Pot Pourri (2): Suggested Answers

The following is an extract from Haraki Murakami's novel, IQ84 (p.801). Analyse the form and use of the phrase, and comment on any problems (including phonological problems and problems of meaning) that learners might have with the word(s). 

Tengo opened the refrigerator to see if he had any chilled white wine. In back, he found a bottle of Chardonnay he had recently bought   on sale. The label had a picture of a wild boar. He pulled the cork, poured some  into a wineglass, and placed it before Kuka-Eri. After some hesitation, he poured himself a glass as well. He was definitely more in the mood for wine than coffee. It was a bit too chilled, and a bit too sweet, but the alcohol calmed Tengo's nerves somewhat.

An explanation of any of the terms in the answers which are new to you can be found in the ELT Glossary. A direct link has been provided for those which might be most problematic.

1. to 

Form: infinitive particle

Use: Used followed by a simple infinitive verb to form an infinitive of purpose,  indicating the reason why the action was performed.

Problems for Learners:

a) In many languages there is no infinitive particle and the infinitive of purpose may be expressed by “for” eg Italian. L1 interference might therefore cause Ls to produce *…opened the refrigerator for see….

b) “To” is a grammatical word in unstressed position in the sentence and the vowel would therefore be subject to weakening from /u:/ to /ə/. Ls unfamiliar with features of connected speech might therefore have difficulty decoding /tə si:/

Reference: http://www.grammaring.com/the-infinitive-of-purpose


2. if he had any chilled white wine

Form: past simple (or second form - Lewis) of the transitive irregular verb  have

Use: used as the main verb in the clause; indicates possession and a past event (Lewis - distance in time from “here and now reality”)

Problems for Learners:

a) Decoding meaning: The word “if” might lead learners to believe this was a hypothetical statement – a “second conditional”. However, here “if” does not express a condition but means “whether”, and the verb is therefore part of the past time narrative of the story.

b) Pronunciation – receptive : While Ls might be expecting the strong pronunciation /hæd/, in connected speech the clause might be affected by elision , liaison, vowel weakening  and catenation, producing the sequence /i:fi:jədenɪ/. This might make it difficult for Ls to decode the individual words (bottom-up processing) and recognise “had”

Reference : Lewis M. 1994 – The English Verb – Language Teaching Publications


3. chilled (See also 17)

Form: Past participle formed by adding an –ed suffix to the regular verb chill.

Use: Used as an attributive adjective premodifying the compound noun white wine

Problems for Learners:

a) Ls whose L1 does not include the consonant /ʧ/ may have productive pronunciation problems. Eg French Ls would be liable to substitute /ʃ/

b) Ls who had not yet assimilated the rule that the .ed suffix is only pronounced /ɪd/ after the consonants /t/ and /d/ might produce /ʧɪlɪd/ rather than /ʧɪld/.

c) Japanese learners have problems with the consonant /l/ as in Japanese /l/ and /r/ are allophones of the same phoneme. Their pronunciation might therefore be decoded  by listeners as /ʧɪrd/

Reference : Kenworthy, J. Teaching English Pronunciation, Longman


4. in back

Form: Prepositional phrase, consisting of preposition in (head of prepositional phrase) + singular countable noun back (complement of prepositional phrase), used as an adverbial in the main clause.

Use - Variety: Used in US English – the British English equivalent would be “at the back”

Problems for Learners:

a) Meaning: Ls of British English would not have come across the expression before. This, in combination with problem b, might lead to difficulties understanding it if it had to be processed in the “real time” conditions of spoken English, or confusion over what was the correct expression if encountered (as here) while reading.

b) Pronunciation – receptive: Liable to be affected by regressive assimilation of place -  alveolar /n/ becomes bilabial /m/ before bilabial /b/ resulting in /ɪm bæk/. This could cause decoding (bottom-up processing) problems if the phrase was heard in spoken English.

c) In back can also mean behind (again in US English). Ls who had previously met the phrase with this meaning might therefore misinterpret the phrase, thinking the wine was behind the fridge.

Reference: Collins Dictionary


5. he had recently bought

Form / Use:

he – 3rd person singular masculine subject pronoun. Anaphoric reference to Tengo. Acts as subject of the subordinate relative clause (with ellipted relative pronoun which/that)

had…bought – past perfect simple composed of primary auxiliary verb have in past form had plus past participle of irregular verb buy (= bought).Past Perfect used to express anterior time (Richards) – here to indicated that buying the wine happened prior to finding the bottle.

recently – adverb of time (adjunct) composed of adjective recent plus adverb suffix –ly. Acts as adverbial in the relative clause.

