14

She is used to there being no one else around.

She is used to being no one else around.

Would anyone please elaborate which one would be correct and why?

  • 1
    There is not an adverb in this sentence! It is a pronoun! :-) – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 11:00
  • (and the other there isn't an adverb either - it's a preposition)! :-) – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 11:20
  • #1 roughly means "There is no one else around her, and that's what she is used to." – Damkerng T. Feb 3 '15 at 11:34
  • I looked around for some exercises but couldn't find anything good. So I wrote some materials myself. I have put them in at the end of my post. Enjoy! :-) – Araucaria Feb 6 '15 at 16:18
  • Could you let me know if you've tried the exercises and if they were ok or not? :-) – Araucaria Feb 7 '15 at 12:06
15

She is used to there being no one else around.

*She is used to being no one else around.

Both of these sentences involve the verb used plus a subordinate clause. The second sentence is probably a grammatical mistake. Let's look at how the sentences work. Here is a similar sentence:

  • Maria is used to Tom being in Paris.

In this sentence, Maria is accustomed to the fact that 'Tom is in Paris'. Notice that there is a non-finite subordinate clause here.

  • Maria is used to [ Tom being in Paris ].

In the subordinate clause, the verb is being. This is the --ing form of the verb BE. It is non-finite because it does not have any tense. It is not a present or past form of the verb. The Subject of this verb is Tom. Now look at the sentence below:

  • Maria is used to [ being in Paris ].

Here the subordinate clause also has the --ing for of the verb BE. But there is no subject for this verb. However, we understand that the subject of the verb BE is Maria. This is because, if the Subject of the verb used and the Subject of the subordinate clause is the same person or thing, we do not need to repeat it. We can understand the sentence like this:

  • Mariai is used to [ ____i being in Paris ]

We can see that there is a gap in this sentence, where we expect the subject of the phrase "being in Paris" to be. The identity of this gap is controlled by the subject of the verb used.

In other words we interpret the sentence like this:

Maria is used to [ Maria being in Paris ].

This just means that Maria is used to the fact that Maria is in Paris.

The Original Poster's Question

Let's look at example 1:

  1. She is used to there being no one else around.

Here the phrase be around just means to be close, or to be nearby. So if I live with my brother, I can say that "my brother is often around". This just means that he is often in the house with me. He is often doing things in the house. In sentence (1), we can see the same structure as in the examples above. We have the verb used and a subordinate clause:

  • She is used to [there being no one else around ].

This means that she is used to the fact that There is nobody else around. In the example we see the --ing form of the verb BE. The subject of this verb is the dummy pronoun there. It is the same word we see in existential sentences like there is a new new president. The sentence is perfectly grammatical. "Nobody else around" means that she is the only person around. There is nobody apart from her in that place. So the sentence means that sometimes there is nobody around. But she is used to this.

Now let's look at the Original Poster's second example:

  • She is used to being no one else around.

Now this sentence has a subordinate clause. This subordinate clause does not have a subject:

  • She is used to [ being no one else around ].

Again we see the --ing form of BE. It has a complement "nobody else around". Because this verb does not have a Subject, we understand the subordinate clause like this:

  • Shei is used to [ _____i being nobody else around ]

It is difficult to understand this clause. To make it clear let's give her a name:

  • Mariai is used to [ _____i being nobody else around ]

The subject gap in the subordinate clause is controlled by the subject of used. It is controlled by Maria. So we understand the sentence like this:

  • Maria is used to [ Maria being nobody else around ]

Hmm, this is not a good result. This sentence means that Maria is used to the fact that Maria is nobody else around. What does this mean? I don't know! It could mean that Maria is not the same person as anybody else who is around. But this is a strange meaning. I don't think this is what the Original Poster wanted to say.

This second sentence is probably a mistake. The problem is that the --ing verb doesn't have a new subject - but, the writer does not want to say that Maria is used to Maria doing something. So this is a problem.

