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I am reading a book on pragmatics, in which I came across the following sentence:
At least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph.D.
It is quite understandable to me if it is uttered in the situation in which John has obtained his doctoral degree, and has finally got his job. I am wondering whether it is possible for the sentence to be uttered in the situation in which John failed in the examination to be a candidate for doctoral degree, and if the answer is yes, what does the sentence mean in this situation? And what is the exact situation?
Thank you very much!
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Hi,

So the “did” in “At least John won’t have to regret that he did a Ph. D.” ususally has the sense (or meaning) of completion, and it is very difficult to find, if ever, a natural situation in which it could mean otherwise?

Yes, in that context. But the context is what matters.

He is a clever guy. He did his PhD. - sounds like he competed it.

He did his PhD for a year, and then got hit by a beer truck. - sounds like he didn't complete it.

He was doing his PhD when he met Mary. - maybe he completed it, maybe he didn't.

Clive
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I guess if you never get your PhD, you can't regret that you did so.

Perhaps the speaker is thinking of people who regret the years of study and deprivation while living as a student to obtain their PhD, only to find out that they are no better off than the people who didn't suffer as they did. In that case, perhaps they regret their time in getting their PhD.

If John failed his exams, he'll never know that sense of regret.

(This explanation has to make some large assumptions about the speaker's intention.)
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In your sentence John is a doctor of philosophy.

CB
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Is it possible to say (in the situation in which John failed in the exam to be a candidate for doctoral degree) "At least John won't have to regret that he tried a Ph.D."? and thus we can also say "At least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph.D."(here "did"="tried")?
Actually "tried" is not at all natural to me, and "did" is barely so.

He "got" a PhD or "obtained" a PhD.

If he tried for one and failed, he DID try, so that sentence doesn't make logical sense.
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Hi,

At least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph.D.

This seems rather ambiguous to me, although normally the context would make it clear.

Clive
Thank you very much!
So you think "At least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph.D" could mean "At least John won't have to regret that he tried a Ph.D"?
Hi,

So you think "At least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph.D" could mean "At least John won't have to regret that he tried a Ph.D"?

'Did' here suggests to me 'completed' rather than 'tried'.

As I said, it's ambiguous. I see two main possibilities here.

1. He actually completed it. And he won't have to regret it.

2. He didn't actually complete it. And he won't have to regret it.

Clive
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Thank you very much!
Do the following situations (or sentences) make logical sense?
1. John has obtained his doctoral degree, and has finally found his favorite job. Although John had paid quite a lot (in terms of time, energy and money) for the degree, at least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph. D., considering the help of the degree in finding the job and the high salary of the job.
2. John failed in the exam to be a candidate for doctoral degree. Anyway he has managed to find his favorite job. Considering the valuable experience he got from applying for the doctoral degree, which (the experience) had been of great help in finding the job, at least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph. D.
3. John didn't complete the program for doctoral degree, and was not able to get the doctoral degree. Anyway he has managed to find his favorite job. Considering what he had learned from the program, which (the things he had learned) had been of great help in finding the job, at least John won't have to regret that he did a Ph. D.
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