I am not a native speaker. My question in the title arise from an actual sentence I wanted to write. "Phone rang interrupted."

Imagine this timeline for context:

  1. Employee was talking to their boss.
  2. Boss' cellphone starts ringing, thus interrupting the employee
  3. Boss takes the call
  4. After the call, boss says "Sorry. You were saying something. Phone rang interrupted. Go on."

The core of the question is "Phone rang interrupted".

In this sentence, the past event "phone ringing" becomes the subject.

"ringing in past" interrupted employee.

"interrupted" is already in past tense. So the ringing action should use past perfect maybe? But it should also be used as the subject of the sentence.

I am lost. Thanks for any help.

Edit: Also, maybe "Ringing interrupted you" is good enough?

  • 1
    What are you writing and who is your audience? Do they care about grammar or facts? Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 18:47
  • @JohnLawler I was asked to translate subtitles for a Turkish short film. It will be sent to a short film festival. I am trying my best to use good grammar. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 18:50
  • 1
    If these are subtitles, perhaps put #phone rings#. After the call, does the boss really explain to a very stupid employee "phone rang interrupted"? Boss would say "Sorry for the interruption. Go on." Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:15
  • The question is not opinion based, nor is it necessary to alter the dialog to derive a subtitle.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:25
  • @WeatherVane In the film it was not an explanation. Just a statement of what happened; said in passing. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


The only thing which can be the subject of a verb is a noun phrase, which could be as simple as “I”.

Here, the noun is the ringing of the phone. Ringing is a gerund, a verb form which functions as a noun.

So you could say something like

  • “The phone rang and it interrupted you,” where it refers to the phone itself;
  • “The phone ringing interrupted you,” where the ringing is the noun which is the subject of interrupted.

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