Hope this is helpful!

EDIT The OP has requested some resources for this grammar point. I have not been able to find any. I have written some materials that might help for practising this kind of question. You can find them in a separate post, PART 2 further below!

  • What if we read it as "Maria is used to [being around] no one else". She is used to being alone. The [being around] part is "split" in half by "no one else". – CowperKettle Feb 3 '15 at 11:04
  • 1
    D'oh! I've probably overindulged on G.M.Hopkins. (0: – CowperKettle Feb 3 '15 at 11:23
  • 1
    @CopperKettle Or maybe my grammar ear's not in a poetic mood! :D – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 11:25
  • 1
    @CopperKettle I'd give you a +1 for learning English from G.M. Hopkins! I'm having a hard time making sense of "She is fond of jumping no ravine across", though. Of course, often what seems impossible can make sense if set up in just the right way, but I haven't thought of a way to do it. Hearing "no ravine across" as an adverbial phrase equivalent to "when there's no ravine across" conceivably could work, but then I can't tell what the sentence would mean. Wait a minute, I can't tell what "She is fond of jumping across no ravine" means, either. – Ben Kovitz Feb 6 '15 at 19:00
  • 2
    @CopperKettle I think this works: "She's nae fond of jumping ravines across." (Maybe I switched from Hopkins to Burns.) But I don't think "across" is functioning as a preposition here. – Ben Kovitz Feb 6 '15 at 20:46
5

She is used to [there being no one else around]. (gerund-participial clause in brackets)

I'd say this sentence is correct. It uses the so-called "existential there". The meaning is

She is used to the situation there there is no one else around her.

The pronoun her is missing, so we might call the gerund-participial clause a "hollow clause".

An example of a similar construction from Google Books:

True, fishers had long been accustomed to there being different closed seasons or areas for different gear types. (source)

Teachers are not accustomed to there being observers in their classrooms and are even less accustomed to using data to reflect on their own classroom practices. (source)


The second sentence:

She is used to being no one else around.

looks strange. I thought it could be accepted as an example of "poetic language" or "Yoda speech", with the meaning

She is used to being around no one else. (she is used to being alone)

But a native speaker says it's incorrect after all (see comments).

Had it been a correct sentence, it would've put more stress on the woman's own willingness to "be apart from other people", while your first example perhaps stresses more the unaccessibility of people in "there", in the location or locations she frequents.

  • Like the analysis of the first sentence. But ... Hmm ... I can't get that meaning for the second sentence. If it said She is used to being around nobody else, that would be OK. Btw, these are a control constructions, not hollow clause ones ;-) – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 11:04
  • @Araucaria - but we can split phrasal verbs: "She is used to [being (no one else) around]" is a split version of "She is used to [being around] (no one else)". – CowperKettle Feb 3 '15 at 11:06
  • 1
    Erm, I've just asked on of my colleagues to have a look at your reading. She says that if she squints at it, she can give it your reading!! – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 11:34
  • 1
    But only in a poem kind of way! – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 12:18
  • 1
    Thanks for your little linguistic research on the ground, @Araucaria! Looks like my forays into G.M.Hopkins' lore have payed off after all. (0: – CowperKettle Feb 3 '15 at 12:40
1

Both of your sentences are missing something and that's why they both are incorrect. Something needs to be modified with those sentences.

In your particular example omitting the word 'there' is not possible because I assume that you are talking about a particular place.

So your sentences need to be rephrased as

  1. She is used to being there with no one else around. (when 'there' denotes a particular place)
  2. She is used to being with no one else around. ('there' is not included here because we are not talking about a partiucular place, but we are talking in general)
  3. She is used to being alone.

So with just a little modification with the word order of your sentences, they'll sound correct.

