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How many phones have you lost in total?

I've lost 2 in 2 months, at this rate I could be catching you up!"

In particular I've used the past simple in the first sentence. The second sentence uses the past continuous (I have lost) although I'm unsure about the last part (I could be catching).

Any suggestions on how these 2 sentences could be rephrased?

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closed as off topic by MετάEd, Cameron, tchrist, simchona Oct 5 '12 at 19:43

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I find nothing to improve in these sentences: they are completely idiomatic for me. –  Colin Fine Sep 23 '12 at 12:12

2 Answers 2

This sounds like British English to me. As an American speaker, I'd say this:

Have many phones have you lost in all?

I've lost two in two months. The present perfect (not past continuous, which would be I was losing) is correct.

At this rate, I'll be catching up {with/to} you! [This is the one in the original that sounds like BrE to me.] I think this has to be a third sentence to be grammatical. I don't buy the notion that run-on sentences do anything but annoy most readers, except in well-written dialogues in novels. It doesn't give me any sense of immediacy unless it's well done. My impression is that it's usually done because the writer doesn't know how to properly punctuate. But that's just one man's opinion.

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In the first sentence, have lost is not past tense, but a present perfect construction. The same goes for 've lost in the second sentence. The third verb phrase, could be catching . . . up, is made up of the modal verb could followed by the plain form of be and the -ing form of catch up.

The present perfect construction is used, among other things, to describe a present state that results from a past action. In this case, although the phones were lost at some indeterminate time in the past, the discussion is about the situation at the time of speaking. The construction could be catching . . . up is a modal progressive form and describes a continuing action. It contrasts with could catch . . . up, which describes a single action.

There is no need to rephrase either sentence. In formal writing, there would be a period rather than a comma between months and at, but this appears to be a spoken rather than a written dialogue.

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