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tell anybody this / tell this to anybody

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,

I have some more questions.

Q4 Would both be used?
(a) This director's new movie must be great/wonderful.
(b) The new movie of this director must be great/wonderful.

Q5 Would both be used?
(a) You must not tell anybody this.
(b) You must not tell this to anybody.

Q6 Would (a) and (b) have the same meaning? Is "at" optional here?
(a) She can't be (at) home during the day.
(b) She can't be (at) home in the daytime.

Thanks in advance.
Hirashin
 

johnnyG

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(b) The new movie of this director must be great/wonderful.

Usually you would say: ...movie by this director...

A movie/film director is sometimes called auteur, the French word for author. Tho movie-making is a collaborative project involving hundreds of people, the director leaves his/her imprint, much like the author of a novel.
 

hirashin

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Thanks for the correction, johnnyG. How about the other sentences?
 

Julie.chan

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I tend to think using the "X by person" pattern like that sounds stilted. "By" is usually used when the person responsible is a side issue, e.g. "Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg, enjoyed tremendous success." I would definitely go with "A".

For #5, I don't think either of them sound quite right. In general, I would go with something like, "Don't tell anybody." But it does depend quite a lot on context. When absolutes are involved, you usually either present that absolute with a threat of consequence (e.g. "Disclosing company secrets will result in corrective action up to and including termination.") or an explanation of why (e.g. "Don't tell anyone what I just told you. I could get in serious trouble for that.").

For #6, I wouldn't say they're the same. "Daytime" suggests that it's about whether or not sunlight is there at the time, while "the day" is more like "the time everyone is awake". "At" is awkward, though I don't think it's technically incorrect, in "A". In "B", it changes the meaning slightly:

"She can't be home in the daytime." This suggests to me that you're talking about when she comes home from work each day, e.g. saying that she won't be home in time for a daytime activity.

"She can't be at home in the daytime." This suggests to me that she is only ever able to get home when it's dark outside. Maybe an explanation for why she can't attend some daytime activity that's being planned.
 

hirashin

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Thanks for the help, Julimaruchan.
 

hirashin

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Julimaruchan, in what case could "must not"or "may not" be used?
How about these?
(c) You must/may not smoke here.
(d) You must/may not play baseball here.
(e) You must/may not come late.
(f) You must/may not be noisy in the library.
(g) You must/may not eat or drink in this room.
(h) You must/may not ride a motorbike in the campus.
 

Julie.chan

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Both are fine in all of your examples, but "must not" and "may not" mean slightly different things. It's kind of hard to explain, but "may not" is relatively soft, basically the same as "you aren't allowed to do X". "Must not" is more of something that is being emphasized, and it sort of implies that the consequences for doing the thing would be severe. So for example, in C, "must not" would be perfect for an area with explosives or flammable objects nearby.
 

hirashin

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Thanks, Julimaruchan, But I don't understand what the difference between Q5 and the sentences from (c) to (g).
Would you not say "You must not tell anybody"? Would it sound unnatural?
 

Julie.chan

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Hm, the trouble with Q5 was the "this" in them, I think. I don't think it's incorrect per se, but I think the term "must not" is more likely to be used with a sentence that is very specific about what is being talked about. You don't say "must not" to mean something like this very often, and when you do, it's usually said slowly and very deliberately, and its purpose is to make sure the person you're talking to understands something very important.

So, if you're being more vague or talking about something that isn't terribly important, I wouldn't normally use that. I would just use an imperative form. Something like, "Don't tell anyone that I like the color pink."

But if you are indeed intending to get across that it is essential for someone to not do something, then I would suggest being specific, and often an explanation or threat should be included as well. So for example:

"Again, you must not under any circumstances allow the machine to operate unattended, as this could cause serious harm or injury to our patrons."
"If the customer appears to be under the age of 40, you must not sell alcohol. Failure to adhere to this policy will result in corrective action up to and including termination."
"This information is a company trade secret, so you must not speak about it with anyone."

But at the same time, I should note that this mode of speaking sounds like you're teaching something to someone (e.g. training them for a job), and it almost sounds robotic. If you're just explaining the rules to someone, I would use the imperative in most cases or "No" followed by what the forbidden activity is. For example:

"Do not attempt to climb up the slide."
"No running by the pool."
"Don't talk with your mouth full."
"No smoking in this area."
"Please do not touch the paintings; they're very expensive."
"No diving."
"Don't be late."
"No talking in the library."
"No food or drink in this room."
"No motorbikes on campus."
"Do not play Baseball here."

As for where "must not" and "may not" would more regularly be used: I can't think of any context where "may not" is especially common other than "No, you may not" (in response to a request for permission), and for "must not", it's pretty common to see it used as a speculative explanation for something, e.g.:

"That guy said he doesn't like Thai food. He must not like spicy things."
"My coffee taste less sweet than I'm used to. He [the barista] must not have heard me when I said I wanted three sugars."
"I guess he must not have heard me."

But that's a very different context than what you're presenting. Again, when talking about things that are forbidden, I would expect "must not" and possibly "may not" as a part of a training program or recording, not a conversation.
 
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