The Communicative Grammar of English Workbook (2013)
UNIT SEVENTEEN. Focusing
17.1. Focusing information
Sections 396–401; 744
Tone units represent the way we structure information when speaking.
A general rule is that a tone unit is the way we separate each piece of information.
Each tone unit has a nucleus which marks the focus of information in the unit.
Often, the nucleus is at the end of the tone unit, or rather on the last major class word. This is known as end-focus.
Sometimes, however, it is shifted to an earlier part of the tone unit when the speaker wishes to draw attention to something which is in contrast to something already mentioned or understood in the context. This is known as contrastive focus.
Task one **
In the following statements, mark the places where you would expect the boundaries of tone units. Some positions for a tone unit are more certain than others. Where you think the boundary is certain, mark it II. Where it is less certain, mark it I.
1.I like Kent, but I prefer Sussex.
2.I find that with so many of these problems – marriage, sex education – as soon as you try to make it a sort of formal lesson, the whole thing falls flat.
3.The fact that Burti feels only bruised and battered after the accident with Schumacher is a measure of the progress we have made on the safety measures over the past two seasons.
4.We had our breakfast in the kitchen and then we sort of did what we liked.
5.We took some children to the environmental study centre the other day, and they have various animals around there.
6.And the thing is that the journalists – I mean I’ve met some of these people – they know nothing about the country at all.
7.Spectator sports are dying out. I think people are getting choosy. There’s more to do, of course. More choice.
8.Sundays in London. If we’re all working or cooking or things like that, it can get fearfully dull.
9.Dave rang me about this business of changing the groups.
10.Of course the children have their own inhibitions about talking about sex. They’re just not frank about it.
(from D. Crystal & D. Davy (1975) Advanced Conversational English, Longman)
Task two ***
For each item in Task One, explain which of the following general rules informed your decision.
clause or adverbial phrase at the beginning of the sentence
non-restrictive modifier in the sentence
medial phrase or clause
vocative or linking adverb
a clause or long noun phrase acting as a subject
two or more clauses are co-ordinated
(overriding rule) each piece of information deserves a separate tone unit.
Task three ***
Mark the nucleus in each of the tone units in the following items. (Some items need more than one nucleus.) Show whether the tone is falling, rising or fall-rise. There may be more than one solution.
1.She’s been painting that door for three days now.
2.Sue teaches at the school in Queen Street.
3.No. Sue teaches at the school. She’s not the social secretary.
4.A: That’s a fine penguin. Are you taking it to the zoo?
B: No, I took it to the zoo yesterday. I’m taking it to the cinema today.
5.I saw that film at the Duke’s.
6.It was the film version of Orlando that I saw at the Duke’s.
7.The phone’s ringing.
8.Ivan lives in London in King Street.
He lives in London, but he also has an apartment in Cambridge.
9.Can you understand all that? If you can’t, just phone again.
10.I want more time, more money and more coffee.
11.The editor was John Wrigley.
12.Studio production was by Paul Moore; the editor was John Wrigley.
Task four **
Mark the nuclear tone in the underlined clauses below. (Where necessary divide a single sentence into more than one tone unit.)
1.Weren’t you working in Berlin last summer?
No. It was the summer before last.
2.You haven’t visited our new art gallery.
Yes, I have. I’ve been several times.
3.All the voting papers were sent out early, but only forty-six per cent of the voters replied on time.
4.He gets a lot of work on television, but he’s not a very good actor.
5.They say he was very good in that job. I say he’s just an opportunist who arrived at the right time.
6.Have you still got that old car? Yes. And it still drives well.
7.Why have you changed your e-mail address? I haven’t. The one I gave you was incorrect.
8.It looks as if it will take ages to get there, but the time will fly past.
9.I can’t learn things just by reading the instructions. I have to be hands-on.
10.Give him another chance. He’s had four already.
Task five **
Below is an interview given by a TV star. The answers have been changed. Rewrite the answers, so that the important information becomes its end-focus.
1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A good meal with good friends is perfect happiness for me.
2.What is your greatest fear?
It is drowning that I fear most.
3.With which historical figure do you most identify?
Queen Victoria, a small lady, is the most obvious one.
4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?
