comma

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comma

Post by navi » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:20 am

1-In the first days of the project, when I saw him, he seemed happy.
2-In the first days of the project when I saw him, he seemed happy.

Is there a difference between the meanings of these sentences?
The only difference between them is that there is a comma after 'project' in '1'.

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: comma

Post by JerrySmile » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:58 pm

I'd use

In the first days of the project, whenever I saw him, he seemed happy.

Two commas or none at all. Same meaning.
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Re: comma

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:06 pm

Or just one:

In the first days of the project, whenever I saw him he seemed happy.

I agree that 'whenever' is superior to 'when' in this context; it better conveys the sporadic character of the encounters.
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Re: comma

Post by navi » Wed Aug 27, 2014 1:05 am

Thank you both very much for your kind replies.

I think whether 'whenever' has to be used or not, depends on the intended meaning. One meaning of the original sentence is indeed the one that would come to the fore if 'when' is replaced by 'whenever'. That is doubtlessly the likeliest meaning, but is it the only one?



1-In the first days of the project, when I saw him, he seemed happy.

Couldn't this sentence mean:
a-In the first days of the project, when I used to see him, he seemed happy. (I did not see him after the first days but during the first days I saw him a lot)

Maybe the sentence could also mean:
b-I just saw him once during the first days of the project and he seemed happy then.

I am not really sure that this meaning could be 'extracted' from the sentence. The least one could do in this case is place the 'when' clause at the beginning.

3-When I saw him, in the first days of the project, he seemed happy.


What do you think?

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: comma

Post by JerrySmile » Wed Aug 27, 2014 5:29 am

Those meanings are possible and I thought about them. However, a good writer should offer, if possible, an unambiguous rendition of his/her thoughts, thus I chose one of those meanings and focused on its best possible expression. Why replace the clear sentences that you have mentioned with a "good-for-everything" sentence that says different things to different people? Someone flying this way would be shot down by the first self-respecting editor he'd meet.
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Re: comma

Post by navi » Wed Aug 27, 2014 8:43 am

Thank you so much Jerry.

Point taken. I would not write that sentence, but some people might. I am not an English writer, but might occasionally have to translate something from English. I have to be very careful with ambiguous sentences.

Sometimes, a writer might want to go for ambiguity. They deliberately do that kind of thing just to make life difficult for the rest of us!!!

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: comma

Post by tony h » Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:44 pm

JerrySmile wrote:However, a good writer should offer, if possible, an unambiguous rendition of his/her thoughts, thus I chose one of those meanings and focused on its best possible expression.
I imagine Croesus wished the oracle at Delphi had heeded your advice. And how many Agatha Christies would have core plots destroyed by this simple device.
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Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: comma

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:44 am

Life itself is full of ambiguities. They cannot be eliminated as easily.
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