I have made up the sentence below.

(1a) I have never seen a lion on the road when I drive to work every morning.

My non-native English speaking friends think my sentence is wrong. Their two revised sentences are shown below.

(1b) I have never seen a lion on the road when I was driving to work, which I do every morning.

(1c) I have never seen a lion on the road when I was driving to work in the morning.

I don't understand why my original sentence is grammatically wrong. Driving to work every morning is habitual, so the simple present used in "I drive" seems logical. What's confusing me is the use of tenses for the revised versions. That is, "have never seen" is the present perfect, which does not fit the subordinate clause that describes an action in the past. In other words, having not seen a lion refers a time span from a point in the distant past up to the present. However, the subordinate clause "when I was driving.. " focuses on a specific instance in the past, not on an event or action that took place over a period of time. For these reasons, I find that the time references in my friends' versions are inconsistent. Furthermore, (1b) is slightly verbose.

I am not sure why (1a) is wrong. Please help me. Thank you very much for your help.

Original Post


Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, and in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, I thank you for your question, and indeed for your many interesting and challenging questions.  Also, thank you for your courtesy and for making a point of indexing your examples.

I understand both your logic and that of your friends.  I actually prefer their versions to yours, but none of them sound quite right.

What bothers me most about yours is the use of the present perfect "have never seen" in conjunction with the simple present of "when I drive to work", especially with the modifier "every morning".

This works better for me than any of your or your friends' examples:

1d: I have never seen a lion on the road while driving to work in the morning.

I hope this is helpful.


Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.