《明報》名人教英文

工作與工程

2010年3月2日《明報》 名人教英文

土瓜灣塌樓慘劇令全港舊樓住客成為驚弓之鳥。大角嘴一幢40多年樓齡的商住大廈,住客近日發現牆身上一條裂痕在擴大,懷疑是隔鄰地盤打樁所致。一家英文報章報道:Residents of an old Mong Kok block worried that (their block) too would topple yesterday after a 30cm gap opened up. They said the gap had begun widening when piling work on a construction site started.同一段新聞又說,屋宇署的測量師認為,The block was safe and there was no evidence the gap had widened recently or that it was related to the piling works.

到底應說piling work(單數)還是piling works(眾數)呢?

本欄前幾期談過「可數」和「不可數」的名詞;可數名詞都有單數式和眾數式(一般加上後綴s),不可數名詞則只有單數式。但是,英文是一門極不願意遵守規則的語文,很多名詞不可以簡單地歸類為「可數」或「不可數」。

例如work 這個常用詞,就十分有「個性」。它最常用的解釋,是「工作」,不可數的,只能是單數,如His work involves a lot of travelling或A lot of hard work remains to be done。另一個也是不可數的解釋,是「工作地點」,如I usually leave for work at 8 in the morning 或Thousands of people are seriously injured at work every year。在這些例子裏,work後面都不能加上表示眾數的s。名詞work 的另一些解釋,卻可以有後綴s 的。Work 可指作品、著作,是可數名詞,例如an art work,一件藝術品;the poetic works of Tagore, 印度詩人泰戈爾的詩作; recent works on religion,關於宗教的近期著作。其次,機器的部件也叫works,但一定是眾數式,不能以a work 表示「一個部件」:The works of the machine were gummed up with some kind of thick viscous material.(機器的部件沾滿油膩)。還有一個用法,是用works 指廠房,這卻是「形眾實單」,一家鋼鐵廠叫a steel works。

眾數式works 又可用來指工程,例如政府發展局裏的工務科是Works Branch,主管公共工程。打樁工程就是piling works 了。那麼,上面引述那段新聞報道的piling work,是否錯了呢?也不是,因為可解為「打樁的工作」!

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