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I was slept when he came back to the home.

The above statement has three verbs in the past tense.

  • was = is
  • slept = sleep
  • came = come

My questions:

  • Are "I was slept" and "he came back to home" grammatically correct?

  • Can I use all these past tenses in a sentence like this?

  • If it's correct what about the below statement?

I did not go there

In this statement "did" define it is a past tense of "do" but "go" never change to past tense.

So in the first example, all the verbs are changed into the past tense but in the second example, some verbs are not changed.

If both statements are correct, why can we use them like this?

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    "I was slept when he came back to the home" is grammatically incorrect. Is there any reason why you thought it might be correct? "I was sleeping when he came back to the home" would be grammatical. – sumelic Aug 18 '16 at 6:50
  • You're asking (1) whether it is possible to have two verbs in the past tense in a single sentence; and (2) whether "did" takes a present or past tense verb. For (1), yes, e.g. "He returned after he left." For (2), "did" takes a verb in its base form. – Lawrence Aug 18 '16 at 6:54
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    And “I was sleeping when he came home.” or “I was asleep when he came home.” would be idiomatic. – Jim Aug 18 '16 at 7:34
  • I am voting to migrate to ELL. – Helmar Aug 18 '16 at 8:41
  • Sleep is transitive in some senses, but it can't be passivized. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. – P. E. Dant Aug 19 '16 at 7:23
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The sentence as it stands there is not correct.

This is due to the circumstance that to sleep is usually an intransitive verb that does not take an object. With the leading was the construction would be passive voice, but English doesn't use intransitive verbs that way. However, intransitive verbs can use the past continuous and thereby was sleeping.

sleep intransitive verb

to rest in a state of sleep - MW

Admittedly there are transitive uses of sleep, but they do not fit in the construction of the sentence in the question.

The problem with intransitive verbs is that they don't go over into a passive voice. I.e. you can't be slept. If it was a transitive verb that took an object that would easily be understood. Take the transitive verb to slap for example.

I was slapped when he came back to the home.

This sentence offers two explanations at once. Firstly it's homophone to the sentence from the original question. Thus, it might be what was spoken if the question is based on something heard.

Secondly it shows that two past tense verbs can actually be just simple past but in a passive construction.

In the most commonly considered type of passive clause, a form of the verb be (or sometimes get) is used as an auxiliary together with the past participle of a transitive verb; - Wiki: Passive Voice

A transitive verb is a verb that requires one or more objects. This contrasts with intransitive verbs, which do not have objects. Transitivity is traditionally thought of as a global property of a clause, by which activity is transferred from an agent to a patient. - Wiki: Transitive verbs

  • I suggest adding usually, so that the sentence in your answer says 'This is due to the circumstance that to sleep is usually an intransitive verb that does not take an object.' Because as soon as I saw the sentence without usually I started disagreeing with your answer. And yes, I know you qualify your sentence later with 'Admittedly there are transitive uses of sleep, but they do not fit in the construction of the sentence in the question', but to me you should make clear from the beginning that sleep can be used transitively. – Alan Carmack Sep 20 '16 at 15:35
  • @AlanCarmack thank you for that comment. I added the word. I agree that it makes the answer better by not implying that it is always intransitive. – Helmar Sep 20 '16 at 15:38
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    Not being able to passivize a measure expression or the cognate object of sleep is a good reason to consider them not to be real objects, and therefore not true transitive uses of the verb. By the way, learners may run into the BrE construction He was stood on the corner and find this Q&A, so I wonder if it might not be appropriate to address that here. – snailcar Sep 20 '16 at 15:53
  • @Laure visit the edit history, and see that the original questions are intact, the questions have been formatted properly, I only added this one: Are "I was slept" and "he came back to home" grammatically correct? Which didn't veer from the OP's request too much. The book entry/image I found myself online, TRomano's comments convinced me that I was doing anyone any favours, so I deleted it. – Mari-Lou A Sep 22 '16 at 12:31
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"I was slept when he came back to the home" is not grammatically correct.

