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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    What I wish I knew when I was younger

    This sentence comes from a YouTube video's title.

    "What I wish I knew when I was younger"

    Shouldn't it be "What I wish I had known when I was younger"?

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    #2

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Yes, in careful speech. Many Americans use the past simple instead of the past perfect.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    I'm not sure that it's just an American thing.
    Last edited by jutfrank; 27-May-2020 at 16:04.

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    #4

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'm not sure that it's just an American thing.
    Now that I've watched the first few seconds of the video, I see this is actually a sample of a rather careful Canadian speaker from British Columbia. I doubt Canadians differ significantly from Americans in this matter. I can't speak for other varieties.
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    #5

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    There seems to me something that rings very faintly of a North American style about this, but I can't really justify that in any way—just a sense.

    I'd guess that it would also be quite common in most other varieties. The way I understand things, there is generally speaking something like an economic 'force' that draws speakers away from using an ideal past perfect form where a past simple form does the job satisfactorily. I think that may be the case here.

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    #6

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    There seems to me something that rings very faintly of a North American style about this, but I can't really justify that in any way—just a sense.

    I'd guess that it would also be quite common in most other varieties. The way I understand things, there is generally speaking something like an economic 'force' that draws speakers away from using an ideal past perfect form where a past simple form does the job satisfactorily. I think that may be the case here.
    Some time ago, I wrote a post on this forum asking whether the use of the past perfect is in decline, but I met with replies that it isn't.

    In practice, I notice what you've just explained, that the past perfect is substituted with the past simple, both in speech and writing, because the past simple does the job just fine.

    I know that most textbooks advocate using the past perfect, but I don't see it in natural, everyday speech, not to the extent I would expect if the theory were 100% correct. The example in this post is particularly important for me because Derek is an intelligent individual who makes solid videos about science. He's just one of many intelligent individuals I've seen not use the past perfect the way it is taught in school; if people like him don't feel the need to follow the theoretical rules, I think the rules are wrong/outdated.

    Could it be that, for most verbs, the past participle and the simple past forms look exactly the same, and adding that had is unnecessary hassle? People are lazy; if there's a way of cutting the number of words, they do it. Could it be that it's spread even to verbs that do have different past participle and simple past forms, because most don't?

  7. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    Some time ago, I wrote a post on this forum asking whether the use of the past perfect is in decline, but I met with replies that it isn't.
    I don't think it is but you may be right.

    In practice, I notice what you've just explained, that the past perfect is substituted with the past simple, both in speech and writing, because the past simple does the job just fine.
    Often, but far from always.

    The example in this post is particularly important for me because Derek is an intelligent individual who makes solid videos about science. He's just one of many intelligent individuals I've seen not use the past perfect the way it is taught in school; if people like him don't feel the need to follow the theoretical rules, I think the rules are wrong/outdated.
    I'm sure that Derek is an intelligent individual but there's no connection between a mind that is suited to think scientifically and a mind that uses language proficiently. They are very different kinds of intelligence. Also, remember that for native speakers like Derek, unlike you, there are no prescriptive rules to follow. The rules are descriptive. That means that they describe what people say rather than tell them what to say. Derek was never taught how to use the past perfect.

    Could it be that, for most verbs, the past participle and the simple past forms look exactly the same, and adding that had is unnecessary hassle? People are lazy; if there's a way of cutting the number of words, they do it. Could it be that it's spread even to verbs that do have different past participle and simple past forms, because most don't?
    I don't think the fact that the second and third forms of regular verbs are identical has any bearing on this. But as I said above, I do think there may be a kind of 'force' of economy that predisposes speakers to prefer a simpler form, when everything else is equal. However, as a teacher, I don't recommend that learners—even those as proficient as yourself—submit to this.


    "Don't use the Force, Glizdka."

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    #8

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'm sure that Derek is an intelligent individual but there's no connection between a mind that is suited to think scientifically and a mind that uses language proficiently. They are very different kinds of intelligence. Also, remember that for native speakers like Derek, unlike you, there are no prescriptive rules to follow. The rules are descriptive. That means that they describe what people say rather than tell them what to say. Derek was never taught how to use the past perfect.
    What I meant to say was that if an average Joe said that, I wouldn't even bat an eye; I've heard quite severely broken English from native speakers, and I'm fine with that, but when people who use English to explain difficult topics, precisely and proficiently, make such "mistakes", there's a discrepancy between official rules and the actual living language that I cannot ignore.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I don't think the fact that the second and third forms of regular verbs are identical has any bearing on this. But as I said above, I do think there may be a kind of 'force' of economy that predisposes speakers to prefer a simpler form, when everything else is equal. However, as a teacher, I don't recommend that learners—even those as proficient as yourself—submit to this.
    What's wrong with emulating it if that's how natural English works in the mouths of native speakers? Wouldn't forcing myself to use structures nobody uses on a daily basis make me sound pompous/pretentious? I mean, I understand its necessity and importance, when written, when accuracy and precision can affect how the reader understands my intents, but in everyday speech? Should I really care if most people don't?

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    #9

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    What's wrong with emulating it if that's how natural English works in the mouths of native speakers? Wouldn't forcing myself to use structures nobody uses on a daily basis make me sound pompous/pretentious? I mean, I understand its necessity and importance, when written, when accuracy and precision can affect how the reader understands my intents, but in everyday speech? Should I really care if most people don't?
    The past perfect is widely used in everyday American English. When I hear a certain sister-in-law use the past simple in its place, it sounds like another example of the careless usage that must have driven her mother, who was a professional writer, crazy. She loved her daughter; the only complaint she'd admit to was that this daughter "got all the family assets" (i.e., was the only female to have a sizable bust). But I'm sure she sometimes wondered how she had grown up sounding illiterate.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #10

    Re: What I wish I knew when I was younger

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post

    What's wrong with emulating it if that's how natural English works in the mouths of native speakers? Wouldn't forcing myself to use structures nobody uses on a daily basis make me sound pompous/pretentious? I mean, I understand its necessity and importance, when written, when accuracy and precision can affect how the reader understands my intents, but in everyday speech? Should I really care if most people don't?
    I am inclined to agree with you.
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