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I wrote a sentence that was considered awkward by fellow translators, on a couple of counts. I'm singling out one particular construction they found awkward:

During the tour, you will hear interesting stories about the city, learning about memorable events that were taking place here.

Would a native speaker find this construction awkward? Would it be better to use "that have taken place" or "that took place", or maybe to remodel the whole sentence to avoid using any of the options?

My another question about the same sentence concerns the use of "learning".

  • It would mean the same as "that were happening here". As such it refers to events generally in the present, though they could be in the near past or future. – user3169 May 21 '16 at 6:21
  • @user3169 - so it would refer to events concurrent with the trip, even though "were" is past-tense? Interesting. That was a faux pas then. Thank you! – CowperKettle May 21 '16 at 6:24
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    Why did you use "learning"? Should not it be this way "During the tour, you will hear interesting stories about the city, learn about memorable events that were taking place here." Because you said "you will hear....", and then you used a comma that tells me the second sentence is prallel to the first. So it should be "learn" and not "learning". I mean, did you use a special rule? – user33000 May 21 '16 at 7:18
  • @sina - I've added a link to my second question, it concerns the use of 'learning' there. – CowperKettle May 21 '16 at 7:21
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    And "were taking place" would fare better if coupled with a temporal clause suggesting ongoing time, such as ".... when Machiavelli walked these streets." – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 21 '16 at 13:39
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I do think it's a little awkward, partially because "learning" seems like it's happening at the same time as the events that "were taking place." The memorable events are in the past -- and most likely a distant past. And so I think it'd be good to say that have taken place. I think this is slightly better than that took place, because the former connotes that the events were continuously scattered over a period of time. Ultimately, I think either sounds OK and would be fine to use, and I don't see the need to remodel the sentence.

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  • "I will read a book tonight, trying to understand the events that were happening in 1918" - this would again indicate that I will be reading it in 1918? I'm trying to wrap my head around this. – CowperKettle May 21 '16 at 7:47
  • @CowperKettle - I think "were happening" is grammatically OK in that sentence, because you give a particular time: in 1918. But there no particular reason to prefer it over the more natural "happened". – stangdon May 21 '16 at 14:53
  • @stangdon - I see. Maybe I'm carrying that construction over from Russian, in order to create a feeling of "immersion" into the events. Maybe that does not work in English. Thank you. – CowperKettle May 21 '16 at 14:57
  • @CowperKettle, I think "trying to understand the events that were happening in 1918" sounds just fine, and I agree, there is a little of that immersive feel to it. I personally would go with that over that have taken place, but only if you're also using in 1918. – Ringo May 21 '16 at 22:31

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