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Thread: I thought I had

  1. #51
    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post
    At that moment, I thought I had seen a dragon, but it turned out to have been a camel

    At that moment, I thought I saw a dragon, but it turned out to have been a camel.

    What difference in meaning do you discern, Lycen?
    They clearly account for two differing degrees of simultaneity.

    In one case, the vision appears, and then disappears, and the person thinks about what he has seen.

    In the other, the vision appears, and the person thinks about what he sees.

    Both are reported later on. The pluperfect allows us to describe the temporal difference, as in the first case, and the simple past tense allows us to account for the exact simultaneity of the second.

    Is "I went to France" the same as "I have been to France?" Obviously not. In some situations, the former will better describe the intended meaning, while in others, the latter is a better fit.

    Referring to the two at a later time gives us "I had gone to France" and "I had been to France" along with "I went to France" and "I have been to France" as four possibilities. Are they all the same? Is there no situation where one fits better than the others?

    As for Shakespeare not knowing grammar, it's a remarkably silly idea. Grammar is a set of norms that allow you to use a language in a way the community understands it. Shakespeare's grasp of it was better than virtually anyone's, living or dead. Grammar is not just the silly do's and don't's of Grade 6 language classes. To confuse the two senses of grammar is puerile.

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    Re: I thought I had

    I thought I saw a dragon, but it was a camel.

    I thought I saw a dragon, but it turned out to be camel.

    First the speaker thought he saw a dragon, and then he realized it was really a camel. You don't need the past perfect to clarify this. Maybe the camel and the dragon do, but I don't think the people do.


    Last edited by PROESL; 22-Sep-2009 at 04:40.

  3. #53
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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    They clearly account for two differing degrees of simultaneity.

    In one case, the vision appears, and then disappears, and the person thinks about what he has seen.

    In the other, the vision appears, and the person thinks about what he sees.

    Both are reported later on. The pluperfect allows us to describe the temporal difference, as in the first case, and the simple past tense allows us to account for the exact simultaneity of the second.

    Is "I went to France" the same as "I have been to France?" Obviously not. In some situations, the former will better describe the intended meaning, while in others, the latter is a better fit.
    You nailed it.

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    Re: I thought I had

    At that moment, I thought I had seen a dragon, but it turned out to have been a camel

    At that moment, I thought I saw a dragon, but it turned out to have been a camel.

    Originally Posted by konungursvia
    They clearly account for two differing degrees of simultaneity.

    In one case, the vision appears, and then disappears, and the person thinks about what he has seen.

    In the other, the vision appears, and the person thinks about what he sees.

    I understand the distinction you are making here, but I don't believe the distinction actually exists as a practical matter.

    For practical purposes, and in reality, people would not think so hard about purposefully making such distinctions. And for practical purposes, people willl read these two sentences and gather the same meaning from both.

    If there's a point to be made about the past perfect, I don't think these two sentences are the ones to do it.


  5. #55
    albeit is offline Banned
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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    Is "I went to France" the same as "I have been to France?" Obviously not. In some situations, the former will better describe the intended meaning, while in others, the latter is a better fit.
    I can't see any difference in terms of meaning right at this moment, Kon, but certainly they are used for different purposes other than meaning.

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    As for Shakespeare not knowing grammar, it's a remarkably silly idea. Grammar is a set of norms that allow you to use a language in a way the community understands it. Shakespeare's grasp of it was better than virtually anyone's, living or dead. Grammar is not just the silly do's and don't's of Grade 6 language classes. To confuse the two senses of grammar is puerile.
    I think you've confused the two sets of grammar, Kon. The alumna was referring to the prescriptions that were written long after Shakespeare's death. Shakespeare didn't follow these "rules" because they didn't exist then.

    Shakespeare had a wonderful vocabulary, but he didn't know the grammar of English any better than any other person living then. He was a gifted writer but that doesn't translate to a deeper knowledge of grammar.

  6. #56
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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    They clearly account for two differing degrees of simultaneity.

    In one case, the vision appears, and then disappears, and the person thinks about what he has seen.

    In the other, the vision appears, and the person thinks about what he sees.

    Both are reported later on. The pluperfect allows us to describe the temporal difference, as in the first case, and the simple past tense allows us to account for the exact simultaneity of the second.

