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English Composition, Lesson 02. Sources of Ideas

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Image of J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

We must have ideas before we can express them.  There are three sources from which ideas arise.

We may gain them from experience; we may recombine them into new forms by the imagination; and we may receive them from others through the medium of language, either by conversation or by reading. 

Every day we add to our knowledge through our senses. We see and hear and do, and thus, through experience, acquire ideas about things. By far the greater part of expression has to do with ideas that have originated in this way. The first chapter in this book is concerned with the expression of ideas gained through experience.

We may, however, think about things that have not actually occurred. We may allow our minds to picture a football game that we have not seen, or to plan a story about a boy who never existed. Nearly every one takes pleasure in such an exercise of the imagination. The second chapter has to do with the expression of ideas of this kind.

We also add to our knowledge through the medium of language. Through conversation and reading we learn what others think, and it is often of value to restate these ideas. The expression of ideas so acquired is treated in the third chapter.