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What Did You Think? - Opinions in Mixed Tenses
Well, that looks delicious, I must say.

What Did You Think? - Opinions in Mixed Tenses

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about “What Did You Think?” but no doubt your teachers will talk about the “Opinions in Mixed Tenses quiz”! If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

What did you think challenges you about opinions in mixed tenses.

English friends, and others, will be keen to pick up your opinion on things and experiences that may be of mutual interest. Remember, too, that there may be some understatement in an expressed opinion - what it seems to say, and what it really meant, may not be quite the same thing.

How well-equipped are you to give an opinion in mixed tenses when someone asks you, 'What did you think?'!'

Out at a pub or party with English friends, you 'have a go' at a game that is quite new to you ('Aunt Sally', perhaps ~ look it up!). Your English friend casually describes your effort as 'not bad'.
What do you think they really mean?
'I've seen worse' ( = that really wasn't too bad for a first attempt)
It was in fact quite good
'Well tried, but that wasn't really up to much; what could anyone expect?'
'Not bad' is a polite-sounding comment that actually doesn't mean very much at all!
It could mean any or all of these things ... no doubt it is meant kindly, but it is unlikely to be 'high praise'.
You suggest a trip or outing that you would enjoy; one of your English friends says, 'Yes, that might be quite fun to do, some day or other, while you're here.'
What do you believe this really meant?
Your friends would enjoy it a great deal, if it were possible to arrange the trip.
It might interest them slightly, but they don't sound bothered enough to make or change any plans for you.
They have no real interest in it at all, but want to keep the possibility vaguely 'alive' so as not to hurt your feelings.
The trip is a complete 'non-starter', for reasons they can't be bothered to explain to you.
The truth probably lies somewhere between Answers 2 and 3. If they were enthusiastic (Answer 1?) they would probably have put forward a more specific and positive suggestion. It would be nice to consider Answer 4 unlikely.
You have been taken round an exhibition of something which your English friends believed you would enjoy; in fact you were disappointed, but it would be rude and ungrateful of you to say so honestly. When they ask you what you thought of the show, what do you say?
'It was interesting, wasn't it?'
'Very bold and imaginative, I thought.'
'Absolutely super; I wish we could have spent longer and gone round again.'
'There were a few quite nice pieces in it, I suppose.'
Answer 1 is vague but seemingly positive; Answer 2 seems glib, and sounds as though you 'borrowed' the phrase from some critic or other (as, perhaps, you did! ... but it's not much good if you found the whole thing dull.)
Answer 3 is fairly obviously exaggerated; Answer 4, on the other hand, sounds very grudging (what someone once called 'damning, with faint praise').
This time, you have been taken to a play or film. You were able to follow the outline of the story, but the subtleties of character in the dialogue were too hard to follow and have largely 'passed you by'. Your friends ask you what you thought of the performance, and you say :
'I thought the scenery was gorgeous, didn't you?'
'The characterisations seemed rather complicated.'
'It's no good asking me; I only understood about one sentence in ten of all that dialogue.'
'What an impressive theatre!'
Answer 1 is probably the safest: at least it refers to part of the performance, in positive terms.
Answer 2 sounds pretentious, you have little evidence to support it; and with the best will, there's quite a chance you would trip over these words if you tried to say it convincingly without practising beforehand!
Answer 3 may be true but is rude and defensive; if all you can find to say is Answer 4, your friends will feel they have wasted quite a lot of the money they spent on your ticket.
At the table with your English hosts, some food that you have never seen before is brought in proudly to be served. Your friends are clearly hoping that you are looking forward to trying the food. What do you say?
'Well, that looks delicious, I must say.'
'Are you sure there isn't too much cream all over that?'
'My grandmother once taught me another way of cooking this, where you take ... (etc. etc. etc.)'
'This will be a new experience!'
You may not completely mean it, but Answer 1 is the most appropriate here. (Let's not think about what happens if you try some, and then don't like it!)
