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  1. #11
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    Default Re: Past perfect tense

    a) He turned angry enough to kill.
    b) He had turned angry enough to kill.

    c) He turned angry enough to have killed.
    d) He had turned angry enough to have killed.

    [Mav in Black. Me in Blue]


    My current understanding is as following:
    //Examples a) and b) are present infinitives though.

    a) "He turned angry enough to kill." = Maybe he killed (or maybe not); he was angry enough to kill. (This is almost self-explanatory.)
    Yes, I’d say so.

    b) "He had turned angry enough to kill." = It's the same as the first sentence, only in Past Perfect.
    Yep. I take it you are clear enough up to here.

    "So far, so good", but here comes the Perfect Infinitive.

    c) "He turned angry enough to have killed."

    Did he, or did he NOT kill in the end?
    It’s not implicit in the sentence whether he did or not. In the following example, it’s clear that he didn’t: "He turned angry enough to have killed if he was pushed much further.”
    Some people would prefer the past perfect in this sentence.
    My point – that all of these sentences were possible – was to emphasise that it is the context that counts. Isolated sentences without context don’t tell the full story.


    The perfect form suggests (to me) that it actually happened, but if I remember correctly, the Perfect Infinitive has something to do with the 'imaginary past', where the actions did NOT complete. (Eg.: 'He was to have come.' implies that he did not come.
    That’s right, and “He was to have come, but he was caught up” is even more revealing.
    Or 'I hoped to have asked you out for a dinner one day.' implies that it has never happened.) Am I right?
    Yes. But the beauty of sentences is that you can make them longer to add important qualifying information, or put the sentence in a paragraph and reveal all! In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is far too much “Is this sentence correct?” on this site, and not enough Discourse Analysis. This is not meant as a criticism of you. It’s an observation on the apparent belief that the sentence is the unit of meaning, and must be self-contained – whereas almost no one in real life tries to cram all of their meaning into one sentence.
    To say that a sentence is correct, is simply to say that there are no obvious grammatical mistakes in it, that it could be placed within a context to give a clear meaning – not that it is a self-contained semantic unit from which the meaning is easily extracted.

    Or I am right, BUT 'imaginary past' is only one usage of the Perfect Infinitive, and in other situation the Perfect Infinitive 'behaves' differently. If so, how? Might I ask you to make these things, you know, crystal clear?
    The perfect infinitive behaves differently if the writer chooses to make it do so. To get his/her message across, s/he has a wide choice of tools which can be used in different combinations, and which still get the same job done.

    d) "He had turned angry enough to kill."
    I would be a bit surprised if it were that simple only to be the Past Perfect 'version' of the example c).
    Well, it is c) with one the tenses changed to the past perfect. That would make it the appropriate phrase to use if “he had turned” rather than “he turned” was indicated by the context. Why does this relationship surprise you?
    But I agree that there are other ways of conceptualising d) rather than as the “past perfect version of c)”.

    And last, can the Perfect Infinitive be used after Present Perfect?
    Yes. You generally wouldn’t write, “He has turned angry enough to have killed”. But it could be made to work:
    A: “Do you think John could have killed this man yesterday?”
    B: “Well, over the last week, he has turned angry enough to have killed this man yesterday.”

    I came across a sentence in a fan fiction, where they were used together: "He can be such a stick in the mud. Although, I guess he's had to have been able to stay alive out there for many years." I admit I don't really understand this structure, though I should stress that I don't question it either. What is the role of the Perfect Infinitive here? How would you rephrase this sentence?
    I’d accept this sentence. “He’s had to be able …” would also work. I think this is a matter of style, but others might have a sifferent opinion on this.
    How do you feel about: “He's had to have been able to have stayed alive”?

    PS: If you, dear Moderators, think this question of mine would be better to have been written (Is it correct? Yes.
    Or 'would have been better to have been written',
    I wouldn’t write this.
    since it IS already here) in a separate thread, then feel free to split this thread, and accept my deepest apologies,
    Yes, it is. But you can still say. “It would be better to have been in a separate thread.” or “It would have been better in a separate thread.”
    “It would have been better to send it to a separate thread”
    “It would be better to have sent it to a different thread.”
    There’s no need to double up on the past perfects in this case.

