General Writing and Grammar Help/Confusion about meaning.

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Question
Hi Ted, How are you ?
i have some confusion about the meaning of a sentence.
When someone says : "I don't speak english very well". I understand it by two ways. First :" they speak english quite well but not very well" and secondly " They speak english very bad ". . It's similiar to the sentence : "it's not very good".Which one is correct ?.
Thanks!

Answer
Dear Dat:

i have some confusion about the meaning of a sentence.
When someone says : "I don't speak english very well". I understand it by two
ways. First :" they speak english quite well but not very well" and secondly "
They speak english very bad ". . It's similiar to the sentence : "it's not very
good".Which one is correct ?

*** I understand your confusion.  The problem is in using the negative form [don't = do NOT], when you are describing a situation that it already "negative" -- your speaking of English.

"I don't speak English very well" means that the person may be able to speak just a little bit of English, but he is NOT a good speaker of English.  Essentially, he is saying "My ability to speak English is very poor."

If a person tells you that he doesn't speak English very well, you know that his ability is very poor.  He may know a few words and phrases, and even some basic sentences, but he cannot go beyond those basics.  He is also suggesting that he would rather speak some other language than English, since he understanding/speaking of English is very limited.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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