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She .........a book about why the writer became so successful .

( has written / had written / was written / had been written)

My answer is had written. Is the use of the past perfect correct here? Why? Why not?

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With "had written" we probably expect "had become" rather than "became".

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I like your answer. My response differs slightly from GPY's response, though I have incorporated his comments into my response. If I am wrong, I hope I am corrected.

Your choices were as follows:

  • has written (not good, because the timeline goes up until now. But we know the writer became successful in the past (why the writer became successful).
  • was written (not good at all)
  • had been written (again, not good at all)
  • had written (okay)

So the sentence now reads as follows:

She had written a book about why the writer became successful. (good)

had written (past perfect). Usually when we use past perfect (but not always as we shall see), something else happens afterward. For example,

When Sarah arrived at the party, Paul had already gone home. (Example from Unit 15, page 30, English Grammar in Use Fifth Edition by Raymond Murphy.)

Let's rearrange that sentence.

Paul had already gone home when Sarah arrived at the party.

On a timeline, we see that Paul had already gone prior to Sarah having arrived. So, the had indicates something that took place prior to something else happening.

We note that Sarah's arrival is in the past, too. But we don't use the past perfect in this instance because there is nothing happening afterward.

Let's compare the four sentences:

1) She had written a book about why the writer became successful.

1a) She had written a book about why the writer had become successful. (thank you GPY)

2) Paul had already gone home when Sarah arrived at the party.

In 1) , she finished writing the book in the past about why a writer became successful. As GPY points out, he became successful before she wrote the book. So an improvement on 1) would be 1a)

1a) She had written a book about why the writer had become successful. (Unfortunately, this choice is not presented.) This sentence correctly says that the writer was already successful when she finished her book.

2), Paul had already gone prior to Sarah arriving. Good.

Given the options available to choose from, I would be inclined to choose "had written," though I acknowledge GPY's answer is better with the added "had" before "become successful."

Here is another sentence similar to what I wrote today.

3) When I checked my email, I saw that Jim had sent my invoice for repairs.

Jim had sent my invoice prior to my having checked my email.

I hope my explanation makes sense.

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I would choose this.

She has written a book about why the writer became so successful .

The sequence of events seems clear. The writing came after 'she became so successful'.

Clive

Comments  
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
MountainHikerIn the first instance, she had written the book prior to the writer becoming successful.

I don't see how someone could write a book about how a writer became successful before that writer became successful.

Clive

She has written a book about why the writer became so successful .

While I agree from the context that the sequence of events is clear, I would still not use has written present perfect.

From English Grammar in Use Fifth Edition by Raymond Murphy on page 28, "We use present perfect for a period of time that continues until now."

"It hasn't rained this week."

"Have you seen Anna this morning?" (It is still morning now.)

"I've been working here since 2010." (I still work here now.)

I have lost my keys and couldn't get into the house. (Are my keys still lost in present perfect? Maybe, maybe not.)

In this instance, the book was written and completed in the past. We know she is no longer writing it, unless she is revising it. Therefore, I would be more inclined to use past perfect.

This is a good discussion.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

GPY

I don't see how someone could write a book about how a writer became successful before that writer became successful.

Good point. Let me go back and look at my answer.

I made some edits based on your comments.