The long-awaited moment at last came and we set out for the station as merry a band of children as I have ever seen before or since?

I think it should be in "before or since", but I am confused.

  • Before and since are adverbs here, no need for a preposition before them. – mahmud k pukayoor Apr 23 '18 at 7:04
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    What makes you think there must be an error? – Jason Bassford Apr 23 '18 at 13:33
  • The whole phrase "before or since" is a bit redundant with "ever" and I personally would put a comma in there between "station" and "as", but I would call both of those issues stylistic choices rather than errors. – 1006a May 22 '18 at 14:04
  • @mahmudkoya: What did you think the preposition was? or why did you think before or since might generally need one? – lly May 22 '18 at 14:28
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    Just the presence of the question mark seems like the obvious mistake. – BladorthinTheGrey May 22 '18 at 17:03

The long-awaited moment at last came and we set out for the station as merry a band of children as I have ever seen before or since?

There are several 'issues' with the sentence, but the only complete mistake is the question mark at the end. However, I think that's something @FaaizAli mistakenly added when posting the question here.

Some English teachers will want to see independent clauses joined with a comma but it's not really necessary in the wild. Actual writers tend to pay more attention to how much of a pause they want to give the readers or how semantically close the clauses are. It's also completely redundant to qualify 'ever' with 'before or since'. Some teachers really try to reduce such writing in their students' work, but it's common enough among native speakers and can even be considered a rhetorical device.

The sentence flows better with 'at last' moved before the subject or after the verb. (Or set apart as a parenthetical interjection!) None of those are really necessary. The phrasing also makes the author talk about a group he is part of ('we') as though he were seeing it from afar ('as I have ever seen'). It's bad writing but not wrong per se.

Overall, it sounds like a very awkward sentence cobbled together by an foreign English teacher to illustrate some point s/he intended to make in class. Right now, it seems like it didn't really work. If you stop by again, let us know what the instructor thought the mistake was.

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    I just googled this sentence because it looked like something that might have come from a children's book written in the early 20th century. Lots of results for an online test using it. They claim that the error is "before or since" should be "since or before." My response to that is unprintable! This is one of those irreversible pairs that have been discussed in another question. Google ngrams confirms that "before or since" is overwhelmingly more frequent. – user184130 May 22 '18 at 14:45
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    It looks like it is some sort of Indian Bank entrance exam. Maybe "since or before" is standard in Indian English. – user184130 May 22 '18 at 14:54
  • @JamesRandom Thanks for that investigation. It seems like it's good to park this question here so people reviewing it will hopefully see that native speakers find that 'answer' ridiculous on its face. Even apart from the 'settled' nature of 'before or since', similar constructions would work the same way because English prefers to logically order past before present and future in such series. – lly May 23 '18 at 7:25

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