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  1. #1
    roseriver1012's Avatar
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    Default I don't understand this ! Help me!

    “He discovered small areas of mist which were in fact galaxies like our own, millions of light years away from us, which proved that the universe was vastly larger than had previously been thought”

    The point I'm puzzled at lies in the part after"than", i.e."had previously been thought". What a kind of structure is that? Who or what had previously been thought? Why isn't there a preposition after "thought"? Or is there something ommitted? Then what is the complete one? I need your help. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Why so many views, but zero replies? I've been waiting the whole afternoon!

  3. #3
    minnieuk is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Quote Originally Posted by roseriver1012 View Post
    “He discovered small areas of mist which were in fact galaxies like our own, millions of light years away from us, which proved that the universe was vastly larger than had previously been thought”

    The point I'm puzzled at lies in the part after"than", i.e."had previously been thought". What a kind of structure is that? Who or what had previously been thought? Why isn't there a preposition after "thought"? Or is there something ommitted? Then what is the complete one? I need your help. Thanks!
    If you look at it as two seperate sentences it may be clearer.

    Sentence one: He discovered small areas of mist which were in fact galaxies like our own, millions of light years away from us

    Sentence two: the universe was vastly larger than had previously been thought

    and they are joined together with: which proved that

    A preposition at the end would be wrong. You could add 'by everyone' I suppose but 'previously been thought' is a phrase which implies that.

    It is saying that everyone used to think the universe was smaller than it is but that has now changed.

  4. #4
    Rover_KE is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Quote Originally Posted by roseriver1012 View Post
    Why so many views, but zero replies? I've been waiting the whole afternoon!
    At the time of writing that, roseriver, you'd only been waiting an hour and sixteen minutes.

    It was then very early in the morning in the UK and the middle of the night in the USA.

    We have other things to do besides visiting this board - like sleeping.

    Rover

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Quote Originally Posted by roseriver1012 View Post
    Why so many views, but zero replies? I've been waiting the whole afternoon!
    Views can include search engine spiders and other automated programs, and someone who doesn't know the answer may also open the thread. People are answering your questions in their free time, so please have the courtesy to be patient. If you want an instant service, there are plenty of places you can pay for it.

  6. #6
    roseriver1012's Avatar
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Quote Originally Posted by minnieuk View Post
    If you look at it as two seperate sentences it may be clearer.

    Sentence one: He discovered small areas of mist which were in fact galaxies like our own, millions of light years away from us

    Sentence two: the universe was vastly larger than had previously been thought

    and they are joined together with: which proved that

    A preposition at the end would be wrong. You could add 'by everyone' I suppose but 'previously been thought' is a phrase which implies that.

    It is saying that everyone used to think the universe was smaller than it is but that has now changed.
    In fact, what I don't understand is just the sentence---" the universe was vastly larger than had previously been thought". If "than" can be used as a conjunction, then perhaps the sentence can be like this: the universe was vastly larger than it (the universe) had previously been thought. "The universe had previously been thought"? Is the sentence right?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Do you like it better if it's "than previously thought to be [by scientists]"?
    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.

  8. #8
    luschen is offline Member
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    I am not a teacher, but as a native speaker is seems clear that it is understood: ... the universe was vastly larger than had previously been thought {by scientists}.

    I have trouble explaining exactly how I know this though.

    If the universe were doing the thinking, the phrase would be incorrectly written as: ... the universe was vastly larger than it had previously thought.

  9. #9
    roseriver1012's Avatar
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    Default Re: I don't understand this ! Help me!

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Do you like it better if it's "than previously thought to be [by scientists]"?
    Yes, this sentence now makes sense to me. So is it that "to be" is omitted in the sentence? Thanks!

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