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  1. vectra's Avatar
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    #1

    Were my students right?

    Hello!
    Today in class my students did an exercise in which they had to put the given verbs in present simple, present continuous, past simple, past continuous. The book is Cambridge Grammar for CAE and Proficiency by Martin Hewings.
    So one point led to heated discussion - some students used past perfect, others past simple. As for me, I did understand that past perfect was not one of the four grammar tenses we had to use, but I was itching to use it, too. Not being able to explain why past simple had to be used, I decided to post this question on the forum.
    This is the sticking point - Segeant Ron Drake of the Ambledale police was particularly busy. 'Between 10 and 11 o'clock we received (this is it; I can't highlight the word received) around thirty calls. The callers said they saw/were seeing a single blue light about as big as a car over the village. We are now considering searching the fields around Ambledale for any evidence left behind.'
    Is it possible at all to use past perfect in this context?

    Thank you in advance

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Were my students right?

    I would have used plain old simple past for "we received" but "had seen" for the callers, because of the back shift in reported speech.

    The caller said, "I saw a blue light."
    The person who received the call reported that the caller had seen a blue light.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Were my students right?

    I could see "were seeing" there as well. If you were not supposed to be using past perfect, "were seeing" would be correct.

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Were my students right?

    I agree that if past continuous was an allowable option and past perfect was not, that's the right choice... but it wouldn't' have been my first choice if all tenses were on the menu.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #5

    Re: Were my students right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I would have used plain old simple past for "we received" but "had seen" for the callers, because of the back shift in reported speech.

    The caller said, "I saw a blue light."
    The person who received the call reported that the caller had seen a blue light.
    Hi Barb:
    Do you mean that past perfect is the 'back shift' of simple past, or are you saying that when there are two past actions the earlier one should be expressed with the past perfect tense? Or are the two possible reasons for using past perfect there one and the same to you?

  5. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Were my students right?

    Segeant Ron Drake of the Ambledale police was particularly busy. 'Between 10 and 11 o'clock we received around thirty calls. The callers said they had all seen a single blue light about as big as a car over the village. We are now considering searching the fields around Ambledale for any evidence left behind.'

  6. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Were my students right?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    Hi Barb:
    Do you mean that past perfect is the 'back shift' of simple past, or are you saying that when there are two past actions the earlier one should be expressed with the past perfect tense? Or are the two possible reasons for using past perfect there one and the same to you?
    No, they're not the same. The back shift in reported speech often happens without our even noticing, I think.

    When it's completely clear which action happened before the other, the past perfect is often/usually not needed at all.

    I find the past perfect very hard to explain in some cases, when similar situations call for different uses, so I'm happy to defer this to someone who can it explain it!
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  7. BobK's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Were my students right?

    Time out. If you see a strange light in the night sky, you ring the police and say 'I can see...'. They can see it at the same moment as they're making the phone call. And if it's a land-line and they can't see through the window, they say 'Hang on, I'll just check...' [put the phone down, and after a pause] '... yes, it's still there': the police received the phone-calls (from people who said they were seeing the light). If the phone-calls the police received said people had seen, the light, and the phone-calls were spread out over an hour, we are talking about a pretty strange UFO!

    b

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