    Please let me know if you still have doubts.

  2. #12
    ~Mav~ is offline Member
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    Thumbs up Re: Past perfect tense

    Dear Raymott,

    First and foremost let me say a big 'thank you' to you for your outstanding and thorough answer.



    [ I (Mav) in black (as night, black as cole :D ), Raymott in blue ]



    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Yep. I take it you are clear enough up to here.
    Yes. I only had (and I still have, to some extent...) problems with the understanding and the use of the Perfect Infinitive.


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    c) "He turned angry enough to have killed."

    Did he, or did he NOT kill in the end?
    It’s not implicit in the sentence whether he did or not.
    If so, then what justifies the use of the Perfect Infinitive? What extra information or tone does it add to the sentence instead of the Present Infinitive?
    If it were something like "He was strong enough (let's say it's a narrative) to have beaten up that rascal who had attacked his family a week ago (before the narrative point). Is it correct? Even if it is, it doesn't explain to me why Perf. Inf. is used in the sentence c. I kind of feel it "weird" on its own, without further words, context, etc. like "He turned angry enough to have killed."

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    In the following example, it’s clear that he didn’t: "He turned angry enough to have killed if he was pushed much further.”
    Some people would prefer the past perfect in this sentence.
    Do you mean: "He turned angry enough to have killed if he had been pushed much further.”? Or "He had turned angry enough to have killed if he had been pushed much further.”? In this latter example I could imagine something like: "Eventually he calmed down, but it was surprising as he had (sooner) turned angry enough to have killed if he had been pushed much further.” Is it correct? (I tried to put it into some context.) Am I right about this?



    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The perfect form suggests (to me) that it actually happened, but if I remember correctly, the Perfect Infinitive has something to do with the 'imaginary past', where the actions did NOT complete. (Eg.: 'He was to have come.' implies that he did not come.
    That’s right, and “He was to have come, but he was caught up” is even more revealing.
    Again, if the context makes it clear, then what extra 'good' does the Perfect Infinitive do? If I say "He was to have been spared, but he was roasted in the electric chair" then I think it's the brute truth that makes things clear, not the infinitive, so to speak.


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Or 'I hoped to have asked you out for a dinner one day.' implies that it has never happened.) Am I right?
    Yes. But the beauty of sentences is that you can make them longer to add important qualifying information, or put the sentence in a paragraph and reveal all!
    My question remains the same in this case, too. :) Would it carry some veiled meaning with the Present Infinitive: ''I hoped to ask you out for a dinner one day."? Would it be less evident what happened or (did not happen) in this case? *confused*


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Or I am right, BUT 'imaginary past' is only one usage of the Perfect Infinitive, and in other situation the Perfect Infinitive 'behaves' differently. If so, how? Might I ask you to make these things, you know, crystal clear?
    The perfect infinitive behaves differently if the writer chooses to make it do so. To get his/her message across, s/he has a wide choice of tools which can be used in different combinations, and which still get the same job done.
    True and true, but in this very thread I'd like to learn how the use of the Perfect Infinitive can change the meaning of a sentence when it is chosen to be used instead of the Present Infinitive. Speaking of the writers... I wrote a sentence by Shakespeare in my previous post: "I had thought, Sir, to have held my peace." Does it convey that he couldn't hold his peace? Or would it be correct (without changing the meaning, of course!) to replace it with "I had thought, Sir, to hold my peace."? What's the difference?


