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Is box office used as a countable noun? Is there any reason for saying that "What style of music do you like?" is grammatically incorrect?

15 replies

Anothernotherone · 18/10/2019 12:40

My daughter is a native English speaker who goes to school in Germany. I'm a native English speaker and a qualified secondary English teacher and English graduate (but my English QTS isn't recognised here so I'm not a school teacher here).

Until last year my daughter had a fantastic English teacher. She has to take English as a foreign language, there's no possibility of avoiding it. Unfortunately her teacher is on maternity leave and she has a new teacher, who won't explain his reasoning when he marks tests.

Before I make a fool of myself writing a note, can anyone tell me whether I am incorrect in thinking that "box office" is generally used in the singular? I know technically it's probably "countable" but in reality I am sure it is always used as uncountable. Is this true or am I talking nonsense?

My second question, of which I am surer of the answer, is about the term "style of music". In a cloze exercise "style" is an absolutely acceptable choice in the following sentence "What of music do you like? Rap, pop or rock music?" Isn't it? In this case he has told DD that "you could say style but you can't write it" - that's certainly nonsense isn't it?

I've attached a photograph of the test in question - DD did second guess herself and answer the first question incorrectly, and omit a capital letter, so the two "mistakes" in question change her grade.

Thanks for any pedantic input!

Is box office used as a countable noun? Is there any reason for saying that "What style of music do you like?" is grammatically incorrect?
OP posts:
RolytheRhino · 18/10/2019 12:51

Style is fine.
Each venue has one box office which may contain multiple desks for purchasing of tickets but the box office is the whole area, as I understand it. You can have multiple box offices if you're talking about multiple venues, e.g. 'The Pomegranate Theatre and Winding Wheel Theatre box offices open at 10 a.m.'

Did he mean to reference the individual cashier tills or ticket points?

Anothernotherone · 18/10/2019 13:02

That is a perfect explanation of the box office situation, thank you RolytheRhino ! The implication from the cloze exercise is very clearly of one single venue, but he wrote (places where you buy can tickets) as the hint or prompt. It's a badly framed exercise in that case, and I'd say "box office" should be accepted as "box offices" is a less correct choice for the gap in the sentence...

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wibdib · 18/10/2019 13:40

Agree with Roly.
Would also add that occasionally massive venues (like the O2) might have a couple of box offices each with different ticket windows/desks, but the average theatre or cinema (even big multiplexes) will just have one box office (with several ticket windows or desks). The box office area would these days also probably include several screens to pick up pre-bought tickets and buy tickets there and then - they don't count as box offices - they are just part of the main box office, even if away from the signposted Box Office - which would reinforce your point that it's an area rather than lots of box offices for a single venue (which it appears to be from the question).
Sorry that's a bit wordy and not as neatly done as Roly!

Anothernotherone · 18/10/2019 14:28

wibdib thank you. I have written a note to the teacher, cushioned within references to how much DD enjoys his lessons and how excited I was to hear him explain that he planned to use "flipped learning" to challenge the pupils this year... In the context of flipped learning he should be accepting any correct answers, not insisting that the children stick to an authorised vocabulary list (which my son's teacher does to cover herself).

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Fifthtimelucky · 18/10/2019 15:39

I don't think there is an implication of just one venue. They're discussing going to the West End to see a film, so given that they haven't settled on a particular film, there will be lots of possible venues, each with its own box office.

Having said that, I'd still have been inclined to accept box office in the singular.

I also think 'style' is fine, though 'type' or 'genre' might have been better.

Abraid2 · 18/10/2019 15:43

In this context it has to be box offices plural, as it goes on define the term by talking about the 'places' plural where you buy tickets.

Anothernotherone · 18/10/2019 17:33

Thank you for your replies fifthtimelucky and Abraid2. I think it's ambiguous in that case, as opinion from native speakers who choose to post in pedant's corner is divided! I see the point that it could in fact be read as the box offices of multiple venues in the west end and not be mistakenly asking the pupils to refer to each ticket window as a seperate box office... I read it as buying tickets for one venue with the "hint" about places to buy tickets muddying the waters.

OP posts:
smemorata · 18/10/2019 17:39

Grammatically "box office " is countable - otherwise you couldn't use it in the plural. However, it is normally used in the singular. This is not a grammar problem, it's a style issue. I don't think any native speaker would use it in the plural here, whatever was intended.

Again "style" is a little clunky but not actually wrong in my opinion. I think "type" or "kind" would be better choices.

smemorata · 18/10/2019 17:40

In this context it has to be box offices plural, as it goes on define the term by talking about the 'places' plural where you buy tickets.
True but that just means it's not a great exercise if it is trying to force the student to make bad language choices!

Abraid2 · 18/10/2019 21:21

I agree—it rather clumsily forces a use of the plural.

Shopgirl1 · 18/10/2019 21:47

Did the teacher write the whole text? There are awkward sentence structures and choice of expressions throughout. It doesn’t read like it was written by a native speaker.
I would have said box office in the singular in that space as it reads like the box office for mission impossible tickets at the cinema. I would use it in plural in other situations.
With regards to “styles of music” I think it’s ok, but “kind” or “type” would have been better.

wibdib · 18/10/2019 22:14

Reading it through again, I wonder if the reason why we would say it sounds better as box office is because it’s preceeded by the, which sort of makes it sound to us like it’s more specific than general - if you take the ‘the’ out of the sentence it sounds a bit better if box offices is to be used.

Also (- and I’m overthinking this I know Grin) - if you were to expand the sentence it would go to ‘... the box office of each cinema’ rather than the box offices of all the cinemas. If you wanted plural box offices you’d be more likely to say the cinemas’ box offices.

I don’t know if I’ve explained that very well but I wonder if it’s one of those really subtle things peculiar to that particular thing that native speakers would tend to know what is right in a particular sentence rather than it following very precise grammar rules.

How well does this translate into German - would they have these subtle distinctions with box offices vs box office?

Anothernotherone · 19/10/2019 07:34

wibdib in German the word box office doesn't even exist! The word for till or checkout is used, which does take a plural as til would in English. Maybe that's the source of the problem.

I agree the whole worksheet is generally slightly clumsy; why ask for "synonyms and opposites" rather than "synonyms and antonyms"? Both words exist in almost the same form in German so the word antonym isn't any more challenging than synonym. I don't know whether he wrote it himself though.

OP posts:
Anothernotherone · 19/10/2019 07:35

*till not til

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TheCanterburyWhales · 19/10/2019 21:04

The text looks like it's from one of those dreadfully old-fashioned and outdated grammar method books sadly still prevalent in many schools.

Sounds like flipped classroom work might be a lot more stimulating than gapfills, that's for sure.

I'm in a similar situation OP- I teach English at the school in Italy that my daughter attends, though obviously I'm not her teacher. She's bilingual, but like yours has to do English I quietly roll my eyes and tell her to smile and nod, smile and nod at most of the odd things her teacher comes out with I've yet to come across the teacher marking something wrong that isn't though!

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