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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    Are perfect tenses dying?

    What I'm going to start with is this link.

    I've noticed that perfect tenses are being used less and less, and it's not just like how it is suggested in the article above. I was taught to use the past perfect simple with two verbs when one of them happened before the other one, e.g. "I had brushed my teeth before I left the house". In every day speech, however, I don't see the past perfect used this way too often, I see it being substituted with the non-perfect past simple on a regular basis, e.g. "I brushed my teeth and I left the house". I do see it in constructions that require using the past perfect (like the third conditional). I don't think I've ever heard anyone using the future perfect, I've only seen it in books, and have heard it from program narrators or TV presenters, people who read from a script.

    The past participle and the past form are usually the same word for most verbs so I can understand why "had" is omitted, but I don't know if I'm on the right track. Are perfect tenses dying in English?
    Last edited by Glizdka; 30-Apr-2019 at 10:12. Reason: and → before

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    #2

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    I've noticed that perfect tenses are being used less and less,
    I haven't noticed any significant decline in use in BrE.

    I was taught to use the past perfect simple with two verbs when one of them happened before the other one, e.g. "I had brushed my teeth and I left the house". In every day speech, however, I don't see the past perfect used this way too often, I see it being substituted with the non-perfect past simple on a regular basis, e.g. "I brushed my teeth and I left the house".
    That 'rule' was often misunderstood. When the sequence of events is clear, we native speakers have never used the past perfect. The past perfect in the first clause in that sentence is not correct.

    I don't think I've ever heard anyone using the future perfect, I've only seen it in books, and have heard it from program narrators or TV presenters, people who read from a script.
    It has never been a commonly used form, mainly because we don't often need to refer to a situation that will be past in relation to some other future situation.

    The past participle and the past form are usually the same word for most verbs so I can understand why "had" is omitted, but I don't know if I'm on the right track. Are perfect tenses dying in English?
    Not in BrE. In normal conversation, the contracted forms may be so short as to be difficult for a non-native speaker to hear. This is particularly true when 've comes before a /f/ or /v/ sound, 's before a sibilant, and 'd before a /t/ or /d/ sound.

  3. Senior Member
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    #3

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Thanks a lot, it's actually very informative. The example with brushing my teeth before leaving the house is the actual example my English teacher used to introduce the past perfect, but I might well have misquoted it. Why is it incorrect? Would it be correct if I rephrased it to "I had brushed my teeth before I left the house"? Because now that I think about it, it does sound odd.

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    #4

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    Why is it incorrect?
    Simply because we do not use the past perfect if the sequence of events is clear.

    Would it be correct if I rephrased it to "I had brushed my teeth before I left the house"? Because now that I think about it, it does sound odd.
    It would be correct. However, as 'before' makes the sequence of events clear, the past perfect in the first clause is not essential.
    Last edited by Piscean; 30-Apr-2019 at 10:59. Reason: typo

  5. Senior Member
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    #5

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    I like how few words you need to thoroughly explain something, I wish I could do that someday. How long had you been teaching before you retired?

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    #6

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    How long had you been teaching before you retired?
    I had been teaching for forty-four years when I retired.
    I taught for forty-four years before I retired.

  7. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    Would it be correct if I rephrased it to "I had brushed my teeth before I left the house"? Because now that I think about it, it does sound odd.
    The use of the past perfect tense is dependent on the context, which often occurs outside of the index sentence. It clarifies that something happened before something else relevant; it emphasises it.
    I'm trying to think of an example that uses your sentence. "I ran into Tom who was passing my house. We stopped to talk, and he kept looking at my mouth. I can't have had a piece of lettuce stuck to my teeth, because I had brushed my teeth before I left the house." Here the emphasis is: There was no lettuce on my teeth, because of something that had already happening in the past. (It's true that this did happen, but the point you're making here is that it had happened before something else which is currently in focus happened.) In your original context, there is nothing relevant that happened after you cleaned your teeth. Your already having cleaned your teeth is not a relevant fact to your having left the house. It is relevant to why Tom might be staring at your mouth.

    Here's something simpler:
    1.
    A: Why didn't you eat the apple?
    B: Because my wife ate the apple.
    2.
    A: Why didn't you eat the apple?
    B: Because my wife had [already] eaten the apple.

    In 1, you might have mutually decided with your wife that she would eat the apple.
    In 2, it was not possible that you could eat the apple, because it had already been eaten.

    I hope that reading this post will have helped you understand the past perfect a little better.

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    #8

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    It has, if I understand it correctly, it should only be used when it's relevant or for emphasis.
    Now I recall another instance of my English teacher reminding me of the present perfect. I was late and said "I'm sorry, it took me longer than I thought" and she corrected me saying "than you had thought". If I understand it correctly, it was to emphasise the fact that my guesstimation of the amount of time it would take to get to school was prior to me actually getting there.

    It's been over 10 years since I graduated from highschool. I hadn't had any contact with English teachers before I started studying for the CAE exam I'm taking in May, except for the three years of English as a subject I had in highschool. I hope I'll pass it. Wish me luck, 10 days left.

  9. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Work on those comma splices.
    Not a professional teacher

  10. Senior Member
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    #10

    Re: Are perfect tenses dying?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    Work on those comma splices.
    I am! I use this article for reference, have you got anything on punctuation worth reading? Our punctuation rules are so very different...

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