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Thread: Had / spent a good time

  1. #1
    Senior Moment Antonath's Avatar
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    Default Had / spent a good time

    One of the JTLs here has asked me about a test question. It's a multiple choice, select the correct word type:

    I X a very good time doing (something I can't remember)

    Two of the options are obviously wrong, but the remaining two are "had" and "spent". "Had" is listed as the correct answer, which I agree with. But why is "spent" wrong? It feels wrong to me, and I think it's something to do with the "good" qualifier, but a search on google shows loads of people using it like that, and no grammar discussions as to which is correct.

  2. #2
    Senior Member vertigo_stick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Had / spent a good time

    It does feel wrong to me as well.

    I think generally you 'have a time' which is good, bad, or some other qualifier of relative awesomeness, whereas you 'spend a time' which is long, short, or some other length.

    'I spent a long time doing my homework last night.'
    'I had a great time doing my homework last night.'

  3. #3

    Default Re: Had / spent a good time

    I think using "spend" sounds more formal and old-fashioned? I try to get my students to say "had a good time" so maybe that's your JTEs goal with the test.

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Had / spent a good time

    to 'spend time' is idiomatic. To 'spend a good time' does not fit the parameters of that idiom.

    English is a collection of idioms borrowed from lots of different languages. So if it 'feels wrong' it can (and usually does) feel wrong just because it is wrong.

    Non native speakers don't come from that linguistic background so always demand to know why. There may not be a why.
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    Is 'had' used in a more qualitative way and 'spend' more quantitative?

    For example, "had a wonderful time", "had a crummy birthday" versus "spend a great deal of money", "spent little time" etc.

    Don't know how accurate that is but it is what came to mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dombay View Post

    Non native speakers don't come from that linguistic background so always demand to know why. There may not be a why.
    So true. But telling them that "there is no reason or rule saying why it cannot be used, and its use is not technically incorrect, it is just never used like that and so sounds unnatural" feels like the weak answer it is. Sadly though, there isn't much else better to say other than show them the use of the word through some sort of concordance analysis.

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    Senior Member kalliea's Avatar
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    Default Re: Had / spent a good time

    I believe spent is actually correct, but it changes the meaning of the sentence.

    I had a good time doing X = A good time was had when doing X = x was fun
    I spent a good time doing X = A good amount of time was spent doing X = X took a while

    So, again, it is a proper English sentence, it just doesn't have the meaning you are looking for....
    Last edited by kalliea; January 21st, 2010 at 18:58.
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