How am I supposed to analyze the following sentence in Los Angels Times?
What is the main verb of the relative clause beginning with "who"?
I'm not sure of the meaning either.

While I was practicing, I saw someone who when I saw what he was doing was the first time I ever see something like this.

Apple
Original Post
Dear Apple,

I think that it is just a badly written sentence, so I don't think that I can find the main verb. (Although, it's possible that it would be clearer if you gave us the site so that we could have some context.) A relative clause is sometimes called an adjective clause because it modifies the noun (like an adjective does), except it comes after the noun: for example,

While I was practicing, I saw someone who was practicing, too.

Of course, you can stick other clauses inside of relative clauses or next to other clauses: for example,

While I was practicing, I saw someone who, when I saw what he was doing, was practicing, too. (This is kind of so-so sounding.)

While I was practicing, I saw someone who, when I saw what he was doing, was practicing, too "” which was the first time that I had ever seen someone else doing something like that.
(And this one is gettting pretty wordy.)

But the sentence that you quoted just baffles me. It kind of reminds me of some so called "English" that I saw on shirts and bags in Japan; at first, it looked like it meant something, but the more I read it, the more my head hurt. So, once again, it's possible that the context would clear it up for me, but I do not understand it, and I think it's poorly written.

Sincerely,
Kafkaesque
I agree with Kafkaesque. And, it was a good idea, too, to view the actual article.

Yes, the sentence is not a good one. Apparently it is a quote from an athlete. It's not a sentence written badly by a reporter; it's the exact words said by the athlete:

"I was on the practice courts at Indian Wells," Baghdatis began to Mouratoglou, "and while I was practicing, I saw someone who when I saw what he was doing was the first time I ever see something like this."

Sometimes people do talk like this, just running words together.

It can be changed easily:

"I was on the practice courts at Indian Wells," Baghdatis began to Mouratoglou, "and while I was practicing, I saw someone who -- when I saw what he was doing, it was the first time I ever had ever seen something like this."

This correction shows 1) a dash before the intrusion of the time clause (when I saw what he was doing); 2) a comma after the time clause; 3) the addition of "it" as the subject of "was" in a main clause; 4) the change of the present tense "see to the correct past perfect tense "had never seen."

I think you could tell your students that this is very informal language and the speaker spoke quickly, was not terribly interested in the sentence construction, and just let the words fall out of his mouth. The result is two separate sentences, with one extra word in it.

The first sentence is this:

"I was on the practice courts at Indian Wells, "and while I was practicing, I saw someone,"

Now, the speaker begins a relative clause with "who," and then talks about this person but never gets him grammatically into the next sentence. The next sentence is this:

When I saw what he was doing, it was the first time I had ever seen something like this.

So the two sentences are really talking about this "who," but the "who" is not integrated into the sentences.
_______

I think Kafkaesque's corrections are good, and I think his last sentence is the best of all, and much better that the original speaker's:

  • While I was practicing, I saw someone who was doing something that I had never seen anyone do before.

    Rachel
  • NOTE: I did not know that Rachel had posted a response until after I posted mine. Also, her response is much better than mine because she answered Apple's question: "How am I supposed to analyze the following sentence in Los Angels Times?"



    "I was on the practice courts at Indian Wells," [Marcos] Baghdatis [explained] to Mouratoglou, "and while I was practicing, I saw someone who when I saw what he was doing was the first time I ever see something like this."
    "” Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2007
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/tennis/la-sp-silva12dec12,1,2548126,full.story


    Dear Apple,

    According to Wikipedia "” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcos_Baghdatis , Marcos Baghdatis is a Cypriot, so I assume that he is not a native English speaker. And what he said is not Standard English. The article is about a six-year-old child prodigy who plays tennis remarkably well. The child was four when Baghdatis saw him, and if I tried to "translate" his comment into Standard English, I would say something like this:

    I was on the practice courts at Indian Wells, and while I was practicing, I saw something that I'd never seen before in my life: a four-year-old boy who could play tennis better than most adults.

    OR

    I was on the practice courts at Indian Wells, and while I was practicing, I saw someone who[,] when I saw what he was doing[, amazed me]. [That] was the first time I [had] ever see[n] something like [that: a four-year-old boy who could play tennis better than most adults.]

    I hope that this was helpful.

    Sincerely,
    Kafkaesque
    Thank you, Kafkaesque, for your correct sentences. You see that there is more than one way to correct this kind of sentence.

    And thank you, too, for finding information about the speaker of this imperfect sentence, Marcos Baghdatis. He is not a native speaker, although he is clearly very, very fluent. The one error which gives that away is the use of "see" instead of "had seen" or "saw" for the past tense.
    _______

    Perhaps this is the place to start a discussion that overlaps from a few other questions: what is Standard English?

    Is American English the standard? British English? Or English as a lingua france -- as an international language, spoken by native and non-native speakers alike, with many acceptable standards?

    We'll be discussing this in at least one other thread.

    Rachel

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