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  1. #1
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    Default Simple past versus past perfect or pluperfect

    Hello. A friend of mine has been going though my novel and converting everything to the simple past. I think she's wrong. By doing this, she makes me lose a layer of time. Here's one example:

    My version, with the past perfect:
    Merrimond looked about. How different this was from Harlan’s first wedding, celebrated in late autumn in a makeshift chapel aboard his private yacht, the yacht that he now used for manufacturing of some kind. There had been few guests, most of them business associates of his from Philadelphia. Eva Morrow, poor thing, had slipped in unaccompanied, shy and hesitant as if she were trespassing. Having led such a sheltered life, Eva must have felt overwhelmed. And now Eugenia. Tears ached in Merrimond’s eyes as Harlan’s second bride moved down the petal-strewn aisle.
    Her version, with the simple past:
    Merrimond looked about. How different this was from Harlan’s first wedding, celebrated in late autumn in a makeshift chapel aboard his private yacht, the yacht he now used for manufacturing of some kind. There were few guests, most of them business associates of his from Philadelphia. Eva Morrow, poor thing, slipped in unaccompanied, shy and hesitant as if she were trespassing. Having led such a sheltered life, Eva must have felt overwhelmed. And now Eugenia. Tears ached in Merrimond’s eyes as Harlan’s second bride moved down the petal-strewn aisle.

    I realize that compound tenses in English may sound awkward, but there's a place for them. Today's novels want to leave them out. Am I wrong?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Simple past versus past perfect or pluperfect

    Quote Originally Posted by chrisalor View Post
    Hello. A friend of mine has been going though my novel and converting everything to the simple past. I think she's wrong. By doing this, she makes me lose a layer of time. Here's one example:

    My version, with the past perfect:
    Merrimond looked about. How different this was from Harlan’s first wedding, celebrated in late autumn in a makeshift chapel aboard his private yacht, the yacht that he now used for manufacturing of some kind. There had been few guests, most of them business associates of his from Philadelphia. Eva Morrow, poor thing, had slipped in unaccompanied, shy and hesitant as if she were trespassing. Having led such a sheltered life, Eva must have felt overwhelmed. And now Eugenia. Tears ached in Merrimond’s eyes as Harlan’s second bride moved down the petal-strewn aisle.
    Her version, with the simple past:
    Merrimond looked about. How different this was from Harlan’s first wedding, celebrated in late autumn in a makeshift chapel aboard his private yacht, the yacht he now used for manufacturing of some kind. There were few guests, most of them business associates of his from Philadelphia. Eva Morrow, poor thing, slipped in unaccompanied, shy and hesitant as if she were trespassing. Having led such a sheltered life, Eva must have felt overwhelmed. And now Eugenia. Tears ached in Merrimond’s eyes as Harlan’s second bride moved down the petal-strewn aisle.

    I realize that compound tenses in English may sound awkward, but there's a place for them. Today's novels want to leave them out. Am I wrong?
    I think the pluperfect is the only correct tense in this passage for the clauses you used. You're using tight third person point-of-view in the past tense ('how different this was...', 'tears ached...'), so you need a method of distinguishing events further back in the past. Writing 'There were few guests...', for example, makes it sound as though there are few guests at the SECOND wedding, not the first. This is clearly incorrect.

  3. #3
    DavyBCN's Avatar
    DavyBCN is offline Member
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    Default Re: Simple past versus past perfect or pluperfect

    I agree with Coffa. Using the past perfect in the way you did is very common in literature. It is not essential but fits very well in your paragraph.

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