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"In this catalogue, you will find Alice in Wonderland material that had belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote the stories."

Where's the "later past action" here to warrant the use of past perfect in the sentence above? Wouldn't simple past work perfectly fine?

"In this catalogue, you will find Alice in Wonderland material that (once) belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote the stories."

Could the reason be because the catalogue had been designed to showcase items that were to be sold at an auction, so obviously everything would've been owned by others before? The auction would serve as the latter past event. But what if the auction hadn't occured yet? Then there would be no reason to use past perfect.

And what of a sentence like this:

"I wish now that I had bought that instead."

There is only one past action referred to in this sentence, so why the past perfect?

Thanks!
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You're right on the first, IMO, BUT: the author might have had in mind the fact that the girl (Alice) had lived before Carroll wrote the story. In that interpretation, he's correct.

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"I wish now that I had bought that instead."

This is a different usage: it creates the unreal situation (which you find in past conditionals, remember?).

http://www.englishpage.com/conditional/pastconditional.html#pastunreal

It's unreal because the buying has already taken place.

It's equal to:

"I wish now that I would have bought that instead."

I think that's correct. The past perfect may have been a stylistic choice to emphasize the historic element. But I do think the simple past tense would work. English grammar can get a little squishy here and there (meaning that a lot of writers bend the rules for style), which can create a lot of confusion even for english speakers.

Ask an english speaker in the street to explain the "past perfect" tense and 99% of them won't have a clue. The more complex tenses rightly cause confusion for non-native speakers because they even confuse native speakers.
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<"In this catalogue, you will find Alice in Wonderland material that had belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote the stories.">

Hint: did the material go to/get inherited by anyone when Alice Liddell died? Were there other owners (the later past time reference) after her?

Also see this:

Her character in CLOSER is named Alice, and after the film wrapped she gave Nichols and screenwriter Patrick Marbert copies of ALICE IN WONDERLAND that had belonged to Alice Liddell, the young woman who inspirired the title character.

http://www.natalieportman.com/articles/nparticles_en.php?viewarticle=1&article_number=338
I think that's correct. The past perfect may have been a stylistic choice to emphasize the historic element. But I do think the simple past tense would work. English grammar can get a little squishy here and there (meaning that a lot of writers bend the rules for style), which can create a lot of confusion even for english speakers.

Ask an english speaker in the street to explain the "past perfect" tense and 99% of them won't have a clue. The more complex tenses rightly cause confusion for non-native speakers because they even confuse native speakers.

Argggh! Why does everyone assume right away that I'm a non-native speaker? I am bit touchy when it comes to this subject because, yes, I may have once been an immigrant, but I grew up here in Canada, have lived in Vancouver since I was 6, speak English better than my mother tongue, and I deserve to be called a native speaker as much as the next "real" native speaker on these boards. Just because I post on this board asking qusetions relating to grammar, does it mean I'm any less deserving of being termed a "native speaker"?

I know I'm probably taking your comment a bit too far. But my reason for posting on these boards is simply to learn more about the correct way to use words. It really offends me when people automatically assume that about me. Perhaps I should find another board that simply answers questions regarding grammar and whose members don't make snap judgments about others' English level.

And it's not like any of the wordy, convoluted grammar explanations some people like to give on here could be understood by anyone with less than a near native, at least, advanced grasp of English anyway. I find myself always having to carefully pick apart what some of you say. If this board was really aimed towards helping English-learners learn the language, then the "moderators" or "teachers" should put more effort into writing clear, understandable prose as opposed to showing off their writing skills.
Marius HancuYou're right on the first, IMO, BUT: the author might have had in mind the fact that the girl (Alice) had lived before Carroll wrote the story. In that interpretation, he's correct.

It's "Alice in Wonderland" material. So how would it be possible for Alice to have owned "Alice in Wonderland" material before Carroll had written the books?
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I know I'm probably taking your comment a bit too far. ...
A bit, yes! Most of the questions come from non-native speakers, so it's an honest mistake to make that assumption.
... convoluted grammar explanations some people like to give ...
... put more effort into writing clear, understandable prose as opposed to showing off their writing skills.
... What's the matter, Lunchbox? Didn't you like my color-coded explanations? I've never tried explaining anything that way before. Maybe it didn't work as well as I thought it would! Emotion: smile

CJ
Lunchbox
Marius HancuYou're right on the first, IMO, BUT: the author might have had in mind the fact that the girl (Alice) had lived before Carroll wrote the story. In that interpretation, he's correct.

It's "Alice in Wonderland" material. So how would it be possible for Alice to have owned "Alice in Wonderland" material before Carroll had written the books?

I initially thought this "material" could be things that once belonged to Alice Liddell, but it seems to be stuff owned by Carroll, perhaps initial manuscripts, etc.

Perhaps the author wanted to say (and this would justify the past perfect):

"In this catalogue, you will find Alice in Wonderland material that had belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote the stories, before she died"
<"In this catalogue, you will find Alice in Wonderland material that had belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote the stories, before she died">

Better, IMO:

"In this catalogue, you will find Alice in Wonderland material that had belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote the stories, "

No need for the explicit use of "before she died". Her things have passed through many hands.

See:

The brothers Rosenbach bought Alice's original copy at an auction in 1928, for the equivalent of $74,000. They offered to sell it for the same price to the British Museum, but the museum could not meet the price.

http://www.sptimes.com/2003/05/25/Travel/Hold history_in_your.shtml

Etc.

The reason for the use past perfect is to add value to the items at auction. Saying that Alice Liddel had once owned the materials gives more value.
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