14

In my opinion, it is incorrect. I think that only one of the following two ways is grammatically correct:

  1. My teacher was in Beijing yesterday.
  1. Yesterday my teacher was in Beijing.

However, my son who is in an international school in China (Grade 8) was told by one of his native English (American) teachers that this sentence is correct. I have checked it on Grammarly as well and it also does not show any correction for this sentence; meaning that it is correct according to Grammarly as well. I still feel that it is incorrect to say this sentence as "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing." However, I am unable to explain grammatically why it is incorrect.

10
  • 8
    This sentence would not have made sense a year ago, but now makes perfect sense thanks to the introduction of remote teaching all over the world!
    – TonyK
    Feb 19 at 10:24
  • 3
    @Mari-LouA: Are you a native English speaker? The sentence means that the person who taught me yesterday was in Beijing at the time, while they were teaching me (and I probably was not).
    – TonyK
    Feb 19 at 11:25
  • 3
    A teacher can be on a backpacking holiday, where does it say they were teaching a class/student? "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing." The word order is not great, it's not the most usual, if we substitute "my teacher" with a pronoun (he or she), it's ungrammatical and it would remain ungrammatical even if we were talking about online lessons. But with a noun phrase, it's quite understandable.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 19 at 11:54
  • 6
    @Mari-LouA: You are missing the nuance here. If my teacher was on a backpacking holiday, I would put "yesyerday" first or last in the sentence. Its position after "teacher" means that it specifically qualifies the word "teacher". So "the person who was my teacher yesterday".
    – TonyK
    Feb 19 at 14:37
  • 2
    An observation from someone from the UK: the way I would interpret "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing." would depend on the context. If another native English speaker said this to me, I would assume they meant "the teacher they had yesterday was in Beijing at the time", whereas if an English learner said this to me I would interpret it as "My teacher was in Beijing yesterday.", because I know that other languages would attach the word at the location of "yesterday" differently, and I might assume they had made a mistake. Feb 20 at 10:35
38

Both of those sentences are correct. They say roughly the same thing, but with slightly different emphases. The second makes the teacher's location yesterday more important.

My teacher yesterday was in Beijing.

is quite different. It says that the particular teacher you had yesterday was in Beijing, suggesting that on other days you have other teachers elsewhere.

10
  • 6
    Originally when I read the question I thought the only way to interpret OP's "unusual" phrasing would need us to suppose that the teacher was in Bejing somewhen before yesterday's teaching session involving the OP (or perhaps after, as in Yesterday's teacher was in Bejing this morning). But as you answer smoothly implies, the obvious likely context would be remote learning - he was my teacher yesterday, at which time (and probably usually) he was in Bejing. Feb 18 at 16:58
  • 11
    The sentence in question feels more like an analogue to "Yesterday's teacher was in Beijing".
    – throx
    Feb 19 at 0:39
  • 1
    "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing." It even kind of implies that you were in Beijing having a class yesterday as well. Feb 19 at 1:38
  • @Shufflepants It kind of does, but it’s such a weird way to express that sense that I’d sooner interpret it to mean that the teacher (the one who taught the speaker yesterday) was in Beijing at some previous point in time—for which we would usually use “had been” to indicate that temporal relationship, but for which “was” is a possible (weaker, more ambiguous, less ideal, arguably more lazy) alternative.
    – KRyan
    Feb 19 at 5:14
  • 9
    "I take online classes and each day I have a different teacher in a different place. My teacher yesterday was in Beijing."
    – barbecue
    Feb 19 at 20:57
28
  1. In the sentence "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing", "yesterday" attaches to "teacher".

Hence it means:

"The teacher who was teaching us yesterday was in Beijing at the time."

It suggests that you may have a number of teachers, one per day perhaps, from anywhere over the world, perhaps giving classes via Zoom, or some other remote communication software.

And yesterday, the teacher you had was teaching you all the way from Beijing.

  1. "Yesterday my teacher was in Beijing" means:

"Yesterday, the teacher that usually (or always) teaches me was in Beijing." It suggests that this is an unusual occurrence, and indeed that because of being in Beijing, he or she could not teach you.

  1. "My teacher was in Beijing yesterday" means similar to 2, except that it suggests that the answer is to a question like: "When was your teacher in Beijing?" In other words, the hearer knew the teacher was in Beijing at some point, but is not sure when, and needed clarification. Your answer provided it.
8
  • 1
    Pre-COVID, your teacher paid lots of money for a world cruise. He puts everything regularly on a website, yesterday he was in Beijing, and now he is on his way to Yokohama.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 19 at 13:29
  • Only additional point to add is that the “my teacher yesterday was in Beijing” could be used where you physically go to a place and there is a teacher there for you. And this is an ongoing (but not necessarily daily) process. Can’t imagine why that would be happening, but it would fit.
    – jmoreno
    Feb 20 at 14:21
  • @jmoreno Hmm. Note to self: write a story in which this sentence is used in exactly this context. That should do at least something to assuage my unrequiteable wanderlust in this era of compulsory lockdown. Feb 20 at 20:01
  • 3
    @gnasher729: I disagree. The sentence in the title strongly implies that yesterday's teacher is not my regular teacher.
    – TonyK
    Feb 20 at 20:38
  • I don't see why "at the time" would be implied. I interpret it as "The teacher who was teaching us yesterday was in Beijing at some unspecified point in time."
    – M-Pixel
    Feb 21 at 3:18
11

The other answers are correct and good. I just wanted to provide an example usage of this sentence that I felt went beyond a comment.