Problems for Learners:

a)    he – in some languages (eg Finnish, Hungarian), pronouns and determiners are not marked for gender. Elementary learners of these languages may therefore confuse he/she/it (and other similar gender specific pronouns and determiners) when using English. 

b)    The position of recently is flexible. Here it is in front of the main verb, but it could potentially also be after the subject (he recently had bought…) after the main verb (he had bought recently) or, if the relative pronoun had not been omitted, before the subject (which recently he had bought…). This flexibility, and the restriction of the final option to sentences where the relative pronoun id included, may cause confusion for Ls who will be unsure where it can be or can best be placed be placed in a specific context.

c)    Japanese learners have problems with the consonants /l/ and /r/ as in Japanese they are allophones of the same phoneme. As “recently” includes both - /ri:səntli:/- this could make their pronunciation of the word unintelligible.

Reference:  Kenworthy, J. Teaching English Pronunciation, Longman


6. on sale

Form/Syntactic UsePrepositional phrase, consisting of preposition on (head of prepositional phrase) + singular uncountable noun sale (complement of prepositional phrase) used as adverbial in the defining relative clause.

Semantic Use:  Fixed lexical chunk, collocation,  meaning offered at a discounted price

Problems for Learners: 

a) Ls who did not know the (non-transparent) meaning of the chunk might infer it to mean for sale which (although possible in some contexts – eg The new model is now on sale) would not make sense in this context.

b) Japanese learners could have both processing and productive problems with the consonant /l/ in sale as in Japanese /l/ and /r/ are allophones of the same phoneme and difficult for Japanese learners to distinguish.

References:  See the links above, and The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


7. some  (Compare with 11)

Form: Pronoun

Use:  Expresses indefinite quantity. Acts as direct object of the verb poured, replacing the full noun phrase “some white wine”, which is inferable from the context - although wine was only mentioned some time ago (three sentences previously) it is the only previous noun which collocates with the verb pour, and must therefore be what is referred to).

Problem for Learners: Some can only be used in assertive contexts and in non-assertive contexts must be replaced by any. Ls are often taught the rule that some is used in affirmative sentences and any in negative and interrogative contexts, which leads to confusion when they meet examples like Would you like some? or I wonder if there’s any left.

References: Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English  /  See the links above


8. into

Form / Syntactic Use:  preposition of movement; head of a prepositional phrase with the noun phrase a wineglass as complement.

Problems for Learners: In can also be used as a preposition of movement, often replacing into - eg He got into the car or He got in the car. However, only in can be used as an adverb – He opened the car door and got in. Learners who don’t understand the grammatical distinction might be confused about when into can and can’t be used, producing eg *He picked up the glass and poured some into.

References:  See the links above


9. before

Form/Use : preposition of place - in front of

Use : Head of the prepositional phrase (with Kuka-Eri as complement) which acts as an adverbial in the clause.

Problem for Learners: Ls are likely to have learnt that before is used to sequence events in time rather than indicate place. This would cause problems in decoding the meaning of the phrase

References: See the links above


10.  after

Form/Use : preposition expressing the idea subsequent to, or following and thus sequencing the two events – hesitating (first event) and pouring his glass of wine (second event)
Combined with the noun phrase (some hesitation) forms a prepositional phrase which acts as adverbial in the clause.

Problems for Learners: Various L1 groups will have problems pronouncing the initial vowel /ɑ:/ (eg both Hokkien and Cantonese Chinese speakers) and/or the final vowel /ə/  (eg Greek speakers)

Reference:  Kenworthy, J. Teaching English Pronunciation, Longman


11. some (Compare with 7)

Form/Syntactic Use: Quantifying expression used as determiner in the noun phrase some hesitation, which acts as the complement of the prepositional phrase After some hesitation. Here used before a singular uncountable noun.

Use: Expresses indefinite quantity.

Problems for Learners:  See (7)

Reference: Quirk et al, A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman


12. himself

Form: third person singular masculine reflexive pronoun

Use: subject complement indicating that the subject he and himself are the same and acting as indirect object of the verb poured

Problems for Learners: Reflexive pronouns are sometimes formed from the possessive pronoun (eg myself, ourselves) and sometimes from the object pronoun (eg himself, themselves). Learners may therefore be confused about which to use, producing eg *He poured hisself a glass.

