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  1. #1
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    Exclamation "Once" vs. "when": are they interchangable?

    hello

    a couple of days ago, a very important exam took place in turkey, which is named "yds". The exam is held to select and place those who want to be english teachers in turkey. So it is of critical importance.

    In the exam, there was a question as follows:

    ....Beijing hosts the 2008 Olympic Games, the people of the world will find a city and a country that has been transformed.

    A) Once
    B) When


    Are two of the choices that were given, among others. We are primarily concerned with these two response choices since we feel that both are viable alternatives for this question. Could you please give us some guidance as why one or both would be an appropriate answer. Thanks in advance for your help

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "Once" vs. "when": are they interchangable?

    Whoever thought this up for a test question should have someone stand on his foot until he promises to never do it again. That being said, I'll try to answer your question.

    In sentences similar to the one you cited, the words once and when are interchangable without significantly changing the meaning of the sentence. You do, however, subtly change the meaning. To my ear, the use of the word once implies a response to a challenge, or a change from what is expected.

    "She was beautiful and well-dressed, and when she started to sing, the audience was enthralled."

    "She looked like a homeless person who wandered in from the street, but once she started to sing, the audience was enthralled."

    This is not a rule, just my opinion.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: "Once" vs. "when": are they interchangable?

    Wow. I completely agree with mykwyner on this one. The only problem is, if you stand on his foot he won't be yelling in English.

    This is the kind of persnickety detail grammar question that would only be asked by a snobbish, non-native speaking instructor. "Ohh, I've found what seems to be a so-minor-as-to-never-be-noticed-by-non-grammarians distinction and I want to flaunt my superior training by rubbing this knowledge in students' faces... or better yet, a native speaker's face."

    And to use this on a standardized test is totally unfair.

    Is there anyway you can challenge the results?

    I've reread the question several times now and there is no differnence in meaning based on the statement alone. However, if the statement is taken from some other context, then like mykwyner said and as he explained well with his example, "once" might be construed to imply a challege... or at least more of a challenge than "when" does. (For example, if there is something that comes before this that implies or states that Beijing has not "changed." But there is no difference in meaning in this instance.

    The independent clause that closes the sentence states that a difference will exist. So the opening adverb is immaterial to the overall meaning of the sentence.

    Hope that helps.

  4. #4
    Mister Micawber's Avatar
    Mister Micawber is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: "Once" vs. "when": are they interchangable?

    .
    It seems to be that 'once' suggests that the event is finished, while 'when' includes its being underway:

    Once I dice these potatoes, I'll fry them in olive oil.
    When I dice these potatoes, I'll remember to keep my thumbs out of the way.

    The test question requires 'when', as it is in the course of the event that foreigners will discover the new China.

    'Once/When the Beijing Olympics begin' would make the words synonymous here.

    .

    .

  5. #5
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    Default Re: "Once" vs. "when": are they interchangable?

    Thank you all. Much appreciated.

    Still would like to receive more evaluation in order to put forward a sound ground for an objection to the test question involved.

    many thanks

  6. #6
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    Default Re: "Once" vs. "when": are they interchangable?

    "when" and "once" are synonymous, if they mean as soon as,

    They'll call when/once they are ready.
    They'll call as soon as they are ready.

    as soon as expresses a sense of immediacy:

    EX: Once/When/As soon as (i.e., immediately/shortly after) Beijing hosts the 2008 Olympic Games, the people of the world will find a city and a country that has been transformed.

    Both "Once" and "When" (meaning 'as soon as') work with our example sentence above, but they also have the effect of narrowing down its meaning by placing immediacy into the semantic equation. Ask yourself, is 'shortly after' the meaning I'm looking for? If not, or if you are unsure, check out the second choice, "when".

    "when" has other meanings aside from "as soon as", notably at the time of, itself housing the added meanings during/throughout,

    EX: When Beijing hosts the 2008 Olympic Games (i.e., At the time of ~ during/throughout Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games), the people of the world will find a city and a country that has been transformed.

    In short, exam questions often list more than one possible answer, which is exactly what is going on with A) Once, B) When, so when in doubt "pick the best choice" because that tends to be the norm with exam questions, right?

    All the best,

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