1

I was taking the Verb Tense Final Test when I came across a question that I didn't know the difference in the examples it contained.

  1. Jane left when Tim arrived.
  2. Bob left when Tim had arrived.
  3. John had left when Tim arrived.

Who did not run into Tim?

The answer is John. But I don't know why it cannot be Bob or Jane as well? Please tell me the difference among them.

  • So, this is a logic puzzle of sorts? – Catija Aug 29 '15 at 20:37
  • I don't understand what you mean by that. – Ghaith Alrestom Aug 29 '15 at 20:40
  • This is about simple past and past perfect tenses. – XPMai Aug 30 '15 at 12:26
3
  1. Arrive and leave are both eventive verbs: they designate events, not states.

  2. The perfect construction, however, is stative: it designates a state at Reference Time brought about by an event, or by the beginning of a state, before Reference Time. (Reference Time is the time you are talking about—in these sentences the time designated by the past tense verb.)

  3. A state in a main clause modified by a when clause is understood to start before an event in the when clause and to overlap a state in the when clause.

  4. An event in a main clause modified by a when clause is understood to follow an event in the when clause and to follow the start of a state in the when clause.

Consequently:

Jane left when Tim arrived.

  • an event (left) in the main clause
  • an event (arrived) in the when clause
  • Tim arrived, and some time after that Jane left.
  • Jane and Tim were there simultaneously for some time.

Bob left when Tim had arrived.

  • An event (left) in the main clause
  • A state (had arrived) in the when clause
  • Tim had already arrived before Bob left.
  • Bob and Tim were there simultaneously for some time.

John had left when Tim arrived.

  • A state (had left) in the main clause
  • An event (arrived) in the *when clause
  • John had already left when Tim arrived.
  • John and Tim were never there simultaneously.
  • 1
    I agree for the most part. I'd argue that the first sentence is implying that Jane's departure occurred concurrently with Tim's arrival... so they may have said "hi" for two seconds before Jane departed but they weren't at the party at the same time for very long. Perhaps Tim is Jane's ex and she can't stand to be in the same room as him, so his arrival caused her to leave :P – Catija Aug 29 '15 at 20:50
  • @Catija Yes - it's probably a short time, but definitely Tim arrives before Jane departs. – StoneyB Aug 29 '15 at 20:59
  • Yes! No disagreement there. – Catija Aug 29 '15 at 21:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.