1

I'm trying to write a sentence that describes a feature in student assessment software. When the feature is enabled:

  1. Students can only take a quiz once.
  2. If students logs out and back in, they continue the quiz at their first unanswered question (i.e. they can't start over).

Here's what I came up with:

Students can only take the quiz once, and continue where they leave off.

But I'm being told by coworkers that "left off" is actually correct:

Students can only take the quiz once, and continue where they left off.

Please help end the debate. :)

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    Neither do a very good job of saying what 1. and 2. say. The absence of the explicit hypothetical leads to the possibility of an assumed can, as in "Students can only take the quiz once, and [they can] continue where they leave off. Or - "Students can only take the quiz once, and [they] continue where they left off." If continue is punctual and refers to the present time, the cessation would be regarded as in the past. I would use the second can if I wanted to use leave off – Phil Sweet Aug 5 '17 at 1:12
  • Both will work. I see no reason why the past tense is better in any way. – Kris Aug 5 '17 at 6:13
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    @PhilSweet If anything, it seems all we need is a from before the where for better readability. "... and continue from where they (leave) left off." – Kris Aug 5 '17 at 6:16
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    As an American native speaker, I'd definitely say "left off." – mlecoz Dec 30 '17 at 5:26
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Neither of your highlighted short sentences convey all the information you need to convey. I would either just use both of your bullet points or reword slightly to something like:

"Students can only take the quiz once, and if a student logs out and back in, the quiz will resume at the first unanswered question."

To answer the leave/left question: If you must use one of your short sentences, perhaps reword the second one to "Students can only take the quiz once, and when logging back in, will continue where they left off."

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I agree with your coworkers. You can only continue something that was left off before. You're not using an auxiliary verb, so 'left off' itself is in past tense.

However, 'leave off' can make sense. For example: "I want to continue the work where John had to leave off." The meaning is similar to "I want to continue the work where John left off." but the past tense is captured in the auxiliary verb 'to have' with 'had' and so 'leave off' is in its base form.

In other cases, it's more straightforward to see that 'leave off' is correct, like in the present tense: "I have to leave off here because I need to run now."

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