An inability to laugh at yourself is something I hate.
5.What vehicles do you own?
A car is the only one I have.
6.What is your greatest extravagance?
Shopping is something I love to spend money on.
7.What is your greatest regret?
Life is too short and that I regret.
8.How would you like to die?
Suddenly and painlessly is what I hope it will be.
9.How do you relax?
Crossword puzzles are a great form of relaxation.
10.What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To take each day as it comes is the most important thing I’ve learned.
17.2. Organising information – Given and new information
Given information is something which the speaker assumes the hearer knows already
New information is something which the speaker does not assume the speaker knows about already.
Sometimes given information is not spoken but is suggested by the situation.
For the main information, we use a falling tone for emphasis.
For subsidiary or less important information, we use a rising tone.
In writing, the most important new information is saved until the end of the sentence.
Task one **
Indicate where the nuclear stresses should be in the following items.
1.“Did they enjoy Singapore?” “No, it was raining all the time.”
2.“That’s a lovely vase Anne gave you.” “Joan gave it to me, not Anne.”
3.The driver wasn’t going very fast when he crashed through the barrier.
4.I know you find the noise from the trains disturbing, but here the planes are worse.
5.I took my holiday in Hungary.
6.There’s someone at the door.
7.Can I speak to Alison, please?
8.Tell her it’s Mike.
9.I went to Berlin in February because the U-Bahn was a hundred years old.
10.It’s true. He won the lottery.
Task two **
(In 2001, Foot and Mouth Disease was widespread throughout Britain. Other countries in Europe were concerned about the disease spreading to their animals. Below is part of a document issued to travellers between Finland and Great Britain.)
Reorganise the sentences in the paragraphs in the following text where necessary to give proper emphasis to the main information in each case.
How to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease to Finland
1.on 20 February
the outbreak of foot and mouth disease was detected
in an explosive manner
it has spread in the UK
3.the disease was found in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern
Ireland by 2 March
4.the virus causes foot and mouth disease only in hoofed animals
in horses and people
but may cause a transient infection
5.hoofed animal species include
cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, reindeer and elks
6.no risk for humans
the disease causes
7.you may use diluted citric acid available from pharmacies
as a disinfectant
8.as pets may transport the virus
wash them thoroughly with shampoo after arrival
if you bring animals to Finland from the risk areas
9.it is the duty of travellers to be cautious
as the situation in the UK is critical
10.for at least 48 hours
where animals are kept
do not visit premises
17.3. Organising information – Order and emphasis
Instead of the subject, you can make another element the topic, by moving it to the front of the sentence. This shift gives the element a kind of psychological prominence, and has three different effects:
Task one **
Indicate which type of topic is fronted in the following sentences – Underline the fronted element E–emphatic topic; C–contrastive topic; S–semi-given topic.
1.Some awful films they have recommended.
2.Poor they may be, but they are generous to a fault.
3.Most of this work an assistant should do.
4.Some days he works very late, but others he’s home by lunch-time.
5.Hard work you say it is!
6.Not many people want to live in an old property; but new houses in a traditional style, buyers are willing to pay a lot for.
7.Stupid he isn’t, but he’s often careless.
8.Romantic novels you can buy cheaply; serious works you must pay a lot for.
9.You’re diving straight into the pool. This I must see.
10.I’m good at remembering people’s names. Street names I always forget, though.
Task two **
Rewrite the following sentences so that the part underlined is the topic of the sentence. State what kind of topic it is.
1.They just don’t look after that cat properly.
2.The company has already put into practice these new working conditions.
3.They show some foreign films, but they don’t show the really important ones.
4.He may be very clever, but he isn’t practical.
5.She behaved in a very strange way at the meeting.
6.They painted the house an awful colour, didn’t they?.
7.His speech at the funeral offended a lot of people.
8.I don’t understand the reason for this celebration.
9.They gave the money to her; but they gave the painting to him.
10.The management looked into the problems you’re speaking about last week.
