meaning of second

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spacer234
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meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-10, 0:34

"I saw your picture and I could tell from the second I saw it it´s not Mr. X."

What is meant with second? Second like "time second / moment" or second like 2. (like first, third, fourth,...)?

So which sentence has the same meaning?
"I saw your picture and I could tell from the moment I saw it it´s not Mr. X."
"I saw your picture and I could tell from the 2. I saw it it´s not Mr. X."

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-10, 0:52

spacer234 wrote:"I saw your picture and I could tell from the moment I saw it it´s not Mr. X."

I don't know how you parse it so that "second" could mean anything else.
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-10, 0:55

So in fact you think you can replace second with "moment"?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-10, 3:11

spacer234 wrote:So in fact you think you can replace second with "moment"?

Absolutely. "Minute" works here as well, but not any longer span of time. Also "instant".
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-10, 21:46

Can "second" here also stand for "the second picture"? That´s the only question left. Thanks for your help.

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-10, 22:04

spacer234 wrote:Can "second" here also stand for "the second picture"? That´s the only question left.

Nope. That would require the sentence to have two direct objects, and that's not something English verbs can do. (The actual object of saw is it, referring back to your picture.)

"I saw your picture and I could tell from the second I saw it it´s not Mr. X."

Does that make sense?
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-10, 22:20

Thanks for your explanation. But what do you mean with "does that make sense"?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-10, 22:35

spacer234 wrote:Thanks for your explanation. But what do you mean with "does that make sense"?

I mean does it make to sense to you why the sentence can only be understood in such a way that "second" refers to the time of the event and not to the second of two pictures? I don't know what your native language is and some languages allow for a nominal direct object to appear alongside a pleonastic pronoun. But English doesn't work that way.
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-11, 15:59

Yes I think it makes sense.

One last question: Can there be a typing error with picture(s) and the orginal sentence would have to be: "I saw your pictures and I could tell from the second I saw it it's not Mr. X." Now the sentence suggests more than one picture. Can this change the meaning somehow or cant this be a typing error?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-11, 16:25

spacer234 wrote:One last question: Can there be a typing error with picture(s) and the orginal sentence would have to be: "I saw your pictures and I could tell from the second I saw it it's not Mr. X." Now the sentence suggests more than one picture. Can this change the meaning somehow or cant this be a typing error?

Either a typing error (if it really should be picture and it) or some other sort of lapse (if it should be pictures and them).

In speech, it would not sound natural to say "the second" to mean "the second of two". You would almost invariably say "the second one".
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-11, 18:13

Thanks for your answer, but Im not sure if I understand you correctly. Can you please explain me what will happen to the meaning of "second" if "picture" turns to "pictures" in the sentence?:
"I saw your pictures and I could tell from the second I saw it it's not Mr. X."

Can "second" mean here the Person saw it was not Mr. X. on the second picture or can it still only mean he saw it was not Mr. X. in the Moment he saw the one and only picture?

BTW: Im talking about a sentence I read, it is no speech.

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-11, 18:49

spacer234 wrote:Thanks for your answer, but Im not sure if I understand you correctly. Can you please explain me what will happen to the meaning of "second" if "picture" turns to "pictures" in the sentence?:
"I saw your pictures and I could tell from the second I saw it it's not Mr. X."

Can "second" mean here the Person saw it was not Mr. X. on the second picture or can it still only mean he saw it was not Mr. X. in the Moment he saw the one and only picture?

Okay, I'm going to go through this one more time. For the sake of simplicity and clarity I'm going to use some grammatical terminology. If you don't understand it, please look it up or ask for clarification.

Here is your original sentence:

"I saw your picture and I could tell from the second I saw it it´s not Mr. X."

Let's break it into clauses:

I saw your picture
I could tell from the second I saw it
it's not Mr X

The first and last clause don't seem to be causing any trouble. The "it" in the last refers back to "your picture" in the first. (There's actually a bit of metonomy involved between the picture itself and Mr X, but that's not important.)

