want it new

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want it new

Post by navi » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:52 am

Are these sentences correct:

1) I want a car. I want it new and not pricey.

2) I wanted my shirt clean.


3) I wanted my shirt clean and my hands not oily.

4) I wanted my shirt clean and my hands not all covered in oil.

5) I wanted my head clear and my ears not full of that buzzing noise.

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: want it new

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:30 pm

Yes, but most are a bit cumbersome.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: want it new

Post by tony h » Wed Apr 11, 2018 5:22 pm

Except for 1 they sound as though you had achieved your ambition, then someone did something to change it.

eg

Geoff had done the washing and his shirt is still warm from the iron that has pressed it when the cat jumped up leaving muddy paw marks on the starched white Marcella.

Geoff picked up the cat and gently chided it with, "I wanted my shirt clean."
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: want it new

Post by Phil White » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:30 pm

Tony's comment is good, as it gives the context for the construction to work more naturally.

In general terms, the construction "WANT + noun phrase + adjectival phrase is possible in English, but is often only used when the context promotes it. In some cases, it works without much context:
"I wanted my head clear"
In other cases it doesn't work so well without context:
"I wanted my hands clean"
But both of these examples would leave most people thinking "why?".

The first sounds absolutely fine and natural if you add the context:
"I wanted my head clear for the meeting"
The second still sounds a little strange even if you add appropriate context:
"I wanted my hands clean for my meeting with the boss"
I really am not sure why one works better than the other with just that basic context.

If you add a whole back-story (like Tony did), you can make the second one sound more natural as well, particularly if the desired result did not come about:

"It was typical that the press broke down that morning. I was covered in oil from repairing it. I spent ages washing my hands, after all, I wanted my hands clean for my meeting with the boss, but they were still pretty grubby."

As I say, I can't really offer any explanation of why some examples work better than others.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: want it new

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:48 pm

Phil White wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:30 pm
The first sounds absolutely fine and natural if you add the context:
"I wanted my head clear for the meeting"
The second still sounds a little strange even if you add appropriate context:
"I wanted my hands clean for my meeting with the boss"
I really am not sure why one works better than the other with just that basic context.
In my opinion, it's because the context in the second example doesn't align well with what might actually be expected in that situation: normally, people would take it for granted that the attenders of a meeting had clean hands, and so the cleanliness or otherwise of their hands would be considered not worth discussing.

The second example would work fine if it was adjusted to fit a more plausibly remarkworthy scenario, e.g.:

"Yesterday the general manager told us the hotel had had some complaints about staff hygiene, so I wanted my hands clean in case there was a snap inspection."
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Re: want it new

Post by trolley » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:20 pm

"I wanted my hands clean for my meeting with the boss" leaves me wondering what you were guilty of. You could be washing your hands metaphorically...or is that idiomatically?
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Re: want it new

Post by Phil White » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:13 pm

@Erik
Another example of how crucial pragmatics and full context are. I was actually thinking of a concrete example of a concrete firm I worked for one vacation when I wrote that. You were as likely as not to see the boss crawling around under some of the presses and lathes, getting his hands dirty, and if you wanted to speak to him, you generally went up to his office as you were. But this time, I wanted my hands clean. It was a more formal meeting. It all made sense in my head with all the extra context.

But I still cannot quite understand why, no matter what the context, "I wanted my hands clean" sounds better as "I wanted clean hands", whereas "I wanted my head clear" seems to work perfectly okay in many contexts. Of course, "I wanted a clear head" is more usual.

@Trolley
Quite so. Never thought of that.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: want it new

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:45 am

Phil White wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:13 pm
But I still cannot quite understand why, no matter what the context, "I wanted my hands clean" sounds better as "I wanted clean hands", whereas "I wanted my head clear" seems to work perfectly okay in many contexts.
I wonder if it could be something to do with the fact that with parts of our own body which we have more than one of, we often omit the possessive adjective because the context (the need for both of them to be the object of whatever it is we want to do with them) makes it obvious that we can only be referring to ourselves, and therefore the possessive adjective is superfluous:

"I wanted {clean / healthy / pink} {hands / legs / feet / arms / biceps [though the fact that 'biceps' ends in S, and is also both the singular and plural form, may be letting that one slip in through the back door] / ears / kidneys / lungs / lips}".

Possibly with things we only have one of, there may be more uncertainty as to whether it is yours or mine that is being referred to, and we therefore still specify with the indefinite article or a possessive adjective: "I wanted a {clean / healthy / pink} {nose / navel / mouth}" and "I wanted my {nose / navel / mouth} {clean / healthy / pink}"... Not the strongest of possible reasons, I admit. I'm still thinking about that one.
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