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    #1

    to 'be' or not to 'be'

    I have a simple question.
    There is a sentence "They have been writing yesterday".
    It sounded wrong to me, so I corrected it to "They were writing yesterday", but it seemed incomplete.
    So I thought I should use simple past and say "They had been writing yesterday". Am I using the correct tense?

    The more and more I read it, it all starts sounding the same.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    "They were writing yesterday" is correct as a standalone sentence.

    "They have been writing yesterday" is incorrect.
    "They had been writing yesterday" is incorrect.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #3

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Can you post the appropriate tenses as well? That would be helpful for further research.
    Thank you for giving a very clear answer.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Quote Originally Posted by Grammar is confusing View Post
    Can you post the appropriate tenses as well? That would be helpful for further research.
    Thank you for giving a very clear answer.
    Are you asking us to tell you what tenses "They were", "They have been" and "They had been" are? I realise that your username gives us a clue as to how you feel about grammar but you need to understand that we are not here to replace your own hard work and study. There are multiple ways for you to find out which tenses they are. Let us know what you find out.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #5

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    They were - Past continuous/past progressive.
    They have been - present perfect
    They had been - past perfect

    It was relatively easy for me to find it. But I don't have a grammar book with me and I am forced to rely on the internet. My friend who knows a lot more about grammar than I do said "We use the past continuous to say that somebody was in the middle of doing something at a certain time. The action or situation had already started before this time but had not finished”. That is why I got confused and said "They were shopping yesterday" might be wrong.
    He also suggested that I use simple past instead.

    I am not a native speaker of English and I was not taught grammar in detail at school. Reading words such as past continuous and past progressive have confused me a lot before. The only reason I posted this query here was to confirm what he said and to get a teacher to explain when it was appropriate to use which, with examples, as I was unable to relate the examples that I read elsewhere with this sentence, because somewhere I felt this sentence sounded wrong. Which lead me to realise that I didn't have a good grasp of the concept. But as you suggested, I shall do more studying and try to learn grammar.
    Last edited by Grammar is confusing; 09-Jul-2015 at 21:53.

  3. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Hello, Grammar is confusing!

    Yesterday is in the past, so you need to use the past tense.

  4. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Quote Originally Posted by Grammar is confusing View Post
    "They were shopping yesterday" might be wrong.
    I would say something like 'They were shopping yesterday when I called one of them', but I am not a teacher.

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    #8

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Thank you for answering. I understand that yesterday is in the past.
    And yes, I would also not leave sentences like 'They were writing yesterday' and 'They were shopping yesterday' as standalone sentences.
    But as emsr2d2 pointed out, that is the only option that can work that way.

    The problem was that none of the examples that I read left the sentences so abruptly; hence the mix-up.
    The confusion is now cleared.
    Thank you Matthew Wai, emsr2d2 and tzfujimino!

  5. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Quote Originally Posted by Grammar is confusing View Post
    I would also not leave sentences like 'They were writing yesterday' and 'They were shopping yesterday' as standalone sentences.
    If they were standalone sentences, I would think that they were writing/shopping all day, but I am not a teacher.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grammar is confusing View Post
    Thank you Matthew Wai
    You are welcome.

  6. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: to 'be' or not to 'be'

    Quote Originally Posted by Grammar is confusing View Post
    I have a simple question.
    There is a sentence "They have been writing yesterday".
    It sounded wrong to me, so I corrected it to "They were writing yesterday", but it seemed incomplete.
    So I thought I should use simple past and say "They had been writing yesterday". Am I using the correct tense?

    The more and more I read it, it all starts sounding the same.
    The title of your tread has nothing to do with the content. Please create better titles in the future.

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