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    • Join Date: Jan 2009
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    #1

    Question past perfect usage

    Help! They said that past perfect is simple but I am finding it difficult to teach and even use correctly myself!
    For example: If I had known, I'd have helped
    This sentence is the correct usage of past perfect according to a quiz at this site...
    and "If I knew, I'd have helped." is considered wrong. Why? I've checked my grammar books and can't find the reason why it should be past perfect. Another native speaker of English besides myself also thought both could be correct.

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      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: Dec 2008
    • Posts: 93
    #2

    Exclamation Re: past perfect usage

    Let me share what I learned at school.

    If I had known, I'd have helped (= but I did not know, so I did not help)

    It is third conditional to talk about an event or situation that did not happen in the past.
    If + Past Perfect, modal + Perfect

    ---

    If I knew, I would help. (= I don't know, so I don't help) (not If knew, I would have helped)
    If I were you (= I am not you)

    This is second conditional referring to a situation in the present.
    If + Past Tense, modal + V1
    Last edited by sio; 04-Jan-2009 at 06:03.

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    #3

    Re: past perfect usage

    Quote Originally Posted by srosen View Post
    Help! They said that past perfect is simple but I am finding it difficult to teach and even use correctly myself!
    For example: If I had known, I'd have helped
    This sentence is the correct usage of past perfect according to a quiz at this site...
    and "If I knew, I'd have helped." is considered wrong. Why? I've checked my grammar books and can't find the reason why it should be past perfect. Another native speaker of English besides myself also thought both could be correct.
    This site is primarily a British English site, although there are several regular contributors from North America, and you may know that British speakers use perfect tense more than Americans do.
    So I am not surprised that 'If I knew, I would have helped.' was marked wrong.

    What kind of English do your students in Japan want to learn? (maybe they just want to learn English)
    If they want to learn American English and Americans think that 'If I knew, I would have helped." is correct, that's what you can teach them.

    I am sure you have occassions to indicate to your students that there are differences between American and British English, and that one of the differences is that the British use perfect tense more than Americans do.
    And British speakers not infrequently say that simple past tense is wrong when North Americans would consider both simple past tense and perfect tense correct in those situations.

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