"Remote learning is great! My class has had guest teachers from all over teaching us about their local culture. On Monday, we had a teacher in Shenzhen, and Tuesday's teacher was in Chengdu. My teacher yesterday was in Beijing."

5
  • Yesterday, I had a teacher from Beijing. Would be my choice, mirroring your previous statements.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 19 at 11:12
  • 2
    A teacher from Beijing could/would be someone who moved from Beijing to London 10 years ago. A teacher in Beijing could be a native British teacher who just moved to Beijing.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 19 at 13:21
  • @Mari-LouA, you won't give in, will you? Without any further context, your proposed sentence implies that yesterday you had sex with a teacher from Beijing.
    – TonyK
    Feb 20 at 20:40
  • @TonyK Oh, surely not. Agreed, it could mean that, when delivered on stage from a stand-up comedian with a notoriously filthy mouth, but not in conventional conversation. Feb 20 at 21:38
  • @Mari-LouA "Yesterday, I had a teacher from Beijing" has a different nuance altogether from "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing". For a start, "from" implies that he may not actually have been there at the time. "In" states that he was there at the time. And the structure of "Yesterday, I had a teacher from Beijing" suggests that having a teacher from out of town was not the usual situation, while "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing" indicates regular teaching by teachers not local to the speaker, and yesterday's was in Beijing. There are always subtleties between every sentence pair. Feb 20 at 21:43
1

“My teacher yesterday was in Beijing” would have been unusual two years ago. Today it means: Yesterday I took an online lesson, and the teacher giving the lesson was actually in a room in Beijing, with a camera pointed at them. Apparently the school arranged to have teachers from all over the world.

1

Other answers are great. Wanted to add some clarity.

My teacher yesterday was in Beijing

Implies that the teacher is still in Beijing, but you were either taking an online course, or were in Beijing yesterday but not today. This sentence suggest the person speaking the sentence is moving and the teacher is not.

My teacher was in Beijing yesterday.

Implies the teacher is now in a difference place - as in they took a red-eye flight and are somewhere else today. This sentence suggest the teacher is moving and the person speaking is not.

2
  • 1
    No. The sentence implies that yesterday's teacher is not today's teacher.
    – TonyK
    Feb 20 at 20:44
  • @TonyK - or that you have a new teacher today. The 2nd sentence implies that the teacher is moving, so I wrote the answer to show the difference in who is moving. If you read the full text, you'll see I already mentioned online courses. Feb 21 at 15:53
0

Written, “My teacher yesterday was in Beijing” is understandable.

Spoken, it may be heard as "“My teacher, Yesterday, was in Beijing”.

2
  • Downvoted for silliness. Nobody is called Yesterday.
    – TonyK
    Feb 20 at 20:42
  • @TonyK: Which is exactly why it shouldn't be used that way. Feb 21 at 3:18
-2

"My teacher yesterday was in Beijing.”?

This reads to native English speakers as "as of yesterday" or a teacher named "yesterday" was in Beijing.

One could write: "My teacher, yesterday, was in Beijing.” Okay. Or, "My teacher was in Beijing yesterday.” Best.

6
  • The correct way of saying it depends entirely on what you want to say. For example, if you are enrolled in a distance learning school, your usual teacher was not available yesterday, and the school provided a substitute who lives in Beijing, you would say "my teacher yesterday was in Beijing".
    – JavaLatte
    Feb 21 at 13:04
  • JavaLatte That is incorrect. I am a native English speaker with over 16 years of education. I also live in and teach English in Mexico. "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing," requires commas, or moving "yesterday" to the end. Even saying it would require pauses to empathize "yesterday" as separate. A native speaker would, from context, understand what is meant, but it would be incorrect to say or write it as "My teacher yesterday was in Beijing."
    – JayJay123
    Feb 22 at 11:13
  • "My trip yesterday to see the sixth game of the World Chess Championship match, between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short, was very enjoyable." My life - Andrew Godsell. Placing "yesterday" between the subject and verb, with the intention of emphasising a link with the subject rather than the verb, is common in informal speech. Granted, it is less common in writing.
    – JavaLatte
    Feb 22 at 12:34
  • JavaLatte It is not that it is "less common" at all. This is ESL English, not college English literature for native speakers.The sentence is grammatically incorrect, and is therefore confusing for ESL students. Avoiding confusion is important in teaching.
    – JayJay123
    Feb 23 at 13:51
  • I agree up to a point, but I think that it's important that ESL students are exposed to what people actually say, with a caveat that it might be unusual, or even appropriate in written English.
    – JavaLatte
    Feb 24 at 1:58

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