Did or Had, or both?

Please look at this question and its answer:
(english-test.net/esl/learn/e … l-test.php)

Question: No sooner … I shut the door, when the telephone rang.

(a) have
(b) did
(c) will
(d) had

Correct answer: (d) had

The use of ‘didalso is often found in various grammar books. Is it not acceptable?
The subordinate clause should begin with ‘than’ (not ‘when’). Isn’t the question defective?

  1. forum.thefreedictionary.com/post … oner-.aspx
  2. bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learn … ge61.shtml
  3. aimpublishing.com/aimpub/word-us … ooner-when

–I would abstrain from tagging it as defective though, until we’ve heard from our pundits.

Sorry, ‘abstain’ should it read, of course.

***** NOT A TEACHER ******

Hello, Anglophile:

May I add a few words to Eugene’s excellent links?

As usual, I think that you have hit the nail on the head.

I have checked six of my books, and I believe that these experts agree with you.

  1. The “correct” construction is “no sooner … than.” (Because one is dealing with a kind of comparative sentence, so using “than” makes sense.)

a. BUT some books say that “when” is OK in informal, conversational English. (In other words, that is how some native speakers use the language, so who are they to call it “wrong.”)

  1. All of my books except one assumed that one should use the past perfect.

a. Can you guess which one was more permissive?

i. Of course, it was our old friend Michael Swan in his hugely popular PRACTICAL ENGLISH USAGE.

As you know, Mr. Swan describes English as it IS – not as he wishes it were.

Here are two examples from his book:

“No sooner had she agreed to marry him than she started to have terrible doubts.”

“No sooner did Steve start going out with Tracy than she fell in love with Jasper.”

Mr. Swan does not make any comments. He does not judge those who use the indicative.

Thanks again for your question. No sooner had I read your question than I knew that I would have to consult my books.


Two correct answers!