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  1. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #1

    Sentence with "was"

    Hello,
    The sentence sounds understandable, however, I'm not sure about its grammatic.
    The sentence is:
    Oh, I thought you people killed yourselves because the spaceship was coming.

    I'm not sure about "was coming".
    Why can't it be "were coming".
    Or "could come"
    ?

    Thank you!

    Cheers!


    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 576
    #2

    Re: Sentence with "was"

    (Not a teacher)

    It can't be 'were coming' because spaceship is singular. If it was spaceships, it would be 'were coming'.

    I guess it could be 'could come', but it changes the meaning of the sentence. 'Could come' means that they might come. 'Was coming' means that it already came.

    If you wanted the sentence to remain in the past, but show that there was uncertainty of whether or not the spaceships would come then 'could have come' would be appropriate.

    To sum up then:

    '... because the spaceship was coming.' - It was in the past and the people killed themselves because it was certain that the spaceship was coming.

    '... because the spaceship could come.' - It isn't certain if the spaceship will come in the future.

    '... because the spaceship could have come.' - It wasn't certain if the spaceship would come in the past when the events happened.

    I understand that 'could' is a past tense inflection, so maybe that's why you thought it was past. 'Could' here, however, isn't the past of 'can', as it has nothing to do with the spaceship's ability to come. 'Could' here just means 'might' or 'may'.

  2. 1984law's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Sentence with "was"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Hello,
    The sentence sounds understandable, however, I'm not sure about its grammatic.
    The sentence is:
    Oh, I thought you people killed yourselves because the spaceship was coming.

    I'm not sure about "was coming".
    Why can't it be "were coming".
    Or "could come"
    ?

    Thank you!

    Cheers!
    Hi, Nightmare
    It must be WAS because it is one spaceship. The reason it cannot be were, is that you don't have a conditional. It could have been were if your sentence were, I thought you people could have killed yourselves
    if a spaceship weren't coming. But is that what you really want to say? You should decide about the eaning of your sentence, because even the one you have written doesn't make much sense.
    Hope I have been helpful

  3. Nightmare85's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Germany
      • Current Location:
      • Germany

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 1,333
    #4

    Re: Sentence with "was"

    Thank you!

    Okay I just had the thought about the "were" because sometimes we use it for sentences like:
    "If I were a millionaire." because
    "If I would be a
    millionaire."
    That's why I was not 100% sure.

    However,
    Oh, I thought you people killed yourselves because the spaceship would be coming. - seems to be wrong

    Edit
    Ah and I thought the main sentence is 100% a subjunctive.

    Cheers!

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