Task three ***
Rewrite the following letter freely, making the following elements of the story into topics: i.e. subject or fronted topics:
shifts between characters
name of main character
movement of characters in the story
opportunity for others
Many thanks for giving me a chance to read your story. I think it is of importance to all people like us and most will find it reflects their own experience. I was very impressed by the structure of the story. I liked the way the story shifted back and forth between the two protagonists and, because of this, shifted between the seasons to show the development of the main character. I was a bit frightened by the introductory monologue. I think this was because I am shy of exposing myself and you had written this in the first person. I was relieved when I discovered you had called the character Tim. I liked the way the characters moved in and out of the story reflecting the parallels of experience.
I also liked the way you described the town, the sea and the vineyard. I could imagine myself there, especially by the sea and in the vineyard. I found the philosophy underpinning the story interesting. There is never a beginning. Where we think there is a beginning, it is really a development of ideas and events that have gone before. You conveyed this brilliantly.
Well done, Edward. Many thanks again for letting me read this. I hope others will have this opportunity. Your story has a lot to say.
17.4. Organising information – Inversion
Sections 415–417; 584–585; 590–594; 681–684
There are two types of inversion:
Subject-verb inversion is normally limited as follows:
•The verb phrase consists of a single verb word in the past or present tense
•The verb is an intransitive verb of position
•The topic element is an adverbial of place or direction
Subject-operator inversion occurs when a negative element is fronted for emphasis.
Task one **
Give end-focus or end-weight to the parts of the sentences underlined below.
1.John’s there by the fence.
2.The house for sale is over there.
3.Look, the person you want is there.
4.Rick is on the left; Nick is on the right.
5.Janet and Paul came down the road laughing and shouting.
6.The kite flew up into the sky.
7.John Nehemiah lies here – looking up at his friends.
8.The car of his dreams stood outside the house.
9.A city stood on the hill, proud surveyor of the valley below.
10.An enormous tree crashed down as the storm raged.
Task two **
Rewrite the sentences below to give greater emphasis to the negative element.
1.The government would only agree to bail out the company if the managing director quit.
2.England has never played better than with its new manager.
3.Your proposal doesn’t touch on the real problem in any way.
4.The Prime Minister didn’t make even the smallest concession to the opposition.
5.Their son not only failed his exam; he also refused the chance to repeat it.
6.They were not left a penny in their mother’s will. All the money went to charity.
7.She had hardly had time to take in the new rules for welfare payments when she was put in charge of the office.
8.The head of department could do little to stop the erosion of confidence in any future developments.
9.He gave little away about his own future plans.
10.I’ve rarely seen such a poor display of sportsmanship.
Task three ***
Rewrite the passage using an appropriate form of inversion wherever possible, and where necessary a change of vocabulary, to achieve greater emphasis. The first one has been done for you. There are ten others.
Eccles is not far from Manchester. It is not only famous for its special cake; it also has the world’s only swinging aqueduct, carrying water from the Manchester Ship Canal. Now the people of Eccles are afraid that no-one will come to experience these jewels. Why?
A town called Eccles is nowhere on the new ordnance survey map.
“We’re very sorry about this. We rarely make such mistakes,” confessed a spokesman for the ordnance survey team.
“They understand little about how we feel,” said a town councillor. “I had hardly sat down at my desk this morning before the phone started ringing with complaints. I shall only be satisfied when we are back on the map.”
Unfortunately, that can’t happen in any way until the next edition of the map.
Another mistake is the map shows Ladywell and Salford Royal Hospitals. These hospitals no longer exist.
Residents of Eccles have seldom felt so confused and angry. “There’s no way strangers to the region can find us now,” sighed one resident.
Not far from Manchester is Eccles.
17.5. Organising information – Fronting with ‘so/neither’
So is placed first:
•as a substitute form with subject-operator inversion for end-focus
•as a substitute form without inversion to express emphatic affirmation
•for emphasis with subject-operator inversion when it introduces a clause of degree or amount.
In the case of a negative comparison, we use neither.
Task one *
Read through the information about the people below, then write sentences that show additional information using so as a substitute form with subject operator inversion.
1.David read physics at university.
2.Marc hasn’t been to university.
3.Sara is a keen tennis player.
4.Helen is fond of climbing.
5.Sara got married before 1993.
6.Rowan wants to be a writer.
7.Miles doesn’t have any sons.
8.David got married in October.
