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  1. #1
    florimtaari is offline Newbie
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    Default no sooner ... than ..

    hi, i have a problem in finding the meaning of no sooner here..
    e.g. No sooner had we started out for California than it started to rain
    can you help me find the meaning of no sooner ... than ... in this sentence, and how to use it, because i found this in comparative topic.
    thank you

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Quote Originally Posted by florimtaari View Post
    hi, i have a problem in finding the meaning of no sooner here..
    e.g. No sooner had we started out for California than it started to rain
    can you help me find the meaning of no sooner ... than ... in this sentence, and how to use it, because i found this in comparative topic.
    thank you
    No sooner had A happened than B happened. = A happened immediately before B.
    Last edited by 5jj; 24-Feb-2011 at 06:10. Reason: mistake corrected

  3. #3
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    And it's usually used (in my experience) to express surprise or perhaps annoyance at the timing of the two events.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Hello, florimtaari.

    I hope my understanding of this pattern may be helpful.

    In English language, people use the past perfect tense and the simple past tense together to show two things:

    a) two actions happened in the past;

    b) the one expressed in the past perfect tense happened earlier.

    In the example given by you, there are two past actions: we had started out for Carlifornia and it started to rain. According to the rule mentioned before, the combination of the two tenses tells us We started out for Carlifornia before it started to rain.

    Let's take a look at the other part of the sentence. If we rewrite the sentence in an ordinary order, it will be like this: We had started out for Carlifornia no sooner than it started to rain.

    Now we have two pieces of information telling us the sequence of two events. One states an action happened before another one. The other states an action didn't happened earlier than another one.

    If we combine these two together, what we have here is two actions happened nearly at the same time. Technically, one happened before the other. However, they can be considered to have happened at the same time, for the gap of time between the two events' occurance was such a narrow one.

    Perhaps my understanding is not correct. Any correction will be most welcome.

    Richard

  5. #5
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Hi Richard,
    You would write your example as "No sooner had we set out for California than it started to rain."

    It started raining immediately after you set out for California.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    We had started out for Carlifornia no sooner than it started to rain.
    That is not an acceptable utterance, cubezero. The only two possibilities are:

    No sooner had we started out for California than it started to rain.
    We had no sooner started out for California than it started to rain.

    Also, as I have pointed out in other threads, many native speakers are not too particular about using the past perfect if the sequence of the actions is clear. This is possible:

    No sooner did we set out for California than it started to rain.

    In the following, using the past perfect would be unusual.

    We set out for California and, two minutes later, it started to rain.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Hi Richard,
    You would write your example as "No sooner had we set out for California than it started to rain."

    It started raining immediately after you set out for California.
    Hello, Barb_D.

    Thanks for making a comment on my post.

    However, it seems you've lost me there. I can't get what you're trying to say.

    Could you please further extend your point?

  8. #8
    cubezero3's Avatar
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    That is not an acceptable utterance, cubezero. The only two possibilities are:

    No sooner had we started out for California than it started to rain.
    We had no sooner started out for California than it started to rain.

    Also, as I have pointed out in other threads, many native speakers are not too particular about using the past perfect if the sequence of the actions is clear. This is possible:

    No sooner did we set out for California than it started to rain.

    In the following, using the past perfect would be unusual.

    We set out for California and, two minutes later, it started to rain.
    Thanks for you correction, fivejedjon.

    I didn't realise that I actually organised then sentence in such a strange way.

    As for the use of the past perfect, I've long suspected that in many cases the employment of such would be very much unnecessary.

    For example, I had finished the homeword before my mom came back.

    With or without had, the sequence of the two events is clear enough.

    I've started to think that perhaps native speaker don't bother making a choice between the simple past and the past perfect, providing the context itself clearly shows which event happened first.

  9. #9
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: no sooner ... than ..

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    I've started to think that perhaps native speaker don't bother making a choice between the simple past and the past perfect, providing the context itself clearly shows which event happened first.
    You are absolutely correct.

    With words like before, after, later, etc. it's very clear what happened first.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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