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From an exam question:

It is easy to understand the calendar we use today. It was not always so easy. People had to try for thousands of years before they knew how to put together days, weeks, months, and years.

In this paragraph, what is the object of the verb "try"? Does it means "try to know how to put together days, weeks,months and years"? If so, what does "before" mean?

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As the sentence is written, "try" is intransitive. What is implicit after "try" is "to put together days, weeks, months, and years."

The sentence could then be paraphrased as follows:

  • It took people thousands of years to put together days, weeks, months and years before they actually knew how to do it.

"before" introduces an adverbial of time.

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