  • What if we read "She is used to there being no one else around." as an existential construction? It seemed correct to me as such. "She is used to there being no one else around (her)" – CowperKettle Feb 3 '15 at 8:13
  • That isn't what the first sentence means :( – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 10:07
  • @CopperKettle - I am not much into grammar thing, but both of OP's original sentences sound completely incorrect to me. So I'm afraid that I have to disagree with you that the sentence that sounds correct to you doesn't sound much correct to me. Never heard of or never read such kind of a sentence. I'd like to be let known if such kind of a sentence exits. I tried various options including google books but couldn't find any closely matching sentence construction like that. So at first impression it sounded plain wrong to me. I'd like to corrected in case there is sthng that I might be missing. – Leo Feb 3 '15 at 11:51
  • @Leo Have a look at my post or at Copperkettle's examples from Googlebooks :) – Araucaria Feb 3 '15 at 11:55
  • 2
    @Araucaria - ok, so that was an educational epiphany for me. So I take it back. After pondering over it I found out that there is a little difference in the meanings of both the sentences. – Leo Feb 3 '15 at 12:07
1

She is used to there being no one else around.

This means that she is used to (accustomed to) a situation in which there is no one else around. "There is no one else around" means that no other people are nearby. When you say "There is no…", you are denying the existence of what follows. So, "There is no one else around" means "Other people around do not exist." But saying it with "do not exist" is strange wording, at least in English.

Here is another example of the same kind of sentence:

She is used to Fridays being slow.

To understand this, you need to know that "Friday is slow" means that on Friday, business is slow; that is, few customers make purchases at her business. The sentence means that she is accustomed to the following being true: Friday is slow.

To fully explain all elements of the grammar in these sentences would take a long time. So, I'll just focus on the difference and commonality between the two sentences you asked about.


She is used to being no one else around.

This has a very strange meaning, which you probably don't intend. It means that she is used to (accustomed to) a situation in which she is no one else around. For example, if the other people around are Barbara and Joe, then she is used to not being Barbara or Joe! Of course, in real life, nobody is anybody else. Everyone is used to that. It would be a very strange situation indeed if she were herself as well as Joe. Maybe it happens in dreams.

Here is a more ordinary meaning presented with the same grammatical construction:

She is used to being the center of attention.

The subject of being is her. The sentence means that she is accustomed to situations in which she is the center of attention. If you are the center of attention, that means that most people in the room are paying attention to you, perhaps because you are telling an interesting anecdote or because people are celebrating something you did and everyone wants to talk with you.

0

"She is used to there being no-one else around" is correct, here's why:

Go back to your simple verbs, there is/there are and 'to be'

You remember that there is/there are points to something else. In this sentence, the "something else" isn't there, so we use the figurative tense. So:

There is: there is right now. There was: in the past. There are: there is more than one. There being: the subject isn't clear, for example "no-one".

So what's happening here? Well the verb "to be" is acted on by "there". There is/there are/there were, and there being must always stay or go together. They're pretty much joined at the hip, my friend, for better or for worse. You can leave them or take them out, but you can't separate them.

So the sentence "she's used to no-one else around" is correct. The sentence "she's used to there being no-one else around" is correct. The sentence "she's used to being no-one else around" is just adding two weird words to the end of "she's used to being no-one" and the sentence "she's used to there no-one else around" is just weird and makes no sense.

In most languages I've learned, there is/ there are is one word (in spanish, haber) so it's less confusing. It gets really confusing when you try to learn english because it's two words and of course we use both of them on their own in other situations.

But it's easy to remember, if you see "there" and "is/are/being" together, leave them together. They're in a relationship, and they're very VERY happy. :)

  • And for the record "she's used to having no-one else around" and "she's used to being alone" are both much more correct. Both "she's used to there being no-one else around" AND "she's used to no-one else around" are awkward in English, unless you're about to add when and make the sentence longer, "She's used to there being no-one else around when she paints, but today Jean Valjean is watching" – KitsuneKate Dec 31 '15 at 20:05

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