he’d been wanting to do for a bit anyway.

SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
He closed his eyes, which he’d been wanting to do for a bit anyway.
(The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Douglas Adams)

Is it possible to read this sentence in two ways?

Let's for the sake of simplicity change 'for a bit' to 'for 5 minutes'.

1) 'He's been wanting to close his eyes for 5 minutes.' He began to want to just close his eyes 5 minutes ago and still wants to do so.

2) 'He's been wanting to close his eyes for 5 minutes.' He began (some time ago) to want to close his eyes for 5 minutes. When he began to want to do so we don't know.

Thanks.

 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Not really, Suprun, no ~ I can only read it as (1). The tense of the verb (he'd been wanting) makes it pretty well obligatory to compute for as "since [past]" rather than "during [future]".

    He's been wanting to close his eyes for five minutes = 'since a point five minutes in the past'
    I'm going to close my eyes for five minutes = 'during five minutes from this point'
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Thank you, ewie.

    Taking into account what you said how can I express the thought presented in 2)?

    For instance, I have a very busy job and I've been wanting to take a breather since the very morning. I want to take a breather just for five minutes (actually, I've been wanting to take a five-minute breather since the very morning). Is this possible to jam the concept of 'my having been wanting' and 'for five minutes (for a bit), meaning "a five-minute" breather into one sentence?

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited:

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    SuprunP .... I never met anyone with quite your ability to make problems out of language issues! It fascinates me!

    What we need for your new sentence is a decision about the tense .. are we going for the same as your original quotation from the book? Have a go at it yourself and we'll let you know!
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    SuprunP .... I never met anyone with quite your ability to make problems out of language issues! It fascinates me!
    Sometimes I wish I didn't have this ability. :)

    What we need for your new sentence is a decision about the tense .. are we going for the same as your original quotation from the book? Have a go at it yourself and we'll let you know!
    The only answer to this language puzzle I can come up with is this:

    1) If we say "I've been doing something for...", 'for', as ewie rightly noticed, should be viewed only as "since [past]".
    2) Consequently, the sentence "I've been wanting to take a breather for five minutes." can only mean 'since a point five minutes in the past'.
    3) I reckon that we can try and contrive to convey the meaning of 2)* by employing the following strategy:
    "I've been wanting since the very morning to take a breather for five minutes."
    "I've been wanting for almost three hours to take a breather just for five minutes."
    (Although, I don't think "I've been wanting for a bit to take a breather for a bit." sounds acceptable.)

    Which means that if we want to convey the meaning of 2)* we should inevitably indicate the duration of time we've been wanting to do something for, and only after this condition is met can we say how long our long-waited 'action' is going to take.
    (I'm pretty well sure that my previous sentence is mind-bogglingly convoluted, so I would be very grateful if you corrected it.)

    * See post #3.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    SuprunP .... I never met anyone with quite your ability to make problems out of language issues! It fascinates me!
    :D:thumbsup:

    Which means that if we want to convey the meaning of 2)* we should inevitably indicate the duration of time we've been wanting to do something for, and only after this condition is met can we say how long our long-waited 'action' is going to take.
    (I'm pretty well sure that my previous sentence is mind-bogglingly convoluted, so I would be very grateful if you corrected it.)
    It's a bit mind-boggling, Suprun, but perfectly okay:thumbsup:

    Yes, you're right about the theory, but (1) the duration part doesn't necessarily have to come first >>> (2) in fact, in your last two sentences above (after 'following strategy') it's much better if they don't (in my opinion):

    4A: I've been wanting to take a breather for five minutes all morning / since first thing this morning [etc.]
    (4B: I've been wanting all morning [etc.] to take a breather for five minutes is certainly possible, but it's not my preferred option).

    5A: I've been wanting to take a breather for five minutes for almost three hours (now).
    (5B: I've been wanting for almost three hours (now) to take a breather for five minutes feels (to me) even less acceptable than 4B. I'm fairly certain this has to do with feeling that the verb wanting and the-thing-being-wanted are too 'divorced' from one another by the intervening adverbial phrase.)
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I think ewie has done this now, but in case his offerings are not quite the same as mine ...... my thoughts as I was reading your expanded question were how would I express this myself? and it seems to need a lot of casual phrasing, perhaps because the concept is a bit "moany" and not the sort of thing you'd say in a formal context:

    I've been hanging on for a short break since first thing this morning.

    or further back in time:

    I had been desperate for even a short break since the start of the morning.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    :thumbsup:
    And of course, you could simplify matters by doing what you did in post #3 ~ getting rid of one of the time clauses altogether:
    I've been wanting to take a five-minute breather all morning
    I've been wanting to take a five-minute breather for almost three hours
    :thumbsup:
     
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