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Thread: Past perfect

  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Past perfect

    Good Day teachers! I'm a bit confused about past perfect.
    I was sure that I had seen him before.
    Should the later action be in past simple always? Does the above sentence mean that I am not sure now? Can't I say I am sure I had seen him before? Thanks!

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Past perfect

    "I had seen" is in the past perfect because the "seeing" came before the "being sure". We backshift the tense in this context.

    I am sure I have seen him before.
    I was sure I had seen him before.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #3

    Re: Past perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by alejandrobarts View Post
    Can't I say I am sure I had seen him before?
    It is possible to think of a context where someone might say this, but without the context, it doesn't work, and the context would always involve a past situation prior to which you had seen him.

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    #4

    Re: Past perfect

    Remember to put quotation marks around every bit of text that you quote.
    I am not a teacher.

  5. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Past perfect

    [Edited:] Can't I say, "I am sure I had seen him before"?
    Certainly. For example:

    A: Have you ever seen him?
    B: Yes. I saw him yesterday.
    B: Had you seen him before?
    A: Yes.
    B: Are you sure?
    A: Yes. I am sure I had seen him before. I saw him day before yesterday, too.
    Last edited by Phaedrus; 31-Jan-2017 at 01:15. Reason: edited out r2d2's edit

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    #6

    Re: Past perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    I saw him the day before yesterday, too.
    I assume that's what you meant to write.

  7. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Past perfect

    That's the edit I made but Phaedrus went back in and unedited it to remove "the".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  8. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Past perfect

    I assume that's what you meant to write.
    No, I meant to write it exactly the way I wrote it. I wouldn't use "the" with "day after tomorrow," either.

  9. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Past perfect

    I just checked the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA):

    "the day before yesterday": 127
    "day before yesterday": 50

    "the day after tomorrow": 199
    "day after tomorrow": 80

    Both ways are fine. Let me know if you'd like to see examples without "the" from some of the best writers in history.
    I shall justify the usage without "the" as a deictic phrase that functions like "yesterday" or "tomorrow" or a name.

  10. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: Past perfect

    Well, there we go! A BrE vs AmE difference that I had never stumbled across before. In BrE, it's not used without the definite article.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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