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Which of the following sentences is more idiomatic or is there any other way to say it?

  1. In case neither a minute has gone since you left.
  2. In case a minute hasn't gone since you left.
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Or do you mean nary a minute? – Cerberus Feb 14 '13 at 17:10
up vote 1 down vote accepted

From what I understand, hopeful suggestions include:

"In case you'll be out for less than a minute, [you will still need to turn on your voicemail]."

"If it is the case that it's less than one minute before you return, [payroll won't count it against you]."

"If you return in less than a minute, [you won't need to clock out]."

"Just in case it hasn't been a full minute since you left, [etc]."

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Neither of those is something a native speaker would generate, and both would be perceived to be ungrammatical.

  • In case a minute hasn’t passed since you left, the door won’t have locked behind you yet because it has a sixty-second timer.
  • A minute hasn’t passed yet since you left.
  • Not even a minute has passed since you left.
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A native speaker of French might generate something similar. – Noah Feb 14 '13 at 21:26
I'm having a lot of trouble finding that first one "valid". I can see what you're getting at, but it seems to me the following clause needs to be something more like a precautionary action taken in order to deal with the case actually arising. Yours looks more like the in case should be in the case that, which is pretty ugly phrasing at the best of times. OTOH, "In case a minute hasn't passed, I'll wait another few seconds before I press the button to remotely detonate the bomb I put in your handbag, because I want to make sure you're well away from my house before it blows". – FumbleFingers Feb 14 '13 at 23:38
@Noah Probably not, says a Frenchman. – The Frog Feb 15 '13 at 0:32
@FumbleFingers Yes, it’s more like “In the event that. . . .” And yeah, it’s awkward. I was trying to get it to something closer to what the Opie was aiming for, but it is a long and tortuous journey. – tchrist Feb 15 '13 at 0:55
@tchrist: I'm sure my example isn't the best that can be done, but it's steering closer to the In case X happens, I'll do Y idiomatic usage we're looking for here - as a precautionary measure against a negative future outcome or future discovery of something that's maybe already gone tits up. Of course, we've no idea whether OP's got any of these meanings in mind. But you and I have, so at least we're communicating! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '13 at 1:32

I have never heard either used. I'm not sure what it is your trying to say but perhaps the following might be useful.

In case no time has past since you left.


No time at all has past since you left.

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AmE uses "passed" as the past participle of "to pass." Is "past" passing on the other side of the pond? @Rodgers – livresque Feb 14 '13 at 17:18
@livresque I don't dare say if it's wrong or not, but passed is much more common! – Mr Lister Feb 14 '13 at 18:04
@livresque no, en-GB has passed as both the simple past and past participle of pass, with past as the adjective, noun and preposition that's related. Both are pronounced the same in most accents, and past comes from an old variant spelling of passed, but they've been separate since the Middle English period. – Jon Hanna Feb 14 '13 at 20:59
@JonHanna, GTA for validating my resources. – livresque Feb 16 '13 at 17:43

If you return within a minute...

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