All entries for Tuesday 16 May 2006

May 16, 2006

English Language Irritation

Whilst attending a lecture on writing a thesis, I was told to watch–out for grammar mistakes and sentences that don't mean what you want them to. The example given was
I was sorry to hear that your wife had died from your daughter
Meaning His wife died from something the daughter had e.g. a virus or something
I was sorry to hear from your daughter that your wife had died
Meaning Why didn't you tell me? I had to hear it from your daughter
The solution given is that you meant to say: –
I was sorry to hear that your wife had died. Your daughter told me.
Everyone understands this. But the sentence means that you aren't sorry that his wife died only that you've heard that she has. Suggesting that you were earwigging a private conversation that you shouldn't have been listening to. But then if you just say: –
I'm sorry that your wife died. Your daughter told me.
It sound so impersonal and mean and if I was to hear this I would be expecting a BUT get on with your work, it isn't an excuse…
So what is the correct English? Something that everyone understands the meaning of even though it means something else or the correct meaning that sounds rude and impolite?
Or it there a better way of saying this?

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