Could someone be so kind as to tell me which of the following sentences is the more correct one--for some reason I am unable to see which is correct:

1) "I've been in the library when someone is sleeping in one of the chairs".

2) "I've been in the library when someone was sleeping in one of the chairs".


The crux of your problem statement deals with one of the most common wh-words, "when" which is most publicly used either to ask questions, as a conjunction or even to introduce relative clauses.

*Statement number two sounds more effective to me out of the two, though not correctly stated tense-wise, since while using when as a conjunction meaning ‘at the time that’, the clause attached with when is a subordinate clause (sc) and needs a main clause (mc) to complete its meaning.

So in our case, the correct tense usage can be attributed wholly towards the past tense wherein the contraction I'd is followed by a Past Participle (Past Participle of "to be : been") which is to say:

"I'd (read:had) been in the library when someone was sleeping in one of the chairs." or

If the when-clause comes before the main clause, we use a comma.

"When someone was sleeping in one of the chairs, I'd been in the library"

Some further helpful links to your rescue:




  • I do not understand your answer. As written, Ang’s question is written with the main verb in the continuous perfect. Why do you think it needs to be changed? – Tuffy May 25 '18 at 7:09
  • In this context, 'I've been in the library...' means 'There have been occasions when I was in the library' (and someone was asleep there). The sentence describes incidents in the past, so (2) is correct. – Kate Bunting May 25 '18 at 7:10
  • @KateBunting: Your comment really has very little to do with farshid saher’s answer; it is a comment on the question. Actually, it is an answer to the question, and should be posted as such.  Around here, comments often get deleted without explanation. – Scott May 25 '18 at 7:30
  • @tuffy My answer is only, a perspective, which I put forth. I don't mean to forcefully make anyone comply. In Ang's case, I felt a better way, while narrating to someone (with respect to past events), was more reflective towards the 2nd statement which has already taken place during some time in the bygone, as rightfully stated by Kate Bunting So statement 2 can be construed as a statement form to someone, in the present date today while relating to /narrating past events; meaning there have been instances when I have been in the library and someone was sleeping in one of the chairs. – farshid saher May 28 '18 at 6:38

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