Tag question - Oh and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, <did, were> you?

You little ripper!

Senior Member
Australian English
moodywop said:
Oh and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?
Carlo it would be better to say, Oh and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, were you?
If you change the sentence around you'll understand what I mean. Did you passing by at that very moment? :cross:
Were you passing by at that very moment? :tick:
 
  • moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    Charles Costante said:
    Carlo it would be better to say, Oh and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, were you?
    If you change the sentence around you'll understand what I mean. Did you passing by at that very moment? :cross:
    Were you passing by at that very moment? :tick:

    Charles

    My did you referred back to you happened to.. Or does did you? just sound odd at the end of my example?

    After all if you change my sentence around you get did you happen to be passing by..?, not Did you passing by at that very moment? :cross: or were you passing by...?

    Che ne pensi?
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    moodywop said:
    Charles

    My did you referred back to you happened to.. Or does did you? just sound odd at the end of my example?

    After all if you change my sentence around you get did you happen to be passing by..?, not Did you passing by at that very moment? :cross: or were you passing by...?

    Che ne pensi?
    Actually, your original sentence is grammatically correct which is why I didn't say it was wrong, just that it would sound better to say it the other way. It just sounds strange. I think most people would say it the way I suggested.

    Edit: On second reading of your sentence it would be incorrect because Did you fits only with happen not happened.
    If you said, And you just passed by at that very moment, did you? it would be correct.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Charles Costante said:
    Edit: On second reading of your sentence it would be incorrect because Did you fits only with happen not happened.
    If you said, And you just passed by at that very moment, did you? it would be correct.
    I'm not following your logic, Charles. In your last sentence, did you follows the past tense of pass, so why can't it follow the past tense of happen? Moody's original sentence actually sounded fine to me.

    Tornare all'italiano, mi piacerebbe sentire altri esempi dell'uso di manco a farlo apposta. Grazie.

    Elisabetta
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    TrentinaNE said:
    I'm not following your logic, Charles. In your last sentence, did you follows the past tense of pass, so why can't it follow the past tense of happen? Moody's original sentence actually sounded fine to me.

    Tornare all'italiano, mi piacerebbe sentire altri esempi dell'uso di manco a farlo apposta. Grazie.

    Elisabetta
    Elizabeth, Carlo's original sentence was Oh and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you? The verb passing should fit with Did you? but it doesn't. It fits with were you which is what I suggested. It actually doesn't have anything to do with the just happened to as I originally thought.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Ah, OK, so the question is whether the tag-line applies to the "happening" or to the "passing." (Sorry if I missed that central point earlier. I read the thread after coming home last night from a pizzeria where I drank much wine...)

    I think you may be right, Charles, but I keep bouncing back and forth on it. So if you don't mind, I'm going to solicit some input over in the English-only forum. I'd like to hear Cuchu and Panj weigh in on this one.

    Saluti cari,
    Elisabetta
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Which sentence is correct (focussing on the tag-line at the end):

    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?

    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, were you?

    In other words, does the tag-line apply to the verb happened (requiring "did you") or to the verb be passing (requiring "were you")?

    This question came up during the translation of an Italian expression in the Italian-English forum (Edit: which has since between rerouted to this thread).

    Thanks,
    Elizabeth
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    I'm not a native English speaker, but I have understood that this did you / were you should refer to the predicate of the sentence which is happened. So it should be did you.
     

    ElaineG

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    You just happened to be passing by, did you? sounds much more natural to me. The emphasis is on "happened", you intend to underline the improbability of "just happened".
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    ElaineG said:
    You just happened to be passing by, did you? sounds much more natural to me. The emphasis is on "happened", you intend to underline the improbability of "just happened".
    If you change the sentences around to make the happened relevant it doesn't work in either case.
    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?
    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, were you?
    In the first case it would become Did you just happened to be passing by at that very moment? and in the second it would become Were you just happened to be passing by at that very moment?

    Whereas if you change the sentence to Did you passing by at that very moment? and Were you passing by at that very moment?, only one works, the second one.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    So you just happened along at that moment, did you?
    Just happened by at that very moment, did you?
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    river said:
    So you just happened along at that moment, did you?
    Just happened by at that very moment, did you?
    River, those examples work perfectly but you haven't included the verb to pass by in them. The sentences we're talking about do have that verb, so the situation is quite different.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Direct questions about usage that has been absorbed, not learnt (learned for those needing AE subtitles:) ), are very stressful;)

    Gut reaction at first said it would have to be did you.
    Then I followed the arguments and swung backwards and forwards.

    In the end, weighing up the logic, I was relieved to find that my head agrees with my gut. The tag question has to link with the main verb, happened.

    Oh and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?

    Try a simpler alternative to the words in italics and it might be clearer.

    Oh and you just happened to sneeze, did you?

    Some wise grammarian will explain what that italicised bit is called.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    panjandrum said:
    Try a simpler alternative to the words in italics and it might be clearer.
    Oh and you just happened to sneeze, did you?
    Panj, that example is slightly different to the sentences we are talking about here. If you shorten the actual sentences we're talking about, you get:
    Oh, you just happened to be passing by, did you?
    Oh, you just happened to be passing by, were you?
    which both sound O.K. to me.
    As a complete sentence though,
    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?
    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, were you?
    the first one sounds strange to me.
    Maybe it's just a case of what I hear all the time.
     

    ElaineG

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    In the first case it would become Did you just happened to be passing by at that very moment? and in the second it would become Were you just happened to be passing by at that very moment?

