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  1. #1
    venkatasu is offline Member
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    Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    I had a very long discussion with my senior teacher regarding the usage of past perfect tense(p.f.t). I am clear with the usage of p.f.t in simple sentences. But the problem arises when using the p.f.t in sentences comprising a very long passage/article.

    My senior teacher says, "go through the full passage and you will find the link/clue for the usage of past perfect tense" (he cites examples where the clue is in a different paragraph of the passage). I simply don't understand.

    A simple example which is easier to understand (cited in a previous thread)

    Last year I almost drowned when I fell into an old well. The well was full of water because it had rained for two days.
    [The rain occurred before the speaker fell].

    The problem is 1. When it is lenthy 2. How p.p.t was used (and how to find the link for past action).

    pls explain

    Thanks in advance

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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    Last year I almost drowned when I fell into an old well. The well was full of water because it had rained for two days.

    I don't understand the problem you are having here.
    'drowned' and 'fell' : past tense
    'was' : past tense
    then : the well was full of water at the time when he fell, because before that - two days previous to that - further back in time and the reason why the well was full : 'it had rained'

    Perhaps you can post one of these long passages that are confusing you.

  3. #3
    venkatasu is offline Member
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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Last year I almost drowned when I fell into an old well. The well was full of water because it had rained for two days.

    I don't understand the problem you are having here.
    'drowned' and 'fell' : past tense
    'was' : past tense
    then : the well was full of water at the time when he fell, because before that - two days previous to that - further back in time and the reason why the well was full : 'it had rained'

    Perhaps you can post one of these long passages that are confusing you.
    Thanks for your post

    Please read the following passage.

    Over the last twenty years, the average size of households has fallen dramatically. The number of one person households has grown, due largely to the ageing of the population, as has the number of one parent families. Couples having smaller families have also contributed to the fall in household size.
    In 1976, 60% of families were couples with children. By 1996, this had fallen to 51%. Part of this change can be attributed to the increase in one parent families with dependent children, but most of the change is due to the increase in the proportion of couple only families. People are now having children later in life, and are living longer. Therefore, they are spending more time living in couple-only families, both before they have families and after their children have left home.
    However, children are leaving home later. In 1981, 34% of children aged 20-24 lived with their parents. By 1991, this had increased to 40%. This increase has, to some extent, countered the fall in the couples with non-dependent children only.
    (Source: ABS Yearbook Australia 1997, Number 79 p. 81)

    Source : Past Perfect Exercise

    In this site they have given an exercise to find past perfect verb using the above passage. I know the answers. But the question is - I want to know the context for the usage of past perfect tense and present tense

    Thank you
    Last edited by venkatasu; 06-May-2008 at 13:51. Reason: left highlighting

  4. #4
    venkatasu is offline Member
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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    Dear Mr.David

    Another example

    Susan had replied with the details to Moon on April 16. The amount of USD xxx you received was correct. There was a 5% discount from the total amount which was double-checked and confirmed with the customer previously. Please find the attached email containing this information for your reference. Please contact me again if there is still any problem.

    posted by anglika moderator in the post 'please correct my text'. for zoe2008

    pls explain 'had replied' in the context of p.p.t

    Thankyou

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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    the passage begins: "Over the last twenty years"
    This immediately alerts the reader that the writer is referring to a span of time, starting from 'now', and extending back 20 years.
    During that span of time:
    the average size of households has fallen
    The number of one person households has grown
    Couples ...have...contributed to the fall

    Over the last twenty years, the average size of households has fallen dramatically. The number of one person households has grown, due largely to the ageing of the population, as has (grown) the number of one parent families. Couples having smaller families have also contributed to the fall in household size.

    Then we read:
    "In 1976" : now we are talking about what happened at one particular time in the past.
    "In 1976, 60% of families were couples..." (simple past tense)
    Then we read:
    "By 1996" : this alerts the reader that we are considering the time span 1976 -1996..........and I begin to see the difficulty you are having!
    It must seem odd, that the writer has just used the simple past 'were couples' in 1976 - and then at a later time (1996) uses a tense that puts some action further back in time than 1976!!! that is, 'had fallen'.

    Firstly, when we look back into the past, our primary reference point is 'now', today. So, a past action at a single point in the past uses the simple past tense. But the writer goes on, 'By 1996'. So, he is again referring to (1) a span of time (2) in the 'past' compared to 'now', today.
    He is referring to action over a period of time, and that action/happening occurred in the past, and so uses the past perfect tense.

    Does that help?
    Last edited by David L.; 06-May-2008 at 17:37.

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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    Susan has reply the details to Moon on April 16.

    This was part of zoe2008's original post.
    Understand, that when someone is responding to a post, the most obvious error stands out and is corrected, and something else in that sentence gets inadvertently missed. This is what has happened. The tense and the preposition were corrected. However, by correcting the tense, the preposition at the end became incorrect. It just slipped by, I'm sure. The full correction would be:

    Susan had replied with the details to Moon by April 16.
    or it would need to be
    Susan replied with the details to Moon on April 16.

    Good for you for spotting it!

  7. #7
    venkatasu is offline Member
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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    Dear Mr. David

    It's simple to understand Past perfect tense in sentences like

    Eg When I reached the station the train had left.

    and is also easier to explain to children. But what about lenthy passages. How to explain p.p.t in those passages.

    Thank you.

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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    I'm wondering if this is a case of asking primary school children to read Shakespeare. If an adult like yourself is finding it difficult with long or complex passages, it would undoubtedly be so for the children you teach. I would suggest you make sure the complexity of the passages you use suit the level of their English language skills. If they are taking it upon themselves to read involved passages and don't understand, you can do what I did in my posts above; or do what a lot of parents do when asked, "What's coitus interruptus, Daddy?" - "You'll understand when you're older."

    Any others have ideas about this?

  9. #9
    rj1948 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    DAVID L kindly see the thread 'Please Correct my text'

  10. #10
    venkatasu is offline Member
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    Re: Past perfect tense usage - lack of clarity

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    I'm wondering if this is a case of asking primary school children to read Shakespeare. If an adult like yourself is finding it difficult with long or complex passages, it would undoubtedly be so for the children you teach. I would suggest you make sure the complexity of the passages you use suit the level of their English language skills. If they are taking it upon themselves to read involved passages and don't understand, you can do what I did in my posts above; or do what a lot of parents do when asked, "What's coitus interruptus, Daddy?" - "You'll understand when you're older."

    Any others have ideas about this?
    Thanks for your post Mr.David

    I want to introduce grammer to different children right from middle school to high school level. I need to take examples from newpapers, articles like the one mentioned above etc. I am sorry to mention - how to reach children (in the context of p.f.t in lengthy passage)?. But I too find difficult in understanding the usage of p.f.t in passage similar as mentioned above.

    Thanks in advance

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