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I am taking a Spanish(*) course with a private teacher and they were on vacation these days. Since I was not totally sure whether my teacher was back from their trip, I sent a message today to check if there is a class this coming Saturday. Among other things, I wrote

I was not sure when you were coming back from your trip.

My teacher corrected me and claimed that

I was not sure when you would come back from your trip.

should be used.

Which sentence is correct? If both are correct, do they differ in meaning?

I think that the second sentence expresses more uncertainty than the first one. Am I right?

(*) the whole exchange was in English. I am only mentioning the Spanish course to point out that none of us is a native English speaker.

  • I am not sure when you came back from your trip. what about this one? – Dilip Hirapara Jan 3 at 6:30
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    @DilipHirapara: I was considering this version too but, if I am correct, it means that I know that my teacher is back from her trip, but not exactly when she came back. My situation is slightly different: today, I know that my teacher is back from her trip or will be back soon (date of return: today + or - one day) and I want to check her status so that we can have class tomorrow. – Taladris Jan 3 at 6:34
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"I was not sure when you were coming back" is perfectly idiomatic English, implying that you had known that there was a fixed date for the teacher's return but not what date it was.

"I was not sure when you would come back" suggests that the teacher had disappeared for an indefinite period.

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I find your comment more contextual. As you said, you are sure that the teacher will be back or probably back and you want to know about the class. In that case, the simplest way is to ask -

Are you back? Do we have classes?

Are you... works as it denotes the present status of your teacher. Since the context is clear, that question will be well understood by him/her.

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