Are these sentences awkward to native English speakers?


1. I met my friends yesterday before I leave for the USA.


2. I met them two days ago before the meeting.


PS. Do you think the meeting should be two days ago or it could be within any dates from now to two days  ago?

edited Aug 20 '12 at 15:56 Hans Contributor

1 answer


Yes, both sentences are awkward. They are both examples of "squinting" modifiers -- so-called because the placement of the modifier makes it difficult to determine the meaning of the sentence.


In the second sentence, the reader can't tell whether the meeting was two days ago, or whether you met then two days before the meeting. 


The problem could be corrected thus:


I met my friends before I left for the USA yesterday. Before I left for the USA yesterday, I met my friends. (Both mean you left for the USA yesterday and met with your friends some undetermined time before that.)


Yesterday, I met my friends before I leave for the USA. (This means you met your friends yesterday, but the time of your planned departure is not stated.)


Two days ago, I met them before the meeting. (There was a meeting two days ago and you met them before that meeting.)


I met them two days before the meeting. (We don't know when the meeting was, but you met them two days before that.)


I hope this helps.

link answered Aug 20 '12 at 16:10 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thank you so much and some said, "if there is not a comma in front of 'before' in 'I met them two days ago before the meeting', the meeting is two days ago and if there is a comma, it can be any dates. Do you agree with this?

HansAug 20 '12 at 16:42

Yes, adding the comma means the meeting could have been any time between now and two days ago. The sentence remains awkward -- almost as if the phrase "before the meeting" is added as an afterthought. If that is the intent, okay. But if not, you should find better phrasing.

Jeff PribylAug 20 '12 at 17:13

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