    Is "I went to France" the same as "I have been to France?" Obviously not. In some situations, the former will better describe the intended meaning, while in others, the latter is a better fit.
    As lycen has already said, you nailed it.

  7. #57
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    The "past perfect" is not a tense. It's an aspect of the past, or a way in which we can talk about the past in a specifc way.
    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    As for the 'pluperfect' it is correct, and it is a tense. Some people only know what they learnt yesterday or today, from Wikipedia. It doesn't matter. Bless 'em all, I say. They appear to need it.


    Couldn't we simply accept that there are clear differences of opinion on the vexed issue of tense, and that the various positions have their own merit? I've seen dozens, well hundreds actually, of arguments, well rows mostly, on this particular topic and I have never seen anyone change their position.

    I started teaching over twenty years ago and the term 'pluperfect' has not been used by any ESL book that I have used apart from the odd relic at the back of a cupboard. That doesn't make the term wrong, but there are many learners (and I imagine some teachers) who will not have a clue what it or imperfect/defective verb, etc, mean, so, while I do recognise that it is a perfectly correct term, it could also be worthwhile to give them a more common term used in ESL. It can't do much harm to know that past perfect is more common in this area. The use of progressive & continuous, and it seems that durative has not taken off as a third, instead of imperfect is also OK to know, even with the duplication.

    I couldn't give a stuff if a learner wants to call it the pluperfect, but if they only know terms like that, they might be missing out. Some may prefer the term because it's closer to home, but others may simply not know- I had one student from Eastern Europe whose teacher, a Russian language teacher who had had to change to English and had learnt it from some very dated books, had taught her that shewed was the form to use and was surprised to learn that most dictionaries had it down as an archaism.

    If one teacher says that there are only two tenses in English and anyone who says otherwise is wrong, or that there are 12, etc, and the two-tense theory is a lightweight fashion, the most likely result, IMO, is confusion for the learner.

    I am with the two-tensers, in fact I'd go a bit further in an ideal world and use the term remote or distant instead of past as I think it gives a much more accurate view of the English verbs, but if a poster uses pluperfect tense, I'm happy with that. Can't we have situation + personal view rather than view as orthodoxy + phillipic? For many will + base form really is the future tense, while for many others it is really no such thing. If we can't agree to differ or accept that the other side's views are sincere and the product of thought and learning, then the only likely result is a confused student with slightly less trust in teachers. </boringoldfart>
    Last edited by Tdol; 22-Sep-2009 at 12:55.

  8. #58
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    Thumbs up Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post


    [...] I am with the two-tensers, in fact I'd go a bit further in an ideal world and use the term remote or distant instead of past as I think it gives a much more accurate view of the English verbs, but if a poster uses pluperfect tense, I'm happy with that. Can't we have situation + personal view rather than view as orthodoxy + phillipic? For many will + base form really is the future tense, while for many others it is really no such thing. If we can't agree to differ or accept that the other side's views are sincere and the product of thought and learning, then the only likely result is a confused student with slightly less trust in teachers. </boringoldfart>
    I am also one of those who treat the system of tenses as the set of two 'proper' tenses, ie present and past, with all other aspects referred to as tenses for the sake of simplicity and unification.

  9. #59
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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    I am also one of those who treat the system of tenses as the set of two 'proper' tenses, ie present and past, with all other aspects referred to as tenses for the sake of simplicity and unification.
    That gets my vote too.

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    Re: I thought I had

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post
    I can't see any difference in terms of meaning right at this moment, Kon, but certainly they are used for different purposes other than meaning.

    I think you've confused the two sets of grammar, Kon. The alumna was referring to the prescriptions that were written long after Shakespeare's death. Shakespeare didn't follow these "rules" because they didn't exist then.

    Shakespeare had a wonderful vocabulary, but he didn't know the grammar of English any better than any other person living then. He was a gifted writer but that doesn't translate to a deeper knowledge of grammar.
    I don't think you have sufficiently looked into how education worked back then, albeit. You also have read no Chomsky whatsoever, or have forgotten it. I'm not confusing the two sense of grammar.

    In any case, I think we should do as TDol suggests, and accept a difference of opinion exists here. And have fun moving on to other matters.

    Or, as you would say it without grammar,

    Do opinion we accept of I we should Tdol case exists, difference any here.

    You're right, that's what Shakespeare sounded like! I'm a f****ing poet! Thanks to the Alumnus!

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