9.Marc will go to America next year.
10.David wants to have his own business.
Task two **
Rewrite the following text so that, where possible,
1.So as a substitute form without inversion is fronted to express emphatic affirmation
2.So introducing a clause of degree or amount is fronted for emphasis.
The event was so catastrophic that most people couldn’t take in the enormity of the disaster. In reality, the area covered was so small that the majority of the world could only look on in disbelief. However, the building was so enormous that, as it crumbled, it brought others down in its wake.
“We have seen the end of an era,” claimed one commentator.
“We have indeed,” replied the politician.
“I had friends in there.”
“In fact, we all did.”
“The world will never be the same again.”
The messages that flashed round the world were so extraordinary that only pictures could help people understand what had happened. Commentators described the scene as if it were from a Hollywood movie so often that the comparison became devoid of meaning.
“I saw that film ‘Independence Day’”.
“We all did.”
“It had scenes like this”
“It did indeed.”
And the people were so shocked and frightened that they went home and left an eerie silence on the streets.
17.6. Organising information – Cleft sentences
Sections 419–423; 496; 592
•This construction is useful for fronting an element as topic and also for putting focus on the topic element.
•It cannot focus on the complement of a clause.
•It cannot focus on the verb, by using the substitute verb “do”.
•It can focus on the complement of a clause.
•It can focus on the verb, by using the substitute verb “do”.
•It can be linked by the verb “be” to a demonstrative pronoun.
•It is more common at the beginning of a sentence.
Task one **
Rewrite the following sentences so that the focus (the underlined word) is a cleft with the introductory It.
1.I spent last week in Sweden not Switzerland.
2.No, Shakespeare wrote ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ not Marlowe.
3.At the meeting of the fiscal committee, she supported the lower interest rate.
4.The prince was filmed by our camera crew.
5.Nobody will ever forget the 1960s.
6.My sister got married in 1969 not 1970.
7.I didn’t tell them and I don’t know who did.
8.We now face a global recession.
9.They bought the house as an investment, not to live in it.
10.Michael Apted directed the movie I liked.
Task two **
Rewrite the sentences below so that the part underlined is the focus using a “wh” cleft.
1.We now face a global recession.
2.I was working with the army, not the navy.
3.It isn’t known when he will get here.
4.Emily Dickinson wrote poetry not plays.
5.Cybereconomics attracts the over fifties.
6.E-crime is on the increase.
7.The head of department needs the annual turnover figures tomorrow morning.
8.A last minute error delayed him.
9.The streets of London are paved with concrete, not gold.
10.Mick Jagger has become a film producer.
17.7. Organising information – Postponement
Postponement with introductory “it”
This is used to postpone a subject clause for purposes of end-weight or end-focus:
•when the subject is a ‘that’ clause
•impersonal passive introduction
Occasionally it can be used to displace a clause in object position. This must occur when the object clause is a ‘that’ clause or an infinitive clause.
It is also possible to postpone sentence elements to give more emphasis and to avoid awkwardness.
Task one **
Complete the sentences by starting each one with the introductory ‘It’ and adding one of the words or phrases here.
amazing, a problem, disappointing, expected, hard, lovely, not clear, stupid, very gratifying, very important
Example: ……………………… to see so much waste paper in the countryside. (annoy)
It annoys me to see so much waste paper in the countryside.
1.……………………… to be here.
2.……………………… they will soon attack.
3.……………………… why the government was being so cautious.
4.……………………… that he failed his exams so badly.
5.……………………… how long elephants live.
6.……………………… to be proved right in this case.
7.……………………… to walk all the way to the university.
8.……………………… if you always refuse.
9.……………………… to predict what will finally happen.
10.……………………… for him to win the prize.
Task two **
Rewrite these sentences postponing certain elements to give them more emphasis or to avoid awkwardness.
1.A place for him to stay has been found.
2.The train coming from Berlin was late.
3.What a problem finding this address has been!
4.How serious about resigning are you?
5.The commander himself gave the order to shoot.
6.The manager himself paid for the breakages.
7.Footballers have more status than they used to as celebrities.
8.All the bills except the one for the new computer system have been paid.
9.He’s earned more money in a year than his father earned in his whole life writing that one novel.
