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  1. #1
    chance22 is offline Member
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    Default sentence structure

    I come across a sentence that reads in this way: I was just burying the bones in the garden when who should look over the hedge but the village policeman.
    I can't quite understand the second part there. Is this sentence complete? How to understand the structure and meaning of the second part? Looking forward to your explanation.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: sentence structure

    If you are burying bones in a garden, you don't want anyone to see you, but the worst person to see you would be the local policeman. It is complete and the who should...but has the effect of showing the surprise or shock that the person felt when they saw the policeman, who would want to know why the person was burying bones.

  3. #3
    chance22 is offline Member
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    Default Re: sentence structure

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    If you are burying bones in a garden, you don't want anyone to see you, but the worst person to see you would be the local policeman. It is complete and the who should...but has the effect of showing the surprise or shock that the person felt when they saw the policeman, who would want to know why the person was burying bones.
    So it seems that the sencond half of the sentence is correct? Is this kind of structure often used? I had thought maybe there were some words missing because it does not seem all right to use "when" before "who". Thank you for the explanation.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: sentence structure

    Having when who together may look ugly, but it's OK.

  5. #5
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    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: sentence structure

    It doesn't look nice, but indeed it's right. Other examples:

    I was just thinking about watching my favourite Brad Pitt film, when who should walk in but Brad Pitt himself!!!

    I was standing in front of the fridge wondering what to have for dinner, when what should fall off the shelf but a cheese pizza! Mmmm, just what I wanted!

    I had just settled down to watch some TV, when who should walk in but my brother and four of his friends! Typical! I went to my room to read, instead.

    I was thinking the other day that there hadn't been any natural disasters for a while, when what should appear on the news but a story about a huge volcano in Iceland!

    It basically expresses surprise or coincidence - sometimes negative, sometimes positive.

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