I would like to know about the use of "have" combined with prepositional phrases.

(ex.1) The table has a map on it.

Example 1 can be paraphrased as "there is a map on the table". In this case, "it" in "on it" refers to "the table". Is the relationship necessary?

How about the following?

  • (ex.2) The Empire had a colony in the country.
  • (ex.3) A colony in the Empire was in the country.

Are both the sentences correct?

  • 3
    I would say, for (ex. 3), A colony of the Empire was in the country, if you're trying to make it mean the same thing as (ex. 2). While in is acceptable for this meaning, of is also acceptable, and avoids confusion with the other in in the sentence. – Peter Shor Sep 3 '11 at 11:37
  • +1 Peter Shor. Saying the colony is in this and in that is confusing. – Adam Rice Sep 3 '11 at 13:09
  • In case you're still confused about the answers to your questions, the answers are are all "yes". – Peter Shor Sep 4 '11 at 12:26

The grammar of the given examples is not wrong, but the examples should be phrased more clearly and specifically. I'll comment further on that, after addressing your question about the necessity of a relationship between "table" and "it" in example 1, "The table has a map on it."

You said that "it" in "on it" refers to "the table". Because you explicitly told us, the relationship is a necessary condition. If you had not made the relationship explicit, then the matter could be context dependent rather than necessary, as for the pair of sentences: "This data table will answer your question on the subject of geographic distribution of cows. The table has a map on it." Here, "on it" means "on the subject of..." rather than "on the table".

The example sentences are somewhat ambiguous. For example 1, depending on exact meaning, in spoken English I'd expect to hear sentences like the following: "The map's on the table." "The tabletop isn't clear, there's a map lying on it." "The map is printed on that table top." etc.

For examples 2 and 3, it isn't clear whether "in the country" means rural (non-urban) vs. within the boundaries of some nation. This can be made clear by naming the nation or country, instead of referring vaguely to "the country." For example: "Rome had colonies in Brittania. England had colonies in North America."

  • Thank you very much, jwpat7. I'm not sure that I could correctly understand what you explained. Then, in this construction the pronoun ("it" in example 1) after the preposition do not have to have the same referent as the subject ("the table" in ex. 1). In addition, I want to ask about the last examples. Do you say "Roman colonies were in Brittania" or "English colonies were in North America" in stead of the expressions you provided? – user6445 Sep 5 '11 at 16:27
  • If Rome had had colonies nowhere other than Brittania, or England nowhere other than America, one could use the rephrasings you (@user6445) give at the end of your comment. But because both of them had other colonies as well, it would be incorrect (or, at least, misleading) to so phrase those examples. My explanation in the second paragraph of my answer may be regarded as a technical quibble showing that "table" need not be the referent. More importantly, if the sentence is phrased less ambiguously, such an issue won't arise. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 6 '11 at 0:47

You are right about this. The relationship does exist. However, in ex. 3, I would just rephrase that slightly:

There is a colony located in the country, that is part of the Empire.

Edit:, Example 3 is a rephrase, or a paraphrase,(depending on how you look at it) of Example 2

  • Thank you very much. Then, ex.2 is incorrect because "the empire" and "the country" the same referent? – user6445 Sep 3 '11 at 9:32
  • Hang on, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Could you please explain? – Thursagen Sep 3 '11 at 9:50
  • Sorry. I am not sure in what way I am confused. My question is: ex.2 is correct or incorrect? And ex.2 can be paraphrased as ex.3? – user6445 Sep 3 '11 at 10:31
  • Yes, ex.2 is correct. And yes, the paraphrase of ex.2 is ex.3 – Thursagen Sep 3 '11 at 10:32
  • This rephrasing is more confusing than the original phrasing of ex. 3 (although not grammatically wrong). – Peter Shor Sep 3 '11 at 11:36

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