Answers 2 and 3 are rude because it sounds as though you are more of an expert than your hosts, and appear to be criticising their judgment or kitchen technique.
Answer 4 is a 'nice try', but your uncertainty (whether the experience will be pleasant or not) remains rather obvious!
Some English friends are telling you, gently, about a 'character' they know, whom you are likely to meet tomorrow. One of them tells you, 'She's not the sharpest knife in the box.'
What do you think this meant?
She is physically fat, all 'round and roly-poly' with no 'edges'.
She is a hopeless cook.
She isn't very intelligent.
She lives in a block of flats where some of the other people carry knives about with them.
The superlative ( '~est' ) may be the best clue ... that she has less of some particular quality than most other people do. In English we can use 'sharp' to mean 'clever' ~ someone whose mind, like a blade, can penetrate cleanly and quickly to the centre of a subject, and work out good decisions.
Another English friend has invited you for an evening drink. Her flat, furnishings, decorations, clothing and makeup (if any) are all in a style that you simply do not like; but apart from that, she has been really kind and friendly and generous. After a while she asks your opinion of some new thing she has bought ~ an ornament, curtains or whatever ~ which, personally, you consider horrible or perhaps just ridiculous. What do you say?
'Well, it's not quite what I'd have chosen at home, to be honest.'
'Full of character, isn't it? I bet you're pleased to have found that.'
'It goes very well with your other stuff, I agree.'
'Do tell me where on earth you had to go, to get hold of such a thing!'
It is probably best to express as much approval as you can, for fear of hurting her feelings.
Answer 1 may indeed be 'honest' but it won't be what she wants to hear.
Answer 3 is reasonably positive, otherwise.
It would be risky to use Answer 4: if she takes it seriously, you may get a long complex story that you don't want to hear; if she thinks you are being cheeky or sarcastic, she won't be happy.
You see a local advertisement for a restaurant specialising in food from your own original part of the world (South-East Asia, or wherever you happen to be from): you suggest taking British friends there, to show them some of your own style of food. One of them tells you:
'Oh yes, I've heard that place has gone seriously downhill since it changed hands a few months back.'
What do you understand from this?
It would be a really good place to go for supper.
There are new owners, who have not managed to improve it.
It used to be quite good ('quite good!' ... whatever that may have meant), but not any more.
The new chef is from a different part of your country: the coast, rather than the mountains.
'Going downhill' is the opposite of 'improving'.
'Changing hands' in this context, means that there are new people owning and running the place.
Your English friend contacts you during the day, to cancel an appointment that you had for later on: you had planned to go out together somewhere on a trip or activity. He tells you, 'I'm not feeling too well this morning.'
What does he probably mean?
He is slightly ill, and ~ on balance ~ would rather not come along and spoil the occasion (by coughing / sneezing etc.)
He is fairly seriously ill (with sickness / headache etc.) and ought to go home and lie down for several hours.
This is a complete excuse, and something else is happening that he'd rather do instead.
He ate or drank something last night that was bad for him (his own decision, and his own fault: too much to drink, or a 'dodgy' curry perhaps); he now feels ill, and also guilty about 'letting you down'.
Depending on the circumstances, any of these could be true; but the kindest interpretation of what he's told you, is probably Answer 2.
You have found what seems to be a very cheap souvenir shop, where you buy a little ceramic model of a British landmark (or perhaps a London bus). The model has a small motor inside, which makes something go round and round on the top. You show this to your friends, and it suddenly stops working.
'What did you expect?' asks one of the friends.
What does this question really mean?
'Did you assume it would go on working perfectly, always and forever?'
'If you only paid a couple of pounds for it, didn't you realise the quality was likely not to be much good?'
'You can always rely on mechanical things to go wrong just at the most awkward moment.'
'You hadn't bought that as a present for someone back home, had you? Oh dear. But I wouldn't have bought one of those in the first place.'
In theory, the Question might have meant any of these things; but Answer 2 would be the most likely and usual.
Author:  Ian Miles

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