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Hi everyone.

Please, can someone explain to me the use of the Past Perfect in stories. I understand its use for an action that happened prior to another action, mostly when they are told in different order. However, I see the past perfect quite often at the beginning of stories, with no obvious reason for it, as the actions are in the actual order they happened. Is it just something that is common but has no particular explanation?

For example right now I am reading this book of children's bedtime stories. (but I have come across this use in other stories, too)

Here are some of the beginnings of the stories. While most of the stories start with the Past Simple or Past Continuous, which seems quite logical.:

1) Snuffle the Dog and Ruby the Rabbit had gone out for a walk together. "What a lovely day it is", said Ruby, as they strolled along.

2) Bob the Bear had been invited to visit his friend Ben for the weekend. Ben the Bear lived by the seaside, so Bob took his water-skis along. ......

3) The children at playschool had spent many weeks making a huge monster. It had a fierce face with spiky teeth, ....

4) Roderick had been reading about knights in a book. He'd especially enjoyed the advnetures of the Knights of the Round Table. "We've got a square table at home, "thought Roderick. ...........

5) Sandra squirrel had borrowed a recipe book from the Woodland Library. The first recipe in the book told her how to make acorn soup.

6) A princess had been born to the King and Queen of Happy Land. The Princess was called Alice. Trumpeters played a fanfare .....

etc.

Thank you. Have a good everyone.

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In all these examples, the past perfect is used for scene-setting statements that look back to what happened prior to the time-point at which the beginning of the narrative is set. For example, in (1), the start of the narrative is set at the time when Ruby says "What a lovely day it is". The past perfect in the previous sentence explains what happened before this, how they arrived at the situation where Ruby said this. The other examples are similar.

Comments  
radovan1) Snuffle the Dog and Ruby the Rabbit had gone out for a walk together. "What a lovely day it is", said Ruby, as they strolled along.

They were already on their walk when the story started.

radovan2) Bob the Bear had been invited to visit his friend Ben for the weekend. Ben the Bear lived by the seaside, so Bob took his water-skis along. ......

Ben invited Bob before the point in time when the story begins.

radovan3) The children at playschool had spent many weeks making a huge monster. It had a fierce face with spiky teeth, ....

The monster had already been made when the story started.

radovan4) Roderick had been reading about knights in a book. He'd especially enjoyed the advnetures of the Knights of the Round Table. "We've got a square table at home, "thought Roderick. ...........

Roderick read the adventures before we came in.

Etc.

If you use the simple past in a story, the action happens right then. Of course, if my explanations turn out not to be true, the writer messed up.

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 GPY's reply was promoted to an answer.

Thanks. I think I get it. Now it all makes sense and the writer didn't mess up. Your explanations seem to add up in the other stories, too. So far, anyway Emotion: smile Thanks.

Thanks GPY. I think I get it. Now it all makes sense. I am used to scene-setting statements in the past continous but I had been racking my brains over this for some time. Your explanation seems to add up in the other stories, too. So far, anyway Emotion: smile Thanks. I hope it helps other readers/students, too.

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