Question About the usage of "encourage"

Discussion in '英語勉強フォーラム - Learning English' started by hirashin, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. hirashin

    hirashin Sempai
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    Hello, native English speakers,

    I'd like to make some simple sentences which include "encourage".

    Would any of these sound natural?
    (a) Whenever I am depressed, my parents encourage me.
    (b) Letters from my wife always encourage me.
    (c) I'm always encouraged by letters from my wife.
    (d) I thought I couldn't beat him. But your words encouraged me.
    (e) As his father, I've always encouraged Tom.

    Hirashin
     
  2. mdchachi

    mdchachi Moderator
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    All look perfect to me.
     
  3. johnnyG

    johnnyG 先輩

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    While they are perfectly grammatical, I'd suggest adding "to + Verb ~ " to each one of these. E.g.,

    (a) Whenever I am depressed, my parents encourage me. ...to get some exercise.
    (b) Letters from my wife always encourage me. ...to work harder.
    (e) As his father, I've always encouraged Tom. ...to do his best.
     
  4. hirashin

    hirashin Sempai
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    Thanks for the help, mdchachi and johnnyG.
    Would my sentences sound off?
    I'd like to do that.
    But the students haven't learned the pattern "encourage (person) to (do)" yet.
    So I didn't put "to do something" at the end.
     
  5. Michael2

    Michael2 Sempai

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    The problem Hirashin, is that encourage is usually used in a specific case, unlike say "support" which could be used more generally. "We supported our children when they were at university" would be fine, indicating the parents gave general support, especially financial, but "We encouraged our children when they were at university" would be odd. Encouraged them to do what? Like Johnny G indicated, it's usually attached to an action, not a situation. It's used more similarly to "advise" in that you "advise someone to do something", even though "encourage" would appear to be more similar to support than advise meaning-wise. Teaching "advise" without "advise someone to do" is almost pointless because it makes it very difficult to use it in a situation, similarly "encourage".
     
  6. mdchachi

    mdchachi Moderator
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    While I agree with the others that encourage is usually paired with something, your examples are perfectly fine and do not sound off. The reason is that the type of encouragement is implied and doesn't really need to be stated explicitly. The reader can fill in the blanks.

    (a) Whenever I am depressed, my parents encourage me.
    ==> it's implied that your parents are encouraging you to feel better about yourself.
    (b) Letters from my wife always encourage me.
    ==> it's implied that the letters encourage you to feel better or try harder.
    (c) I'm always encouraged by letters from my wife.
    ==> It's implied that you feel better or try harder or don't want to give up when you read these letters.
    (d) I thought I couldn't beat him. But your words encouraged me.
    ==> It's implied that the words made you try harder or believe more in yourself.
    (e) As his father, I've always encouraged Tom.
    ==> It's implied that the father has encouraged Tom to do something such as following his dreams.

    In summary, your sample sentences are perfectly fine for this classroom English lesson.
    I hope this reply of mine has encouraged you.
     
  7. Buntaro

    Buntaro 運動不足

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    #7 Buntaro, Sep 29, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
    Hirashin, I agree. If you are going to teach them "encourage" then you should teach them "encourage someone to do...". If the students haven't learned this yet, then this is a good time for you to teach them this.

    (Later on you can throw in, "strongly encourage someone to do...".)
     
  8. Michael2

    Michael2 Sempai

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    I would agree to a large extent, although I would still class (a) and (e) as wrong. But it does lead to a question I've often found myself asking in regards to these kind of exercises both from Hirashin and at my own school, which is to what extent these sentences have to make sense, or any sense at all, as they are purely grammatical exercises. You could use "someone + encourage + thing" and so long as it followed that pattern it would probably be grammatically correct even if the sentence was non-sensical, e.g "She encouraged dogs." or "Spiders encourage me." Are we looking for 100% correct English or language, or to what extent, and if not are there any side-effects of not doing so?
     
  9. mdchachi

    mdchachi Moderator
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    His examples are clearly not wrong grammatically. And they still make sense with their implied meanings even if you could make a claim that they are not natural usage. It's true however that he will then have to deal with his students if they make up such unnatural examples like the ones you just made up. I think these discussions often go overboard as we overthink what he's attempting to do here.
     
  10. Michael2

    Michael2 Sempai

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    But going purely on grammatical correctness leads to meaningless sentences. "The book takes wool," is grammatically correct but non-sensical. Accuracy is not only about grammar, it's about meaning, and I would argue you can not "encourage" someone suffering from depression, nor "encourage" someone in a general sense as in (e) with no context. That's kind of by-the-by though; you said you wonder if these discussions sometimes go overboard and I think that's a really important question. How much does it matter if these sentences do "make sense"? But if not what is the point of learning English? It then becomes like how people learn Latin in England. It's purely an exercise in grammatical pattern memorisation. I wonder what I would have thought if sentences in my Japanese textbook had been dumbed down to help me learn the patterns. Probably nothing as I wouldn't have understood anyway!
     
  11. mdchachi

    mdchachi Moderator
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    But there is context. It's just not stated explicitly, that's all. You can use your imagination to understand what encouraging somebody suffering depression could mean. Even in English it's not necessary to spell out every detail.
    Imagine if these classroom sentences were plucked out of a passage where the context is there. That's typically how I view his requests for review.
    On the other hand, you can't easily fit "the book takes wool" into anything that makes sense or imagine that it exists in some sensical paragraph. So I would certainly flag something like that.
    Obviously we should point out nonsensical sentences. But as I've said, I believe his example sentences could exist and don't sound particularly odd and do make sense.
     
  12. Michael2

    Michael2 Sempai

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    Yes, I try to fit them into context too, but the problem with that is that it 1) depends to an extent on how far your imagination can take you, 2) doesn't rely on linguistics, when it should 3) can let some words be shoe-horned into a sentence for the sake of grammar.
    I would contend 1) and 5) are wrong because you don't use encourage in English as a verb in a general sense, or relate it to events as serious as depression. Of course you can understand what "He encourages me when I'm depressed" is implying, or more accurately, intending to convey, but that doesn't mean it's the correct usage or make sense.

    If someone was telling me about an episode of depression I would expect them to say "My parents were very supportive/understanding." "Encouraging" would be used in something like a choice of career. "He was suffering from depression but his parents were very encouraging" sounds flippant. It's the wrong choice of word and actually doesn't make sense.
    Equally (e), you can imagine the context and situation of course, but it would not be said without an explanation of what he had encouraged because even in context, say of being on a football team, you don't just encourage someone like you blanket support them, you propose a specific action. In (b) and (c) I can imagine the action as being told "you can do this/you can succeed in that foreign country", but you don't use "encourage" as a general statement like you do "support", or "I'm behind him", for example. In (d) the specific situation is clear.
     
  13. mdchachi

    mdchachi Moderator
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    Maybe you need to work on your imagination. ;-)

    Whenever I am depressed, my parents encourage* me.
    How so?
    They show me what unconditional love really means.

    As his father, I've always encouraged* Tom.
    How so?
    I tell him that he's not as dumb as he looks.


    * using the "inspire" meaning of encourage here but I'm sure I could come up with examples that fit the "urge" meaning of encourage too.
     
  14. Michael2

    Michael2 Sempai

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    I fear this is not the appropriate forum to let the wilds of my imagination run riot..
     
  15. johnnyG

    johnnyG 先輩

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    ...which makes me think of:

    [​IMG]
     

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