plural nouns, I'm not saying "it would be understood" and therefore acceptable, I'm saying "it would be understood to mean...". There are no hard and fast rules regarding the matter, it's a matter of style and logic. As I said "Hikers should bring bottles of water on their trip" could be understood to mean each hiker should bring more than one bottle, and would be the more logical conclusion. Using the singular noun in this example makes the sentence much easily understood as it was supposed to be, as I said, in the "each one" sense.
     

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