The basic unit of English grammar is the clause:

[An unlucky student almost lost a 17th century violin worth almost £200,000]

[when he left it in the waiting room of a London station.]

[William Brown inherited the 1698 Stradivarius violin from his mother]

[and had just had it valued by a London dealer at £180,000.]

Clauses are made up of phrases:

[An unlucky student] + [almost lost] + [a 17th century violin worth almost £200,000]

[when] + [he] + [left] + [it] + [in the waiting room of a London station.]

[William Brown] + [inherited] + [the 1698 Stradivarius violin] + [from his mother]

[and] [had just had it valued] + [by a London dealer] + [at £180,000.]

We can join two or more clauses together to make sentences.

An unlucky student almost lost a 17th century violin worth almost £200,000 when he left it in the waiting room of a London station.

William Brown inherited the 1698 Stradivarius violin from his mother and had just had it valued by a London dealer at £180,000.


 

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Comments

Hello,

'I wouldn't want somebody tracing my steps and pointing out all the mistakes I was making'

The past continuous is referring to 'tracing my steps' as the mistakes were being made, but the sentence itself is imaginary, which means no one traces and points anything. So how come past continuous is used when it says that 'making mistakes' really happened? For example,
'It'd be strange to see what George played'

In the sentence, George did play in the past and it really happened.

In order to say it hasn't happened yet, I would use present simple which would mean something in general. But I believe past perfect could mean that 'playing' and 'making' haven't happened too in the first and second sentence since it's used in unreal situations.

'It'd be strange to see what George'd played'

'I wouldn't ... and pointing out all the mistakes I'd been making'

Thank you

Hello JamlMakav,

I think you are over-complicating the example here and trying to impose a rule which does not exist with regard to real and imaginary actions.

The construction here is:

(not) want someone to do something

 

It is possible to use a simple or continuous infinitive. The continuous infinitive emphasises the ongoing and repeated nature of the action:

I wouldn't want somebody to trace my steps and to point out all the mistakes I was making.

I wouldn't want somebody to be tracing my steps and to be pointing out all the mistakes I was making

The past continuous is used because in the situation described the tracing and pointing out happens while the mistakes are being made. It is similar to other sentences where two past continuous forms are used to show silultaneous actions.

It was raining while we were talking.

There is no need to overcomplicate this with misapplied rules about real and unreal.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

Thank you for the explanation. I rewrote my sentence and question to show what I'd like to ask. So my question is why 'was making' is used instead of 'had been making?'

The sentence is an unreal reduced present or future conditional without if clause, so no one traces or points anything as the first participle phrase describing 'somebody' happen at once as the main verb, which is 'would want' and the second also describing the pronoun happens after.

But past continuous is used that says 'I' makes mistakes while 'somebody' traces his steps(which doesn't happen) and then after points the mistakes(which doesn't happen too)
That's why I think past perfect continuous should be used instead because it says that making mistakes doesn't happen, which is true.

'I wouldn't want somebody tracing my steps and then pointing out all the mistakes I was making/ had been making'

Thank you

Hello JamiMakav,

The unreal meaning only relates to whether or not the speaker wants something, not to the actions of the person described. For example:

I wouldn't want a man who argues a lot as a workmate.

The 'wouldn't want' here tells us that we are talking hypothetically and there is an implied if-clause ('if I had to choose'), but this does not affect the description of the man in the clause. It is possible to use a past form ('argued'), which would emphasise that there is no such man and we are purely in the realm of fantasy, but a present form is fine also, and tells us that there are such people in the real world, and they are not the kind of people I would want.

You example is similar, and you can use either 'was making' or 'had been making':

I wouldn't want somebody tracing my steps and then pointing out all the mistakes I was making.

The meaning here is that the person points out the mistakes as you make them.

I wouldn't want somebody tracing my steps and then pointing out all the mistakes I had been making.

The meaning here is that the person points out the mistakes after you have made them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I'm writing a personal statement for higher education and I just have some questions.

''I remember the time when I was not paying much attention to schooling. Since I had no least comprehension of it, I...''

I want to emphasize that I didn't have any understanding of education. Is it correct to use ''no'' and ''least'' adjacently?

''Listening to music, I wrote several of my projects such as an equation, binary tree, and combination program''

Is it all right if I describe the plural noun using the singular noun?

''Having such outlook and being sophisticated would help me adjust to the university life easier and achieve success in my studies. In terms of them, I chose to study in the UK...''

Is ''Is in term of'' phrase used properly here?

Thank you very much.

Hello,

First, my apology if my question is not related to the information of this page. I just forget what it is called. :(

In the following sentence, the clause between the commas is supposed to tell about Chittagong. is it rightly positioned here?

//I attended one of the best schools for girls’ in Chittagong, the second largest city of Bangladesh, for my secondary schooling//

Hello Abidani,

Yes, that is correct -- well done! By the way, this use of two noun phrases next to each other is called apposition and you can find out more about it in the Cambridge Dictionary's Grammar.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Regarding my question below, I'll explain what I wanted to ask.

A variable noun is like countable when it refers to an instance or an individual member of a class. Otherwise it behaves like uncountable. For example,

''Staff were called in from a prison nearby to help...''
(The prison is an individual one, which is why it's countable here)

''He's been in prison for ten years''
(No one knows which prison. It's uncountable as in general)

My question is: is it necessary to use the determiner ''the'' in the first sentence if ''a'' with variable nouns is individual/particular. For instance,

''He's been in a prison for ten years''
(assuming that we know the prison he's been in)

''He's been in the prison for ten years''
(similarly, assuming that we know the prison he's been in)

Thank you.

Hello,

''A joyous Michael drives through town. telling everyone his door is always open. A pensive Michael goes home, but finds...''

Do we use a determiner before name or it's not correct?

I have a question on variable nouns that can be countable and uncountable.

I know that they are countable when refer to an instance or individual members. For example,

''A cake'' refers to a particular cake but ''cakes'' refers to general.

I just want to know if I used the determiner ''the,'' would it be any difference between ''a cake'' and ''the cake?''

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

We use an 'a'/'an' before names in this way with the meaning 'on this occasion'. It is a way of contrasting the person's state (pensive, worried, joyous etc) with their normal state.

I'm not sure I understand your question about articles here. The difference between 'a cake' and 'the cake' is contextual (non-specific vs specific and identified), unless you are referring to the use of articles to describe general/representative meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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