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Dicembre 2016
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may haveeither about the English language or our articles. Write to us at: http://blog.speakuponline.it. The most interesting questions will be published on this page. A word of warning, though: our blog is not a translation or homework service!

Can’t complain...
In the November issue of Speak Up (Everyday Dialogues, page 60) I found the expression “Can’t complain.” How is this possible? I was under the impression that the pronoun (in this case “I”) must always be included in English. Is this  a “typo” or is it a rule that is no longer valid?
Camilla


This is an example of the differences between formal and informal English. Technically, a verb in English should be accompanied by a pronoun (or subject) and it is different from Italian in this respect, BUT in informal English, the pronoun can be dropped.  This is usually in phrases like this: “Can’t complain” (which is the American version: the British tend to say “Mustn’t grumble”) and “Don’t see why not.”

Mary’s dog
Is the possessive case compulsory? Do I have to say “Mary’s dog”, or can I also say “the dog of Mary”? Thanks!
Nicola


It’s not compulsory, but “Mary’s dog” is the standard form. “The dog of Mary” is not incorrect, but it sounds strange. Usually, the “Anglo-Saxon genitive” (“Mary’s dog”) is personal: it describes something that belongs to an individual person, whereas “of” is less personal: “the economy of China” (or “the Chinese economy”), rather than “China’s economy.”
 
The lowest prices
I have to write a letter to our clients and I am not sure about the grammar I should use for this sentence: is it “We applied (past simple) the lowest prices to our products” or “we have applied...” (present perfect)?
Maria Rita


It depends on the time frame. If you’re talking about a period that hasn’t finished (this week, this month, this year), then it’s “We have applied” but if you’re talking about a period that has finished (last week, last month, last year, but also yesterday), then it’s “We applied.” Out of context, “We applied” sounds less recent than “We have applied” but, again, it depends. For example, a footballer might say “We played really well” even if the match finished five minutes ago. 


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