from the first trip to the moon

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from the first trip to the moon

Post by azz » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:46 pm

a. It was three years from man's first trip to the moon.
b. It was three years from the date when man's first trip to the moon took place.
c. It was three years from 1969.


Are the above sentences grammatically correct?

Does "from" mean "before" or "after" in those sentences?

Many thanks.
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Re: from the first trip to the moon

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:59 pm

They're all grammatically correct, but they are all rather vague. Statements a) and c) are outright ambiguous.

One problem is the term 'trip'. A trip has a beginning, a middle phase, and an end. This means it has a particular duration.

a) would be passable if precision was not required, and if the context was adequate for resolving its inherent ambiguity. (See the discussion of c) below.)

Apollo 11's mission to the Moon lasted 8 days, during which Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong spent the evening of 20 July 1969 and most of 21 July on the Moon's surface (21.5 hours in total). So the referent 'trip' could be regarded as a discrete event, given that one week out of around 150 weeks (i.e. 3 years) is less than 1 per cent of the total.

In b), however, the use of the word 'date' requires precision, which the term 'trip' does not provide. You would need to specify what part of the trip is the focus of interest: is it the launch date, the day of the landing on the Moon, or the date of the arrival back on Earth?

c) is a somewhat problematic construction for two reasons.

i) "Three years from 1969" is not a long time. Why not just say "It was 1972" or "It was 1966"?

ii) The fact that the question above could even be asked raises the second problem — the ambiguity of statements a) and c). "X [time] from Y" could refer to either a moment in time prior to the event or a moment following it. It requires a disambiguating context to clarify what is meant:

"It was two weeks from lift-off, and Neil Armstrong's anticipation was mounting". (A day preceding his lift-off.)

"It was two weeks from the time they had landed back on Earth, and Neil Armstrong was rapidly descending from the emotional high of that moment when he planted his first footstep in the dust of the Moon". (A day following his return to Earth.)

Only statement b) escapes ambiguity, because the phrase "took place" clearly places the event in the past.
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Re: from the first trip to the moon

Post by tony h » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:32 pm

Erik, I agree with you on the difficulties of having "date" in B.

I also find the description "trip" trivialises such a technically amazing and profound journey but that is a personal view.

I don't have a problem with the precision of "It was three years from man's first trip to the moon". After all: "it was five years from my first trip to India that I managed to return. It seemed a very different place as I arrived, not in balmy November, but in the monsoon and in a newly independent country. The next three years were to make a profound difference to my life." Or: "our son arrived two years after our daughter" would not be taken to suggest that they shared the same day and month of birth.

In C for it to work the significance of 1969 must be recognised by both parties. It is almost a coded or signalled message. I occasionally hear things like : "it was nine months after Tim's wedding".
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Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

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