Thursday, November 29

Who's Dangerous?









The sign above can be seen along one of the moats of Nagoya Castle. At least that’s what I heard. Anyway, whether this is true or not, it’s a good jumping-off point to discuss the word “Dangerous” – a frequent source of confusion among students.



Let’s begin.



Actually, in terms of grammar, the way the word “Dangerous” is used in the sign above is partially correct. Indeed, many learners are aware that “Dangerous” is an Adjective and so it must be used together with the be Verb.



This way:



Be + dangerous



But once you consult a dictionary to check the meaning of the word, that’s when you realize the problem:



dangerous – definition


ADJECTIVE Pronunciation: [deyn-jer-uhs, deynj-ruh s]


able or likely to harm or kill you


Ex. a dangerous man 




The meaning of “Dangerous” is “able or likely to harm or kill you.”



This is why you need to be careful in choosing which word you will connect. Whether you’re using “Dangerous” as an Adjective or as a Complement, it will describe or modify the other word.



This way:
So if you say “a dangerous man,” this is what you mean:



The man in this picture is a dangerous man. 




It’s the same when you change the structure:



He is dangerous.

I am dangerous.

You are dangerous.

etc.



This and most other images here are courtesy of stock.xchng




We also say: “WARNING: Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.”







How to Fix It



Like what I told you, you need to make the Subject of your sentence match the word “Dangerous.”



How can we do that? Like this:



S  + be + dangerous


__ + be + dangerous

                                         ^
                                         ^
                                         ^

A gun is dangerous.


A tiger is dangerous.


Bungee-jumping is dangerous.


Terrorists are dangerous.



But what if we want to express a more complicated situation? What if we need to use a much longer expression?



First, just keep the same structure.



For example,



Eating fugu is dangerous.






Crossing the street is dangerous.


Riding a motorcycle at top speed is dangerous.


Walking around alone at night is dangerous.



As you might feel, especially in our last 2 examples, the Subject has already become too long and it sounds unnatural. What do the native speakers do in this case?



Well, just move the long Subject from the beginning of the sentence to the end. Like this:

Good. But now we don’t have any Subjects. So what do we do?



Next, we insert the word “It” where our Subject used to be. This way:
Now you have complete sentences again. And they’re better because they’re more natural.



Do you know? The Subject of our sentences is “It” but it’s what we call a “dummy” Subject. “Dummy” means not real or just like a doll.



This means that the word “It” doesn’t have any direct meaning but it’s still used to make the sentence complete and natural.



This is a very useful pattern that you should remember:



It’s Adjective to + Verb


It’s dangerous to Verb




So…



Now let’s go back. How do we fix our example sign in the beginning?



As I already explained to you, this is wrong:



You mustn’t enter. You are dangerous. = X



First, you can try changing it this way:



You mustn’t enter. This area is dangerous. = Ok



Second, this is also possible:



You mustn’t enter. Entering this area is dangerous. = Ok



But better than the second one is this:



You mustn’t enter. It’s dangerous to enter this area. = Ok



Finally, this is the best:



Danger. Do not enter. = Ok



Why?



The last one's the best because this is the most common way to write this sign around the world. Most people already understand what these words mean.



The complete version of this sign is:



(There’s) Danger. Do not enter.




The Last Way



If you want, you can also use the Noun form: “Danger.”



But in this case you have to use the phrase “in danger.”



For example,



You are in danger. = Ok


Or,


Your life is in danger. = Ok



But as you might feel, these sentences are longer and tend to sound less urgent. This is the reason why most people prefer the simpler and shorter version:



DANGER. DO NOT ENTER.






Hope you learned something!

Keep on learning !
















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