At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents had/ate lunch together.

wolfbm1

Senior Member
Polish
Hello.

1. At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents had lunch together.
2. At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents ate lunch together.

The past simple is about finished actions. Could sentence 2 mean that the parents finished eating lunch at 2 o ’clock?
Thank you.
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The past simple is about actions that completed in the past of "now" not in their own past.
    The complete action of "having lunch" is in the past of the time that the sentence was written. 2 o'clock has nothing to do with that.

    We will eat lunch at 2 o'clock. You're not going to suppose that 2 o'clock is the end instead of the beginning, are you?
    Later:
    We ate lunch at 2 o'clock.

    We don't change "2 o'clock" to "3:30" just because we've backshifted the sentence.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you. Zour first choice
    The two concepts are different. There is a difference between a quick (adj.) lunch (n.), and ate (v.) quickly (adv.) :)
    You forgot about "had."
    There is also I had a wash at 7.
    You prefer using have for some reason.
     
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    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I am probably wrong. I just started to think that in English the expression had lunch is used more often than ate lunch because it is more general.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    We probably do say "have lunch" more often than "eat lunch". But that's still not what you asked about in post 1;).
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    You asked "Could sentence 2 mean that the parents finished eating lunch at 2 o ’clock?"
    Yes, exactly.
    But as Myridon has explained the time 2 o ’clock cannot mark the completion or end of lunch. It can only mark an orienteering point or be a landmark for the whole event. And, as you have suggested, it can only be a starting point of eating that meal.
    I took sentence 1 - At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents had lunch together - from the book Angielski w tłumaczeniach (the title means English in Translations) by Adam Urban.
    The Polish translation offered two meanings - a completed / not completed past form of the Polish counterpart of the verb eat.

    So I wondered how the English really interpret the meaning of the verbs had and ate.

    Above that sentence, in Urban's book, there was a similar sentence. It was formed in the past continuous, and the translation used the not completed past form of the Polish counterpart of the verb eat.

    I would like to add that, in Polish, we also sometimes use the counterpart of the verb have with meals but it probably sounds less formal than the counterpart of eat.

    And then the counterpart of have, when used with meals, does not necessarily mean consume. It just says that there was a meal at e.g. 2 o ’clock.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Wolf, does that mean you really want to ask about
    1a. At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon, my parents were having lunch together.
    and
    2a. At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon, my parents were eating lunch together.
    ?
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Wolf, does that mean you really want to ask about
    1a. At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon, my parents were having lunch together.
    and
    2a. At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon, my parents were eating lunch together.
    ?
    In a way, yes.
    I have been wondering why a Polish not-completed past verb form can be translated into English using either the past simple or the past continuous.
    How can I tell which tense I should use. How can I explain it to a Polish learner? English Grammar books never take into consideration the Polish point of view. They just say when a tense can be used.
    Maybe there has to be created a different context for each use of one of those tenses.
    For example, if I want to translate a Polish sentence with an uncompleted verb and use the past simple, then the context has to be a sequence of events:

    At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents had lunch together. After lunch they went to a classical music concert at National Philharmonic.

    And I can use the past continuous form, if it is a background of another past event.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Ah! If I understand you correctly, your question arises from the fact that your textbook
    (a) translated At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents had lunch together in two ways, one using a completed verb form and one a not-completed verb form
    (b) translated At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents were eating lunch together in only one way, using a not-completed verb form.

    (A) looks like an error to me. In principle, a "completed" form would seem to be the better choice - but I hasten to add that I don't know any Polish, so I may be talking rubbish. Maybe it would be worth posting your question and the translations in the Polish forum?
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ah! If I understand you correctly, your question arises from the fact that your textbook
    (a) translated At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents had lunch together in two ways, one using a completed verb form and one a not-completed verb form
    (b) translated At 2 o ’clock yesterday afternoon my parents were eating lunch together in only one way, using a not-completed verb form.

    (A) looks like an error to me. In principle, a "completed" form would seem to be the better choice - but I hasten to add that I don't know any Polish, so I may be talking rubbish. Maybe it would be worth posting your question and the translations in the Polish forum?
    You understood me correctly. Thank you for your help, Loob. :)
     
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