Anonymous:
Hi,

For these sentences from the article, "Putting Pressure in Its Place", by Ruth Bell Graham, in ChristianitToday magazine, would please confirm my analysis?

I had no sooner gotten started when I got word that a Chinese pastor and his wife I had been permitted to call on in China had been reimprisoned by the antitheistic regime because of something I had said to them. I placed a call to a nearby office, only to have the rumor confirmed (later found false).

This is taking the storyline to the past -- with Mrs. Graham talking about things from the a past point of time. What I have difficulty with is what I see as inadequacy in the English language to properly indicate past before the "double-time" past. Let me try to explain what I mean by that:

Here in the copy of the quote:

1) I had no sooner gotten started 2) when I got word that a Chinese pastor and his wife 3) I had been permitted to call on in China 4) had been reimprisoned by the antitheistic regime because of something 5) I had said to them. I placed a call to a nearby office, only to have the rumor confirmed (later found false).

To me, No. 1's use of past perfect sets the action to the time before some event and no.2's use of past tense shows her getting word is not in the time a factor in the time line -- if it had been a factor, then she would have used a past perfect here too.

Nos 3 and 4 are inadequate in that what happened before what or what happened after what is not clear with two uses of past perfect, and this lack of differentiation is further exacerbated -- that is how I see it -- by one more use of past perfect, marked as no. 5.

I think Mrs. Graham's sentence doesn't concern with this differentiation either because she intended not to or could not, due to what I think it the absence of a tense or tenses to go double or triple back in time for an action or an event that took or happened.

The same observation can be made for the use of modal "would/could/might have been': The modals can take an action or event triple-back in time.
«To me, No. 1's use of past perfect sets the action to the time before some event»

This is actually an example of the standard "No sooner" phrase. See, for example:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/radio/specials/1535_questionanswer/page61.shtml

«2's use of past tense shows her getting word is not in the time a factor in the time line -- if it had been a factor, then she would have used a past perfect here too. »
Time factor, huh? I don't know what you mean here.The Past Simle was used just because there're no events that "getting word" is prior to and that may cause troubles in percepting the timeline. Past Simple is the main tense in the narration.

«Nos 3 and 4 are inadequate in that what happened before what or what happened after what is not clear with two uses of past perfect, and this lack of differentiation is further exacerbated -- that is how I see it -- by one more use of past perfect, marked as no. 5.»
Instead of thinking about the interrelation of (3) and (4), look at them this way:
— Past Perfect in (3) tells that (3) happened before (2)
— Past Perfect in (4) indicates that (4) took place earlier than (2)

As to which occured fist — (3) or (4) — from the commonsense's viewpoint it's evident that the first was (3). And, BTW, (4) is hypothetical, because it never happened!

(5) is quite natural as well: it's the alleged reason of the hypothetical reimptisonment, and as such, the reason (or the cause) comes first. So, this use of Past Perfect is triggered by the need to show that her "saying something to them" was the cause of the reimprisonment.

«...absence of a tense or tenses to go double or triple back in time for an action or an event that took or happened.»
Tenses on their own are not enough. One must draw additional information from the text, which native speakers do automatically.
Contributing Member1,848
«...absence of a tense or tenses to go double or triple back in time for an action or an event that took or happened.»
That is true to some extent. You can't go further back in time in English than the past perfect.
The original is OK. Learn from it, before criticizing it.
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