An instant after the starting gun was fired

< Previous | Next >

arueng

Senior Member
CHINESE
An instant after the starting gun was fired, the runners started to run.


Hi,

The above is a stand-alone example from an English textbook for senior high kids here. I don't think it sounds good. Is it better to reword it as the following? Thanks.

At the instant after the starting gun was fired ...
The instant after ...
The moment after ...
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The sentence is fine as it is. "An instant" (one instant) is a vague (but very small) period of time. It's something like "A tenth of a second after ...", only less precise.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    In this case, an instant will be about a fifth of a second (200 milliseconds) or a little less - the time it takes a prepared human to hear a sound and begin moving in reaction.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    An instant after the starting gun was fired, the runners started to run.


    Hi,

    The above is a stand-alone example from an English textbook for senior high kids here. I don't think it sounds good. Is it better to reword it as the following? Thanks.

    At the instant after the starting gun was fired ...
    The instant after ...
    The moment after ...
    I don't like this example because it seems to suggest that "an instant" is some kind of universally-understood measure of time.
    It isn't.
    If I had to write a relevant sentence using "instant" it would be something like (with minimal change to the original sentence):
    "The instant the starting gun was fired, the runners started to run."
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    What about: "Instantly after the gun was fired, the runners started to run."
    Ooh no, that's bad. Try:

    After the gun was fired, the runners immediately started to run
    When the gun was fired, the runners instantly started to run
    Immediately after the gun was fired, the runners started to run

    "Instantly after" doesn't collocate the way you suggest.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I can't explain this, but the version I would expect is:
    "Instantly the gun was fired, the runners..."
    Conversely, I would only understand "instantly" as sticking to the "starting," so it has to go with the runners:

    The gun was fired; the runners instantly began to run.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Conversely, I would only understand "instantly" as sticking to the "starting," so it has to go with the runners:

    The gun was fired; the runners instantly began to run.
    That's exactly what I understand from "Instantly the gun was fired, the runners...".
    The "Instantly" seems to mean "At the instant the gun was fired, the runners...".
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Oh, I understand that. It's just in AE phrases of the form "Instantly the gun was fired" are unimaginable, because the adverb seems to be stuck in the wrong place. Dialectical difference!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Oh, I understand that. It's just in AE phrases of the form "Instantly the gun was fired" are unimaginable, because the adverb seems to be stuck in the wrong place. Dialectical difference!
    Interesting.
    Would you feel the same about "Immediately the gun was fired, the runners started..."?

    I don't have any grammatical term for this, for the way the adverb seems to modify "started" rather than "was fired".
    And I wouldn't be surprised to hear another BE native say that I'm talking rubbish.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Exactly the same. I would never, ever say "Immediately the gun was fired, the runners started..." It would have to be "The gun was fired; immediately, the runners started... / the runners immediately started... / the runners started ... immediately."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Exactly the same. I would never, ever say "Immediately the gun was fired, the runners started..." It would have to be "The gun was fired; immediately, the runners started... / the runners immediately started... / the runners started ... immediately."
    Oh bother :)
    I'll have to look for some background information ... which may take until tomorrow, unless someone else turns up.
     

    Azimat

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Maybe one could make the sentence very simple by saying: "When the gun was fired, the runners started to run.".
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It took me a little while to find what I was looking for :)
    New Fowler's Modern English Usage has a short entry about "immediately" as a conjunction.
    Immediately has been occasionally used informally as a conjunction (= immediately after), especially in BrE, since the early 19c.
    ...
    Immediately I heard the frond door I switched off his computer.
    That gave me the terminology, so I Googled immediately conjunction and at the top of the list came this link:
    BE: immediately, directly (used as conjunctions)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top