10.What a story about her adventures in Thailand she had to tell.
Task three **
Rewrite the report to make it sound more impersonal and authoritative, using introductory ‘It’ with passive verb forms to replace the underlined expressions.
People think that the British National Health Service is badly run, when generally many know that it is underfunded. You hear tales of vastly overcrowded hospitals, and frequently there are reports that people have had to wait months if not years for minor surgery. Set against this, however, is the fact that the British people value the principle of the National Health Service, and most people acknowledge that no government would dare try to dismantle it. When politicians suggest that there could be some kind of private investment, there is strong opposition; but, on the other hand, there is equally strong opposition, when they say that there will have to be tax increases to fund the service properly. Most analysts acknowledge that, in many ways, the service is the most efficient in Europe and that with more investment, it could be one of the best. There are many people who assume it will always be there, but there are also many who fear it will disappear because of lack of financial support. They don’t appreciate how determined the government is to see it survive.
17.8. Organising information – Other choices
Sections 430–432; 488; 608; 613–618; 730; 740
Choices of position
The passive can be used to give a sentence end-focus or end-weight.
The position of the direct and indirect objects can be postponed for the same purpose.
Task one **
Rewrite the sentences below to give end-focus or end-weight to the underlined sections.
1.How could he afford such a large house?
His parents gave him the money.
2.They have proved the reasons he gave for meeting that woman false.
3.How did such a successful company collapse like that?
The Chief Executive made some poor decisions.
4.In 2001, they gave Peter Carey the prize for the second time.
5.The writer checked the samples he’d been sent carefully.
6.Don’t leave work for the exam to the last minute!
7.That he’d done so well in his career finally pleased his father.
8.That Marc insisted on spelling his name with a ‘c’ instead of a ‘k’ irritated his girl friend.
9.Ivan often failed to contact his friends for months.
10.Cathie asked if she could leave early for a second time.
Task two **
Give end-focus or end-weight to the sections underlined in the article below.
More than fifty years after the event, it is instructive to look at how honestly Second World War leaders treated the civilian population. Were we regarded as delicate flowers? Did they give all the truth and nothing but the truth compatible with security to us?
“There may always be another reality. To make fiction of the truth we think we’ve arrived at,” said the playwright, Christopher Fry. Goodness knows he saw enough reality in the pioneer corps.
Beady-eyed people who have second thoughts about mighty events are revisionist historians. They can really make a veteran’s moustache bristle and steam gush from his ears. Burrowers and snufflers through the once-secret archives sometimes force us to face freshly revealed unpalatable truths: in the war, there was the usual tarnished brass – cowards, deserters, psychopaths and black marketeers supported the military geniuses, heroes, yeomen who were worthy of their country.
17.9. Organising information – Avoiding intransitive verbs
We tend to avoid predicates consisting of just a single verb as there is a feeling that the predicate of a clause should be longer or grammatically more complex than the subject. This is connected with the principle of end-weight.
In the following comment, Lionel is talking about himself to Miriam. Rewrite the text by using a more complex predicate: replacing drank by had a drink.
“You must excuse my chatting away like this, my dear. It’s so long since anyone called round, especially an old friend like you. The children have all gone away now. I know I could visit, but I don’t like to travel much now. Christine is living in the south of Portugal. I visited her. I suppose it’s a lovely spot. Nice beach. Every day at ten o’clock, Christine swims. Then in the afternoon from two to four, she rests. I got bored being there. It’s like that really, I suppose. We older folk always had to work hard. They work very little. They’ve got the money. I don’t know how. Don’t like to ask. And they’re so organised. Everything has to be in its place. You won’t believe this, but one day, Tom … He’s her husband, partner … I don’t know what they call them now. Well, Tom was showering. Suddenly he shouted. We rushed upstairs. Couldn’t get in. The door was locked. I kicked the door hard. It didn’t give. Christine called out, asking what was wrong. You really won’t believe this. They have a lot of plants in the bathroom. He’d noticed two were out of place. I couldn’t live there. They have different standards from us. But then we knew hard times. We did, didn’t we? Will you dine with me tonight? Please do. It’s been such a long time. We’ll have my best wine.”