Let's analyze this by first breaking apart the sentence into its two clauses: "I was slept" and "he came back to the home", which are joined by "when", a subordinating conjunction.

One can hear instantly that the former clause is incorrect, and that the latter is correct.

"I was slept" has a subject followed by two verbs, "was" and "slept". These are the conjugated forms of the verbs "to be" and "to sleep".

'Being' verbs (including "to be", "to feel", "to seem", etc.) are often followed by an adjective or a noun which describe the object that is 'being'—does that make sense? These nouns and adjectives are called 'subject-complement-nouns' and '-adjectives', respectively.

"I was slept" needs to be "I was asleep" or "I was sleeping" because an SC-N or SC-A is needed—not a verb.

Also,

If we consider to sleep to be a transitive verb, then the sentence is a passive construction with no agent expressed/no object. You can read more about transitive verbs here. To sleep can be a transitive verb, but only in special idioms, and even then it cannot be transposed to the passive (src + deadrat). Hence, in this particular case, this is not a possibility.

Hope this helps.

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    Well it's grammatically correct if we consider to sleep a transitive verb, and thus the sentence is a passive construction with no agent expressed. The likelihood of this being the case is next to none but not impossible. – Alan Carmack Aug 18 '16 at 17:01
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    Well, the two of can hear it instantly, but the OP, perhaps not so much. But it's a good answer as far as it goes (that a predicate adjective or noun would make the clause grammatical). Alan notes the second possibility, that the auxiliary signals a passive construction, which is impossible with a non-transitive verb like sleep. May I suggest expanding your answer to include both analyses. – deadrat Aug 19 '16 at 4:58
  • @deadrat, I have made an edit (the last paragraph). Does it seem 100% right to you? – Daniel Aug 19 '16 at 6:51
  • If you'll forgive the editor in me, I'd say "To sleep can be a transitive verb, but only in special idioms, and even then it cannot be transposed to the passive." But I'm happy enough with the answer to upvote it. – deadrat Aug 19 '16 at 7:23
  • @deadrat, hopefully it reads better/is more accurate now. – Daniel Aug 19 '16 at 7:36
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"I was slept when he came back to the home."

No you can not use the words as you have as the sentence does not make sense.

The problem you have is the verb sleep you have used is in the wrong form.

You can not use 'slept' to refer to the past continuous as you have here. Slept is for the present perfect tense, or past perfect tense.

For help learning the various conjugations of the verb sleep, see here: Conjugations of the verb sleep

Pay particular attention to the examples they provide and note that all the examples with was or were take the past continuous form, 'sleeping'.

You have two options to fix the sentence.

(1) use sleeping instead of slept. (see above for reference)

(2) use asleep instead of slept. (see here)

"I was asleep when he came back to the home."

"I was sleeping when he came back to the home."

If you wanted to use the past perfect 'slept' you would remove 'was' from the sentence instead like this:

"I slept when he came back to the home."

  • This answer really doesn't address the error, which is to use a form of the verb to be (namely, was) as an auxiliary with slept. This combination signals a passive construction, which is impossible with a non-transitive verb like sleep. A third option is simply to drop the word was. Please consider editing your answer. – deadrat Aug 18 '16 at 7:34
  • @deadrat "My question is, Can I use all these past tense in 1 sentence like this? If it's correct that about the below statement." My answer explicitly answers the question. No you can not because you can not use the past perfect conjugation of sleep with the word was as he has. I have explained why, and provided the solution that fixes the sentence, no edit is needed. I have already suggested dropping the word was if he wants to keep the past perfect form of sleep before your comment. – Gary Aug 18 '16 at 7:42
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    1. You haven't explained why; you've merely made an assertion. 2. You've now given three options while asserting that there are two. 3. I'm sorry that I didn't see your addition while I was writing my comment. 4. Your third of two options is the simple past, not the past perfect. 5. You could have spent your time crafting a better answer instead of defending the one you've got. 6. I'm not the site police. I haven't even downvoted your answer. I asked you to consider improving your answer. If you've decided to reject that suggestion, it max nixt to me. – deadrat Aug 18 '16 at 8:00

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