    d) "He had turned angry enough to kill."
    Goodness gracious! I've just realized that I used the wrong sentence here, in my original post. (I used the clipboard, i.e. Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V, and I inserted the wrong sentence after d). Of course I meant to write (or to have written ) d) "He had turned angry enough to have killed. I don't want to edit my post, but I'd like to point it out, along with my apologies for overlooking it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Well, it is c) with one the tenses changed to the past perfect. That would make it the appropriate phrase to use if “he had turned” rather than “he turned” was indicated by the context. Why does this relationship surprise you?
    This relationship does NOT surprise me, but I would be a bit surprised if there weren't more behind it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    And last, can the Perfect Infinitive be used after Present Perfect?
    Yes. You generally wouldn’t write, “He has turned angry enough to have killed”. But it could be made to work:
    A: “Do you think John could have killed this man yesterday?”
    B: “Well, over the last week, he has turned angry enough to have killed this man yesterday.”
    But he didn't, right? Would it change the meaning if you used Present Infinitive: “Well, over the last week, he has turned angry enough to kill this man yesterday.” In this latter case, I'd think he killed that man. Maybe among all the examples given above, this is where I feel the biggest difference in the meaning between the two sentences, given that I'm right about the interpretation.



    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    How do you feel about: “He's had to have been able to have stayed alive”?
    In short: . :)) Does it mean something like "He had no other choice but to stay alive, and he succeeded; he is alive."




    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Please let me know if you still have doubts.
    Thank you very much for your helpfulness. As you can see I still have doubts (and maybe it's an understatement ), and I'll try to summarize what my understanding is. (Aside from the above mentioned examples, of course, on which I'm anxiously waiting for your comment in order to become enlightened. )

    1.) He is believed to be drunk. (= Now they think he is drunk (now.))

    2.) He was believed to be drunk. (Once they thought he was drunk then.)

    3.) He is believed to have been drunk. (Now they think that once he was drunk.)

    4.) He was believed to have been drunk. (Once they believed he had been drunk. Oh, my beloved Past Perfect.:) I think it's necessary in this case.)

    4.b) I met a guy whom I did not remember to have met before.

    Am I right so far?

    5.) Past in the future (I don't know what to call this.)

    This time tomorrow I hope to have finished my email. (Assuming I won't use too complicated sentences. <self-sarcasm on> )

    6.) Imaginary Past

    I hoped to have visited you in the States. (But it has never happened.)

    7.) I would like (now) to have heard Bing Crosby sing. (He died decades ago. I never heard him sing on stage, and alas, nobody will hear him sing again.) Though I would say in this case: "I wish/If only I had heard him sing." Are there any differences in the meaning between the two sentences?

    I must have forgotten about some cases (as usual ), but I think this post is already long enough, and I don't want to squeeze everything into one post. Just one more question... How often is the Perfect Infinitive used among the native English speakers? I only very seldom come across with it, and maybe (only maybe) because the Present Infinitive holds its sway, and for a reason, I think. That's why I put the emphasis on the question of the difference between these two different infinitives, and I admit (as you can see) that I still have doubts. Thank you very much again, Raymott, for helping me understand this stuff.

  3. #13
    ~Mav~ is offline Member
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    Exclamation Re: Past perfect tense

    I found some interesting (to me) notes by H.W. Fowler about the Perfect Infinitive. I thought it might be useful to post his notes in this thread.

    [ Mr. Fowler in red ]

    I hoped to have succeeded, for instance, means I hoped to succeed, but I did not succeed, and has the advantage of it in brevity; it is an idiom that it would be a pity to sacrifice on the altar of Reason.

    [...]

    With whom on those golden summer evenings I should have liked to have taken a stroll in the hayfield.—Thackeray.

    To have taken means simply to take; the implication of nonfulfilment that justified the perfects above is here needless, being already given in I should have liked; and the doubled have is ugly in sound.

    Another example:

    Peggy would have liked to have shown her turban and bird of paradise at the ball.—Thackeray.


    Another very common form, still worse, occurs especially after seem and appear, and results from the writer's being too lazy to decide whether he means He seems to have been, or He seemed to be. The mistake may be in either verb or both.

