Literal ESL 3

One of my ESL students wrote this:

I suppose this is what she meant:



Grammar stuff:

“20 times” is an adverb that modifies the gerund “developing lung cancer”, and so the sentence reads as if one might develop lung cancer twenty separate times. Of course, the student meant that one is twenty times more likely to develop lung cancer.





About Boggleton Drive

I teach things to people and sometimes draw comics.
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12 Responses to Literal ESL 3

  1. Russ Nickel says:

    Could it also be that there will be 20 times when the person will get the chance of developing lung cancer? Who knows what the odds are each time, but it’d be something like the doctor saying, “Alright, it’s coming up again next week. It’s your 18th chance to develop lung cancer, so here’s hoping you stay in the clear one more time.”

  2. Connie B. Dowell says:

    Love it! And I love that you tell how to explain to student why this is an error.

  3. Connie B. Dowell says:

    Correction: “to a student.” Now I sound like I need some English lessons! Whoops.

  4. As I knew, “as I knew” is the best way to start a sentence I have ever heard. As I knew, I want to start every sentence that way from now on! But as I knew, that would probably get old quick.

  5. Qadgop says:

    There is also the medical term “Pack/years”. Smoke 1 pack a day for 20 years, or 2 packs a day for 10 years, or 1/2 pack a day for 40 years, and it all adds up to 20 pack/years for that person.

    Statistically, the risk of getting cancer from smoking becomes most significant once you’ve crossed that 20 pack/year line.

  6. awbw says:

    I’m so happy I stumbled upon your comics, you have provided me a nice amount of procrastination at work.

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