Friday, November 1, 2013

Common mistakes learners make - according to me

When giving your opinion, it is quite common in some languages, for example Polish, Spanish and Italian, to use a construction which can be directly translated as according to me:
  • Polish - według mnie
  • Spanish - según yo
  • Italian - secondo me
In English, however, we don't usually use according to like this.

Uses of according to

According to is a preposition, and has three main uses:
  1. to say the information we are giving is based on something someone else has told us, or that we've read it somewhere.
    • According to my little sister, Santa lives in Lapland.
    • According to Computer Monthly, this laptop is the best buy.
  2. to say that something is following or agrees with a plan, a system or set of rules.
    • I hope you're going to play according to the rules!
    • Everything went according to plan, without any problems at all.
  3. to say that something is different or changes depending on the situation.
    • The number of visitors varies according to the season.
    • Your pay will vary according to the number of sales you make.
It's really the first use we're most interested here, and because we're reporting what somebody else has said, we almost always use it in the 3rd person
  • According to the weather forecast, there is going to be heavy rain.
  • According to this article, it's a myth that eskimos have 200 words for snow.
Sometimes we use it to add authority to what we are saying:
  • According to my mother, you shouldn't say that word!
  • According to the boss, it has to be done this way.
Sometimes we use it to distance information, perhaps because we don't believe it, or so that we are not to blame if it turns out to be wrong:
  • According to Janie, her boyfriend's a genius, but I don't see it myself.
  • David's done it already, according to what he told me.

Giving your opinion and asking for someone else's.

Sometimes we use 'according to' for expressing the opinion of a third party:
  • According to John, we should book as early as possible
    = In John's opinion, we should book as early as possible
But we don't usually use it for expressing our own opinion or when asking somebody else for theirs. So we don't normally say things like:
  • according to me
  • according to my opinion / view
  • What should we do, according to you?

Expressing your own opinion

Probably the most common expression in these contexts would be 'in my opinion, ...', but there are also several other ways we can give our opinion. Notice the two main strutures:
Separated off with a comma+ that clause
opinion
In my opinion, ...
If you want my opinion, ...
I am of the opinion that ...
think, believe, feel
To my way of thinking, ...I think (that) ...
I feel (that) ...
I (firmly) believe (that) ...
Personally, I think / believe / feel (that) ...
It's my (firm) belief that ...
see, view
As I see it, ...
In my view, ...
From my point of view, ...
I take the view that ...
My own / personal view is that ...
other
If you ask me, ...
To my mind, ...
Speaking for myself, ...
As I understand / see it, ...
As far as I'm concerned, ...
As far as I understand / can see, ...
In my experience, ...
It seems to me that ...

Best leave IMHO for the Internet

This abbreviation, standing for In My Humble Opinion, is sometimes used to introduce remarks on internet forums etc. But we rarely say 'In my humble opinion' in spoken language (it sounds rather formal and a bit old-fashioned), unless we are joking a bit, so best leave the 'humble' out, or you might get funny looks.

Asking others for their opinion

You can use the same expressions with suitable changes to ask somebody else for their opinion:
  • What do you think / believe /feel we should do about this?
  • In your opinion / view, what should we do about this?

A quick note on in accordance with

This is a more formal way of saying according to in its second meaning, especially when referring to laws, rules or the way somebody says that something should be done:
  • Companies must act in accordance with legal requirements.
  • We did everything in accordance with the manager's instructions.

Exception 1: Humorous use in first and second persons

Native speakers do sometimes use according to in the first person in a jokey sort of way, or to stress that it's us who makes the rules 'round here'.
  • A: You won't pass your exams if you don't study
  • B: According to who?
  • A: According to me, that's who!
Similarly, we sometimes also use it in second person:
  • A: He's simply the best boss we've ever had!
  • B: According to you, perhaps, but I don't think anyone else thinks so.
But you need to have a very good feel for the language before using it like this.

Exception 2: In Indian English

Although what I've been saying is true for British and American English, I've recently discovered that 'according to me' seems pretty well standard in Indian English, as a site search of Indian newspapers shows. Here are some examples:
  • "According to me, badminton is the No.1 sport of the country"
    Saina Nehwal, top Badminton player, quoted in The Times of India
  • "According to me Kareena has surpassed Julia Roberts from the original,"
    film director Siddharth Malhotra, quoted in the Hindustan Times
  • "According to me, the present collegium system works well."
    Justice P. Sathasivam, currently Chief Justice of India - interviewed in the Hindu
So these remarks don't apply to those using Indian English, but I would just remind them that it will sound strange to speakers of British and American English.

accords with - a little web investigation

On a forum thread discussing 'according to me' at WordReference, I saw the comment:
  • What you will see quite often however is - "That accords with me"
The verb accord (with something) means - to agree with or match or be the same as something.Here are some dictionary examples:
  • These results accord closely with our predictions. (OALD)
  • Hemming's account does not accord with the police evidence. (Macmillan)
  • The punishments accorded with the current code of discipline. (Longman)
  • His version of events does not accord with witnesses' statements. (Cambridge)
But it is very rarely used with me: Google finds only 36 examples of "that accords with me", and there are only 5 in Google Books. At the British National Corpus there are 76 instances of 'accords with', but none of 'accords with me'. Netspeak finds 113,000 examples of 'accords with', but again, none for 'accords with me'

"All over literature"?

When challenged by another commenter that he had never heard this use, the first commenter said - "You can find it all over literature". You can certainly find a few examples of accords with me in Google Books. Many of them are in reference to a verse drama by Robert Browning - Pippa Passes (1841):
  • And earth seems in a truce with me, and heaven
    Accords with me, all things suspend their strife
Several are from a translation of Dante Alighieri - Canto XXIX
  • Here were they; save as to the pennons; there,
    From him departing, John accords with me.
And a few from a play called The Love-sick Count (1650), by Robert Brome
  • Thou hast allay'd my fear. Justinus come
    Lead me thy brain's assistance.For in thee
    I find a temper that accords with me
  • Note - thou hast = you have, thee = you in old English
I think you'll agree that these aren't exactly the sort of English you see every day! And the rest are mainly 19th century, so I think "all over literature" is exactly where we should leave "accords with me".

accord(s) with my ...

Although use of the verb accord with me is rare, its use with my ... is more common. These examples are from the BNC:
  • If his judgement rankled, it was only because it accorded perfectly with my own.
  • but because his experience so entirely accords with my own.
  • the failure to jump would accord with my intention only by chance.
  • That does not accord with my experience

Links

Dictionary entries for according to

Forums

Site searches of Indian newspapers

Other

1 comment:

Jade Graham said...

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