+0
Tony Blair has refused to give a timetable for his departure as prime minister, saying it would "paralyse the proper working of government".
He insisted he would give "the time properly needed for my successor to establish himself".

He said some of those calling for him to go wanted to "radically change the direction of policy and not to renew Labour but to reverse it".

He refused to say if he had discussed the succession with Gordon Brown.

'Outstanding figure'

And he said suggestions that he had sacked Jack Straw as foreign secretary over differences with the United States about Iran were "rubbish".

He said Mr Straw was "an outstanding figure" who had agreed with the prime minister after the last election that he would stand down as foreign secretary "at some point".
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He refused to say if he had discussed the succession with Gordon Brown.
The above is a past perfect sentence. As you are all aware I have difficulties in judging the necessity of the past perfect tense.

Would the following be sufficient in the given context?

He refused to say if he discussed the succession with Gordon Brown.

Your comments are welcome
1 2
Comments  
Hello Rotter

1. He refused to say if he had discussed X with GB.

2. He refused to say if he discussed X with GB.

In #1, the putative discussions predate the "refusal to say"; thus the past perfect is used.

#2 however suggests that the discussions are still in progress: he refused to say if he was in the habit of discussing X with GB.

MrP
Thanks Mr Pedantic for the reply.

2. He refused to say if he discussed X with GB.
Does the above really imply that the discussions are still in progress?
My knowledge of English is insufficient to understand your point.

I talked to a friend of mine about the benefits of training at a gym. As a matter of fact, I train 3 times a week at a gym.

Today I would write ' I discussed with him about training ....

Today I wouldn't write ' I had discussed with him about training....
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Is the past perfect necessary in the following too?

Wouldn't you write 'who agreed' instead of 'who had agreed' here?
He said Mr Straw was "an outstanding figure" who had agreed with the prime minister after the last election that he would stand down as foreign secretary "at some point".
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Please look at this one too. I need your comments.
Hello Rotter

1. He refused to say if he discussed X with GB.
Does the above really imply that the discussions are still in progress?

— yes, it can, oddly: cf. "he refused to say if he had eggs for breakfast every day". The tense in the if-clause is a past tense form by accord with "refused".

2. In your gym example, you have only one time frame. But cf.

Today: "I have discussed X with my friend."

Tomorrow: "Yesterday, I said that I had discussed X with my friend."

3. Wouldn't you write 'who agreed' instead of 'who had agreed' here?
He said Mr Straw was "an outstanding figure" who had agreed with the prime minister after the last election that he would stand down as foreign secretary "at some point".

— I would prefer "had agreed" here, as it positions the "agreeing" before the "he said".

MrP
Thanks Mr Pedantic for taking time again to reply me.

I still find it difficult to grab your point of view. It may be my standard of English is not very high.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Well, I wouldn't blame yourself for that – BrE-speakers and AmE-speakers often disagree about the present perfect; and another BrE-speaker might easily take a different view from me.

(I'm not sure I've ever seen an entirely satisfactory explanation of the oddities of the present perfect.)

MrP
On the original question with the past perfect --

Present point of view:

a He refuses to say if he has discussed the succession. ( ... to say whether the discussion took place)
b He refuses to say if he discusses the succession. (... to say whether he discusses this topic habitually)

The corresponding past point of view:

c He refused to say if he had discussed the succession.
d He refused to say if he discussed the succession.


d can be considered the exact corresponding sentence to b, with the same "habitual" interpretation, or it just might be taken to be the equivalent of c. Because of the ambiguity it's much better, in my opinion, to use the version with had discussed (c).

I'm not completely sure this would constitute a disagreement between BrE and AmE.

CJ
CalifJim The corresponding past point of view:

c He refused to say if he had discussed the succession.
d He refused to say if he discussed the succession.


d can be considered the exact corresponding sentence to b, with the same "habitual" interpretation, or it just might be taken to be the equivalent of c. Because of the ambiguity it's much better, in my opinion, to use the version with had discussed (c).

I'm not completely sure this would constitute a disagreement between BrE and AmE.
Yes.

d might represent a "tense simplification" with no real meaning (the OP might want to check Swan, Practical English Usage), in which in secondary sentences past perfect constructions simplify to past tense. More expedient, but less clear than c.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Show more