Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE
words and music by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
.....

What is the exact meaning of "Long time passing"? What kind of construct is it?

NB: Of course I can infer an approximate meaning, but I can't recognize the structure
[adj] [noun] [present participle] as a stand alone one.

share|improve this question
    
I think your title could be improved if you mention that you're looking for the construct more than the meaning –  simchona Sep 13 '11 at 5:07
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"long" is an adjective. "time" is a noun, as well as the subject, while "passing" is a present participle, the verb.

"Long time passing" refers to a great amount of time that has passed by since the flowers were gone. This can be seen by the fact that the fourth line "Long time ago" indicates something that has happened in the past.

Most songs don't have a correct grammatical structure, and this one doesn't really have one either. I think the correct form would have been:

Long time passed.

But because a song needs a rhythmn, an additional syllable had to be added, hence the "passing".
Of course, he could have done:

Long time has passed.

share|improve this answer
    
So the structure is ... wrong :) –  belisarius Sep 13 '11 at 5:40
2  
It's... informal. –  Thursagen Sep 13 '11 at 5:54
1  
@belisarius - If you worry a lot about sentence structure being "right" in folk songs, I highly suggest you stay away from Bob Dylan. –  T.E.D. Sep 13 '11 at 14:33
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.