Reading Skills

Sadruddin Ahmed

The Ten- Acre Farm

My neighbour owns a ten-acre farm. On it he has poultry and pigs. He employs a number of young men to work on his farm under his direction. Early in the morning he gets the pig-sties, the poultry sheds and the dairy cleaned by his farm workers. He then gets the cows milked. He has them milked a second time in the evening. He has the milk-pails sterilised with boiling steam before the cows are milked into them. This makes sure that the milk will be free from germs. He has his animals and poultry fed twice a day. He gets the eggs collected just before milking time. His farm produces over 50 bottles of milk and about 100 eggs a day. He gets his farm produce transported by van to town to be sold to his regular customers.

There are a number of teaching items in the passage which can be discussed under several heads.

Grammar
Article use:
a) Indefinite articles:  a ten-acre farm
a number of young men
twice a day
a day
a second time
The rule that can be deduced from these examples is that a singular countable noun when used for the first time normally takes an indefinite article. The headwords in the above phrases are singular countable nouns: farm, number, day and time. So in each case an indefinite article has been used. Note the hyphenated word ten-acre. It consists of a number and a noun in the singular form. The hyphenated word functions as an adjective modifying the following noun:  a ten-acre farm. More examples: a three-room house; a five-year plan; a hundred –dollar bill.

b)The definite article:
the pig-sties
the poultry sheds
the dairy
the cows
the milk-pails
the milk
the eggs
It is important to know why the above nouns are preceded by the definite article. Plural nouns used in a generic sense do not take the definite article; neither do the uncountable nouns. But in the above examples these rules have been violated because they occur in statements which are not generic, but particularized. Pig-sties, poultry sheds, milk-pails and eggs—–these refer to things of the farm the author is talking about and thus they are particularized and so the definite article has been used before them. Poultry and milk are uncountable nouns which do not require the definite article but because they are used for the second time in connection with the farm, their use has been particularized.

2. Prepositional phrases: The following prepositional phrases occur in the passage:
in   the morning
in  the evening
with boiling water
before the cows
before the milking time
over 50 bottles of milk
to town
to his regular customers
on his farm
under his direction
Prepositions are fixed. We say in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. We use with when something is covered or filled with something: The pails are sterilised with boiling water; the glass is filled with milk. We use before when something happens before something else: before the milking time. The preposition over  means more than: He is over 50.  To indicates direction: to town, to school. On is used before open space: on the farm, on the campus. We use under a person when that person tells you what to do.

3. Structure

A particular structure has been repeated in the passage—-the use of causative verbs. Note the following:
…he gets the pig-sties, the poultry sheds and the dairy
cleaned by his workers.
He then gets the cows milked.
He gets the eggs collected…
He gets his farm produce transported…
When you arrange for someone to do something for you, you use this structure:     Subject + get + Object+ Past participle form of verb. We find this structure in the above examples. We can also use have in place of get. Examples:
He has them milked a second time…
He has the milk-pails sterilised…
He has his animals and poultry fed twice a day.

4. The Tenses: One tense form has been used throughout the passage, namely, simple present tense. We use this tense when we express regular activities. All the activities mentioned in the passage take place every day or regularly.

5. Vocabulary
The vocabulary used in the passage is, on the whole, simple. Most of the nouns are concrete ones naming things relating to a farm. There are, however, a few words which might cause difficulty for some readers. They include sterilized, produce and transported.
The meaning of sterilized can be guessed from the context clues. We learn that if you sterilize something with boiling steam you make sure that the milk will be free from germs. So to sterilize means to kill bacteria in something. The word produce has been used as a verb and also as a noun. As a noun it is uncountable and it means things made or grown, especially things connected with farming. Transport as a verb means to take goods/passengers from one place to another by vehicle. Again this meaning can be guessed from the context clues. The statement that the owner gets his farm produce transported by van to town makes it clear. Note that when we speak of mode of transport, we use by + the name of the vehicle in the singular and without any article: He goes to the office by car/by bus/ by rickshaw.

6. Cohesion: The passage describes the daily activities of a farm. The sentences are not isolated but are linked together by certain cohesive devices which are as follows:
Pronoun references:  Pronouns such as he, it, they, his, them refer back to the nouns used in earlier sentences and thus they function as cohesive devices. The word this is a demonstrative which modifies a noun: This article. But it can also be used as a pronoun with reference to a whole statement. For example: This makes sure that the milk will be free from germs. This in this sentence is a pronoun referring back to the whole statement in the previous sentence about sterilizing milk-pails with boiling steam.
Repetition of words: Certain words which include poultry, dairy, milk, eggs have been repeated, providing cohesion.
Superordinates/Hyponyms: The passage is also made cohesive by using superordinates (general terms) and hyponyms (specific terms). The superordinates include animals and poultry; the hyponyms of animals are pigs, cows and the hyponyms of poultry are chickens and ducks (indirectly mentioned).The word eggs presupposes the existence of chickens and ducks.
Coherence: The passage is about a farm. It is a descriptive piece of writing giving details about activities that take place daily on it. Beginning with what his neighbour has on his farm—-poultry, pigs and a dairy—, the author goes on to explain how his neighbour runs it. He employs some farm workers, who clean the pig-sties, the poultry sheds and the dairy early in the morning, sterilize the milk-pails before milking the cows twice a day and feed the poultry and animals also twice a day. Then the produce is mentioned —over 50 bottles of milk and about 100 hundred eggs a day—and what happens to the produce. There is a propositional development in the passage. In other words, each statement says something new and all the statements form a coherent whole. The author rounds off the passage with a complete picture of the farm.
Exercises
1. Answer the following comprehension questions.
a) Is it a well-run farm?
b) What do you think of the owner’s sense of hygiene?
c) If you were the owner of the farm, would you run it differently?
d) Is it a profitable farm?
2.    Some words in the passage have been used as both nouns and verbs. Identify them and make your own sentences with them.
3.    Ask questions to which these are answers.
a) He gets his poultry and animals fed twice a day.
b) He gets the eggs collected just before milking time.
c) His farm produces over 50 bottles of milk and about 100 eggs a day.
d) Early in the morning he gets the pig-sties, the poultry sheds and the dairy cleaned by his farm workers.
4.  Fill in the blanks with words from the passage.
a)  He —–two houses in Dhaka city.
b)  She gets her room—–twice a day.
c)  He —-his letters from P.O. Box every day.
d) Before you drink water ——that it is boiled.
e) He goes to the office——-.
5.    Find words in the passage which have the same meaning as follows:
Example: a man who sells fish: a fish-monger
a)  Men who are working on the farm
b) Time for milking
c) Things produced on the farm
d) A place on a farm where milk is kept or where butter or cheese is made
e) People who buy things regularly from a shop
6. Write a short passage  on “The Shop You Run”.

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