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Is there a difference between:

1 He left his work early so that he arrived in time at the party.

and

2 He left his work early so that he would arrive in time at the party.

I gather that 2 means that it was his plan to arrive at the party in time but the sentence doesn't say if he really did so.

What about 1? Does that mean the same as 2 or does that mean that result e.g. that he indeed arrived at the party in time?

I think it's not so ambiguous in the present, though.

3 I teach him English so that he speaks it as well as possible. (purpose) I think result is impossible. Or possible?

What do you think about 2 and my take on it?

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  • Can someone explain the difference between 1 and 2? They appear to be the same.
    – m_a_s
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 5:24
  • Some natives disagree.
    – user1425
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 5:27
  • 1
    Then, please point out the difference between "He left his work early so that he arrived in time at the party." and "He left his work early so that he arrived in time at the party." They are word for word identical. I literally ran diff on them.
    – m_a_s
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 5:30
  • Done. I hope you didn't think that I was really asking to find a difference between the same sentences.
    – user1425
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 5:45
  • 1
    1) is ambiguous. It could be a purpose adjunct or a result adjunct. 2) is a purpose adjunct. Since results occur after an event, we would expect the result adjunct to be in the past tense..
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 6:16

1 Answer 1

1

"So that" means the same thing and the different contexts do not change it's meaning. The remainder of the sentence brings context. However, you are using the wrong tense in sentences 1 and 3. Sentence 2 is a more correct phrasing of sentence 1.

"So that" implies that it is a desire, not a fact, so an auxiliary verb like "would" is needed to reflect that it is wishful thinking at the time of departure.

The third sentence has the same issue. You are teaching with the desire to improve the person's English usage. (It hasn't happened yet.) If you are expressing the idea that you have already taught him, and hisEnglish has improved, you should use a different phrasing, such as

"I taught him English and he speaks it well."

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  • Why do you think that 1 is wrong in terms of tenses. As far as I know it's not.
    – user1425
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 14:41
  • If you want to make it completely in the past, you still need to have something like "would" to imply it was uncertain. You could say "would have arrived". Sorry, "tense" is not what I meant. I meant the mode of the verb.
    – m_a_s
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 16:30

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