English as a Second Language/Need your opinions


QUESTION: "Peter finished three tasks, and Mary did two."
Another expert here, Amy Baker, said, "it's a confusing statement... difficult for someone to understand..."

"Peter likes to eat apples, and John does oranges."
Another expert here, Shannon Cole, said the sentence is wrong.

On the following page, I have posted a sentence in a similar style but people can understand it. What do you think?

ANSWER: Hi Matthew!

Thanks for your questions.  I always think it's a good idea to get a variety of answers since, actually, most native speakers do not inherently understand their own language enough to be able to explain it well.  Usually when you arrive at a consensus that makes sense, you've come across the right answer.

On that note, I'll offer my two cents:

"Peter finished three tasks, and Mary did two."

It may be difficult for someone to understand, but I don't think though.  The confusion with this sentence - and the next - is with the word "did."  Did actually serves as two different types of verbs; a helping verb and a regular/action verb.  As a regular verb, it serves to express an action, the type of action is usually determined by the object.  However, in this case it's pretty clear that it is a helping verb simply meant to refer to the previous verb - in this case, finish - since the verb "finish" is a clear regular verb.  So while it may be difficult to understand, I don't think it's confusing and it certainly isn't wrong.

"Peter likes to eat apples, and John does oranges."

This sentence is both incorrect and difficult to understand.  In this case, "does" is meant to replace "likes to eat" but it cannot.  First of all, it can only replace the verb, not the infinitive - to eat - that goes along with it.  In your example sentence on the yahoo answers page, you clearly stated the objects both times, so it was fine.  Second, "like" is a stative verb, not an action verb, so it's technically incorrect to use the helping verb "do" to replace it.

I hope that gives you a little more information!  Thanks for the interesting question!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: "Peter likes sport, and Mary does music."
Is it also wrong because "like" is a stative verb?
Will it be wrong too if "likes" is replaced by "enjoys"?
Is it a grammar rule that a stative verb cannot be replaced by "do"?

Is my sentence on Yahoo Answers correct because all verbs before "humans" are action verbs?  

By the way, I am Chinese.

Hi Peter!

It seems to me that that example sentence would be wrong for the reason you stated, yes.  I'm sure many native English speakers would understand it, but it would sound strange and be technically incorrect.

Enjoy is also a stative verb since it conveys a feeling, not an action, so yes, even if you replace it with enjoy it would still be wrong.

Your second question is great.  It helped me realized I was in error with my first answer.  I apologize; let me try again.

If "do" is followed up by an object, direct or indirect, it becomes a regular/action verb, and thus expresses a different action.  If, however, it is not followed by an object, it serves as a helping verb to indicate that the previous verb - stative or not - is being repeated.  So, for example:

"Bill plays sports and Bob does exercise."

This is where I made a mistake before.  The sentence "Peter finished three tasks, and Mary did two" is correct, but only because "finished" and "did" in that sentence essentially mean the same thing.  If you had said "Peter started three tasks, and Mary did two" then you would be talking about different actions, since "started" and "did" mean different things.

So when we use "play" and "do", we are talking about different actions; "does" doesn't replace "plays" in this sentence.  It is a separate action verb.


"Bill plays sports, and Bob does, too."

In this case, "does" is not followed by any object, so it is a helping verb used to repeat the action verb and direct object "plays sports."

I hope that clears it up!  Thanks for the challenging question and helping me realize my error!

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Brian Connelly


I can answer pretty much any question a student might have about English; about grammar, vocabulary, meanings of words, phrases, expressions or idioms, pronunciation, etc. I can answer questions about how to learn or study English better, how to improve certain aspects of communication (listening, writing, speaking, etc), about why we have certain rules.


I've been teaching English in Japan, mainly as a private (one-to-one) teacher, but also at companies such as Universal Studios or international airports. I have taught professional interpreters and translators and I have also taught students who dropped out of high school and never learned any English. Several years ago I acquired the CELTA and I have been running my own classroom for the past year.

None in particular, but I work with a number of companies who regularly introduce me to new students and occasionally to other companies that are looking for English teachers.


Past/Present Clients
I currently have approximately 40 individual students with whom I work one on one. I have also worked with local manufacturing companies, colleges, local retailers, as well as Sharp, Universal Studios, Itami International Airport, Kobe International Airport

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