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The grammar puzzle



1. I want him to repair my radio.
2. I want my radio repaired.
3. I want my radio to be repaired.



The grammar puzzle

At Aaron Teaches, we are frequently asked grammar questions.


Here is one such email:


When I was a student, I asked Japanese English teachers about three sentences.


1. I want him to repair my radio. [OK]
2. I want my radio repaired. [OK]
3. I want my radio to be repaired.


They said Example 3 was wrong, but they could not explain how or why.


We were not sure how to reply. All three of the sentences could be correct, depending on the context. The first two sentences seem as if they would be more commonly used.


However, all three sentences feel rather abrupt. If I were to bring my radio to be repaired, I would express myself a little differently.


4. I would like my radio repaired.


Example 4 feels better. Examples 1, 2, and 3 sound harsh. In particular, Example 3 seems to imply that there was some trouble. Was the person refused service? Did the repair place say they could not do it? Or, more likely, did they fail to repair it? Or has the person been waiting a long time? We don’t know.


We do know two things:


Sentences do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in context. The context is important. It gives meaning.


A number of students of English in Japan seem to enjoy grammar studies and to appreciate discussing grammar points. That is why we have so much grammar discussion at our site.

Note, however, that most of it is in English. Therefore, while you are reading this page, you are learning more than just grammar. You are receiving our communication in English. We would be less excited if the explanation were taking place in Japanese. Then, the explanation might help your academic knowledge of English, but it would not help you get much better at English.


Think of playing the piano. Do you get better by listening to lectures or by practicing?