PDA

View Full Version : Grammar check


BigT
11-24-2014, 04:27 PM
I'm having an argument on another forum about a sentence constructed similarly to the following. Which is correct?

Celeste was mad at me and did her best so that we did not run into each other.
Celeste was mad at me and did her best so that we do not run into each other.

An "expert" and I disagree, and I want to make sure I'm not going insane.

andrewm
11-24-2014, 04:54 PM
It may depend on what you mean. Are you talking about an ongoing situation or something that is completely in the past?

Hari Seldon
11-24-2014, 04:55 PM
I'm having an argument on another forum about a sentence constructed similarly to the following. Which is correct?

Celeste was mad at me and did her best so that we did not run into each other.
Celeste was mad at me and did her best so that we do not run into each other.

An "expert" and I disagree, and I want to make sure I'm not going insane.

I don't like the first, but I much prefer

Celeste was mad at me and did her best to make sure that we not run into each other.

That makes it clearly subjunctive.

robert_columbia
11-24-2014, 05:06 PM
It may depend on what you mean. Are you talking about an ongoing situation or something that is completely in the past?

This.

The first sentence implies that you are talking about a past situation that no longer applies. Either it no longer matters whether or not you and Celeste run into each other anymore, or some other way of keeping you apart has been established.

The second sentence implies that what she established is an ongoing matter - that it is still keeping you apart and that it is, or was, important that it last until now.

Inner Stickler
11-24-2014, 05:13 PM
I don't like the second because it reads to me like Celeste was mad but no longer is and therefore why she wants to keep you separated is not clear. I prefer the former purely because I like the congruity of the was, did, did.

BigT
11-24-2014, 05:15 PM
I guess I am going insane then. Because I say it can't be ongoing. She'd have to still be mad at me, and she's not. She was mad at me, not is. And she did her best, not does or is doing her best.

The ongoing version would be "Celeste is mad at me and is doing her best so that we do not cross paths." That's continual. If you want continual explicitly from the past, you'd have to use something other than a be verb, and have it be "Celeste got mad at me and is doing her best so that we do not cross paths." No matter what, the second part of the sentence has to agree in tense.

Edit: And Inner Sticker's reason is part of why. But I also think it just sounds wrong.

Weedy
11-24-2014, 05:24 PM
I don't like either of those. I'm with Hari, this should be subjunctive.

Celeste was mad at me and did her best so that we would not run into each other.

though "did her best" would ideally have a complement saying what she did her best to do

e.g. "did her best to ensure that we would not run into each other."

BigT
11-24-2014, 06:03 PM
I don't like either of those. I'm with Hari, this should be subjunctive.

Celeste was mad at me and did her best so that we would not run into each other.

though "did her best" would ideally have a complement saying what she did her best to do

e.g. "did her best to ensure that we would not run into each other."

Now that makes sense to me. I didn't like how Hari put the sentence. It sounded unnatural. But using "would not" to make the subjunctive is both natural and grammatical.

I have suggested that neither sentence is correct.

njtt
11-24-2014, 06:19 PM
It seems to me the problem and source of confusion is with "did her best so that" or, more specifically, "so". A much better sentence would be "Celeste was mad at me, and did her best to ensure that we did not run into each other," or, if it is an ongoing situation, "Celeste is mad at me, and is doing her best to ensure that we do not run into each other."

kaylasdad99
11-24-2014, 06:36 PM
"I think Celeste is deliberately avoiding me. She's probably still mad."

Dr. Strangelove
11-24-2014, 06:44 PM
I guess I am going insane then. Because I say it can't be ongoing. She'd have to still be mad at me, and she's not. She was mad at me, not is. And she did her best, not does or is doing her best.

But some action in the past may have continuing consequences. For instance, if you work at the same company, she might have moved to a different department in another building. You're less likely to cross paths even if she isn't still mad.

Ornery Bob
11-24-2014, 06:54 PM
This is strictly a matter of getting tenses to agree. The actual situation is irrelevant.

The first sentence is the most correct in that everything is in the past (as it should be).

For the second sentence to be correct, you would have to change to present tense. Celeste is mad at me and does her best so that we do not run into each other.

Jragon
11-24-2014, 07:36 PM
Celeste is mad at me and does her best so that we do not run into each other.

This isn't equivalent. The action can be in the past, but the results can be ongoing. For instance, she could have moved to Bangladesh to minimize the chances of them running into each other. However, it's possible that she's no longer mad, or at least no longer makes an effort to not run into him (because no effort is needed).

Consider the more obvious similar phrase "Celeste was mad and shot him so he is bleeding." Celeste may have immediately regretted shooting him and dropped the gun, but the guy is still bleeding. The tenses agree with reality, but not each other.

I'll admit the phrasing is a bit awkward (the example phrase I made could really stand to add the word "now" somewhere in there), but I'd argue still correct and meaningful.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.