What's new

Welcome to Japan Reference (JREF) - the community for all Things Japanese.

Join Today! It is fast, simple, and FREE!

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

Question Does "I could enjoy myself while learning English" sound right?

hirashin

Sempai
Donor
Joined
8 Apr 2004
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
55
Dear native English speakers,
do all the sentences below sound right?

(a) Thanks to the teacher, I was able to enjoy myself while learning English.
(b) Thanks to the teacher, I could enjoy myself while learning English.
(c) Thanks to the teacher, I enjoyed myself while learning English.
 

Michael2

後輩
Joined
4 Jan 2018
Messages
294
Reaction score
44
There's a good link hear.
But basically, no to B I would say. You don't use COULD in the positive past tense to talk about single events. You can say things like "I could walk when I was 1" but it sounds like a general statement, not a one-off occasion. For me, all these sentences would sound strange,
"I could catch the train this morning"
"I could pass the exam"
"I could finish my homework last night"
For me the reason is because you could just say you DID it, or, because it sounds like some kind of struggle, use WAS ABLE TO or MANAGED TO. When you talk generally it's fine as it doesn't imply a struggle, just a simple statement of past ability, and it also avoids confusion with COULD HAVE DONE.
 

Michael2

後輩
Joined
4 Jan 2018
Messages
294
Reaction score
44
Haha blimmin autocorrect!

To add aswell, it's only action verbs that follow the rule I quoted. For some reason it doesn't seem odd when used with stative verbs, e.g I COULD HEAR THE BIRDS SINGING THIS MORNING, I COULD SEE THE MOON LAST NIGHT etc

It's one of the strangest English rules I've ever come across. All I can think of is what I said above but I don't see why in one situation it sounds like you're trying to do something, or just did it, but in the general past, in questions and in negative past sentences it doesn't have that feeling as much and is not wrong.
 

hirashin

Sempai
Donor
Joined
8 Apr 2004
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
55
Thank you for the help, Michael2. I know you don't use "could" in the positive tense about single events. But is "enjoyed myself while learning English" a single event? Can't you say "I could always enjoy myself while learning English"?
 

Michael2

後輩
Joined
4 Jan 2018
Messages
294
Reaction score
44
I think it would be referring to a specific time. When you talk about enjoying yourself, you are referring to a certain occasion, it's not something you need the general ability to do. I would use COULD in the past to refer to similar actions of general ability in the present, e.g I CAN PLAY TENNIS, I CAN RIDE A BIKE, I CAN WRITE KANJI. I don't think I would ever say I CAN ENJOY MYSELF, just I ENJOY LEARNING ENGLISH
 

hirashin

Sempai
Donor
Joined
8 Apr 2004
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
55
Does "enjoy" always refer to a specific time? Is is that you don't say "I always enjoy learning English" or " I usually enjoy watching TV after dinner"?
 

Michael2

後輩
Joined
4 Jan 2018
Messages
294
Reaction score
44
I think the point is that it's a certain time as opposed to an ability, not a certain time as opposed to an everyday action, as in Simple Present vs Present Progressive. "Enjoying oneself" is not an ability you can possess, like "playing tennis" is, it's just something you do, which is why "can" is unnecessary I think.
 

bentenmusume

やれやれ
Contributor
Joined
12 Oct 2004
Messages
1,043
Reaction score
790
I agree with Michael2 that the sentence as written doesn't really sound like something a native speaker would say.
It's certainly not grammatically wrong, though.

I also would tend to agree with Michael2 that the reason for this is because "enjoying oneself" isn't really something you talk about in terms of ability/potential. That said, it strikes me there are some contexts where it could have that nuance (thus making this expression seem less awkward. For example:

---
Thanks to my high school teacher's creative and well-designed classes, I could (or "was able to") enjoy myself while learning English, even though I had previously hated studying it.
---

Actually, I just noticed this, but another thing that perhaps is making the sentence feel awkward is the use of "enjoy myself while (doing something)". This kind of makes it sound like the enjoyment is separate from (or being derived from something other than) the action described, i.e. learning English. Usually, you talk about "enjoying (doing something)" (i.e. "I enjoyed learning English.") or "enjoying yourself (in general)", not "enjoying yourself while (doing something)".
The example sentence above, I think, would be even more natural if it was "I [could/was able to] enjoy learning English" rather than the version with "enjoy myself while".

Anyhow, I hope this helps and doesn't serve to cause more confusion.

(edited a bit for clarity)
 

hirashin

Sempai
Donor
Joined
8 Apr 2004
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
55
Thank you very much for your detailed explanations, bentenmusume-san. I really appreciate your help. So you think you can say "Thanks to the teacher, I could enjoy learning English", do you?
 

Michael2

後輩
Joined
4 Jan 2018
Messages
294
Reaction score
44
To be honest I've said the phrases in my head so many times now that I don't know what's normal and what's not anymore :)
 
Top Bottom