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Consider the following:

On my way back home from work I recalled what my boss had asked I did - turned off the lights before I went. Hence unfortunately I had to drive all the way back to the office.

On my way back home from work I recalled what my boss had asked I'd do: turn off the lights before I go. Hence unfortunately I had to drive all the way back to the office.

Which is the correct form? Would you use a dash, colon, comma or a semicolon after the first statement? How about the conjugation of the verbs in bold?

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3 Answers 3

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Neither of your sentences are grammatically correct. Martha has offered a solution that rewords the sentence somewhat for greater clarity. However, if you want to leave the wording exactly the same and just change the tenses, you need to do the following:

On my way back home from work I recalled what my boss had asked me to do - turn off the lights before I go. Hence unfortunately I had to drive all the way back to the office.

First, asked must be followed by accusative + infinitive, not by subject + finite verb, which is what you have. So you say "asked him to leave", "asked me to go", "asked them to talk", etc.

The text after the dash is implicitly also part of an infinitive, so there is an understood to that begins the whole clause. Since to is always followed by a plain form, that's what you need in the second clause.

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  • Can't you say "I requested (that) she bring the paper" though? I'm specifically trying to avoid that "to".
    – sombe
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 23:21
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    I'm pretty sure it should be " turn off the lights before I went ". I just can't cite (or even name) the specific grammatical case being used here.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 23:27
  • "I requested she bring the paper" is correct. This construction always takes a plain form, never a tensed form. Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 23:38
  • "I requested that you turn off the lights before you leave" --> "I had requested that you turned off the lights before you left". Am I wrong there?
    – sombe
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 23:38
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    @sombe "I had requested that you turned off the lights before you left" is not grammatical. You have to say "I had requested that you turn off the lights before you left". In the formula "request that somebody verb", verb must be subjunctive, which means the uninflected form.
    – nohat
    Commented Dec 29, 2010 at 0:04
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Uh, none of the above.

On my way home from work I recalled that the boss had asked me to turn off the lights before I left*, so unfortunately I had to drive all the way back to the office.

*You can use "went" instead of "left", but the latter sounds better to my ear. (Went where?)

"...my boss had asked I did" refers to an action you already took in the past, about which your boss was curious - i.e. he didn't ask you to do something, but asked you about something you did. Similarly, "...my boss had asked I would do" refers to your boss' curiosity about a hypothetical action you would have taken. Neither works grammatically with the rest of the sentence.

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  • I realize your example would be more foolproof, but I need the specific context in which I gave it. I'm pretty sure one or the other is correct there...
    – sombe
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 23:16
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Neither presented option is grammatical.

The syntax of forms like “ask that somebody verb” and “ask somebody to verb” requires that verb be in the subjunctive.

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  • it sounds a little off. Doesn't the subjunctive take a past form as well (like in French for instance)?
    – sombe
    Commented Dec 29, 2010 at 6:34
  • @sombe in this case, it is mandative subjunctive, and it always takes the present subjunctive. Past subjunctive forms are only used for other kinds of subjunctive clauses, such as irrealis (“If I were president...”)
    – nohat
    Commented Dec 29, 2010 at 18:00

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