    [Repudiating the report of an interview] I warned him when he spoke to me that I could not speak to him at all if I was to be quoted as an authority. He seemed to have taken this as applying only to the first question he asked me.—Westminster Gazette. (seems)

    They, as it has been said of Sterne, seemed to have wished, every now and then, to have thrown their wigs into the faces of their auditors.—I. Disraeli. (seem to have wished ... to throw)


  4. #14
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Past perfect tense

    With whom on those golden summer evenings I should have liked to have taken a stroll in the hayfield.—Thackeray.

    To have taken means simply to take; the implication of nonfulfilment that justified the perfects above is here needless, being already given in I should have liked; and the doubled have is ugly in sound.
    I agree it's unnecessary. Perhaps that's the way they liked it back in Thackeray's day.
    But it does illustrate a point I intended making: the double use of the perfect tense can have the same meaning as a single use - it's a stylistic issue here.


    Another example:

    Peggy would have liked to have shown her turban and bird of paradise at the ball.—Thackeray.
    So, it's Thackeray's style. Also, there might be a grammatical justification for this. If he's referring to Peggy in the past tense, this is an entirely good way of saying it, IMO.
    "Peggy likes to shown her turban." (Present)
    "Peggy would like to have shown her turban" (Present referring to past)
    "Peggy would have liked to have shown her turban". (Past referring to further past). Note that there's no simple past form for "would like", as there is, for example, for "want"
    want to - wanted to - would have wanted to
    would like to - ? - would have liked to

    "Peggy would have liked to show her turban". (Is this how you'd put it?)

    Another very common form, still worse, [!] occurs especially after seem and appear, and results from the writer's being too lazy to decide whether he means He seems to have been, or He seemed to be. The mistake may be in either verb or both.

    [Repudiating the report of an interview] I warned him when he spoke to me that I could not speak to him at all if I was to be quoted as an authority. He seemed to have taken this as applying only to the first question he asked me.—Westminster Gazette. (seems)
    I agree on this point.
    But that doesn't invalidate the correct use of "He seemed to have taken this" or even "He has/had seemed to have taken this".


    They, as it has been said of Sterne, seemed to have wished, every now and then, to have thrown their wigs into the faces of their auditors.—I. Disraeli. (seem to have wished ... to throw)
    It seems that, as a stylistic variant, it was quite acceptable in Victorian times.
    By the way, just out of interest, how does the past perfect work in your native language?

  5. #15
    ~Mav~ is offline Member
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    Thumbs up Re: Past perfect tense

    Dear Raymott,

    I would just like to mention that I wrote a mile-long post before/above my last post to which latter you've just replied.
    This kinda reminds me of a joke you once wrote, only in a slightly different 'setting':
    Mav: Have you seen my last post?
    Raymott: I hope so!




    Though I'm still curious to know the answers to those questions, I eager to know whether I was right or wrong with my interpretations and understanding on those examples above (well, above above ), but the main reason I mentioned my former post is that if/in case you didn't read it, you might think I had been ungrateful not to have thanked you (Is it correct? ) for your former answers, though the fact is that I did thank you for your efforts. (That was the least I could do, though I tried to write a decent post along with my thanks as well. ) Plus, the thread was moved here, which could also lead to some confusion.

    In my native language (Hungarian) the Past Perfect doesn't work at all because it doesn't exist. We only have three verb tenses (the future is formed with auxiliary verb, but it's often expressed with the present form of the verb) which are the three logical tenses/times, such as past, present and future. (Though there were more during the history.) We don't have 'progressive'/continuous forms either.

    Again, thank you so much for your help. I know I wrote an annoyingly long post above (Gosh, I thought I would never finish it ), so I can understand if you don't have the time - even if you otherwise would have the inclination - to answer it.
    Last, but not least, it seems that everybody was unwilling to accept your challenge. (Everybody seems to have been unwilling to accept your challenge. ) No wonder... An analogy: only a very few men would, let alone could, compete with Ian Thorpe in the 400 m freestyle. (Yes, I know he is retired, but I don't want to get lost in the details. You know what I mean, and I mean what I say, and I only say what I mean. )
    Last edited by ~Mav~; 07-Jul-2010 at 12:59.

