Author Topic: Not until Usage  (Read 11809 times)

Michael E. Galario

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Not until Usage
« on: March 25, 2013, 10:42:46 AM »
Hi Sir,

Good day.

Once again I'm back on this site as I was seized by doubt on the use of Not Until as a sentence starter.
I would be needing your expertise on this sentence construction. A copy of the letter which I wrote is posted in here for your reference. Please do give me a thorough feedback on this. Thank you! =)



Madam:

This comes very respectfully to request your good office for an endorsement to the City Hall of Makati.     This letter is in consonance with my resignation from the teaching post as an English teacher of The ______________ High School dated 15th of November 2011.

In November 2011, I advised Mrs. ___________ , former principal of the ___HS,of my resignation and was advised by the same that she would endorse me to the City Hall of Makati. Hoping that everything went through perfectly fine at that time, I did not do a follow up as I, too, had been very busy with so many things since then. However, Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March I would have not found out that my service record has not been closed yet due to non-receipt of the endorsement letter.  For this reason, I was advised by the Municipal HR to speak with you and ask for an endorsement on behalf of your predecessor.

Attached herewith are my resignation letter addressed to the former principal and my updated resume for your perusal.

I hope that you would take a look at this matter and would respond accordingly the soonest time possible.

Thank you and more power!


Yours sincerely,
Mr. _______________
Former English Teacher

"The only thing that's worse than not knowing how to do something is to do something wrong while believing that it's right."

Remember: We may know something but definitely not everything.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Not until Usage
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 09:01:50 PM »
This sentence of yours has faulty tense usage and its construction can stand improvement:

“Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March I would have not found out that my service record has not been closed yet due to non-receipt of the endorsement letter.”

The present perfect conditional “would have not found out” should be in the simple past tense “did I find out” instead.

That sentence should then read as follows:

“Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March did I find out that my service record has not been closed yet because your office has not received the endorsement letter.”

As to your letter itself, I’m afraid that it sounds very officious and wordy. You can write it much better by imagining that you are face-to-face with the recipient. Then you won’t have need for those big words like “consonance,” “perusal,” and “good office” and won’t have the urge to sound bureaucratic or legalistic in making your request.

Mwita Chacha

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Re: Not until Usage
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2013, 01:42:39 AM »
If I'm not mistaken, grammar rules require that when the main clause is in the past tense, the independent clause also should be in the past tense. So my revision sentence would further be ''Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March did I find out that my service record had not been closed yet because your office had not received the endorsement letter.''

Joe Carillo

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Re: Not until Usage
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2013, 08:00:35 AM »
I don’t think there’s any grammar rule in English that requires the dependent or subordinate clause to be also in the past tense when the independent or main clause is in the past tense; that would make English an impossibly restrictive language for describing with events as they happen in time. You are perhaps referring by mistake to the so-called normal sequence-of-tenses rule for reported speech or indirect speech. Reported speech is, of course, the kind of sentence someone makes when he or she reports what someone else has said. And under the normal sequence-of-tenses rule, when an utterance takes the form of reported speech and the reporting verb is in the past tense, the operative verb of that utterance generally takes one step back from the present into the past: the present becomes past, the past usually stays in the past, the present perfect becomes past perfect, and the future becomes future conditional. (Click this link to my forum posting on “The proper way to construct sentences for reported speech”)

Nevertheless, let’s see if it’s correct to use the past perfect for the verb phrases in the “that”-clause of the sentence in question, as you have done: “Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March did I find out that my service record had not been closed yet because your office had not received the endorsement letter.”

In that sentence, the operative verb of the dependent clause is “requested” and that of the main clause is “did I find out,” both of which are in the past tense. We must keep in mind, though, that they are both in the past tense not because there’s a grammar rule requiring them to be always so together, but only because it just so happens that it’s what the particular situation requires. As to the verb phrases in the “that”-clause of the main clause, namely the verb phrases “has not been closed yet” and “has not received,” there is actually no rule whatsoever that requires them to have the same tense as the operative verb of the main clause. This being the case, the tense they will take will not be automatically the past tense but will be dependent only on the sense of the situation being described. In this particular case, they have to be in the present perfect because at the time the letter was written, the two conditions described—“has not been closed yet” and “has not received”—are still subsisting; in fact, they are the very basis and justification for the letter-writer’s request.

The past perfect would apply to those two conditions if they are no longer subsisting. Indeed, only in that event can we use the past perfect for those verb phrases, as you have done in this rewrite:  “Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March did I find out that my service record had not been closed yet because your office had not received the endorsement letter.” But the use of the past perfect here would wrongly imply that after the letter-writer discovered the problem, that office thereafter received the endorsement letter and duly closed his service record. This isn’t the case at all, though. Those two conditions are still subsisting up to the time of writing, so it’s logical for the letter-writer to use the present perfect tense for those two verb phrases: “Not until I requested for my GSIS claim this March did I find out that my service record has not been closed yet because your office has not received the endorsement letter.”

I hope I have adequately clarified the tense usage for that sentence. 
« Last Edit: April 05, 2013, 11:43:30 AM by Joe Carillo »

Mwita Chacha

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Re: Not until Usage
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2013, 12:04:40 AM »
So you suggest ''I failed to attend the meeting yesterday because I'm ill'' is grammatically correct as long as the writer was still ill at the time he was making the sentence? It's for the first time I hear that.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Not until Usage
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2013, 06:08:19 AM »
That's right. And if you put the subordinate clause up front, the grammatical correctness of using the present tense for the state of the speaker's being ill won't look as questionable as you think:

"Because I am ill, I failed to attend the meeting yesterday." (The speaker continues to be ill until the time of speaking.)

Contrast that sentence construction with this one:

"Because I was ill, I failed to attend the meeting yesterday." (The speaker is no longer ill at the time of speaking.)

Keep in mind that the state of being ill is not necessarily the direct cause of failing to attend a meeting. A slight headache, for instance, won't prevent one from making it to a meeting. It's just becomes a subjective justification--a reason in the mind--for not attending the meeting.

In contrast, a real physical constraint like being hogtied by robbers definitely will prevent one from attending a meeting. That's a direct cause--a consummated action done to the speaker--that will absolutely need the past tense in the construction that you have in mind:

"Because I was hogtied by robbers, I failed to attend the meeting yesterday." (The speaker is no longer bound like a hog and has lived to tell the tale about his misfortune.) 

And to further emphasize my point that the tense of a subordinate clause is not dependent on the tense of the main clause, take a look at the following sentence with two separate actions in the main clause:

"Because I am ill, I failed to attend the meeting yesterday and won't be able to fly to Frankfurt tomorrow." (Three tenses are at play here: the present tense, the past tense, and the future tense.)

I hope this adequately clarifies things for you.





Mwita Chacha

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Re: Not until Usage
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2013, 07:25:00 AM »
It has indeed clarified things for me. There are some grammar books strictly insists that once the main-clause verb is in past tense the subordinate-clause verb must always be in past tense. My sympathy goes directly towards those who are not Forum members and who, like me hours ago, believe that's the truth what is said by those books.