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Never before have we had so little time in which____.
1:to do so much
2:we will do so much
3:it does so much
4:we do so much


Suppose you were-I think some of you actually are-a teacher. How do you explain to your students why the right answer is not #4 but #1?
1 2 3
Comments  
The meanings are slightly different!

1. Means that we have to do more in less time.

4. Means that we do a lot only occassionally! (sort of)
Hi guys,
Never before have we had so little time in which____.
1:to do so much
2:we will do so much
3:it does so much
4:we do so much


I'd approach an explanation to my students this way.

#3 is clearly wrong.
#1 is clearly OK, and common usage.

When I look at #2 and #4, I am tempted to say they are grammatically correct, even if you might have to contrive the context a little bit. But I feel a little uncomfortable with that.

It's because the Present Perfect puts the sentence into a 'past with impact on the present' timeframe, which is at odds with the future tense in #2 and the habitual/present tense in #4. The lack of tense in #1's infinitive avoids this problem.

Others may have different opinions?
Clive
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It's because the Present Perfect puts the sentence into a 'past with impact on the present' timeframe, which is at odds with the future tense in #2 and the habitual/present tense in #4. The lack of tense in #1's infinitive avoids this problem.


Hi, Clive.

When you say 'past with impact on the present' time frame, do you mean something like 'Never before have we had so little time in which we did so much'?
I would approach it as an extension of expressions consisting of the noun "time" plus an infinitive. Such expressions mean, of course, "time required (to ...)" or "time necessary (to ...)".

The lesson should probably include "space" as well, and maybe "patience", "knowledge", etc., in short, all the sorts of things which are "had" and which might be necessary to do something.

We have time to stop for lunch.
They don't have enough space here to assemble this bike.
(and so on and so forth)

If you add a little at a time in each of several lessons, pulling in other elements of your target sentence, I think by the end of the lessons it will be obvious to the students what the correct answer is.

CJ
Hi Taka,
What I mean is that when you say 'Never before have we had ...', I think you are saying some thing about both the past and the present, so it seems wrong to continue the sentence with a tense that refers only to the past, or only to the present, or even only to the future. So an infinitive is a way to avoid using a tense.

I could be off base here. Where are other opinions when you need them?
Clive
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I could be off base here.

No. Your analysis is persuasive. It's actually the closest to the way I look at it.
Where are other opinions when you need them?


?? What do you mean? I do appreciate others' opinions as well (Thanks, nona and CJ!).

The reason I ask you further questions is simply because, as I said, you seem to be thinking about the problem from the same perspective as mine. It's just that I would like some sort of approximation here.
I kind of disagree with CJ, because if it were a variant of 'time to do', it is impossible to explain why it would be unacceptable to say 'Never before have we had so little time which to do in .

I think 'prep+relative pronoun+to do' might be essentially different from 'how to do' or 'where to go'.
A non-teacher's view:

1. Never before have we had | so little time | in which to do so much.

Here, 'never before' controls the whole sentence. You can equally say 'Never before have we had to do so much in so little time'.

The sentence refers to all the previous occasions when time was required and something had to be done. Let's say that on each of those occasions, XYZ had to be done, and we had at least 1 hour to do it.

The 'never before' implicitly compares this ratio with the present situation. In the present situation, we have less than 1 hour, and we must do XYZ+.

2. Never before have we had so little time | in which we do so much.

Here, 'never before have we had' only controls 'so little time'. Again, the sentence refers to all the previous occasions when time was required. Again, we have less time than ever before – say, less than 1 hour.

But we no longer have a reference to what had to be done on each of those occasions, because the 'in which' clause relates to 'time' and is independent of 'never before have we had'. We only have a reference to the present task: say, PQR.

So all we know now is that we are doing PQR in less than 1 hour.

MrP
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