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  1. #1
    moonlike's Avatar
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    Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    Hi
    Can we say "by the time he was studying, he had already registered"? I mean can we use other tenses apart from past simple before"by the time"?
    Thanks a lot.

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    Re: Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    To me that would be unnatural. "The time" indicates a moment, in my view, so we need a punctual or inchoative aspect (a point in time, or the beginning of a process):

    By the time he registered, he was already studying....
    By the time he began studying, he had already registered... (possible, but not elegant).

  3. #3
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    Re: Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    Your example sounds unnatural to me too, but I would not say that we can only use the past simple with "by the time".

    By the time I had seen the first four Indiana Jones films, they were making the fifth one.

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    Re: Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    Quote Originally Posted by moonlike View Post
    Hi
    Can we say "by the time he was studying, he had already registered"? I mean can we use other tenses apart from past simple before"by the time"?
    Thanks a lot.
    Are you asking whether you can use other verb tenses directly after 'by the time'?
    Because emsr2d2 just gave one, and I can think of several more

    "The pizza will arrive by the time we start the movie."
    "By the time I would have gotten to the party last night, it would've been past midnight, so I just stayed home."
    "I found out that by the time I would graduate, I'd already be 38." (here could also be simple past)


    (not a teacher, just a language lover)

  5. #5
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    Re: Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    I'm also surprised to see that people think this sounds unnatural. I won't say it's extremely common, but I know I've heard it and used it, always with the understanding that it means 'by the time something began', like in:

    'My daughter had already had most of her baby teeth by the time she was crawling.' (with the implication that the teeth had grown in before she started crawling)


    (not a teacher, just a language lover)

  6. #6
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    Re: Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Your example sounds unnatural to me too, but I would not say that we can only use the past simple with "by the time".

    By the time I had seen the first four Indiana Jones films, they were making the fifth one.
    Thanks emsr2d2. The nice example you provided is quite confusing to me. Shouldn't it be in this way? "By the time I saw the first four Indiana Jones films, they had been making the fifth one."Because making the fifth part happened before watching the serial. Please correct me if I'm not right.
    Thanks a million.

  7. #7
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    Re: Can we use past continous before "by the time"?

    Making the fifth one did not necessarily happen before watching the other films.

    I watched film 1 in 1983.
    I watched film 2 in 1984
    I watched film 3 in 1985
    They started making film 5 in January 1986
    I finally watched film 4 in March 1986

    So by the time I had seen the first four Indiana Jones films (the time in question was March 1986), they were making the fifth one (they started making it in January and were still making it in March).

    It is possible to use your "had been making the fifth one" but only if you follow it with some more time information:

    By the time I had seen the first four IJ films, they had been making the fifth one for two months.

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