"" THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: The right form of expression ...? Part 1

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Monday, 30 November 2009

The right form of expression ...? Part 1

Which is the right way to say?

1. When students are sitting for an exam and it’s almost time to hand in the exam paper, the invigilator would say, “You have five more minutes.” Is this the right thing to say?

Or should it be “You have five minutes more” or “You still have fiveminutes”?  Do they carry different meanings?

2. What should be used after “entire/whole/all”? For example, in “The entire class is / are having a picnic at the Irama Beach.”, should it be “is” or “are”?


ANSWERS:

1. The clearest announcement an invigilator can make, in my opinion, is: “You have five minutes left”.
Below is a ‘Notice to invigilators’ from the British Brunel University’s website:
Five minutes before the end of the examination; You have five minutes left.

One of the meanings of “more” is “additional” or “further”, but when an invigilator says “You have five more minutes”, he means “You have five minutes from now”, not five additional minutes to the time given. This may give rise to a misunderstanding and that is why I think it is better to use “five minutes left”.  

“You have five more minutes” is, however, used in some institutions, e.g. Blyth Community College, Northumberland, England, where invigilators are given the following instruction: “Five minutes before the end give warning: ‘You have five more minutes.’”

Your suggestion that invigilators should say “You still have five minutes” sounds fine to me.

2. “Entire” and “whole” can be used before collective, singular, plural and uncountable nouns. “All”, however, can only be used before uncountable and plural nouns.
If the noun after “entire”or “whole” is a collective noun like “family” or “class”, the verb can be either singular or plural in British English. Thus, you can say:
“The entire class is/are having a picnic at Irama Beach.”

If the noun after “entire” or “whole” is a singular or uncountable noun, a singular verb is used, e.g. “His whole/entire childhood was spent in this town.” (“childhood” is an uncountable noun) and “The whole/entire town was under water during the recent floods.” (“town” is a singular noun)

If “all” is used before an uncountable noun, a singular verb is used, e.g. “All his confidence is gone now.”

If “entire”, “whole” and “all” are used before a plural noun, a plural verb is used, e.g.
“Entire/whole villages were destroyed by the earthquake.” and “All teachers are expected to attend the staff meeting tomorrow.”

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