he was sending to the cleaner

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
come across
To find or meet by chance.
He came across a dollar bill in the suit he was sending to the cleaner.
(American Idioms)

Am I correct if saying that Past Continuous in the clause 'he was sending to the cleaner' implies that it was when he was sending the suit to the cleaner that he came across a dollar bill in it ? That is, if there were Past Simple instead of the Past Continuous, it would be impossible to know when it was that he came across a dollar bill. Am I reasoning correctly?:confused:

Thank you!
 
  • perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Do you mean this: He came across a dollar bill in the suit he sent to the cleaner.

    ?

    That really doesn't make sense at all to me. I think it's because when you use "He came across ...", though you are describing the past, you are telling about a specific time when an action is occurring, thus the past continuous is the only option.

    Do wait for other opinions (well, the correct answer about the grammar).
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I think it's much easier. When we describe one ongoing event A being interrupted by another event B, we use the continuous for A and the non-continuous (simple) for B (regardless of tense):

    He came across a dollar bill in the suit that he was sending to the cleaner.
    It's a small town indeed. Sometimes when I'm walking down the street I run into an old friend from high school.
    One day, when you're older, you'll be sitting in your rocking chair and you'll look back on tonight as the happiest moment in your life.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Sometimes when I'm walking down the street I run into
    when you're older, you'll be sitting in your rocking chair and you'll look back

    lucas-sp, but there is no 'when' in quote I gave. So I had a difficulty:)

    Thank you all very much!
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    You're right, Vik. It's easier to see the pattern with "when." But it's really just this way for any interrupted action:

    The tourists who were visiting the museum that day photographed the thieves making off with the Munch.
    Sometimes I'm just walking down the street and I suddenly realize I forgot to put on underwear.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My initial reaction to the sentence was: He found a dollar bill in the suit that he was intending to send to the cleaner. We can use the present continuous for plans, and the past continuous used in the sentence appeared to me to be a case of backshifting to indicate that he had a plan in the past - but it's an AE sentence and I'm not an AE speaker, so I could well be wrong.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The process of "sending something to the cleaner" includes making sure that there is nothing in the pockets.
    He was in the middle of this process (he was sending it to the cleaner) when he came across some money.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    The process of "sending something to the cleaner" includes making sure that there is nothing in the pockets.
    He was in the middle of this process (he was sending it to the cleaner) when he came across some money.
    I would say the original sentence means that he found it when he was preparing to send the suit, but that's more or less the same as what Myridon is saying.
     
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