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Past Perfect showing completion

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Postby Audiendus » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:18 pm

Enigma - My comment about not being influenced by the tense of the subordinate clause was in regard to the following sentence of yours:

Enigma wrote:He had refused to go, until he had seen all the pictures.

My point was that the choice of tense for the main verb ("refused" or "had refused") is independent of the choice of tense for the subordinate verb ("saw" or "had seen"). All four combinations of tense are possible, depending on the meaning. In each case the refusing precedes the seeing, but that does not constrain the choice of tense in either clause.
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Postby Enigma » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:28 pm

I am saying this:

Tense/aspect shows something happens at a certain time in relation to the rest of the context, be it the subordinate clause and/or the context as a whole.

Are you saying this?

Tense/aspect shows something happens at a certain time in relation to the context as a whole
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Postby saparris » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:39 pm

And I am saying that the context might be able to be understood by one sentence, or it might take several sentences to understand it.

Still, tense choice is a result of context and nuanced meaning, not the result of one verb or another.
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Postby Enigma » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:59 pm

Still, tense choice is a result of context and nuanced meaning, not the result of one verb or another.


Yes, you choose a tense in a clause that shows when that action happened in relation to the context--which includes a subordinate clause!

'had + verb' happens(ed) before something else.


Is this wrong?
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
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Postby Audiendus » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:52 pm

Enigma wrote:'had + verb' happens(ed) before something else.

Yes, but the 'something' and the 'something else' do not necessarily correspond to the main and subordinate clauses of the sentence in question. The 'something else' may be something outside that sentence. And you don't always need a past perfect tense - sometimes it is appropriate for both clauses to use the past simple.

The chronological order of the events referred to in a sentence is not a reliable guide to the tenses required in that sentence.
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Postby Enigma » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:51 pm

And you don't always need a past perfect tense - sometimes it is appropriate for both clauses to use the past simple.


Indeed.

The chronological order of the events referred to in a sentence is not a reliable guide to the tenses required in that sentence.


Can you show me an example where this would get me into trouble--where I'd use the wrong tense/aspect?

This may be the simplest way to explain what you mean.
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Re: Past Perfect showing completion

Postby Audiendus » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:08 am

Yes. You stated the following in your original post:

Enigma wrote:a) I (had) shouted at Dave before I hit him.

An anomaly can exist with these conjunctions--though you may not be aware of it because natives intuitively apply verb tenses and aspects:

b) "Before the storm had ended but after the worst was over, the captain radioed for help."

One may think that the tenses and aspects should be identical to sentence a--that the past perfect doesn't belong in the 'before' clause, but rather in the main clause, because the 'ending' happens after the captain radioed.

But, in sentence b, the function of the past perfect is similar to that of the present perfect in sentences in the present tense; that is, the past perfect shows completion rather than time sequence.

You acknowledged that time sequence is not necessarily the deciding factor.

1. He refused to go until he saw all the pictures.
2. He refused to go until he had seen all the pictures.
3. He had refused to go until he saw all the pictures.
4. He had refused to go until he had seen all the pictures.

In each case the refusing precedes the seeing. But any of the above four sentences is permissible, depending on the overall context. In sentence 2, the choice of tenses is the opposite of what one would get by adhering strictly to time sequence. As you rightly said, the past perfect is used here to show completion.

I agree with much of what you say, but I think where we differ is that you are trying to derive tense/aspect rules for a complex sentence without looking outside that sentence. Look at the main clauses of the four sentences listed above. How can the subordinate clause help you to decide whether to say "refused" or "had refused" in the main clause? It can't; you have to look outside the sentence, at the overall context, to decide that.
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Postby saparris » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:18 am

Amen!

And here's one that requires both past and past perfect in the same clause:

When the couple said good-night to their guests, the clock had stuck one and was almost ready to strike again.
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Re: Past Perfect showing completion

Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:31 pm

I agree with much of what you say, but I think where we differ is that you are trying to derive tense/aspect rules for a complex sentence without looking outside that sentence. Look at the main clauses of the four sentences listed above. How can the subordinate clause help you to decide whether to say "refused" or "had refused" in the main clause? It can't; you have to look outside the sentence, at the overall context, to decide that


OK, I see that your comments were referring to this sentence alone--I thought you were talking in general about how the subordinate clause has no influence on the main clause.

Please tell me we agree on this: :D



I had crashed into the ditch, before I started drinking.

The tense in the main clause is influenced by the subordinate clause.

But in these sentences, the subordinate clause has no influence on the tense of the main clause; instead, the greater context does:

1. He refused to go until he saw all the pictures.
2. He refused to go until he had seen all the pictures.
3. He had refused to go until he saw all the pictures.
4. He had refused to go until he had seen all the pictures.
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Postby saparris » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:01 pm

OK, I see that your comments were referring to this sentence alone--I thought you were talking in general about how the subordinate clause has no influence on the main clause.


I don't think he was referring to one sentence only. I think he has been saying all along that one always considers context when choosing verb tenses.

Obviously, you choose verb tenses within a set of rules, but the context will allow certain choices, lead you to the BEST of those choices, and even disallow other choices.

Why did you say "I had crashed into the ditch before I started drinking" instead of "I crashed into the ditch before I started drinking"? Since both are grammatal, there must be some other reason for that choice.
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Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:10 pm

To show that action happened before the action in the subordinate.

This is from a site:

We use the past perfect simple to talk about what happened before a point in the past. It looks back from a point in the past to further in the past.

•I hadn't known the bad news when I spoke to him.


It is used for the same reason I've explained. I'm aware the past pefect isn't essential due to 'before,' but it doesn't mean that the past perfect is incorrect, just more precise.
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Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:14 pm

you choose verb tenses within a set of rules


And I don't see why you keep implying that I'm following rules. I'm not. I'm choosing the tense based on the meaning. When does this action happen comapred to the other action?
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Re: Past Perfect showing completion

Postby Audiendus » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:25 pm

Enigma wrote:I had crashed into the ditch, before I started drinking.

The tense in the main clause is influenced by the subordinate clause.

Well, yes and no. Yes, in that the past perfect in the main clause would make no sense without the subordinate clause. No, in that the subordinate clause doesn't force the main verb to be past perfect; it could equally well be past simple, depending on the intended meaning.

I hope this helps!
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Postby Audiendus » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:50 pm

Enigma wrote:And I don't see why you keep implying that I'm following rules. I'm not. I'm choosing the tense based on the meaning. When does this action happen compared to the other action?

But that is not always the deciding factor. You yourself acknowledged that in your original post.

Sometimes it is most appropriate to put both clauses in the past simple; sometimes both in the past perfect; sometimes the earlier event in the past simple and the later event in the past perfect (to show completion); and sometimes vice versa. Don't you agree?
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Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:59 pm

Don't you agree?


Yes, I agree...
that is not always the deciding factor


Say if you wrote this sentence, would you not decide to use the past perfect because you want to show the temporal relationship between the two attached clause?

I had no money, because I had lost my wallet.


This is called sequence of tenses.
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