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Actually, I am writing a story. I have to explain the poverty of a family. So please let me know which one is the grammatically correct and reasons behind them, in the following two statements.

  • There wasn't any question of them being able to buy a better house — or even one more bed to sleep in. They were far too poor for that.
  • As they were far poor,they were unable to buy a better house and even one more bed to sleep in.
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    Both are just fine, grammatically speaking, except for a couple minor errors in the 2nd sentence. In terms of style, the first reads as much more literate (in the voice of a narrator), and the second more journalistic (in the voice of a reporter). My preference is for the former, it makes better, more vivid, use of language. The latter is a bit flat (and the language is a bit simple). BTW, in the second example, you want to say "far too poor", and use "or even one more bed", instead of "*and even one more bed". – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 11:41
  • Oh, but there is a much bigger issue here. The first sentence is quoted verbatim from Charlie and the Chocolate factory, which means it would be outright plagiarism to include it in your story without attribution to Roald Dahl. Please don't do that. – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 11:47
  • @DanBron I am getting confusion while using the first one.Because, in general I use 'being able to' with be form. For example, I was not being able to buy a car. But here I could not find such be form. So please help me to get out of this. – pramod Oct 21 '14 at 11:49
  • yes, I noticed. – pramod Oct 21 '14 at 11:50
  • Native speakers of American English and British English make much less use of the present progressive ("being able to") than Indian speakers who learned English as a second language. Which is to say, if you're trying to write the story in idiomatic English, it's better to avoid constructions like "I was not being able to buy a car". With that said, it's your story, do whatever you like! You asked for opinions, so I'm only providing my own. Good luck! – Dan Bron Oct 21 '14 at 11:52
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The first sentence is correct. The second sentence should be written as:

As they were far too poor, they were unable to buy a better house, or even one more bed to sleep in.

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You could write:

  • There wasn't any question of them being able to buy a better house; they couldn't even afford another bed.

Why? a dash/hyphen isn't typically used before or, connectives already provide structure in a sentence. Here, a semi-colon is used as the fact they couldn't use is a separate clause (i,e they would both be OK sentences on there own) or:

  • As they were too poor, they were unable to buy a better house; they couldn't afford an extra bed.

Why? Same sort of reasoning to the sentence above, two independent clauses.

You used the word "far" to describe the scale of the problem you could use "far too" or "too". If you are too poor to buy a house, then does it really matter the scale of the problem? "far too" although not grammatically incorrect sounds very "chatty". However,this is personal preference.

  • can you explain how many ways can we use the "being able to " phrase ? – pramod Oct 21 '14 at 11:01
  • That dash is perfectly acceptable in context. It signals a kind of afterthought. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 21 '14 at 12:07
  • I am voting this answer down because it reflects a lack of understanding of the idiomatic locution "much|far too" in "far too poor": If you are too poor to buy a house, then does it really matter the scale of the problem? It means the family had so little money that buying a house was completely out of the question. They were not a family who might be able to buy a house if they were a little more frugal in their spending habits, say. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 21 '14 at 12:11
  • @pramod "being able to" means "to allow" – user2679447 Oct 21 '14 at 12:40

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