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When I wrote thank you to a commentator in this site, I added a message to it like this: “It all clicked into place the moment I saw your comment!” After a while, I came across an article about the usage of ‘the moment’. I’d like to know if my comment sounded offensive and what I should have written in the comment to express ‘just after’ like feeling.

Here’s the article.

  1. Scarcely had Jake answered the phone when his boss started shouting at him.

  2. No sooner had Jake answered the phone than his boss started shouting at him.

  3. The moment Jake answered the phone, his boss started shouting at him.

  4. As soon as Jake answered the phone, his boss started shouting at him.

Only No.4 is emotionally-neutral. No.1,2,3 express the resultant event is unpleasant or unexpected, though the resultant event of No.3 is less unpleasant and unexpected than the other two. Therefore, in a general sentence, for example, “as soon as he arrived at the office, he sat down at his desk and started work”, it isn’t natural to use No.1,2,3 patterns.

(The script is originally written in English, but the book I have is translated into Japanese. These lines are my English, so please excuse me for its strangeness.)

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I see nothing offensive in your comment. Who wrote the article? –  Barrie England Oct 3 '11 at 6:35
    
@Barrie England Hi, thanks. The original writer is T.D.Minton, who’s involved in English education in Japan for more than 20 years. I like his books because they focus in on Japanese people’s errors in English. But this time I was reminded that books are their writers’ opinions. –  user7493 Oct 4 '11 at 6:05
    
What a relief it is to hear your answers. Thanks a lot. –  user7493 Oct 4 '11 at 6:05
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Saying something happened the moment something else happened does not require an unpleasant situation.

In the examples from your book, the resultant event is only "unpleasant" because it's the boss shouting. As other answerers point out, if the event is positive, we can indeed use the moment, or the other examples in 1-3 (not just as soon as), as in:

Scarcely had I finished my coffee when the waitress arrived with another steaming cup.
No sooner had I opened my empty fridge than my roommate asked if I wanted some of his tasty leftover pizza!
The moment the mail arrived, I had a feeling something good was going to be there, and I wasn't disappointed when I saw the birthday card.

Using the moment also does not require that the situation be a surprise. The moment or as soon as can be equivalent to when. Consider these examples from COCA:

The moment the other students need to know, we'll tell them
The moment the Nomarch rounds the corner at the end of the hall, I push past
The moment the doors closed, Jake fell back into the armchair, eyeing the remote control of the TV

We can't be sure that it's "unexpected", but all the examples 1-4 convey a sense that the resultant event happened almost immediately or at the same time. While speakers might vary in their choice, I would say that I'd reserve scarcely and no sooner for things that are rather unexpected. I wouldn't hesitate to say, in contradiction to your book,

The moment he arrived at his office, he sat down at his desk and started work.

though it would sound odd to me to say, scarcely had he arrived at his office when he sat down... or no sooner had he arrived at his office than he sat down... because, to me, both scarcely and no sooner convey a sense that time itself was scarce and the resultant event was a surprise or interruption, rather than something routine.

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Thanks for your specific answer and useful link. I bookmarked it. –  user7493 Oct 4 '11 at 6:06
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I don't think 'the moment' implies anything negative at all. It can be negative, positive or entirely neutral, depending on the situation.

Consider these positive examples:

The moment I saw her, I knew she was the one for me.

He bolted out of class the moment the bell rang, eager to start his summer vacation.

And some neutral examples:

I always know the mail has come the moment my dog starts barking.

Ever precise, she left the house the moment the clock struck 3:05.

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I would say the writer of your article (or possibly the translator) has misunderstood the differences between 'the moment', 'scarcely' and 'as soon as'. There is no emotional difference at all: it all depends on the lapse of time. 'Scarcely had he answered the phone' means that there was a (very short) period of silence, while 'no sooner had he answered the phone' means the shouting started immediately, and 'the moment he answered the phone' would imply his boss was shouting at the telephone even before he answered.

Even this, however, is finicky in the extreme: in normal usage, I would say there is no difference between your sentences 1 to 4.

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