What is the meaning of this sentence

"we did not know about national skinheads; they did not exist yet"

Why is it not : " We did not know about national skinheads; they had not existed yet "(it was going to happen pretty soon)

the first sentence does not mean that it was going to happen, I think the second would better

  • 1
    It's a run-on sentence. You should split it into two sentences before the word they.
    – user230
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 16:47
  • Just a thought, but do you live in a country where skinheads are state-sponsored (which would explain the strange idea of "national skinheads"), or are you possibly looking for the word nationalistic?
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:07
  • @snailplane: apart from false positives, I only saw this topic and a group that named themselves aryan national skinheads - which is a reference to aryan nation, in which they would be national. But the sparse result on google give me the impression that it is not a big phenomenon :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


Both phrases imply that they were at some point going to exist (the "yet" makes that explicit, even if it weren't implied otherwise). The difference actually has to do with what happened after they did come to exist.

The term "had existed" actually implies that something at one time existed but does not anymore. Likewise, "had not existed" implies that they had not yet come to exist, but then later they did exist, but then after that they ceased to exist again.

On the other hand, "did not exist" is more open-ended, it only says that they didn't exist at that particular time (but usually implies by context that they did exist at some other time). "Did not exist yet" clarifies this to mean that they did not exist at that time, but would come to exist later (but it does not put any end to that condition, so they could continue to exist now).

If "national skinheads" no longer exist now, then it would perhaps be technically correct to say "they had not existed yet", but this is a rare enough (and very specific) situation that the construct is almost never used, and therefore even in this case it would probably sound awkward to most listeners.


No, the first is correct.

"we did not know about about national skinheads" is referring to the past. At the time that is being referred to, "they [the skinheads] did not exist yet." The yet implies that they did exist at some point after the time that is being referred to.

  • But does the second sentence mean that also (it was going to happen)or could you explain me what does mean the second one
    – Yves Lefol
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:03
  • 2
    The second sentence means that they existed and then they stopped existing. They had not "happened" yet.
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:06

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