+0
Hi,

I was looking at an article named "Metropolitan Diary" DATED October 16, 2000 by ENID NEMY from the New York Times and wonder if the past perfect tenses are absolutely required in some of the situations noted.

Passages from the article:

When he said he hadn't seen the item in almost half a century, the owner insisted he take a package without charge. -- To me, the past perfect tense was used in "he hadn't seen the item" since it is using the reported speech of "he say he didn't see the item in almost half a century."

"Finally the shoeshine was finished, and I said, 'It was nice talking to you,' when I suddenly realized that his conversation hadn't been addressed to me. He had been talking on his cellular phone the whole time. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. -- To me, the past perfect use as in "that his conversation hadn't been addressed to me" is good since it denotes the sequence of events as it being previous to the realizing of what happened but could this OK?
... , when I suddenly realized that his conversation wasn't addressed to me. Does it have to be a past perfect tense as Clive seemed to have said something like this rhetorically: If something occurred before something else, why not make it clear?

Then the light dawned and the musician realized trhat Mr. Sweeney was asking about the music and not inquiring about his profession. -- Why is there no need to change to passive past perfect like this since my reading of this is that the asking probably has occurred before Mr. Sweeney's realization -- why not make it passive past perfect here when the noted writer has used past perfect in a previous case although not in passive?? Then the light dawned and the musician realized that Mr. Sweeney had been asking about the music and not had been inquiring about his profession.
Comments  
"he hadn't seen the article in almost half a century" - I would use past perfect here. The speaker is describing not a single occurrence but a long period during which he has not seen whatever it is.
Yesterday, I looked for Dapper Dan hair jelly at the store and didn't see it.
I haven't seen Dapper Dan brand for years now.
Yesterday, he said that he hadn't seen Dapper Dan for years.

I would also use past perfect in your second example. Without context, it sounds as though the narrator is referring to quite a bit of conversation, none of which has been addressed to him. Past perfect makes it clear that it is the whole conversation, not just the last remark, that is being described.

Again without more context, I think the last example doesn't require past perfect for the opposite, or inverse, reason: only Mr. Sweeney's most recent remark is referenced, not the entire conversation. It is a single event. "Was asking" is used instead of "had asked" or simply "asked" to emphasize that the question, unanswered, is still "hanging out there" - Mr. Sweeney is still waiting for his answer, so the "asking process" is in effect still taking place. If the musician were remembering a conversation that took place earlier in the day, than "had been asking" or "had asked" would be appropriate.
Thank you. Can I apply your line of reasoning to this too?

You wrote:

Again without more context, I think the last example doesn't require past perfect for the opposite, or inverse, reason: only Mr. Sweeney's most recent remark is referenced, not the entire conversation. It is a single event. "Was asking" is used instead of "had asked" or simply "asked" to emphasize that the question, unanswered, is still "hanging out there" - Mr. Sweeney is still waiting for his answer, so the "asking process" is in effect still taking place. If the musician were remembering a conversation that took place earlier in the day, than "had been asking" or "had asked" would be appropriate.

Can I apply your line of reasoning to this too? Why no past perfect here? The capturing process is still going on???

He ordered the police to capture them, but they were gone.

Why not this?

He ordered the police to capture them, but they had left.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Finally the shoeshine was finished, and I said, 'It was nice talking to you,' when I suddenly realized that his conversation hadn't been addressed to me.
The fact that you want to change the above the way you propose only shows you really do not know the exact meaning of the above.
conversation: previous event, realized: current event
A change to:

Finally the shoeshine was finished, and I said, 'It was nice talking to you,' when I suddenly realized that his conversation was addressed to me.
would change this to:
conversation: current event, realized: current event, practically happening in parallel
This is possible, but not in this context, as it changes the sequence of actions. In the text, the shoeshine had been talking/conversing before the realization.
You're not exact in your sense of timing.
For the time being I'd strongly advise you to understand what's going on in the New York Times texts, only then to "correct" them.
He ordered the police to capture them, but they were gone. [their state AT THE TIME of order

> Why not this?

He ordered the police to capture them, but they had left.
[the action of leaving PRECEDES the order
You're confusing a state (gone) with an action (had left).
Both are possible, but the meanings are NOT the same.
Then the light dawned and the musician realized trhat Mr. Sweeney was asking about the music and not inquiring about his profession.

>Why is there no need to change to passive past perfect like this since my reading of this is that the asking probably has occurred before Mr. Sweeney's realization
Both versions are possible.
However, the original in the above emphasizes author's opinion that the realization and the asking/inquiring were going on in parallel or very closely separated. More importantly, it shows that the asking and the inquiring were still going on. A past perfect may introduce too much distance in time, in author's opinion.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Thank you for providing categorical explanations. I will take a good look and if I have any questions, I will try to post again. Thank you, Marius.