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Which one of the following sentences is correct? and why?

  1. "The protocol ensures that only when all the clients agree can the server compute the result."

  2. "The protocol ensures that only when all the clients agree the server can compute the result."

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    If you prepose a negative clause like only when all the clients agree, you have to invert the subject and the auxiliary verb, from the server can to can the server. So (1) is grammatical, while (2) is not. But that's only because of the preposing; you don't need this extra step if you don't prepose the clause: The protocol insures that the server can compute the result only when all the clients agree. Sep 29, 2015 at 19:34
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    ..@John Lawler: came up with the exact answer simultaneously!
    – dwoz
    Sep 29, 2015 at 19:38

1 Answer 1

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The first is correct. The first denotes that the clients agree on something, and then the server can compute. The second denotes that the clients are agreeing about the server computing.

You could make the second one correct by changing the sentence around:

"The protocol ensures that the server can compute the result only when all the clients agree."

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  • Does you suggestion (in the last line) have the same meaning as the first option?
    – Adrian Ad
    Sep 29, 2015 at 19:40
  • yes, with the alternative wording of the second choice, they have the same meaning.
    – dwoz
    Sep 29, 2015 at 20:07

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