Reference:  British Council : Learn English – Reflexive Pronouns


13. as well

Form/Use : Lexical chunk (polyword) Adverb (adjunct) used to indicate the relationship of addition. Normally follows the focused part of the clause (here poured himself a glass) unlike other additive adjuncts  (eg also) which precede it (he also poured himself a glass). Acts as an adverbial in the clause.


Problems for Learners: 

a) The expression is non-transparent in meaning and could therefore cause decoding problems when first encountered.

b) Understanding the chunk as meaning also could lead to its use in inaccurate clause position, as also is more flexible  - eg He also poured himself a glass but not *He as well poured himself a glass;

c) L1 interference might mean that speakers from L1 groups where the letter “w” is pronounced as /v/ (eg German, Swedish, Norwegian) produced /əz vel/

Reference:  http://www.tedpower.co.uk/phono.html



14. more

Form: Adverb

Use: Used to introduce an unequal comparison

Problems for Learners: more is most often met by Ls to form the comparative of adjectives and adverbs. They are frequently confused as to whether an –er version is appropriate (colder, easier) or whether more should be used (more comfortable, more expensive). This is particularly problematic with two-syllable adjectives where either may often be used and Ls may be unsure whether one form, the other or both are most appropriate. For example, the BNC Spoken Corpus (checked on Lextutor) produces 793 examples of easier as opposed to 8 of more easy, showing that while both are used, easier is by far the most frequent. Checking written corpora produced no examples at all of more easy.

References: The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English; see the link above.


15. than

Use: Used to introduce the second part of an unequal comparison

Form: Subordinating conjunction – here joining two clauses, in the second of which elements have been ellipted because the same as in the first  ellipted – He was more in the mood for wine than (he was in the mood for) coffee.  Quirk et al call than (followed by a clause) a "correlative clause introducer" - correlative because it must be connected to a previous comparative element in -er, more, less, etc. I'm not happy with the term because it begs the question of whether the than clause is main or subordinate - presumably subordinate, but then why isn't than just a subordinating conjunction? Why suddenly invent the term "introducer". Subordinating conjunction  would be my answer in this instance and is the answer given by eg the Macmillan Dictionary, and the  American Heritage Dictionary

Problems for Learners: Pronunciation- productive: the phoneme /ð/ occurs in relatively few languages and is therefore a problem for many L1 groups, who might tend to substitute another phoneme producing eg  /zən/ or / dən /

References: Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English; Quirk et al, A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman - see sections 11.53 onwards, Longman: and see the links above


16. a bit

Form /Use : intensifying  adverb (downtoner/minimiser, cf slightly) used as part of pre-head of adjective phrase "a bit too chilled". Pre-modifies the adverb too  Formed by indefinite article (a rather than an because followed by a consonant sound) + singular countable noun bit.

Stylistic use: informal.

Problems for Learners: Not recognising the stylistic difference between a bit (informal) and a little (more formal) could lead to inappropriacy of use.

References: Quirk et al, A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman; and see the links above



17. chilled (See also 3)

Form / Use: Past participle of regular verb chill, here used predicatively as head of the adjective phrase a bit too chilled which acts as complement of the copula BE

Problems for Learners: See 3

References:  See the links above.


18. too

Form : adverb

Use: Used to premodify an adjective, and indicates that the quality described by the adjective (here sweet) is excessive in degree. Quirk et al consider it as a type of comparative clause : It was too sweet = It was sweeter than it should have been.

Problems for Learners: 

a) Speakers of languages where a single word translates too/ too much and too many (eg Italian) may be confused about when each it used, producing *..and a bit too much sweet.

b) too with this meaning premodifies an adjective. In final position in the clause it would mean also – compare The weather was foggy and too cold, so we didn’t go out / The weather was foggy and cold too, so we didn’t go out.   In contexts like this, Ls who were unaware of the difference in meaning created by the clause position might decode (or produce) the sentence erroneously without being aware that they had misunderstood or not conveyed their intended meaning.

Reference:  Quirk et al, A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman


19. Somewhat

Form: Intensifying adverb, classed by Quirk et al in the subcategories of downtoner/diminisher. See here for the different types of intensifier : Intensifiers

Use: Post-modifies the verb phrase calmed Tengo’s nerves with the implication to a certain extent but not completely

Problem for Learners: L1 interference might mean that speakers from L1 groups where the letter “w” is pronounced as /v/ (eg German, Swedish, Norwegian) produced * /sʌmvɒt/

References:  See the link above; http://www.tedpower.co.uk/phono.html