Could anyone kindly explain to me the use of the tenses in the sentence bellow:

"He had been a soldier since he was seventeen, and planned to stay in the army till he was thirty."

I do not understand why the Past Simple is used after "since." Is there some rule governing the use of tenses after "since" in the case of this sentence.

Thank you for all your replies.
1 2
Yes, there is a rule. Namely a construction: "We have been friends since we were kids." This indicates we are still friends and emphasizes the moment (which might be not so specific as you see) in the past where the process (in our case) occurs. Your sentence fits the rule differing in tenses. Since it is a narrative, it is converted to a past tense. that is sequence of tenses.
Hi,

The idea is since some point in the past.

eg . . . since 1999.

eg . . . since he completed high school.

eg . . . since he was 17 ( ie Past Simple again, meaning 'since he became 17')

Clive
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Thank you, Fandorin and Clive, for your time and efforts.

You can call me a dimwit, but I still cannot understand why the state of his being seventeen, which obviously predates his entry into the military service, is described by the Past Simple, and his being a soldier, which follows his seventeenth birthday, is described by the Past Perfect, a tense used for activities happening before those in the Past Simple.

Fandorin wrote that this is the question of the construction. It’s easier to grasp when it pertains the the present (“He’s been nervous since he saw her.”), but what about the past (“He had been nervous since he saw her.” - ???)
AnonymousIt’s easier to grasp when it pertains the the present (“He’s been nervous since he saw her.”), but what about the past (“He had been nervous since he saw her.” - ???)
Once you establish the temporal frame of reference with the past perfect in a main clause, the subordinate clauses attached to it are seen from the point of view of that frame of reference.

If the language did not adopt that sort of convention, I think we would have to invent more and more tenses to get farther and farther back in time.

*He had been a soldier after he had had been a carpenter, which he had had been after he had had had been a plumber.

Emotion: smile

CJ
Hello, guys. I see it as simple conversion according to the sequence of tenses. Nothing more. Am I being naive and there is more to it? Emotion: smile
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Fandorinsimple conversion according to the sequence of tenses
Can you specify further? How about giving the original and the converted version? Are you recommending something like this?

He has known since he heard it from his sister. >

He had known since he had heard it from his sister.

CJ
OK, I came across this sentence :

  1. “We all knew he had been drinking heavily since his wife died”
Am I right to posit that the death of his wife predates his drinking problems and their/our knowledge of his alcoholism? Why doesn’t the sentence look like this:

  1. “We all knew he had been drinking heavily since his wife had died?”
Similarly, in the sentence:

  1. “He said he’d lived in a tent since his house burnt down”
the burning down of his house precedes his staying in a tent and his telling about it.

Is the “since” clause then a time clause in which the use of tenses is governed by the rules akin to those conveying the future through the Present Simple after “when” in the sentence below:

  1. “When he arrives he’ll tell us.”
CalifJim wrote about establishing a temporal frame of reference. Am I right in assuming that in sentences 1 and 3 the temporal frame of references would be designated by “We all knew..” in sentence 1 and “He said…” in sentence 3? Is the choice of the Past Perfect in the following clauses to underscore the preteritness of the actions described by this tense with reference to “We all knew…” and “He said…”? But how does the Past Simple after “since” in these sentences fit in with all this?

The use of the tenses in sentence 5 below is the most obvious and natural for a non-native user of English such as me:

He invited me to go riding with him. 5. “But it was two years since I had ridden a horse”

Being convinced, probably erroneously, that I understand the rules behind the use of the tenses in sentence 5, I find the use of the Past Simple after “since” in sentences 1 and 3 above and in sentence 6 bellow baffling:

  1. "He had been a soldier since he was seventeen, and planned to stay in the army till he was thirty."
As always, thank you very much for all the replies.
AnonymousAm I right to posit that the death of his wife predates his drinking problems and their/our knowledge of his alcoholism? Why doesn’t the sentence look like this:
“We all knew he had been drinking heavily since his wife had died?”
Yes to the assumption about the order of events. Past frequently replaces past perfect. This substitution is almost universal after since, probably because since can't introduce any time reference other than 'before' (the event in the clause it is subordinate to). In a way, the answer to "Why not with the past perfect?" is "Because it's not necessary".

The same logic applies to the house that burnt down.

The same logic applies to the soldier in the army.
AnonymousIs the “since” clause then a time clause in which the use of tenses is governed by the rules akin to those conveying the future through the Present Simple after “when” in the sentence below:
“When he arrives he’ll tell us.”
That's possible, but I've never thought about it that way.
AnonymousAm I right in assuming that in sentences 1 and 3 the temporal frame of references would be designated by “We all knew..” in sentence 1 and “He said…” in sentence 3?
I would have picked the clauses closer to the since clause, namely, he had been drinking heavily and he'd lived in a tent. Those are the clauses that the since relates to most obviously.
Anonymoushow does the Past Simple after “since” in these sentences fit in with all this?
I explain it in terms of tense substitution, as I did above, and as the normal way since, by its very meaning, indicates a time anterior to its governing clause.

AnonymousBut it was two years since I had ridden a horse
I regard it an exception when the amount of time itself occupies the governing clause. This is a sort of conceptual inversion of I hadn't ridden a horse for two years. It's a somewhat strange construction for non-natives, I suppose, so it may have to be learned separately.

CJ
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