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I got the following text in an exam:

Some text describing a story where David saved an elderly man from drowning in a river and he offered him a wish, David asks him to give his father a job

..."Give me your number."
Then/When David got home his father said...

The rest of the story.

The text ought to be complete, you just need to choose one of the options. There are no missing commas.

Our teacher told us that it should be the "Then" option, although it does not make sense for me, there should be a comma after the "Then" and after the "David got home", shouldn't it?

She completely dismissed all our questions and refused to explain why the "Then" is correct there.

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1 Answer 1

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Normally this sort of question would get closed for being too obvious, but since you've consulted what should be a reliable source--your teacher--I'd argue for making an exception.

Your teacher is wrong. To prove them wrong, just ask: what is the main verb of the sentence "Then David got home his father said..."? Is it "got" or "said"? The sentence is incorrect because it has two main verbs; neither is in a subordinate clause and there's no conjunction joining them.

If you put a comma after "home," as you suggest, you'd get "Then David got home, his father said..." This is also wrong (with or without an extra comma after "then"), at least according to the rules your English teacher would give. It's a comma splice; we would typically use "Then David got home, and his father said..."

The version with when, on the other hand, is correct, because it puts the verb got in a subordinate clause. But there would typically be a comma after that clause; we would expect:

When David got home, his father said...

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  • Questions don't get closed for being too obvious to a native English speaker. They get closed if they can easily be answered by a dictionary, which I don't think this one can.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 16 at 18:09
  • @ColleenV I wrote my answer when this was on ELU, before it got migrated to ELL. ELU has stricter rules though they are in the process of being changed.
    – alphabet
    Jan 16 at 18:18
  • Maybe it would make sense to update it to remove that part then?
    – ColleenV
    Jan 16 at 18:19
  • If there was a "Later" option, would it fit there better than the "When"? I think I perhaps remembered the options incorrectly, but I should not probably make a new question from it. Jan 16 at 19:41

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