"Be about to .... when...", When?

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"Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by coco » Fri 09.12.2008 5:23 am

I have a question about "be about to .. when..." structure.

Example sentence:
I was about to leave the room when the telephone started to ring.

I was wondering which of them is correct as this interpretation.

1) When I was about to leave the room, the telephone started to ring.
2) When the telephone started to ring, I was about to leave the room.

In Japanese:
J1) (私が)その部屋を出ようとしていたとき、電話がなりはじめた。
J2) 電話がなりはじめたとき、私はその部屋を出ようとしていた。 

J1) and J2) are different in nuance to me, but both are describing the same thing?


Any comments would be appreciated.
Thanks you.

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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by sushi4ever » Fri 09.12.2008 6:44 am

Hi cocoさん!

Both sentences describe the same thing, just imagine the situation, you're moving towards the door and when you approach it, the telephone starts ringing.

It's just that the emphasis is a little different, sentence 1 stresses the leaving-action and sentence 2 stresses the telephone ringing.

Although sentence 1 sounds more natural to me, but I'm not a native speaker myself. :wink:
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by richvh » Fri 09.12.2008 8:02 am

In my opinion, the nuance is closer to (1) and (J1).
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by Yudan Taiteki » Fri 09.12.2008 8:53 am

I think the only difference between 1) and 2) is focus; the second one focuses on the phone ringing.
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by two_heads_talking » Fri 09.12.2008 12:18 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I think the only difference between 1) and 2) is focus; the second one focuses on the phone ringing.


I agree with Chris. it's a matter of what you are trying to emphasise. Is it that you were leaving or that the phone was ringing?

In your first example Coco-san, the focus is on the person and them "about to leave" when the phone rang..

You could also say, "As I was leaving the phone rang."

In your second example, the focus is on the phone ringing..

To answer your original question though, yes, they are two different sentences saying the same thing.

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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by richvh » Fri 09.12.2008 1:23 pm

I think Chris and Two Heads have missed the main question, which is about the interpretation of:
I was about to leave the room when the telephone started to ring.
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by hyperconjugated » Fri 09.12.2008 2:05 pm

richvh wrote:I think Chris and Two Heads have missed the main question, which is about the interpretation of:
I was about to leave the room when the telephone started to ring.

Maybe some ~ところ+だ construction to emphasize that?
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by coco » Fri 09.12.2008 8:21 pm

Thank you everyone for all the comments and thoughts. :)


I was about to leave the room  when  the telephone started to ring.
      1                           2 

If this can be 1), is it (grammatically) possible to say "I was a child when I had a dog" as "When I was a child, I had a dog"?

hyperconjugated wrote:Maybe some ~ところ+だ construction to emphasize that?

I hadn't noticed this interpretation.
It could be
電話がなりはじめたとき、私はその部屋を出ようとしていたところだった。

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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by richvh » Fri 09.12.2008 9:12 pm

If this can be 1), is it (grammatically) possible to say "I was a child when I had a dog" as "When I was a child, I had a dog"?

前者は、「私が犬を飼うというと、子供の頃だった」となります。(子供の時だけに犬を飼ったことがありました。)後者は、「子供の頃、私が犬を飼った」となります。(その後、犬を飼ったかどうか言ってはいません。)
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by coco » Sat 09.13.2008 7:36 pm

richvh wrote:
If this can be 1), is it (grammatically) possible to say "I was a child when I had a dog" as "When I was a child, I had a dog"?

前者は、「私が犬を飼うというと、子供の頃だった」となります。(子供の時だけに犬を飼ったことがありました。)後者は、「子供の頃、私が犬を飼った」となります。(その後、犬を飼ったかどうか言ってはいません。)


Richさん、ありがとうございます。

I was about to leave the room  when  the telephone started to ring.
      1                           2 
I was a child  when  I had a dog.
    1           2 
All employees were fired when  the price of oil hit $100 per barrel.
      1                           2 

すると、「be about to. .. when... 2..」 の場合のwhenは、whenより前に来る節(1)の時点を基準とする解釈ができるものの、これは特殊で、通常はwhenより後に来る節(2)の時点を基準とした文章になるという理解でよいのでしょうか。

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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by adriannrod » Tue 02.03.2009 2:37 pm

coco wrote:Thank you everyone for all the comments and thoughts. :)


I was about to leave the room  when  the telephone started to ring.
      1                           2 

If this can be 1), is it (grammatically) possible to say "I was a child when I had a dog" as "When I was a child, I had a dog"?
hyperconjugated wrote: Maybe some ~ところ+だ construction to emphasize that?
I hadn't noticed this interpretation.
It could be
電話がなりはじめたとき、私はその部屋を出ようとしていたところだった。
Well, the 1st makes it seem like it has a more nostalgic feel to it, and the 2nd seems to me to be more of a statement...(Referring to the child and dog) I'm a native English speaker, so that's all I can offer.
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by keatonatron » Tue 02.03.2009 3:47 pm

As with everything, it depends on context :D

For example:

A: I heard you've had a dog before. Are bills for the veterinarian (獣医) expensive?
B: I don't really know, I was a child when I had a dog.

In this situation, Mr. A already knows that Mr. B had a dog, so the emphasis is on "I was a child".

If the person you are talking to doesn't know that you had a dog, you would probably say "When I was a child, I had a dog" or "I had a dog when I was a child" which would put emphasis on "I had a dog". Everyone already knows that you were a child once :wink:

These sentences don't inlcude "to be about to..." but the grammar is the same.

You probably already know, but I also want to mention that sometimes "when" can also show cause and effect.

"The employees were fired when the price of oil hit $100 per barrel." = the employees were fired because the price of oil changed.

"The price of oil hit $100 per barrel when the employees were fired." = the price of oil changed because the employees were fired.

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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by two_heads_talking » Tue 02.03.2009 4:16 pm

richvh wrote:I think Chris and Two Heads have missed the main question, which is about the interpretation of:
I was about to leave the room when the telephone started to ring.
Wow, I forgot to reply to this. I was only responding to the two sentences provided by coco-san. And merely pointing out the emphasis I interpreted in them. coco-san mentioned that both J1 and J2 had different nuances and I still stand by my interpretation of the English sentences.

One emphasizes that when the phone rang, the person was about to leave. The second sentence empasizes that when the person was leaving, the phone rang. Personally, if you ask me, it's a matter of perspective from the speaker. One emphasizes the phone, the other the person. They both mean the same

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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by chikara » Tue 02.03.2009 7:16 pm

coco wrote:I have a question about "be about to .. when..." structure.

Example sentence:
I was about to leave the room when the telephone started to ring.

I was wondering which of them is correct as this interpretation.

1) When I was about to leave the room, the telephone started to ring.
2) When the telephone started to ring, I was about to leave the room.

.....
In my opinion 1) is the same as the example sentence, 2) has a different emphasis.

But what would I know :)
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Post by keatonatron » Wed 02.04.2009 8:50 am

chikara wrote:But what would I know :)
Yeah, you only speak Australian. :wink:

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