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    #1

    past perfect or past simple, again

    Hello,
    It's a fragment from conversation :
    A man describes an accident in a car, when hit somebody who jumped in front of his car.

    A:I wasn't going very fast, you see, I'd only just turned the corner ... and there had been a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...
    B: So is was .....

    A:I wasn't going very fast, you see, I'd only just turned the corner ... and there was a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...
    B: So is was .....

    My quwestion is about the underline part,
    Should it be past simple or past perfect?
    Is there any difference in description when one is used ?

    I chosed past perfect becouse the line of cars is irrevelant to the story, it just explain why he wasn't going very fast, it doesn't really matter if there still was a line of cars or wasn't. It starts I wasn't going very fast (..here is why...) and then ....
    but It seems that I'm wrong. Could anybody shed some more light on that ?

    Cheers.


    • Join Date: Feb 2008
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    #2

    Re: past perfect or past simple, again

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaskin View Post
    Hello,
    It's a fragment from conversation :
    A man describes an accident in a car, when hit somebody who jumped in front of his car.

    A:I wasn't going very fast, you see, I'd only just turned the corner ... and there had been a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...
    B: So is was .....

    A:I wasn't going very fast, you see, I'd only just turned the corner ... and there was a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...
    B: So is was .....

    My quwestion is about the underline part,
    Should it be past simple or past perfect?
    Is there any difference in description when one is used ?

    I chosed past perfect becouse the line of cars is irrevelant to the story, it just explain why he wasn't going very fast, it doesn't really matter if there still was a line of cars or wasn't. It starts I wasn't going very fast (..here is why...) and then ....
    but It seems that I'm wrong. Could anybody shed some more light on that ?

    Cheers.
    If your 'bit of a line of traffic' was still there at the time of the accident, then you'd have to use the past simple. The fact that your 'bit of a line of cars' is irrelevant to the story has got nothing to do with the past perfect. Irrelevance is not one of the criteria for using this structure. The past perfect is used to show that X happened before Y in the past.

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    #3

    Re: past perfect or past simple, again

    Hello,

    Thak you for your reply.

    But in that case I still have a problem. Why I said irrelevant ...?
    (I misspeled that word thanks for correction )
    Let say that one event happend on friday 13 at 4 p.m. and another one had started at 3p.m. and finished at 6 p.m. on the same day.

    When I try to describe that two events and it is accually not important at all that the two events happend at the same time only I'd like to emphasise fact the second happend before.
    Can I choose past perfect ?
    I was in a great mood.. you see.. When I had come home, supper had been ready for me, and then ... ( accually that the supper had been ready is irrelevant to do with what happened next )

    Coming back to the previous example...
    you see, I'd only just turned the corner ... and there had been a bit of a line of traffic,
    sounds to me like an explanation :
    If I had been speeding I would have bumped into the cars in the line just after I had turned right.

    The cars had been there before I had turned rigth and after.

    So.. may I choose tense depend on my view on the situation ?
    Depends on what I see as more important ?

    Cheers,


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    #4

    Re: past perfect or past simple, again

    You grasp the idea that the Past Perfect places one event further back in time than some other past event written in Simple Past. So, let’s look at this idea of ‘irrelevancy’ of the event written in Past Perfect.

    Start by comparing these two pieces of narrative:
    1. “I opened the front door and walked in. It seemed unusually quiet. I called out but there was no answer, so I walked into the kitchen. Nothing seemed amiss…until I saw a pool of blood …”

    2. I had gone into work that morning, even though it was my day off, as I had some work I needed to catch up on. So I was in the building when the first plane struck the East Tower, a few floors above me.” (Survivor account, 9/11).

    In (1), written in Simple Past Tense, the ideas develop sequentially. In (2), it is not that the clause ‘had gone into work’ is irrelevant, but is used to set the scene for what is about to happen. You could use this effect in your sentence:

    “I was in a great mood.. you see.. I had come home, and supper had been ready for me, so I was expecting just to jump into the shower and head straight down to the pub to celebrate with the lads. Then the phone rang...and my world fell apart.”

    Can you see how it places some action further back in the past, setting a scene of ‘normalcy’, before the main action occurs, written in the Simple Past.