  6. #16
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Past perfect tense

    Quote Originally Posted by ~Mav~ View Post
    Dear Raymott,

    I would just like to mention that I wrote a mile-long post before/above my last post to which latter you've just replied.
    This kinda reminds me of a joke you once wrote, only in a slightly different 'setting':
    Mav: Have you seen my last post?
    Raymott: I hope so!


    Indeed
    I was in the midst of formulating a reply to your penultimate post when you posted your latest (not last, I see) one.
    But I see also, that you've done more independent research and have already brought up ideas which I was intending to present.

    In fact, I would have liked to have been able to have replied usefully, but your insights have rendered it largely unnecessary.

    ... but the main reason I mentioned my former post is that if/in case you didn't read it, you might think I had been ungrateful not to have thanked you

    I have read it. I find the turnaround time for answering your posts to be a little longer than most.


    In my native language (Hungarian) the Past Perfect doesn't work at all because it doesn't exist.
    I see. Interesting.

    Last, but not least, it seems that everybody was unwilling to accept your challenge. (Everybody seems to have been unwilling to accept your challenge. )
    Yes. If they had, perhaps it would have been they who were a post or two behind, rather than I.

    No wonder... An analogy: only a very few men would, let alone could, compete with Ian Thorpe in the 400 m freestyle. (Yes, I know he is retired, but I don't want to get lost in the details. You know what I mean, and I mean what I say, and I only say what I mean. )
    Thorpie was a sprinter. He was a great swimmer up to 400m, but his lack of distance stamina relegates him to a lesser level than some all-rounders.

    I generally try to stay the distance.
    My reply to your other post, though diminished in scope by this and my last, is coming.

  7. #17
    ~Mav~ is offline Member
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    Thumbs up Re: Past perfect tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    In fact, I would have liked to have been able to have replied usefully, but your insights have rendered it largely unnecessary.
    Oh no! If I had known that my endeavour to write a useful addition to my previous post would result for you not to finish your enlightening post you had started to have written, I would never have posted Mr. Fowler's notes. (I have to ask whether if it's correct or not. )


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I would have liked to have been able to have replied usefully...
    Isn't this the same case about which Mr. Fowler wrote his aforementioned comment:
    the implication of nonfulfilment that justified the perfects above is here needless, being already given in I should have liked; and the doubled have is ugly in sound
    You wrote this, agreeing with Mr. Fowler:
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I agree it's unnecessary. Perhaps that's the way they liked it back in Thackeray's day.

    It seems that it's also to your liking, isn't it? :D

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    But it does illustrate a point I intended making: the double use of the perfect tense can have the same meaning as a single use - it's a stylistic issue here.
    And what sort of role does it have in your sentence above? Especially since you used the Perfect Infinitive twice after the 3rd conditional:
    "I would have liked to have been able to have replied usefully..." I am afraid I still don't get it. And my former questions doesn't seem to have lost their relevance. This is one of them, which is related to the repeated use of the Perfect Infinitive:
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I’d accept this sentence. (I guess he's had to have been able to stay alive out there for many years.) “He’s had to be able …” would also work. I think this is a matter of style, but others might have a sifferent opinion on this.
    How do you feel about: “He's had to have been able to have stayed alive”?
    I think (only think) that it falls into the same category as your previous example above, which I did not really understand, as I stated. Would you explain this sentence to me, please? What happened before what, did that guy stay alive or not, if he did, when did it happen?... (Maybe some timeline would help.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    My reply to your other post, though diminished in scope by this and my last, is coming.
    Thank you very much in advance! And, of course, take your time! I can wait even if I can't wait to read your explanation. (Does this "I can wait/I can't wait" mix, playing on the idiomatic use of "I can't wait", works in this case? I intended it for some fun, but if it sounds stupid, I apologize. )



    PS: I have become a 'Member'.
    Last edited by ~Mav~; 07-Jul-2010 at 16:45. Reason: PS

  8. #18
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    Default Re: Past perfect tense

    ... I would never have posted Mr. Fowler's notes. (I have to ask whether if it's correct or not. )

    Fowler gives a categorical "No" to this structure. I think it is defensible at times. Therefore, we disagree, but not violently. Fowler's work has had many critics over the hundred odd years his books have been published, perhaps mostly due to his non-compromising prescriptivism. But I usually agree with him.





