On one of the corners of Spitalfields market in London, there's a sign that reads:

"This market was finished rebuilding by R. Homer 1893"

Is this a clumsy sentence? Is it grammatically correct?


"R. Homer finished rebuilding this market, 1893"

be more correct?

I'm confused by the 'rebuilding' - is it a noun here? Is there some intransitivity in the verb 'finished'?

  • 1
    I go for "This market was finished being rebuilt by R. Homer in 1893." Those Brits, however, would probably parse the sentence so as to make it appear correct as is. Actually, the more I read the sentence as it is, the more it sounds pretty good. Strange! The only thing I would change, then, is the comma after the word "market," which I would delete and replace with the word "in." Don – rhetorician Nov 1 '19 at 22:08
  • 1
    I don't think it works any better in contemporary BrEng. I would just asusme that it is an old-fashioned turn of phrase. – Colin Fine Nov 1 '19 at 23:02
  • Though these Google Ngrams show that 'had been completed' is far more idiomatic than 'was finished building', the latter doesn't flatline. A magnified graph shows that 'was finished building' has long been used, but always relatively rarely. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '19 at 13:04
  • I'll add that my opinion about contemporary usage in 'BrE' is the same as Colin's. I'm not sure about the merit of @rhetorician's comment. Isn't grammaticality largely universal in English? – Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '19 at 13:07
  • Robert Homer was the last private owner of Spitalfields Market, and had it rebuilt from 1885 to 1893. The central northern block was dated 1885 on its rainwater heads. The vehicle entrance has a central plaque "Spitalfields Market / Rebuilt by / Robert Homer / during the year of / Queen Victoria's Jubilee / 1887" with "/" indicating linebreaks or changes in font style or size. The smaller plaque quoted by the question shows is on the 1st floor left hand bay and inscribed "This market / was finished rebuilding / by R. Homer / 1893". Perhaps by then he no longer cared about grammar. – Henry Oct 14 '20 at 16:55

The original sentence is written in the passive voice. These constructs often sound clumsy compared to active voice, e.g.

Why was the road crossed by the chicken?

I think a more correct way to write it, keeping it passive, would be:

This market was finished being rebuilt by R. Homer in 1893.

  • Might say rather 'The rebuilding of this market was finished by R. Homer in 1893' to hew closer to the original style. – AmaiKotori Nov 1 '19 at 22:10
  • In AV, it will be like "R.Homer...finished rebuilding (rebuilt) this market..." – Ram Pillai Nov 2 '19 at 7:24
  • @AmaiKotori I was trying to keep the original subject and object to stay closer to the original. – Barmar Nov 3 '19 at 18:50

Rebuilding this market was finished by....(.)

If it should start with 'market',

"This market's rebuilding was finished by...."

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