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  1. #1
    Odessa Dawn's Avatar
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    "while they were gone"


    10 "But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked.

    If the statement were "while they were going..," I could understand it as Past progressive tense (going on at a certain time in the past). But as you see that were gone is passive, isnít it? The word while and the rest of sentence, what comes after the comma, made me confused because the construction of past continuous in the first part needs verb to be were+verb-ing. In a word, I failed to get it. Will you clear it up?


    PAST CONTINUOUS (PROGRESSIVE)
    Passive form:
    was/were + being + past participle
    More: An English-Zone.Com Chart: Active and Passive Voice



    "Use of Past Progressive"


    Tiempos de verbos en ingls. English verb tenses

    Does the word while here mean although, definition #4

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    I wouldn't use "While they were gone to buy oil ..." I would say "While they were away buying oil ..." or "After they had left to buy oil ..."

    I don't know if the construction used is natural in AmE, but it's not natural in BrE.
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  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    I have to have one of my rare disagreements with you there, ems.

    X was/were gone is very common in BrE - there are hundreds of citations in the BNC.

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I have to have one of my rare disagreements with you there, ems.

    X was/were gone is very common in BrE - there are hundreds of citations in the BNC.
    I have no intention of disputing the BNC but for the life of me, I just can't get "while" to sound natural with "was/were gone" (even if the latter construction is correct), when followed by an infinitive. I have no problem with "They went to buy oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived".

    "I was gone ..." is a completed action but "while" needs some kind of ongoing action, surely. That's why I suggested "While I was away ..." - "During the time that I was in the state of being away from xxx situation ... something else happened".

    While I was on holiday, my house was burgled.
    While I was away on holiday, my house was burgled.

    While I was gone on holiday, my house was burgled.


    While I was out getting bread, my flat burnt down.
    While I was getting bread, my flat burnt down.
    While I was gone to get bread, my flat burnt down.

    The s are my opinion.
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  5. #5
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I just can't get "while" to sound natural with "was/were gone" (even if the latter construction is correct), when followed by an infinitive. I have no problem with "They went to buy oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived".
    Sorry. I was thinking of just 'they were gone' and didn't pay enough attention to what followed. I don't disagree with you after all.

    Sorry, OD. Ignore my post #3.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 26-Jan-2013 at 15:33.

  6. #6
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I don't disagree with you after all.
    Phew!
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  7. #7
    SoothingDave is online now VIP Member
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    I think it sounds OK. Don't think of "gone" as a "completed action," think of it as a status. Are they here? No, they're gone. They were gone for a while, but now they are back. So there was a time during which they were gone. While they were gone.

  8. #8
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: "while they were gone"

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    I think it sounds OK. Don't think of "gone" as a "completed action," think of it as a status. Are they here? No, they're gone. They were gone for a while, but now they are back. So there was a time during which they were gone. While they were gone.
    I have no problem with "While they were gone" as a phrase. As I said "While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived" sounds fine. What I find unnatural is "While they were gone + to + infinitive".
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

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