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I've taught students English in Korea and now I'm grading test papers.

The question was to translate Korean into English and the right answer we wanted was => The book was so popular that it sold out quickly.

Now I have 2 answers from students that I need to think about. I think both of them are weird and wrong sentences.

answer 1> The books were so popular that everything was sold quickly. ㄴ> I wonder if the word "everything" can indicate "the books" in this sentence.

answer 2> The book was so popular that it was quickly all sold. ㄴ> I wonder if we can use the expression "all sold" instead of "sold out". I think if we want to use the word "all", we have to use the word like this. "the book was so popular that all the books were sold quickly." I also want to know the position of the word "quickly" is right.

Any answer you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  • "All" needs "all copies" or something like that. You could also say the "entire stock" was sold quickly. Quickly at the end there is fine. – Xanne May 9 '17 at 20:24
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For answer 1 would probably sound more natural if it were The books were so popular that they were sold quickly. I think everything here almost sounds like it references something other the books, since it would be much more common for the books to be referred to as they.

For answer 2, this definitely doesn't sound right. The use of the word all is a bit awkward because you can't sell some or parts of a book. You can correct it to "The book was so popular that it was quickly sold", otherwise you have to make the book plural.

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When you are grading an assessment, you have to focus on what the question is testing the student on, and overlook other minor mistakes.

In this case, my guess is that you wanted students to use the expression so...that correctly. Using that criterion to judge these student answers, I'd say they're looking good!

answer 1> The books were so popular that everything was sold quickly.

Yes, "everything" can refer to "the books" in this sentence.

(Minor comment: when your students are more advanced, they will learn that a better way to refer to "the books" might be "all of them.")

answer 2> The book was so popular that it was quickly all sold.

Here, I would mark the sentence as basically correct, since it uses "so...that" correctly.

However, the correct pronoun to refer to "the book" would be "they." And the adverbs are placed a little bit awkwardly -- but I would let it go at this level.

  • Test papers is a different kettle of fish compared to assignments and homework. How would a teacher mark an answer as "basically" correct? A2 is clumsy sounding, "all" can be deleted, and quickly could come either before or after the verb sold. – Mari-Lou A May 10 '17 at 6:16
  • @Mari-LouA - It's fine to give students suggestions to help their English be more idiomatic and natural, but when we're assigning points to questions, for the purpose of grading an exam, for beginners to beginner-intermediates, we should keep the goal of each question clear. // Example of suggestions to make an expression more natural: "Test papers are a different kettle of fish." Also, "kettle of fish" is a little awkward in your context. An explanation of that wouldn't fit in a comment. If checking a couple of dictionaries doesn't make it clear please feel free to pose a question. – aparente001 May 10 '17 at 6:25
  • I'll refrain from posting a question, thank you for the suggestion. If you didn't understand what I meant, I'll be happy to explain :) – Mari-Lou A May 10 '17 at 6:34
  • @Mari-LouA - No, it wasn't that I didn't understand, it was that (a) I wanted to give some examples where a minor mistake and a slight awkwardness wouldn't stand in the way of me understanding what you were saying; (b) I have the impression that you like it when there's an opportunity to polish your English (which in general needs very little polishing). – aparente001 May 10 '17 at 6:38
  • Well, thank you that is comforting to know. But sometimes I do make mistakes/slipups, I do know that. – Mari-Lou A May 10 '17 at 6:42

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