0

Which is correct:

  • Scarcely did she put down the phone when it rang again.
  • Scarcely had she put down the phone when it rang again.

My own take is that both are correct, but that "had she" indicates a connection between the phone ringing and the fact that it was put down.

My "adversary" believes that only "had she" (past perfect) is correct, because the putting down precedes a past event, ie the phone ringing.

0

I believe that both sentences are correct, but their meanings are different. Do is used both for emphasis as in "I do believe you," and to indicate habitual or repeated action as in "I do take sugar in my tea." Anyone who has suffered through the recent U.S. election, on hearing the first sentence, would think: what! the (DNC,RNC) is calling back again. I think there is a second interpretation, which Edwin Ashworth would call "one-off:" perhaps did is being used to emphasize immediacy. Here are two examples: "No sooner did I get the news, than I petitioned the Lord Justice Clerk." (David Balfour, R.L. Stevenson) "No sooner did he face her, than Miss Pross uttered a scream ..." (A tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)

1

The following from Perfectyourenglish.com

After ‘scarcely’ and ‘no sooner’, we can use ‘had’ or ‘did’. The patterns are different.

Study the examples given below.

Scarcely had she finished one project when she started working on another.

OR

Scarcely did she finish one project when she started working on another.

I'd say that the former almosts demands a semelfactive (one-off) interpretation, whereas the latter strongly suggests habitual practice. With your example, 'put' can be either base form or past participle, leading to the similar-looking variants. But I'd say that the habitual practice suggested by 'did' (the semelfactive interpretation is possible, but I'd say reflects an archaic usage) would be unexpected here.

  • My "adversary" believes that only "had she" (past perfect) is correct, because the putting down precedes a past event, ie the phone ringing. What is your take on this. – mac Nov 16 '16 at 13:47
  • I've answered this in my last sentence. I wouldn't use 'did she' for a one-off rather than a repeated event. But it's not ungrammatical; PYE's second example has 'did she' 'preceding [what may be taken as a single] [inchoative] past event'. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '16 at 14:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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