0

"He had left the house when we arrived." I feel it is most certainly wrong, but I figured it's safer to ask the community here. To me it feels like it should be "He had already left the house when we arrived," or "He had already left the house by the time we arrived." Am I wrong here?

0

1 Answer 1

2

Both of the alternatives you offer are grammatically correct and idiomatic, but the first supplies additional meaning to what was an already grammatically acceptable sentence.

Already simply adds emphasis to the fact that he had gone, hinting that the speaker or their interlocutor would have expected him still to be there.

By the time is simply an alternative to when.

4
  • Tim got to the airport at 6:30 pm. I called Tim at 6:50 pm. "Tim got to the airport when I called him." Would this also follow to be correct usage of when? If so do you have any sources that I might be able to check concerning this usage? Jun 16, 2015 at 9:21
  • It is not entirely correct. You could say either Tim was at the airport when I called him, or Tim was already at the airport when I called him, or Tim had reached the airport when I called him. But if you are going to use got you need the pluperfect Tim had got to the airport when I called him.
    – WS2
    Jun 16, 2015 at 9:29
  • Sorry, that's my bad. It should be "Tim had got to the airport when I called him." Do you have any references for this use of when and past perfect? It would be a great help. Jun 16, 2015 at 9:34
  • Swan's Practical English, pg 425, says that the use of the past perfect is especially common with when. (when has several meanings, so we often have to show the exact time relations by the verb form.) e.g., When I had opened the windows, I sat down and had a cup of tea. The time between the first clause and the second clause doesn't feel right. Unfortunately Swan's examples are sparse and are all resultives. Jun 16, 2015 at 9:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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