2

I read the following script in a TOEIC Speaking book:

“Hi, Mohammed. This is Sam.
I just got your voicemail about the printing job. I would rather go with the original printer. Maybe you can ask them to print twenty copies first and make sure they deliver them on time, before you have a meeting with a client, and then they can finish up the rest of the copies later… after you have a meeting.”

I think the boldfaced sentence can be analyzed into the following:

  1. You can ask them to print twenty copies first and (you can ask them to) make sure they deliver them on time.
  2. You can ask them to print twenty copies first and (you can) make sure they deliver them on time.

Which one do you think is correct? #1? #2?

  • It's a question of interpretation, but what I can extract from this sentence is that Mohammed will ask them to deliver on time, thus, making sure it will be. It won't be Mohammed himself who will deliver the copies, however he can make sure they will deliver on time by pushing them to do so. – Joao Arruda Apr 8 '16 at 18:49
  • This is typical spoken English: it's not always grammatical and it doesn't always make sense. Mohammed cannot 'make sure that they deliver on time': all he can do is make sure that they know what the deadline is, and ask them to confirm that they will deliver on time. Plus it's in a coursebook, so it's not even a real situation. – JavaLatte Apr 8 '16 at 19:06
  • This is a pretty typical business conversation asking someone to try something on a small scale (20 copies) and ensure that it will work as expected (the printer delivers them on time) before committing to the complete project (finish up the rest of the copies). It sounds like there may have been some cause for concern about the printing job (got your voicemail...would rather go with the original printer) so caution may be a good idea. I think 'deliver' may be confusing you. It can mean 'provide something expected', like 'I deliver on my promises'. – ColleenV parted ways Apr 8 '16 at 22:18
  • @ColleenV I agree with most of your interpretation but to me, it sounds like it's not so much a test of the printer as wanting to expedite sufficient copies for the meeting and then the remainder of the copies, which aren't needed as soon, can be delivered later (perhaps after they have been discussed and corrected) at the meeting. – Catija Apr 8 '16 at 22:26
  • @Catija Re-reading I can see that interpretation. The problem from the voice mail might have been it couldn't be done in time and a smaller batch could be successful. "and make sure they deliver on time" is strange though "and see if they can deliver them on time" would be more likely in the situation you're talking about I think. Who knows though, exam questions are tricky to interpret because they are often contrived to test some point of the language and aren't natural conversations. – ColleenV parted ways Apr 8 '16 at 22:30
1

I think Catija is right. It is the splitting of the print job into two batches that best guarantees that the copies are delivered on time, not Mohammed asking or overseeing the printers.

To put it another way. "Making sure they deliver" is a consequence of splitting the print job, not something done in addition.

The ambiguity comes from the speaker's use of "and" rather than "to".

Sam would have been clearer if he had said:

"Maybe you can ask them to print (only) twenty copies first to make sure they deliver them on time."

Variations on the same theme:

"Maybe you can ask them to print (only) twenty copies first and (thus) make sure they deliver them on time."

"Maybe you can ask them to print (only) twenty copies first so that they deliver them on time."

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