    With regard to the 'corner' and 'traffic' sentence, I can't grasp what the sequence of ideas is. Is it something like:
    "I'd only just turned the corner ... and then there had been a bit of a line of traffic...so I couldn't have been going very fast - certainly not the 60 m.p.h. the copper said I was doing!"

    Here, the Past Perfect places the preliminary pieces of information where they belong, just prior to being pulled over for speeding and 'what the copper said I was doing' ('said' is the Simple Past)

    The sequence is, "I had turned", 'there had been' (P.P.) then 'the copper said'
    (simple Past)

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    #5

    Re: past perfect or past simple, again

    Hello,
    Thank David L for explanaition.
    If I could ask a few more questions about using past perfect to set the scene for what is about to happen.
    Let me put the whole pice I asked at the beginning.
    (I altered it then a bit. )

    In the following extract woman describes an accident in her car, when she hit a tramp.
    Work out which tense the woman used for the verbs which are in brackets.
    They are either in the past simple or the past perfect.


    Woman: I wasn't going very fast, you see, I (only just) [turn] the corner .. and there [be] a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...

    Friend : So it was a bit of a miracle he wasn't hurt, wasn't it ?

    Woman : Apparently, it [be] his party-piece, because the police told me that he [do] it very often, this , 'cos it [get] him a bed for the night, you know, it got him in hospital. And they were getting a bit fed up. He already [have] them there that morning apparently, saying someone [put] a bomb under his bed. But then he picked on me, and it got him a bed for the night in hospital.

    Friend: Good grief!

    My answer:

    Woman: I wasn't going very fast, you see, I had only just turned the corner .. and there had been a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...

    Friend : So it was a bit of a miracle he wasn't hurt, wasn't it ?

    Woman : Apparently, it was his party-piece, because the police told me that he did it very often, this , 'cos it got him a bed for the night, you know, it got him in hospital. And they were getting a bit fed up. He already had had them there that morning apparently, saying someone had put a bomb under his bed. But then he picked on me, and it got him a bed for the night in hospital.

    Friend: Good grief!

    I haven't got any problems whatsoever with the second part that the woman said.
    The first part could be in chronological order, so I think I could even use past sipmle.

    I wasn't going very fast, you see I turned the corner .. and there was a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...

    or ( that is the sugested answer):
    I wasn't going very fast, you see I had turned the corner .. and there was a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...

    or (that was my answer) :
    I wasn't going very fast, you see I had turned the corner .. and there had been a bit of a line of traffic, and then ...

    My qestions :
    Does the chooise of tenses change the chronological order of events ?
    Does it add any information when one is choosen ?

    Cheers.


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    #6

    Re: past perfect or past simple, again

    "I wasn't going very fast.."
    Why? It makes sense that the reason for this was that you had slowed down to take the corner - so, you 'had slowed', so creating the situation where you were not going fast; and so, the 'slowing down' and 'turning' had occurred prior to 'so I wasn't going fast'. Therefore, Past Perfect to indicate the turning the corner occurred prior to the situation of 'not going fast after you had turned the corner'.
    Then, 'had been a line of traffic' :When? Before you turned the corner? or did you turn and then encounter a line of traffic so you couldn't speed up again? The latter seems more logical and so occurs after the turn, and so Simple Past: 'there was a line of traffic'

    With the construction
    I wasn't going very fast, you see I had turned the corner .. and there had been a bit of a line of traffic

    It starts with Simple Past, so Past Perfect is used to place 'turning the corner' prior to 'wasn't going fast'. But when, after the Past Perfect 'had turned', if you then encountered the line of traffic, this follows in logical sequence, so Simple Past; and then next in sequence (presumably) 'he jumped in front of my car'. The actions are occurring in order, so no need to indicate by Past Perfect that 'a bit of a line of traffic' occurred before 'he jumped in front of me' : this is already indicated by the sequence.

    My questions :
    Does the choice of tenses change the chronological order of events ?

    Yes, as I hope I've explained.

    Does it add any information when one is choosen ?
    No. But it can be used to create literary effects, such as tension; and to create a sense of normalcy before something surprising happens, as I explained in an earlier posting to this thread.
    Last edited by David L.; 21-Oct-2008 at 12:51.

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