27

But, as time went on, it became increasingly obvious that many of the programs were not available, and the ones that were were written in a particularly obscure form of BASIC.

(Probability Theory: The Logic of Science by E. T. Jaynes)

What is the effect of the first were in that were were written in and what is the effect of the second were?

  • Hi, welcome to ELL! I notice that your transcription of the sentence seems to have some problems. The spaces don't appear in the right place near commas, and I'm pretty sure it should say "form of BASIC". Is that right? In addition, it would be very helpful if you would give a link to where you found this quote. Can you please edit your question so that we can more easily answer it? Thank you! – WendiKidd Oct 2 '13 at 2:34
  • 2
    It appears to be from Probability Theory: The Logic of Science by E. T. Jaynes, page xvii. – snailboat Oct 2 '13 at 2:41
30

The first of the two consecutive weres is the verb in the relative clause headed by that; you are called upon to infer its complement, which is the same as the complement of the previous were. The second is the verb in the main clause

SUBJECT:   Many of the programs   
PREDICATE: were not available
                        ↓
 and                    →→→→→→→→→→→→
                                    ↓
SUBJECT:   the ones that were [available]
PREDICATE: were written in a particularly obscure form of BASIC.
  • 1
    +1 for the diagram! I may try to write answers in this format in the future... :-) – snailboat Oct 2 '13 at 3:52
11

In this sentence:

But, as time went on, it became increasingly obvious that many of the programs were not available, and the ones that were [available] were written in a particularly obscure form of BASIC.

The author has chosen not to repeat the word available. If we put that word back in, and if we mark the subject and predicate, it might make more sense:

( the ones that were [available] )subj ( were written in a particularly obscure form of BASIC )pred

This clause is talking about the programs that were available. These programs were written in a particularly obscure form of BASIC.

8

Try reading the sentence with a comma after the first were like --> "were, were written". That should make the meaning more clear.

  • 4
    +1. Although it's usually not acceptable to put a comma between a subject and verb like this, this is an exception. See The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Chapter 20, Section 3.2.4, under the heading "Between subject and verb: comma under exceptional circumstances". – snailboat Oct 2 '13 at 9:40

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