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Mary shut the door behind Betty when they left. Options
onsen
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 9:49:12 AM
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Joined: 9/14/2017
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Hello,

Mary shut the door behind Betty when they left.
(self-made sentence)

Does the above sentence work?


Thank you.

FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 11:12:59 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 15,996
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onsen wrote:
Hello,

Mary shut the door behind Betty when they left.
(self-made sentence)

Does the above sentence work?


Thank you.


We would probably understand what you mean, but it's not how we would say it. Your sentence tends to focus on Mary shutting the door behind Betty, but that isn't the main idea.

The idea is that both of them left and Mary shut the down after Betty walked out with her. So a native would probably think of both of them leaving, then speak of shutting the door.

There are two ways we might do that. We could speak of both of them leaving, then shutting the door, or speak of the time that they left and that Mary shut the door. So you might have these versions:

Mary shut the door behind them when she and Betty left.

When they left, Mary shut the door behind Betty as they walked out.

This can be said several ways, but notice that Mary and Betty are together in both cases in my examples. That's the important part.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 11:15:50 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 24,421
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no, from a logical point of view.

If Betty and Mary left, and Mary shut the door, then Betty left first, and Mary left after her. So Mary closed the door after herself (or after them, if you take them as a group).

If she shut the door behind Betty, then Mary would still be on the other side of the closed door.


You shut it behind the last person leaving.


ie
Mary shut the door behind Paul as he left.
Paul leaves. Mary shuts the door behind him. Mary is still in the room.

Betty and Mary leave. Paul goes through the door first, then Mary. Mary shuts the door behind them/ behind herself.
They are both outside the room.

In terms of structure and tense your sentence is fine - it is just not possible for it to happen that way.


Pieter_Hove
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 11:58:56 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 1/6/2014
Posts: 520
Neurons: 826,581
Location: Brussels, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
I would say as a non-native, thinking in Dutch, the following. "Betty and Mary left, (while) shutting the door behind them." But, if it is important in the rest of the story, that it was particularly Mary who shut the door, then the above solution is not sufficient. And oh: wouldn't it be nice to commence a nice story-telling in that way? Dancing
sathees kumar
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 12:33:04 PM

Rank: Newbie

Joined: 8/22/2014
Posts: 23
Neurons: 3,674,425
Location: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Mary shut the door behind Betty when they left.
There is a little confusion here. When Mary shut the door behind Betty she would definitely have to be inside the house because one cannot be outside the door if you have to shut the door behind someone.
Again the final part of the sentence says when they left. Here we can see that more than one person left. If there was somebody with Betty other than Mary, the sentence would have been correct. But nothing is being said of any other person.
The sentence, therefore does not work.
tautophile
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 2:24:23 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/14/2018
Posts: 1,589
Neurons: 35,629
I would visualize the sentence as follows:

Mary and Betty are in a room, and decide to leave the room.
Mary opens the door and goes out. When she's outside the door, she stops, and stands and waits for Betty to come out.
Betty follows Mary out the door.
When Betty is outside the door, Mary shuts the door, and the two of them walk away. Thus we can say that...

"Mary shut the door behind Betty when they left." ["Shut" is, of course, the past tense of "shut", close.]

If you write "Mary shut the door behind Betty when she left", you would normally assume that "she" referred to Betty, that is, that Betty left the room by herself, and Mary stayed in the room and closed the door after Betty left it.

If you write "Mary shut the door behind herself when she left", you would assume that "she" referred to Mary, that is, that Mary left the room by herself and closed the door behind herself, leaving Betty in the room.

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