Reading Skills

Sadruddin Ahmed

A Courtroom

It was very hot in the small courtroom and everybody was feeling sleepy. After a tiring morning, the clerks were anxious to get off to lunch and even the judge must have felt relieved when the last case came up before the court. A short middle-aged man with grey hair and small blue eyes was now standing before him. The man had a foolish expression on his face and he kept looking around him stupidly as if he was trying hard to understand what was going on.

The man was accused of breaking into a house and stealing a cheap watch. The witness who was called did not give a very clear account of what had happened. He claimed to have seen a man outside the house one night, but on being questioned further, he confessed that he was not sure whether this was the man. The judge considered the matter for a short time and then declared that as there was no real proof, the man could not be found guilty of any crime. He said that the case was dismissed and then he rose to go. Meanwhile, the accused looked very puzzled. It was clear that he had not understood a thing. Noticing this, the judge paused for a moment and then the man said suddenly, ‘Excuse me, sir, but do I have to give the watch back or not?’
1.    Polar questions
a. The courtroom was fairly big.
b. The accused was a small middle-aged man with blue eyes.
c. He was accused of stealing money from a house.
d. The judge found him not guilty.
2.    WH-questions
What? : What did the man look like?
How? : How old was the man?
When? : When did he commit the crime?
Where? : Where was the crime committed?
3.    Inference questions
a.    How is it that the man did not understand what was going on?
b.    What do you think was the reaction of the judge to what the man said?
4.    Cohesion and coherence
Cohesive devices:
and:    It suggests continuation: The man had a foolish expression on his face and  he kept looking around stupidly.
but:    It suggests contrast: The witness claimed to have seen a man outside the house, but he was not sure that this was the man.
even:    It suggests that what comes after the sentence is rather surprising:  the clerks were anxious to get off to lunch and even the judge must have felt relieved.
then:    It is used when you are talking about what happened next: The judge considered it for a short while and then he declared….
meanwhile: It means while a particular thing was happening: Meanwhile, the accused looked very puzzled.
repetition: Words like the judge, the accused and a few others have been repeated.
All these words establish links between sentences.
Coherence: The passage is a narrative one It recounts an event chronologically.
It tells how one thing happened after another in a legal case. A man was accused of breaking into a house and stealing a cheap watch.
The witness could not definitely identify the accused and so the case against him was dismissed But there is a surprising turn at the end. He could not understand what was going on and when the verdict was declared he foolishly asked the judge a question which revealed that he was really guilty. We can imagine what happened next.
5.    Grammar review
a. Use of the articles: The indefinite articles (a/an):
a tiring morning
a short middle-aged man
a foolish expression
a house
a cheap watch
a very clear account
a short time
a thing
a moment
The above phrases have nouns as their headwords and the nouns are all singular countable ones mentioned for the first time, so they take indefinite articles.
b. The definite article (the):
the small court room
the clerks
the judge
the last case
the man
the witness
the house
the matter
the accused
the watch
The use of the definite article is more complicated than that of the indefinite articles. The above noun phrases have the definite article before them either because the nouns have already been identified (the man, the house, the watch) or because there is only one of them (the judge, the witness). As articles are used sparingly in Bengali, our students need to be sensitized to the article system in English.
c. Prepositions:    in the court-room
a man with grey hair
before him
into a house
outside the house
for a short time
for a moment
guilty of
Prepositions in English cause a great deal of trouble to the non-native speakers, so they need careful study. We use in when we indicate an enclosed area (in the court-room). In entering an enclosed area we use into (into a house). When we mean in front of somebody or something we use before (before him) To indicate duration, we use for ( for a short time, for a moment). In describing someone, we use with ( a man with grey hair). Adjectives take different prepositions. The adjective guilty takes of (guilty of a crime)
a.    The use of the tenses: The tenses used in the passage include: past indefinite, past continuous and past perfect.
Past indefinite: It was very hot.
The man had a foolish expression.
He confessed
The judge considered
It was clear
This tense form indicates the completion of an act in the past. There is usually a past time reference. In the above examples the past time reference is implied.
Past continuous tense: A short man…was standing before him.
He was trying hard…
This tense form is used to indicate an incomplete activity in the past. Something began and was continuing at the moment of speaking.
Past Perfect tense: It was clear that he had not understood a thing.

This tense form is used when two past actions are mentioned. Of the two actions, one happened before the other. The one which happened before the other must be put in the past perfect tense.(He had not understood a thing.)
b.    The use of modals: He could not be found guilty of any crime.
Even the judged must have felt relieved.
Do I have to give the watch back or not?
In the first example the expression ‘could not be found’ indicates past inability.
In the second example, the expression ‘must have felt’ indicates past logical
deduction. The third example asks about an obligation. ‘Do I have to…’
c.    Clauses: The witness who was called did not give any clear account of what
had happened.
He confessed that he was not sure whether he was the man.
The first example is a complex sentence with two subordinate clauses
The main clause: The witness did not give any clear account
Subordinate relative clause: who was called
Noun clause as object of the preposition of: of what had happened.
The second example is a complex sentence with a main clause and two  subordinate noun clauses
The main clause: The witness confessed
Subordinate  Noun clause: (that) he was not sure
Subordinate adjectival complement: whether he was the man
1.    Vocabulary:
Noun    Adjective    Verb    Adverb
court-room    hot    feel    stupidly
clerks    sleepy    try    meanwhile
judge    anxious    understand    hard
witness    relieved    happened    suddenly
expression    clear    confessed
proof    real    looked
guilty                    paused
Some of the vocabulary items need explaining
Match the words and phrases
Definitions    Words
i. a person who makes decision in a legal matter    accused
ii. a person who gives evidence in court    stealing
iii. a person who is charged with a crime    guilty
iv. feeling tired and bored    confess
v. taking something from someone without permission    dismiss
vi. eager to do something    judge
vii. reject something officially    witness
viii. unable to understand something    anxious
ix. admit that that has done something wrong    sleepy
x. one is proved to have done something wrong    puzzled
a.    Give antonyms of the following words and make sentences with them.
hot, small, anxious, relieved, short, cheap, clear, sure
b.    Change the following words as directed:
sleepy (into noun),anxious ( into noun), foolish (into noun), sure (into an adverb), guilty (into noun) suddenly (into adjective), moment (into adjective)
1.    The following adverbs have been used in the passage:
stupidly, hard, meanwhile, suddenly
Use the adverbs in the blanks:
a. He works—–to improve his English
b. She was getting dressed.——-He got the car out of the garage.
c. We were having lunch.—–=there was a knock at the door.
d. He was looking at the girl——-
2.    Continue the story narrated in the passage
3.    Give an account of how a mugger snatched a lady’s bag in a crowded street and got away.
4.    A précis of the passage:
Rough Draft
In a small court-room at lunch time the last case came up for hearing. A middle-aged man was standing before the judge. He looked about him and seemed puzzled. He was charged with breaking into a house and stealing a cheap watch. The witness said that he saw a man standing outside the house. Cross-examined, he confessed that he was not sure that this was the man. The judge dismissed the case as there was no real proof. As he rose to go, he saw the man looking puzzled. Then he suddenly asked the whether he has return the watch or not. (103 words
Final Draft
In a court-room the last case came up for hearing. A man was standing before the judge. He was charged with house-breaking and stealing a watch. The witness claimed to have seen the man standing outside the house at night. Cross- examined, he confessed that he was unsure about the identity of the accused. The judge dismissed the case for lack of proof. As he was about to leave, the man asked him whether he would have to return the watch.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *