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

英語を勉強している方のためのフォーラムです。練習のために英語の文章を投稿してもかまわなく、英語の文法・語彙に関する質問をしてもけっこうです。

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

Postby chikara » Wed 02.04.2009 11:55 pm

Egg Zachary ;)
Don't complain to me that people kick you when you're down. It's your own fault for lying there
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby coco » Thu 02.05.2009 11:26 am

adriannrodさん, keatonatoronさん,two_heads_talkingさん, chikaraさん、
ご回答ありがとうさございます。 :)

Keatさん

(よく覚えてないな。)犬を飼ってたのは、子どもの頃だったから。
When I had a dog, I was a child.
I was a child when I had a dog. I

子どもの頃、犬を飼ってた。
When I was a child, I had a dog.
I had a dog when I was a child.

この理解で合ってます?

相手が犬を飼ってたことを知ってるかどうかで
瞬時に順番を変えるって、かなり難しそうです。

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

確かに。ご教示ありがとうございます。

カンジ君をうやらむcocoでした。
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby Morrow » Tue 02.10.2009 6:28 am

coco wrote:I was about to leave the room when the telephone started to ring.


It would be better if you compared the two.
(1) I was [about/going] to answer the phone when she came in.
(2) I was answering the phone when she came in.

(1) implies that "I nearly answered the phone." In other words, her coming in interrupted my answering the phone. 「(ちょうど)電話に出ようとしたら/したところに、彼女が入ってきた(ので、その時電話には出られなかった)」

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

Postby JaySee » Tue 02.10.2009 7:23 am

I don't think your first example necessarily implies that the action was interrupted (although of course it might). Emphasis (or the lack of emphasis) on certain elements of the sentence, such as "she" in your example, is important here.

"I was about to answer the phone when she came in, so she had to wait for a few minutes until I was done."

If you want to clearly state you couldn't answer the phone because she came in, I think something like "I was about to answer the phone, but then she came in" would be less ambiguous.
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby Morrow » Tue 02.10.2009 9:56 am

JaySee wrote:I don't think your first example necessarily implies that the action was interrupted (although of course it might).


Note this:
The combination of be plus about plus a prepositional infinitive indicates the immediate future.
With the past of be it means that the action was interrupted, or was not brought to completion.
...
2. He was about to start when our arrival delayed him. (Bount, An English Grammar)

However, some native speakers of English seem to analyze the syntactic status of the when-clause as in (1) in two different ways. (Let's forget here that it is possible to put a nucleus on the stressed syllable of any of these words:"I," "was," "answer," "phone," "she," and "came," and accordingly the sentence could mean different things at the information level.)
(1) I was [about/going] to answer the phone when she came in.

Usually, (3a) or (3b) could work to make a less salient interpretation (if there is one) clearer.

(3) a. I was [about/going] to answer the phone, when she came in.
b. When she came in, I was [about/going] to answer the phone.

But there's a couple of problems. For example, as (4) shows, if something is fronted to sentence-initial position, it may be either a topic or a focus, so if (3b) (where the "when-"clause functions as an S-adverb but not as a VP-adverb) is a possible paraphrase, we also need to know the information status of that embedded clause.
(4) a. John(,) she LOVES.=As for John, she loves him.
b. JOHN she loves.=John is the one she loves.

I'd appreciate it if English-speaking people could help us here.

Morrow
When an adverb or adverbial appears in sentence-final position, it can be confusing to learners.
Some speakers of English accept (5a), but even they say that (5b) is unacceptable (This means that "in the 1990s" is a VP-adverb and not an S-adverb).

(5) a. I have lived in Tokyo in the 1990s.
b. In the 1990s, I [*have lived/lived] in Tokyo.
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby JaySee » Tue 02.10.2009 10:42 am

Morrow wrote:Note this:
The combination of be plus about plus a prepositional infinitive indicates the immediate future.
With the past of be it means that the action was interrupted, or was not brought to completion.


That's all fine and dandy, but I don't think the example sentence in my previous post is wrong (if there is a native speaker who begs to differ though, I stand corrected). I am not trying to argue that what you are writing is not true; I am merely saying that this interpretation is not the only possible one.

Putting strictly syntactic analysis aside, to me 1 / 3a and 3b have exactly the same kind of variable meaning, again depending on where the emphasis is put when speaking. When reading sentence 1, 3a or 3b in your post, I don't think you can judge with certainty whether or not you went on to answer the phone when she came in, making the sentence ambiguous without context in this sense.

Also, if not like this, how then would you suggest expressing that you were about to do A when B happened, but then you continued to do A anyway (that is, you weren't interrupted)?

(On a side note, perhaps it might be advisable to not use linguistic terminology, as the majority of the people on this forum aren't trained linguists and will probably have problems understanding you when you're talking about things like "VP-adverbs" and "prepositional infinitives".)
Last edited by JaySee on Tue 02.10.2009 11:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 02.10.2009 10:51 am

I agree that it does not need to indicate interruption. Whether it indicates interruption or not is determined by the context.

(EDIT: However, after posting that I decided to search google for "was about to". Out of the first 50 hits, I only saw one hit that didn't indicate an interruption, so maybe the association is stronger than I think. I still think you can have a sentence like "She was about to start her speech when he finally came in" without interruption, but maybe not.)

(As for 5a and 5b, IMO the first example is unnatural unless "in the 1990s" is a modifier of "Tokyo" -- in other words, "I have lived in the 1990's Tokyo"; it's a pretty unlikely sentence but it sounds acceptable to me given the proper context. 5b doesn't work, although with "had lived" I would judge it ? instead of *.)
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby richvh » Tue 02.10.2009 10:59 am

As an example where "was about to...when" does not imply an interruption, "The movie was about to start when I entered the darkened theater."
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Re: "Be about to .... when...", When?

Postby Morrow » Wed 02.11.2009 8:39 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Out of the first 50 hits, I only saw one hit that didn't indicate an interruption, so maybe the association is stronger than I think. I still think you can have a sentence like "She was about to start her speech when he finally came in" without interruption, but maybe not.)


I appreciate your help and comments, Yudan Taiteki and richvh. My thanks also go to JaySee.
You have helped me have a better understanding. But I will refrain from asking here. After all, this is the thread of coco. And I had meant it as a kind of "booster" in the first place.

Thanks all

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