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Whether "No sooner had I seen her than I recognized her" is equivalent to the expression " As soon as I saw her, I recognized her" or " As soon as I had seen her, I recognized her." Would you mind explaining a bit more clearly?

Would "I didn't recognize her until I saw her" equate the expression in meaning "No sooner had I seen her than I recognized her"?

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/inversion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_sentence

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  • No sooner had I seen her, I recognized her is not idiomatic, but As soon as I saw her, I recognized her is perfectly okay (except I bet that almost all native speakers would almost always put the main clause first). Although it's syntactically valid, it's hard to imagine a context where I didn't recognize her until I saw her (not "see her") would make sense (it's not usually possible to recognize someone unless you can see them). So what exactly is the situation where you think you want to say something like that? Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:25
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    What do you intend for the negative to mean? That you didn't recognize her at all, or just that you didn't recognize her immediately?
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:25
  • (Also: I assume you mean "statements," since the sentence you provide is not a question.)
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:26
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    "No sooner had X happened than Y happened" means the same as "As soon as X happened, Y happened." Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 13:55
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    Yes. sooner is a comparative, and comparatives require (and are marked by) than. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 14:18

1 Answer 1

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There are two clauses, separated by a comma, in

  • As soon as I saw her, I recognized her.

The second clause is the main clause. The negative of the main clause is

  • *As soon as I saw her, I didn't recognize her

which makes no sense, because not recognizing someone is not an activity that happens suddenly, and that's the meaning of as soon as.

But the first clause can also be negated.

  • *As soon as I didn't see her, I recognized her

which also makes no sense; neither does

  • *As soon as I didn't see her, I didn't recognize her

So, as is normally the case, the example sentence doesn't have any "negative form" (let alone "the negative form"), at least not one that's grammatical and means something understandable.

Sometimes people have been taught (ironically, in what's called "grammar school") that negative is something you do to a sentence, like "passive". Unfortunately, negation is much more complex than that.

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    I disagree re this: As soon as I saw the woman, I didn't recognize her [from before].
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 19:27
  • As soon as I saw the woman, I realized I didn't recognize her Realizing can be instantaneous, but not its negation. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 19:41
  • Would hardly/ scarcely/ rarely be an equivalent expression to " No sooner had I seen her, I recognized her"? What's the difference between "No sooner had I seen her, I recognized her" and " No sooner did I see her, I recognized her"? In which situation each one of these expressions are in use. Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 1:08
  • As you can see on the list of negatives, hardly, scarcely, rarely, and seldom are negative triggers. So are questions (yes/no and wh-), equatives, comparatives, superlatives, and hypothetical clauses. They all license NPIs, though not always the same ones. Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 1:30
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    Why do usually negative adverbial reverse the sentence pattern in English? For instance, Hardly had I ever been to Church before. What other negative adverbials would you like to list that inverses the structures and why it is necessary to do that ? Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 19:49

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