    The proper inverted sentence would be: Did you just happen to be passing by at that very moment?

    If you leave out the happen, than "were" sounds better: Were you just passing by at that very moment?
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    According to CGEL:

    "The tag normally mirrors the subject and auxiliary of the main clause...There are exceptions, however, with verbs like suppose when they are introduced by a 1st person subject and followed by a that-clause: I suppose you're not serious, are you?; I don't suppose you're serious, are you?"

    I haven't been able to find sentences like the one being discussed here.

    Although, strictly speaking, this is not the subject of this thread, I just wanted to share what CGEL has to say on this "sarcastic" use of tags(which seems similar to the "antagonistic" use of tags we discussed a while back):

    "There is a type of tag question in which both statement and question are positive...Its effect may be scolding(Oh, you've had another accident, have you?), sarcastic (So that's your game, is it?) or sarcastically contradictory(So your car is outside, is it?)"
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree that my shorter sentence is simpler, but I believe it is identical in structure:

    Oh and you just happened to [... ... ...], tag question?
     

    quilks

    Member
    English, UK
    'You just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?' sounds the most natural to me.

    It becomes more clear if you turn it around:
    'Did you just happen to be passing by at that very moment?' :tick:
    'Were you just happen to be passing by at that very moment?':cross:


    At least where I'm from we generally only say 'were(n't) you?' for emphasis after the initial clause also uses 'were' i.e. 'Oh, you were just passing by, were you?'
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    quilks said:
    'You just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?' sounds the most natural to me.

    It becomes more clear if you turn it around:
    'Did you just happen to be passing by at that very moment?' :tick:
    'Were you just happen to be passing by at that very moment?':cross:


    At least where I'm from we generally only say 'were(n't) you?' for emphasis after the initial clause also uses 'were' i.e. 'Oh, you were just passing by, were you?'
    That actually does sound logical. Although it still sounds a bit strange to me when the sentence is not turned around. Are there any rules as far as turning a sentence around? I thought it was the verb that had to make sense. Also turning around the whole sentence in this case has turned happened into happen. When I turn the sentence around focusing on the verb of the two sentences without changing any of the words, Did you passing by at that very moment? and Were you passing by at that very moment?, it is only the second one that makes sense.
     

    Le Pamplemousse

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    <<Mod edit to remove a courteous reference to the deleted off-topic post>>

    That actually does sound logical. Although it still sounds a bit strange to me when the sentence is not turned around. Are there any rules as far as turning a sentence around? I thought it was the verb that had to make sense. Also turning around the whole sentence in this case has turned happened into happen. When I turn the sentence around focusing on the verb of the two sentences without changing any of the words, Did you passing by at that very moment? and Were you passing by at that very moment?, it is only the second one that makes sense.

    In the original sentences, there are two tenses: simple past and past progressive. Simple past uses "did" in questions, past progressive uses "were". The main verb in the sentence is in the simple past, so the correct auxiliary is "did". If the main verb were in the past progressive, the auxiliary would be "were".

    Oh, and you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?:tick:

    Oh, and you were just passing by at that very moment, were you?:tick:

    Sorry if any of this is repetitive, I didn't read all of the posts carefully.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    ElaineG said:
    The proper inverted sentence would be: Did you just happen to be passing by at that very moment?

    If you leave out the happen, than "were" sounds better: Were you just passing by at that very moment?

    This is the way I would understand it too - I must say that my ear agrees too - "and you just happened to be passing by, were you" sounds very strange to me. I think the reason - as inverting the sentence shows - is that the main verb in the past is the "happened". The "to be passing by" - although the more important verb for the sense of the sentence - is timeless and therefore cannot be tagged by "were you".
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    timpeac said:
    This is the way I would understand it too - I must say that my ear agrees too - "and you just happened to be passing by, were you" sounds very strange to me. I think the reason - as inverting the sentence shows - is that the main verb in the past is the "happened". The "to be passing by" - although the more important verb for the sense of the sentence - is timeless and therefore cannot be tagged by "were you".
    That's what I don't get. If the passing by is the main verb why it shouldn't agree with that?

    I asked 5 persons today which of those original sentences they thought sounded more correct and they all said, were you. Maybe all the grammar books that were sent to Australia around the time I went to school had a printing error. :confused:

    Carlo, I apologize for sending you on a wild goose chase. I hope it wasn't too tiring!
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Charles Costante said:
    That's what I don't get. If the passing by is the main verb why it shouldn't agree with that?

    Well, simply because it can't, I'd say, because it is not tagged for time - there is nothing for a "were you" to be referring to.

    Similarly if we make the original sentence

    you just happened to be passing by at that very moment, did you?

    emphatic it becomes

    you did just happen to be passing by at that very moment.

    not

    you just happened to do be passing by at that very moment.

    Grammatically the "happened" is the main verb of the sentence.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Well, simply because it can't, I'd say, because it is not tagged for time - there is nothing for a "were you" to be referring to.
    I just can't understand why can't it tag to passing by at that moment, which is time, in which case were you fits perfectly.

    Grammatically the "happened" is the main verb of the sentence.
    I would have thought that was passing was the main verb.

    Carlo was saying that according to CGEL, the tag normally mirrors the subject and auxiliary of the main clause, which I presume is what that is.

    Anyway, thanks Tim and everyone else who contributed to the discussion. I've definitely learned a lot about tags and the inversion of sentences from it.
     
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