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My question is from a student in China who is learning English. He asked if the following sentence is correct. "I had never imagined learning English when I worked for 10 years." My thought is that this is unclear. It does not seem to be easily understood that the last part of the sentence "when I worked 10 years" means that this is a time marker for when this person now realizes he has to learn English. It seems to be an added portion of a thought to me. I suggested that we need to correct as follows: "I had never imagined learning English after I had worked for 10 years". Or even using "have worked" in this past sentence. By using a second have or have in the sentence it seems to balance out the verbs. (Had imagined/had worked) Is this correct?

Or I thought it would be better to say "I never imagined learning English after I had already worked for 10 years." This is more clear to me. However, is using "already" and "for 10 years" repetitive? Using already seemed to stress the idea that this person is surprised that he needs to learn English now, after having worked 10 years.

Or is there another way we can use this sentence with the word "when" as the connector? The object of this student's activity was to use "when" in Chinese English workbook. Any thoughts please?

Any grammar help and rules will help with this as well.

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    The connection between working for ten years and learning English is unclear. He could say something like I had never imagined learning English when I worked at EDF for ten years (EDF being a French company, though it's now multinational and I'm sure it has English-speaking staff). Aug 15, 2023 at 12:10

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"I had never imagined learning English when I worked for 10 years."

This sounds odd, though it may technically be grammatically possible. It is certainly not idiomatic. As it stands, the meaning is ambiguous. The following are suggestions for improvement.

  • I had never imagined learning English while I was working for 10 years.

  • I had never imagined learning English while, for 10 years, I was working.

  • I had never imagined learning English while I worked for 10 years.

  • I had never imagined learning English during the 10 years I was working.

The last option is my preference.

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I had never imagined...when I worked for ten years is not grammatical, so we don't know what the speaker was trying to say.

The past perfect requires a past point-in-time for reference, whereas when I worked for ten years is amorphous.

I had not yet imagined that I would one day be learning English, when I received my ten-year commendation at my former job.

when I received my ten-year commendation refers to something that took place on a single occasion.

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