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  1. #1
    kirillg is offline Newbie
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    Question Past perfect usage

    Hi,

    On a certain website with English exercises there was this sentence:

    "We HAVE HAD a car for ten years before it broke down"

    I believe this is incorrect and that the correct version should be:

    "We HAD HAD a car for ten years before it broke down"

    Can anybody confirm this please?

    Thank you very much.

  2. #2
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Past perfect usage

    The original present perfect is correct. It means "We once had a car..." The simple past would ordinarily be used there. It's difficult to think of a context where you'd need the past perfect.

  3. #3
    kirillg is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Past perfect usage

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The original present perfect is correct. It means "We once had a car..." The simple past would ordinarily be used there. It's difficult to think of a context where you'd need the past perfect.
    Thank you for the answer, Raymott. The reason I thought that Past Perfect would be appropriate here is that the sentence referrers to the action that happened before another time point in the past.

    I managed to find couple of references in "the internet" which have the exact same example, and which support my theory.

    http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfect.html
    https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/questio...1150451AAEeRvo

    I should note though that the sentences in the links are slightly different from my original example - they use "that car" and not the "a car". Might this be the reason why Past Perfect is used? If so, could you please explain how this influences the choice of the tense to use?

    Thank you!

  4. #4
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Past perfect usage

    Yes, using "that car" makes a difference.
    It is incorrect to say that just because one thing happens before another, you need the past perfect. That is only one requirement. If that were enough, we'd be using it all the time since, by the nature of things, two events generally happen at different times, and necessarily, one of those times is before the other.

    You can't say "We once had that car ..." in the same context as "We once had a car...", which I've said is what "We have had a car ..." means. Once you use "that car", the car is identified, and you would have to use the simple past. It's possible that you saw the car in a car graveyard and remembered it. You could say "We had that car for ten years", but not with with the perfect tenses.
    But you can't choose a certain tense without a context.

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