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Students preparing for competitive exams will encounter English Language and Comprehension sections. One of the most important aspects is learning to spot errors and correcting sentences. These Error Spotting and Sentence Correction Grammar Capsules are aimed at helping you learn a little Grammar everyday. Let us start with Error Spotting Capsule 1 which deals with the concept of “No sooner… than”. You can even download Error Spotting Capsule 1 as PDF.

No sooner… than

Event 1 – 9 : 05 : 00 am – The train departed from the station.
Event 2 – 9 : 05 : 30 am – You reached the station.

No sooner had the train left the station than I reached there.


Rules for “No Sooner… than”

  • ‘No sooner… than’  is used to talk about activities that happen almost simultaneouslyIt is equivalent to the phrase ‘as soon as’:
    As soon as I put the phone down, it rang again = No sooner had I put the phone down than it rang again.
  • ‘No sooner’ is placed on the part of the sentence describing the prior event and ‘than’ is placed on the part describing the latter event.
  • Tenses which can be used for prior event:
    Simple past:  ‘did + subject + verb’
    No sooner did the hero board the plane than the heroine arrived.

    Past perfect: ‘had + subject + verb’
    No sooner had the hero boarded the plane than the heroine arrived.
    Here, the latter event must be in the simple past tense.

    Simple present: ‘do/does + subject + verb’
    No sooner does the hero board the plane than the heroine arrives.
    This is a less formal usage and is not preferred in the competitive exams.


Alternate phrases for “No sooner… than”

  1. Hardly had the train left the station when I reached there.
  2. Scarcely had the train left the station when I reached there.
  3. Barely had the train left the station when I reached there.


Spot the error in the following sentences

  1. No sooner had I started mowing the lawn then it started raining.
  2. No sooner had I finished my studies than I got a good job quickly.
  3. No sooner do the children hear the bell than they stand up.
  4. No sooner she left the house than he had come.
  5. No sooner was she leaving the house he came.

Here are the answers!!

Explanation 1: No sooner had I started mowing the lawn then than it started raining. ‘No sooner’ is always followed by ‘than’.

Explanation 2: No sooner had I finished my studies than I got a good job quickly. ‘No sooner… than’ means as soon as, soon, at once, instantly, suddenly, immediately, quickly, promptly etc. So, whenever ‘no sooner… than’ is used, we must avoid them.

Explanation 3: No error. The sentence can be in past (simple or perfect) tense or simple present tense, though present tense is less commonly used.

Explanation 4: No sooner had she left the house than he had come came. When the sentence is framed using the past perfect tense, the prior event must be in the past perfect tense and the latter event must be said in the simple past tense.

Explanation 5: No sooner was had she leaving left the house he came. Only simple past or past perfect or simple present can be used. STRICTLY NO CONTINUOUS AND FUTURE TENSES!!



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