    >I would have liked to have been able to have replied usefully...
    Isn't this the same case about which Mr. Fowler wrote his aforementioned comment:

    This was a parody.








    agree it's unnecessary. Perhaps that's the way they liked it back in Thackeray's day.
    It seems that it's also to your liking, isn't it? :D
    It is a style. I can appreciate different styles. It doesn't have to be right or wrong. That's not what good literature is about.



    But it does illustrate a point I intended making: the double use of the perfect tense can have the same meaning as a single use - it's a stylistic issue here.
    And what sort of role does it have in your sentence above?
    A satirical role, or merely a self-referential comment.

    How do you feel about: “He's had to have been able to have stayed alive”?
    I think (only think) that it falls into the same category as your previous example above, which I did not really understand, as I stated. Would you explain this sentence to me, please? What happened before what, did that guy stay alive or not, if he did, when did it happen?... (Maybe some timeline would help.)

    It doesn't need explaining. It has no advantages over the simpler sentences. I wanted to know what you thought of it, so I could get some idea about your real concern here. I would not (normally) write a sentence like this.




    (Does this "I can wait/I can't wait" mix, playing on the idiomatic use of "I can't wait", works in this case? I intended it for some fun, but if it sounds stupid, I apologize. )
    No, it sounds like it's said in fun.


    PS: I have become a 'Member'.
    Congratulations.

    I will tell you the answer to your previous post straight up (with no kidding around), when I finally get to it.

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    Default Re: Past perfect tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    ... I would never have posted Mr. Fowler's notes. (I have to ask whether if it's correct or not. )
    Fowler gives a categorical "No" to this structure.
    To the 3rd conditional? (I don't think you meant it this way. ) Or were you kidding meaning that Fowler would give a categorical "no" to NOT quoting him? In light of your hint of 'kidding', I couldn't discard this idea.

    Here's my original sentence again:If I had known that my endeavour to write a useful addition to my previous post would result for you not to finish your enlightening post you had started to have written, I would never have posted Mr. Fowler's notes.
    The 3rd conditional is necessary (IMHO), so the question is whether it is correct what is between "I had known/I would never have". (Ie. "my endeavour to write a useful addition to my previous post would result for you not to finish your enlightening post you had started to have written", on the premise that the whole sentence is in 3rd conditional.) I'm absolutely sure that your disapproval referred to that part, didn't it?
    I used the Past Perfect (you had started), because your action of starting to write an answer preceded my lamenting, not to mention my post, and all this happened in the past. Anyway, how would my sentence above be correct? How would you amend it?



    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    It doesn't need explaining. It has no advantages over the simpler sentences.
    So, in short: He has had to have been able to have stayed alive. = he has had to have been able to stay alive = he has had to be able to stay alive Do they mean the same, only in different style?


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Congratulations.
    Thank you!


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post

    I will tell you the answer to your previous post straight up (with no kidding around), when I finally get to it.
    I promise that I will never ask so many questions (especially not that complicated and complex ones) again. Thank you ever so much for answering them.
    Last edited by ~Mav~; 08-Jul-2010 at 17:56. Reason: typo and formatting

  10. #20
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Past perfect tense

    Fowler gives a categorical "No" to this structure.

    To the 3rd conditional?

    No, to the use of a double past perfect when a single one will do.



    It doesn't need explaining. It has no advantages over the simpler sentences.
    So, in short: He has had to have been able to have stayed alive. = he has had to have been able to stay alive = he has had to be able to stay alive. Do they mean the same, only in different style?

    In short, yes.

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