April 27

So, intonation doesn’t matter? Not at all.

It’s been a tough morning. In my Intermediate Adults class this morning there was a listening exercise with the question:

Does he (Juan Antonio Marín) think fair play still exists?
a) Yes
b) No
c) He doesn’t say

In the listening text, the interviewer says,

“So, in your opinion, fair play doesn’t exist anymore.”

To which Juan Antonio replies,

“Not at all. I think fair play does exist – the players who cheat are still the exception.”

The answer is obviously “Yes” as he says that fair play exists and emphasizes it with the use of the auxiliary verb in his statement, which, I have to add, thoroughly confused my students even more.

“But why does he say “Not at all”?”
“I think he means that fair play doesn’t exist at all.”
“There’s a spelling mistake in the book – it should say “…fair play doesn’t exist…””

The fact is that English speakers use “Not at all” to both agree and disagree with a negative statement, but the meaning is dependent on the correct intonation. It is generally true, as is the case here, that when we use “Not at all” to disagree with a statement, we follow on with an explanation.

Text from New English File Intermediate (OUP)


Posted April 27, 2009 by Teresa Bestwick in category My thoughts

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