Friday, July 10, 2009

Using the past perfect

The past perfect is used to show you which of two events happened first. Imagine that two things happened in the past:

I went to see the movie.
We discussed the movie in class.

Here, we don't know which order the events happened in. That may be important -- perhaps I went to see the movie after the discussion, or maybe I saw the movie before the discussion. There are many ways to make this sequence clear, and the past perfect is one of them. This is how we do it:

I went to see the movie. We had discussed it in class.

Here, we KNOW that the discussion took place FIRST -- even though the sentence describing it comes afterwards. We discussed the movie, and THEN I went to see it. This can be very useful when you are telling a story or relating a sequence of events. At any point in your story, you can jump BACK to a previous event, and your reader will not be confused, because the past perfect will make it clear that the event happened previously. Here is another example:

I wanted to live in a foreign country, so I applied for a job in Japan. Judy lived in Japan, so I called her to find out more about the culture and lifestyle there.
(Judy was probably still living in Japan when I called her.)

I wanted to live in a foreign country, so I applied for a job in Japan. Judy had lived in Japan, so I called her to find out more about the culture and lifestyle there.
(Judy no longer lived in Japan -- she returned from there before I applied for the job.)


USE 1 Completed Action Before Something in the Past

The Past Perfect expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past.

Examples:

  • I had never seen such a beautiful beach before I went to Kauai.
  • I did not have any money because I had lost my wallet.
  • Tony knew Istanbul so well because he had visited the city several times.
  • Had Susan ever studied Thai before she moved to Thailand?
  • She only understood the movie because she had read the book.
  • Kristine had never been to an opera before last night.
  • We were not able to get a hotel room because we had not booked in advance.
  • A: Had you ever visited the U.S. before your trip in 2006?
    B: Yes, I had been to the U.S. once before.

USE 2 Duration Before Something in the Past (Non-Continuous Verbs)

With Non-Continuous Verbs and some non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, we use the Past Perfect to show that something started in the past and continued up until another action in the past.

Examples:

  • We had had that car for ten years before it broke down.
  • By the time Alex finished his studies, he had been in London for over eight years.
  • They felt bad about selling the house because they had owned it for more than forty years.
Although the above use of Past Perfect is normally limited to Non-Continuous Verbs and non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, the words "live," "work," "teach," and "study" are sometimes used in this way even though they are NOT Non-Continuous Verbs.

IMPORTANT Specific Times with the Past Perfect

Unlike with the Present Perfect, it is possible to use specific time words or phrases with the Past Perfect. Although this is possible, it is usually not necessary.

Example:

  • She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

MOREOVER

If the Past Perfect action did occur at a specific time, the Simple Past can be used instead of the Past Perfect when "before" or "after" is used in the sentence. The words "before" and "after" actually tell you what happens first, so the Past Perfect is optional. For this reason, both sentences below are correct.

Examples:

  • She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.
  • She visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

HOWEVER

If the Past Perfect is not referring to an action at a specific time, Past Perfect is not optional. Compare the examples below. Here Past Perfect is referring to a lack of experience rather than an action at a specific time. For this reason, Simple Past cannot be used.

Examples:

  • She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska. Not Correct
  • She had never seen a bear before she moved to Alaska. Correct

ADVERB PLACEMENT

The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.

Examples:

  • You had previously studied English before you moved to New York.
  • Had you previously studied English before you moved to New York?

ACTIVE / PASSIVE

Examples:

  • George had repaired many cars before he received his mechanic's license. Active
  • Many cars had been repaired by George before he received his mechanic's license. Passive

3 comments:

  1. You have cribbed all this from another website. Can't you write your own blogs?

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel buddy.. and moreover these posts were just a one stop point for me to review before exam. I have also not plagiarised as for every post I have included the source. Please check the bottom of every post. Also the heading of my blog itself says that these things are taken from the net.

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