# What Happens First?

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1 When I gave him 10 dollars, he told me the news. (First, I gave ten \$, second, he told the news)

2 When I gave him 10 dollars, he had told me the news. (First, he told the news , second, I gave ten \$ )

1 and 2 are clear. Now. The problem.

3 When I met him, he knew the news. (THIS IS NOT CLEAR.)

Is it: a) I met him first and then he learnt the news. OR b) Before I met him he had already known the news

4 When I met him, he had known the news. (Before I met him he had already known the news) CLEAR

5 When I met him he didn't know the news.

Is it: a) I met him first and then he got the news erased from his memory. OR b) Before I met him he had already not known the news

3 and 5 are problematic. How would you interpret them?

Ticce1 When I gave him 10 dollars, he told me the news. (First, I gave ten \$, second, he told the news)

The sequence is correct, but the meaning is not what you think. It means that he only told you the news because you gave him 10 dollars.

Ticce2 When I gave him 10 dollars, he had told me the news. (First, he told the news , second, I gave ten \$ )

I can't think of a context for this one. You seem to be putting the cart before the horse. Verb tenses react to the context. They aren't to be relied on to convey meaning. If you add a word or two, it becomes natural: "When I gave him the 10 dollars, he had already told me the news."

Ticce3 When I met him, he knew the news. (THIS IS NOT CLEAR.)

Most things aren't clear at first. It's your job as the writer to see that they are in the end.

I can't tell what you want "met" to mean. In that sentence, it defaults to the first time you encountered him, but I suspect that what you mean is "had an encounter with". Let's use that. Also, "knew" doesn't work that way. You would have to use "learnt" (US "learned").

TicceIs it: a) I met him first and then he learnt the news.

Again, the sequence is right, but the meaning is wrong. The sentence "When I met him, he learnt the news" means that you told him the news when you met him.

TicceOR b) Before I met him he had already known the news

And again, use "learnt". The sentence "Before I met him, he had already learnt the news" means that you were saved the trouble of telling him yourself.

You original "When I met him, he knew the news" is unlikely in the common interpretation of "knew". It would require context to be possible.

OK.

When I met him, he lived in NY.

Technically, it means that before I met him he didn't live in NY. But it's unlikely, nonetheless, that's what it literally means.

Is it necessary to correct it?

When I met him, he was living in NY. or When I met him, he had been living in NY.

I see what you mean with "learn", but let's say that "know" means "retain information"

When I met him, he knew the news. (Does it mean "When I met him, he had already known the news."?)

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TicceWhen I met him, he lived in NY. Technically, it means that before I met him he didn't live in NY.

No. It means that it is unknown where he lived before and after your first acquaintance, but at that moment, his abode was in NYC.

TicceWhen I met him, he was living in NY.

This is exactly the same as "When I met him, he lived in NY."

TicceWhen I met him, he had been living in NY.

Unlikely. I can't think of a context. You have to set the stage better, maybe "When I met him, he had been living in NY for three years."

TicceI see what you mean with "learn", but let's say that "know" means "retain information"

But I, the native speaker on the forum, am telling you that "know" does not work that way. You can't have already known a thing.

OK, I see. How would you explain then this:

When I gave him 10 dollars, he told me the news.

First action is GIVING, SECOND is TELLING.

But here:

When I met him, he lived in NY.

the two actions simultaneous.

Ticce

OK, I see. How would you explain then this:

When I gave him 10 dollars, he told me the news.

First action is GIVING, SECOND is TELLING.

But here:

When I met him, he lived in NY.

the two actions simultaneous.

That's what I love about this forum. A learner thinks of things I never would have thought of. All I can say is that the sense of each sentence dictates the interpretation. The difference is in how "when" works in each. In the first, "when " means something like "as soon as". In the second, it's "at the time that".

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Yeah, but you have just stated the obvious, the problem is how to explain it.