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138                 Tha Loom of Language
means of when we open a can of peas with a tin-opener It has also an
associative use for which we can substitute in the company of* when we
go with a friend to the theatre The hnk-woid a* is another paiuclc
which we use in two ways5 both common and each with a characteristic
meaning. We may use it when the word while would be more suitable,
and we often use it when because would be moie explicit. It is therefore
not a necessary word to put in our basic list Its absence gives rise
to no difficulty if we cultivate the habit of examining the meaning
of the words we use, and the range of choice which our own language
permits.                                                                                            f,
Few, but very few3 English particles aie above suspicion from this
point of view. Even and is not innocuous. It is not always a conjunction
(link-word). In the peculiarly Hnghsh class of constructions in which it
connects two veibs, it ii> an instrumental directive equivalent to m order
to or simply to. Thus hy and do so is equivalent to try to do w* Simi-
larly go and sec may often signify go ia order to see. To be alert to the
peculiarities of ouj own language m this way is essential if we intend
to learn another one with a minimum of efioj \ and tedium We can then
recognize when a particle kus its characteristic meaning If so, it is
rarely difficult to choose the light foreign equivalent from the synonyms
listed in a good dictionary which gives examples of their use. Those of
us who cannot allord a good dictionary may get a clue by looking up
the equivalents for another synonymous* 01 neaily synonymous particle,
We may then find that only one equivalent is common to both sets.
We sometimes get another clue by the wise precaution of looking up
the English words for each oi the foreign equivalents listed. Dealing
with the difficulty m this way is laborious, and it is never a real economy
to buy a small dictionary,
If we arc dear about the characteristic meaning of our particles, we
can avoid making mistakes in many situations, but we have still to decide
what to do when we find ourselves using a particle idiomatically* The
answer we give to this question, perhaps more than to any other which
commonly arises in connexion with the learning of a language, decides
how much ume we waste before we get to the stage of expressing our-
selves dearly without upsetting anyone. Text-books attempt to solve
our difficulty by printing lists of idiomatic expressions such as "by train*
in which particular partides occur. Cursory study of such lists is useful
because it helps us to recognize unfaxniliar expressions if we meet
them again when reading a book in a foreign language; but the effort of
memorizi&g them for use in speech or writing is colossal. Unless we