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    • Join Date: Jan 2006
    • Posts: 54

    Question Can we use this tense in a question?

    Was hoping someone could help.

    We have a reading comprehension exercise, in which the particular passage in question is written in the past perfect.

    The students then have to do a question answer exercise.

    I was wondering if you can use the past perfect when asking questions?

    My co-worker has written the following question and answer:

    Q:Why had Edwin Leeford had to leave for Italy?
    A: Edwin Leeford had had to leave for Italy......

    This seems a little strange to me but I am not sure if it is just because I have not seen questions like this before or because it isn't normally used. I can not seem to find anything about question writing in any of the books!!!

    I want to change the question to:

    Why did Edwin Leeford have to leave for Italy?

    Does anyone have any knowledge in this area?

    Any help is very much appreciated.


  1. Editor,
    English Teacher
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    Re: Can we use this tense in a question?

    It sounds a bit strange to me- I would go for the past. I suppose they're using the past perfect because it's in the text, but in the text the context may make the use of the past perfect clear, but in the question, which doesn't seem to cover the other event, I think the past is better.

    • Join Date: May 2008
    • Posts: 80

    Re: Can we use this tense in a question?

    Yes, you can use the past perfect in questions, but you should only do so when you are emphasizing that the action occurred earlier than another past action:

    a. I spoke to Mr. Lambert at the party.
    b. Had you ever spoken to him before that? (=before you spoke to him at the party)

    If there is no earlier action in the past, just use simple past:
    a. I saw Mr. Lambert at the party.
    b. Oh, really? Did you speak to him?

    There is also past perfect form with hypothetical (unreal, imaginary) conditionals:
    If I had known that, I wouldn't have said anything.
    Question: If you had known that, would you have said anything?

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