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  1. #1
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    The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Hello,

    I am confused about the usage of the Past Simple tense in the following passage from the book The Runaway by Martina Cole:

    Petey and Jack had already realised that the Italians were with them now and the future was looking trouble-free. The new bar, to be called Petey's Place, would be up and running in less than a week. The liquor licence was already taken care of and the premises, an old gambling club, had been given a lick of gold paint and new brocade curtains.

    Why 'was already taken care of'? Should it not be 'had already been taken care of'?

    Thank you in advance.
    Last edited by vectra; 19-Jan-2011 at 20:12. Reason: second thoughts

  2. #2
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    ***Not a teacher***

    The liquor licence was already taken care of and the premises, an old gambling club, had been given a lick of gold paint and new brocade curtains.
    To say 'had already been taken care of' identifies this as an event that was completed in the past (but which has an effect in the present).

    To say 'was already taken care of' places an emphasis on the ongoing effect in the present (with the implication that it was completed in the past).

    So I think it is just a matter of emphasis - whether it is the completed nature of the event, or whether it is ongoing nature of the effect in the present.

    In the context you gave, I would slightly favour 'had already been taken care of', but in my opinion, both are acceptable.

    Ade

  3. #3
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    As I often say, when questions about the past perfect come up: native speakers are far less insistent on the use of the past perfect than many grammar and course books would have us believe.

  4. #4
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    As I often say, when questions about the past perfect come up: native speakers are far less insistent on the use of the past perfect than many grammar and course books would have us believe.
    Fivejedjon,

    I would just like to clarify something from your post. Are you saying that technically it would have only been correct to use the past perfect in this context? Or would either have been technically correct?

    Many thanks
    Ade

  5. #5
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Quote Originally Posted by azcl View Post
    Fivejedjon,

    I would just like to clarify something from your post. Are you saying that technically it would have only been correct to use the past perfect in this context? Or would either have been 'technically correct?

    Many thanks
    Ade
    No I am not saying either thing.

    I am very wary of terms such as 'grammatically', 'logically' or technically' and '(in)correct'.

    They are too often used by some people to condemn usages that break 'rules' they were taught at school. The 'rules' may never have been sound, but that doesn't appear to worry people who insist on believing that everything they were taught fifty years ago must be true.

    Like you, I think that 'was already taken care of' is acceptable. If I had responded before you to the OP, my response would have been worded a little differently, but not enough for me to want to add to your post. In my post (#3), I was just trying to pre-empt attempts to claim that only the past perfect is/was* acceptable.

    *Some people would insist on 'was' there. I don't.

  6. #6
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Dear Fivejedjon,

    You have already helped me a lot clarifying that or another grammar point.
    My principle regarding grammar has always been quite liberal, I mean if a student can prove to me their point, that is fine. I encourage them to post questions on forums, use search engines, special sites which compare the frequency that or another word or grammar point is used and what not.
    The biggest challenge comes when we have midterm or end-of-semester module tests. I try to give clear-cut sentences for the students to be able to identify the right tense quickly enough; without context it is sometimes quite difficult, and if they do the grammar section quick enough, they have more time for reading comprehension and writing which, according to our evaluation system, earn students the highest score.
    So I do mention that English, being a constantly developing language, is not set in stone, especially its grammar, but the basic principles are basic. In this concrete example from a wonderful book, were this sentence about the liquor licence on the module test, I would insist on the Past Perfect, just to avoid confusion. But if a student would come to me with explanations similar to yours, I would definitely take it into account when grading their work. I think this way they would show they are not passive test-takers, but sensible people the very kind I have always wanted them to be.

    Thank you a lot for your time and help.
    Last edited by vectra; 20-Jan-2011 at 14:30. Reason: second thoughts

  7. #7
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Quote Originally Posted by vectra View Post
    My principle regarding grammar has always been quite liberal
    I wish that all teachers were as enlightened as you. I have found that some teachers who are not native speakers are more pedantic than many native speakers when it comes to 'rules', and I encounter some opposition from some native speakers, who accuse me of 'dumbing down' the language.

    My response is simply that I feel strongly that our learners should use the language that is used by reasonably educated native speakers in normal life, not that used by a minority of people who speak in a manner reminiscent of academic papers or the leading articles of broadsheet newspapers half a century ago.

    However, I think you are right in being less liberal when it comes to examination papers. When I accepted a form that others might have rejected, I always told my learners to err on the side of conservative usage in examinations (and, of course, I always told them what the conservative usage was).

    I am a native speaker who had a reasonably good education, and I know quite a bit about English grammar, but when I last taught TOEFL classes about ten years ago, I had to look up the answers to some questions in the teacher's book before going into class. Some structures which would have been considered perfectly acceptable by most educated speakers of BrE were considered incorrect by TOEFL examiners.

    When I am unsure nowadays about whether a particular construction has gained acceptance yet, I find the British National Corpus (BYU-BNC) and the http://www.americancorpus.org/?q=2901330 very useful. These do not help determine whether something is 'correct' or not, but if I find several dozen citations for it, then I am not alone in considering that it is quite commonly used.

  8. #8
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Thank you very much indeed.
    I am glad I see eye to eye with you on the main points, and thank you for a link.
    I am going to follow it after my post.
    A few weeks ago the cartoons you have watched sparked a real dust-up between Americans and Britons on a very solid forum. The cause was the phrase I used in the tapescript: 'a storm in a teacup'. I have been using the phrase for ages; we have a similar expression in Russian. But some Americans preferred 'a tempest in a tea-pot'. I tried to intervene several times in the hectic discussion, saying it was me to blame because I used this expression - to no avail. The Americans appear to have left the forum to my biggest disappointment.
    Why I have told this sad story is just to show that for us, non-native speakers, it is always a treat to be able to learn something new, but now I have learnt the hard way - I should explain, If I can, that this is used on this side of the Atlantic, and that word or expression is used on the other. It has never been a case in my classroom, but I wonder what the situation is when people sit IELTS. The examination is getting huge popularity in this country, and I was about to sit IELTS Academic, but changed my mind after learning that the diploma is only valid for two or three years.

    Thank you once again.

  9. #9
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    Re: The liquor licence was already taken care of

    Quote Originally Posted by vectra View Post
    I was about to sit IELTS Academic, but changed my mind after learning that the diploma is only valid for two or three years
    It is 'valid' for two or three years only in the sense that many universities will not automatically accept you on a course if your IELTS grade was given more than three years ago.

    This is, clearly, ridiculous. It suggests that you could have sat the IELTS exam five years ago and still be rejected for an MA course in England, despite the fact that you had worked exclusively in English since your IELTS examination, published articles in English, and been promoted, as a result of your excellence within th BrE/AmE world.

    If you want to sit IELTS Academic for your own satisfaction, fine.

    But, if you don't need the magic piece of paper, why worry about paying a lot of money just to confirm what we already know ?

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