You seem to think that the second clause could be interpreted in such a way that "second" here could refer to the second of two pictures. To see why this is not so, let's expand "second" to "second picture" and "it" (which, like the last "it", refers back to "your picture") to "your picture". Let's also insert the understood relative pronoun "that". Here's the result:

*"I could tell from the second picture that I saw your picture"

Can you not see the problem here? This is the "one verb, two direct objects" problem I mentioned several posts ago. If "it" (representing "your picture") is the direct object of "saw", then "that" (representing "the second picture") cannot also be the direct object as well. That's simply not how relative clauses work in English (although the rules are different for other languages). If "second" refers back to "your picture", then there's no reason to have another pronoun also referring back to it. The sentence would simply be:

"I could tell from the second [picture] [that] I saw"

Do you see that? The direct object of "saw" is "that", which refers back to "the second [picture]". Both "picture" and "that" can be left out and supplied by context.

However, it is possible for a clause to have both a direct object and a time expression. For instance:

"I saw it that second"

This is the equivalent of "I saw it at that second". "That second" isn't another object, even though it might look like one. And that's the situation you have. The "that" in "I could tell from the second that I saw it" takes the place of a time expression ("[at] the second"), not a direct object. This is how we know that "the second" must be interpreted in the sense of "moment" and not "the latter of two".

spacer234 wrote:BTW: Im talking about a sentence I read, it is no speech.

I understand that. My point is that this is a colloquial sentence, i.e. one that is written very close to the way that it would be spoken in ordinary conversation. Formal written English is a different register where different rules apply. In that register, it's common to say "the second", "the latter" [as I did above], and so forth. But other features of that register include not dropping relative pronouns, avoiding contractions, and other rules which aren't being followed in your example.
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-11, 21:51

OK thank you. Can you describe this (second I saw = moment)as an expression?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-11, 21:55

spacer234 wrote:OK thank you. Can you describe this (second I saw = moment)as an expression?

I'm not sure what you're asking for.
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-11, 23:10

Well, I explain it (and by the way thanks for your great help!). This is the whole conversation:

Me: Is this Mr. X? (+ Picture)
Person from USA: "I saw your picture and I could tell from the second I saw it it´s not Mr. X."
Me: What you mean with "second I saw"?
Person from USA: It´s an expression


Now I cant reach him anymore and I´m not a native english speaker (very new to the language), so I was unsure if there is any possibility something went wrong and the person also received another picture and therefore talks about a "second picture" in his statement above. And due to auto-corrections and so on typing errors in the statement could also have happened.

But now I guess he clearly means second = moment and I can be safe there is no error and he only received one picture?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby linguoboy » 2015-11-11, 23:36

spacer234 wrote:But now I guess he clearly means second = moment and I can be safe there is no error and he only received one picture?

Absolutely.

I don't know what he means by "it's an expression". As discussed earlier, this construction works with lots of different nouns.
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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-12, 0:55

Ok thank you. Has anyone else an idea what he means in his explanation with "second I saw" is an expression ?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby Saim » 2015-11-12, 11:36

He probably just meant that the second I saw it (not second I saw, which doesn't mean anything on its own) is the way we express that in English. It's not really an expression, though.

That is to say: the second in this cases is a synonym of the moment or the minute, and there's nothing to be explained because that's just how spoken English works.

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Re: meaning of second

Postby spacer234 » 2015-11-12, 16:22

Thanks. So in fact you also believe like linguoboy that second = moment in this case if I understand you correctly? "I saw your picture and I could tell from the second I saw it it´s not Mr. X."

And can native American speakers agree with your explanation?

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Re: meaning of second

Postby Saim » 2015-11-12, 18:42

Yes. That's the only possible interpretation of that sentence. I'm not American but I'm a native speaker (Australian) and am totally certain that there's no other reasonable interpretation.

The second meaning you're asking for would be expressed like this in English: I saw your pictures and could tell from the second one that it's not Mr. X.


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