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Grammar question: Your "chance / chances" of getti

Posted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:43 am
by hereinchina
I'm confused about when to use the word "chance" and "chances". Are all of the following sentences grammatically correct? Is there a grammar rule about when to use which word?
1. What is my chance of getting the job?
2. Your chance of getting the job is low.
3. What are my chances of getting the job?
4. Your chances of getting the job are low.

Posted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:21 pm
by fluffyhamster
I don't think there is a rule or rather semantic distinction to be made in this instance (or if there is, it will be quite hard to discern and describe!); that is, either phrasing is valid. So the only rules at work would appear to be those of grammatical AGREEMENT ( , ; ...are...chances... , ...chances...are... ). (You can find out more about 'agreement' by searching for that word in ; the relevant entries begin on page 51).

Google by the way has 45.1 million hits for "chance of" and 13.9 million for "chances of".

Dictionaries like the LDOCE can be helpful for their range of examples (esp. meaning-entry 1 in the following):

You will only really see a difference with forms (or rather, a form) where only one grammatical choice is possible:

Using a seatbelt will reduce the likelihood of serious injury in a car accident.
*Using a seatbelt will reduce the likelihoods of serious injury in a car accident.
( : "like‧li‧hood [singular, uncountable"].

The odds are that he will commit the same crime again.
*The odd is that he will commit the same crime again.
You can narrow the odds of a nasty accident happening in your home by being more safety-conscious.
*You can narrow the odd of a nasty accident happening in your home by being more safety-conscious.
( : "odds [plural]").

Posted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:41 pm
by JuanTwoThree
Me, I don't like 1 and 2 so much. I care even less for plurals in the negative or restrictive:

* There are no chances of you(r) getting the job.

* There are few chances..........................

I'd go for 'is no chance' and 'is little chance'.

The ones that I don't particularly like google in the tens or hundreds of thousands, which makes a nonsense of my repeated claims to be widely-read and widely-travelled in different lingistic communities and thus to possess a well-trained ear and a visceral sense of what is standard and what is not. Young Pullum has this to say in the latest Language Log and I must say that I stand accused:

"One could go on to gather more examples; there seems to be an ample supply. How many would it take to convince Tom that he is utterly wrong about Australian English? I have no idea. We could probably find enough. But the deeper problem is that people simply do not understand that their intuitively-based reports concerning what they see and hear and read in their country are often drastically mistaken. It is possible today to check these things empirically with some expectation of reasonable success. But people (and this includes linguists!) still tend to think that they have veridical intuitions concerning what occurs and what does not in their linguistic milieu. Here at Language Log we have been wrong so often that we have learned to check. "

Posted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:21 pm
by fluffyhamster
Hi JTT. I agree that 3 and 4 sound a bit better (not that either of us is actually discounting 1 and 2 as acceptable!).

As for the "caring even less for plurals in the negative or restrictive", admittedly a consideration of them can and does help shed more light on the original question, but I guess I was hoping that simply and just the chance 1, entry 1 collocations box from the online LDOCE would help "point the way" to establishing the some/little/no collocate-choices as being more "determined" (i.e. countable and singular in a way similar to those stemming from just 'a') than the my/your/the (that is, if 'chances' follows some/little/no, then that 'chances' will have a different meaning to the "alternative" wording of 'chance', whereas both 'chance' and 'chances' can follow my/your/the with no difference in meaning).

Anyway, thanks for chipping in and helping make things more explicit (even if that and my reply to it gives us all that bit more to read and think about!). :)

thanks for your answers

Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:41 am
by hereinchina
I want to thank you for your detailed answers.