where/when clauses

english learner   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 02:06 GMT
Can a where/when cluase stand as a sentence subject?

...... (1) Where we first met was the coffee shop.
...... (2) When we first met was two years ago.

Thank you in advance.
Jacob   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 03:25 GMT
Yes, it can, but it sounds awkward. It would be more typical to say "We first met in the coffee shop", or, "We first met two years ago."

It's actually not uncommon to hear things like, "When the bell rings, that's when we have to go," but I think that comes from people speaking extemporaneously and getting stuck with a bad word order. If you thought about it for a minute, or went to write it down, you'd smooth out the word order to "We have to go when the bell rings."
english learner   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 03:43 GMT

Thank you for the quick reply. Yes, I know "when" and "where" clauses are usually adverbial as you showed in your sentence. But they are used as a nominal clause in the examples I presentend.
...... (1) [Where we first met] was the coffee shop.
...... (2) [When we first met] was two years ago.
I feel they would be OK if they are used (with some anteceents) the way like;
...... (3) The place where we first met was the coffee shop.
...... (5) The time when we first met was two years ago.
But I feel the sentences (1) and (2) could be ungrammatical. Do you agree?

english learner.
D   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 12:21 GMT
The sentences in the top post are grammatical. Where, When, How,
and What can all be nouns in that way.
Jacob   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 13:32 GMT
I think your (1) and (2) are gramatically OK, and perfectly understandable, but your (3) and (5) do sound a little more natural. (1) and (2) sound a little bit on the poetic side, actually.
Easterner   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 15:15 GMT
There is a usage which sounds quite natural to me in negative sentences, like in:
"Where we first met doesn't matter".

It could also be "It doesn't matter where we first met", but the first example is more rhetorical and also gives a hint of slight disapproval or an attempt to evade the answer, for example, as a reply to the inquiry "Did you two meet for the first time in Paris?".
Jacob   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 16:07 GMT
Easterner, good point about the usage in negative sentences. Totally accurate.

Emlekszem, hogy magyarul besyelsz, de mi az anyanyelved?
Jacob   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 18:05 GMT
That is "beszelsz" of course, I hate typing Hungarian on an English keyboard.
Easterner   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 21:56 GMT
Jacob said: >>Emlekszem, hogy magyarul beszelsz, de mi az anyanyelved?<<

Magyar :-) Neked is? Te honnan írsz?

(Q: I remeber you speak Hungarian, but what's your mother tongue?
A: Hungarian. Same for you? Where are you writing from?)
Easterner   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 22:00 GMT
Sorry, "remember".
Jacob   Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 23:10 GMT
Nem, amerikai vagyok. Diakkoromban fel evig toltottem pesten es teljesen beleszerettem a nyelvbe es a kulturaba. Nagyon tetszik a magyar szepirodalom es a koltemeny, es szabadidomben pl. Kosztolanyi es Karinthy muveit forditom angolra. De hihetetlenul jol tudsz angolul! Azert kerdeztem, mert ugy erted a nyelvenket mintha itt szulettel volna. Feltekeny vagyok rad! Soha nem fogok olyan jol beszelni magyarul.
Easterner   Thursday, November 18, 2004, 07:39 GMT
Hmmm, le a kalappal! (remélem, érted, mit jelent) A magyar nyelvtudásod tökéletesnek t&#369;nik! Egyébként én is szoktam magyar verseket fordítani angolra. Egy kis javítás: költemény = "poem", költészet = "poetry".

To the others:

Before I get out-moderated, let me explain: here's an exceptional guy from America (a native English speaker, I suppose) with a seemingly impeccable knowledge of Hungarian, who even translates Hungarian litererature into English (like myself). Hats off to him!
Jacob   Thursday, November 18, 2004, 11:20 GMT
Jaj, bocs, latom hogy a forum szabalyai szerint angolul kellene irnunk.

Thanks for the correction & the compliment. I've tried translating poetry too but that's so much harder. I like Petofi (of course) and Jozsef Attila; I almost never even understand Ady. Petofi is usually easy to understand, but hard to translate. I did, I think, a pretty good job with "A Farkasok Dala" and then there's this little one that I love:

Sorry? It is an ocean, vast
And joy?
The ocean's little pearl, which, alas,
In the drawing up we oft' destroy.
Easterner   Friday, November 19, 2004, 07:29 GMT
Congratulations, very good translation of the Petöfi poem. But isn't it supposed to be "sorrow?". I would also be glad to see your English version of "Farkasok dala" ("Song of the Wolves").
Easterner   Friday, November 19, 2004, 07:30 GMT
Jacob, by the way do you also publish your translations?