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I am recently struggling with the grammar MUST HAVE BEEN.

My question is can i say

"It must have been someone stealing/ stole / who stole my wallet "

I think who stole is right, but might also be stealing, because one sentence can not have two verbs ? so the second one has to be turned into ING form.

can anyone tell me which on is correct and the grammar behind this ?

Much appreciated !

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  • Welcome to ELU. Your question doesn't appear to be about must have been, because the same query would apply to a sentence "It is someone stealing/stole/who stole my wallet." Also, it's not clear why "who stole" introduces a second verb. – Andrew Leach Mar 8 '16 at 11:42
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Sentences can have multiple verbs in them, actually (remember, the sentence is the everything from the first word to a period).
"Stealing" and "who stole" my wallet both work, although they have different meanings.
If you're talking about someone who stole your wallet, you'd refer to them with "It must have been someone who stole my wallet".
If you're talking about the event in which your wallet was stolen, it would be "It must have been someone stealing my wallet".
If you're trying to say that the reason your wallet is missing is that it was stolen, you might consider "Someone must have stolen my wallet" or "It must have been that someone stole my wallet".
Incidentally, "have been" followed by the gerund form ("ing" for most verbs) puts the verb in the "Perfect Indicative" form.

  • Thank you David, i see the differences. i have another similar question. In the case like i am watching TV, and there is an advertisement saying that "Do not watch this if you are already a millionaire", can i say "There must have been some millionaire watching hahah" or who watched this is preferable ? what confuses me is the difference between MUST HAVE BEEN SOMEONE DOING and SOMEONE WHO DID – Sampson Gao Mar 8 '16 at 11:47
  • must have been someone Watching sth Does it mean that this person was Watching it ? or it means the same as who watched ? – Sampson Gao Mar 8 '16 at 12:09
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what confuses me is the difference between MUST HAVE BEEN SOMEONE DOING and SOMEONE WHO DID

Part of your issue has to do with "someone". Someone complicates the situation. Let's use real creatures for the time being, and then you can ask more about "someone" in a separate followup question.

who likes to have personal noun or pronoun as antecedent, although sometimes people will use "who" with nameless animals and maybe even bumblebees, but that is not the general rule:

It must have been a bee that stung you.

A parent might say to a small child:

It must have been a bumblebee who stung you.

If the new shoots on the plants in the garden are gone:

A rabbit must have been nibbling on them.

It must have been a rabbit nibbling on them.

It must have been a rabbit that was nibbling on them.

A rabbit must have nibbled on them.

It must have been a rabbit that nibbled on them.

Peter Rabbit must have been nibbling on them.

It must have been Peter Rabbit who was nibbling on them.

It must have been Peter Rabbit who nibbled on them.

My car keys are gone. It must have been Jane who took them.

It must have been my sister who took them.

ODD, REQUIRING ADDITIONAL CONTEXT:

It must have been my sister who was taking them.

In order for the sentence above to be cogent, the keys must have been missing on more than one occasion.

  • Thank you, i see what your point is. but my question is that Does "MUST HAVE BEEN SOMEONE DOING SOMETHING " mean that it was happening in the past ? or just a single action in the past ? thanks ! – Sampson Gao Mar 8 '16 at 12:16
  • The -ing form (was nibbling) emphasizes the aspect of the action as taking place over a span of time--with "was", a span of time in the past. The simple past (nibbled) emphasizes its aspect as a discrete event that took place at a point in time (in the past). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 8 '16 at 12:22
  • In the case like i am watching TV, and there is an advertisement saying that "Do not watch this if you are already a millionaire", can i say "There must have been some millionaires watching this hahah" or who watched this is preferable ?" – Sampson Gao Mar 8 '16 at 12:28
  • It depends on what you want to say. If you want your listener to get the picture of them in the act of watching the program, you would say "watching". If you want to say merely that there must have been some millionaires in the audience who saw that ad, you would say "watched". It depends on what you want to emphasize. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 8 '16 at 12:31
  • ooo i see ! As another comment above, "If you're talking about the event in which your wallet was stolen, it would be "It must have been someone stealing my wallet". like what you said, stealing or watching means happing, i just want to describe a single action, like someone stole my wallet, can i still say this "It must have been someone stealing my wallet" Who stole my wallet sounds bit more like I'm talking about the thief, but i just want to talk about the whole event – Sampson Gao Mar 8 '16 at 12:52

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