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I think what could be said about a past perfect tense is it is used to note that one event precedes the other. I also think in most cases it is used to definitely denote an event has ended. Please correct the grammar of my writing if necessary, as well as commenting on what I had to say.

1. He complained about the donut with specks of dirt on it and she thought he had put them there. -- Here, the past perfect "had put" puts the action of putting before his complaining and her thinking.

If a person changed the tense to past like "put" with no auxiliary "had," then I think what you would have is a sentence that meant the same basically, but the sentence with the past perfect tense would make the knowledge of one event preceding the other or others (more) definitively.

2. He was talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him. -- Same line of arguement as no. 1 applies here, that is, the use of past perfect puts a more definite note to the sequence of one preceding the other or others. But I feel the use of the past "embarrassed" without the auxiliary verb "had" would be OK. too.

3. He gave her monthly allowances for two months. She thought he could have used the money every month to subsize her meager monthly earnings.

I feel we could use the verb "could use" instead of the verb in the sentence, "could have used," without making the sentence basically to mean different, but the use of "could have used" puts the note of possibility of having used the money definitely before her thinking than had it been the verb "could have."

So, I think, as far as in the cases above (if not for the most sentential situations - cases? - we encounter?), the function of a past perfect tense is make a more definite note of one action preceding the other or others, more so than the use of a past tense. But the meaning of the sentence seems to remain clear in both cases, whether in a past perfect or past tense.
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AnonymousI think what could be said about a past perfect tense is it is used to note that one event precedes the other. I also think in most cases it is used to definitely denote an event has ended.

One event precedes another that is already in the past. It takes you "further back in time" from a time that's already in the past.

At the store: "Heck, I left my wallet at home."

Talking about it later: "I got to the store and realised I had left my wallet at home."
Anonymous1. He complained about the donut with specks of dirt on it and she thought he had put them there. -- Here, the past perfect "had put" puts the action of putting before his complaining and her thinking.
Yes, exactly.
AnonymousIf a person changed the tense to past like "put" with no auxiliary "had," then I think what you would have is a sentence that meant the same basically, but the sentence with the past perfect tense would make the knowledge of one event preceding the other or others (more) definitively.
If you use "put" then theoretically you remove the "stepping further back in time" element. In this sentence, though, it has to be the case that he put them there before complaining, so to me "put" means pretty much the same as "had put". I prefer "had put".

Anonymous2. He was talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him. -- Same line of arguement as no. 1 applies here, that is, the use of past perfect puts a more definite note to the sequence of one preceding the other or others. But I feel the use of the past "embarrassed" without the auxiliary verb "had" would be OK. too.
Yes, the same line of argument as #1. If you use "had embarrassed" then the act of her embarrassing him is set further back in time than the talking and feeling. If you use "embarrassed" then the things are visualised as happening at the same time (or, in a narrative telling of sequential events, one after the other in the sequence written). However, the two parts of the sentence don't join very well for me, especially with "embarrassed":

He was talking to me and she felt she embarrassed him.

This feels to me like two separate statements that don't have much business being connected by "and".
Anonymous
3. He gave her monthly allowances for two months. She thought he could have used the money every month to subsize her meager monthly earnings.

I feel we could use the verb "could use" instead of the verb in the sentence, "could have used," without making the sentence basically to mean different, but the use of "could have used" puts the note of possibility of having used the money definitely before her thinking than had it been the verb "could have."

I'm not clear enough about what the position these sentences are taking to really say. "She thought he could have used/could use" sounds too uncertain after a statement that he did give her the allowance. Let's try a simpler version:

"She thought he could spare some money every month to subsidize her monthly allowance."

"She thought he could have spared some money every month to subsidize her monthly allowance."

These both sound OK to me. The second has a sense that he didn't actually provide the money.
Thank you so much for your lengthy reply.

You wrote this response, in addition to quoting some writing of mine.


Anonymous

“2. He was talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him. -- Same line of arguement as no. 1 applies here, that is, the use of past perfect puts a more definite note to the sequence of one preceding the other or others. But I feel the use of the past "embarrassed" without the auxiliary verb "had" would be OK. too.”
Yes, the same line of argument as #1. If you use "had embarrassed" then the act of her embarrassing him is set further back in time than the talking and feeling. If you use "embarrassed" then the things are visualised as happening at the same time (or, in a narrative telling of sequential events, one after the other in the sequence written). However, the two parts of the sentence don't join very well for me, especially with "embarrassed":

He was talking to me and she felt she embarrassed him.

This feels to me like two separate statements that don't have much business being connected by "and".

Let me expand the situation and lay out the context like this.

They were in a good term during the last semester. Once, they were in a gathering and she sort of mentioned that he didn't graduate from college to others around her while he was in a listening distance from her. At a meeting after a few days after that incidence, they met again, but he wasn't talking to her. He felt he had embarrassed her.

If the part underlined were in the past tense "embarrassed," then would you say the sequence of the event/action of embarrassing her and his feeling that way would be less clear than had it had the past perfect tense "had embarrassed"? (Sorry, did I use the tense "had it had" correctly in this question?) Thank you for your anticipated help.
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Anonymous
Let me expand the situation and lay out the context like this.

They were in a good term during the last semester. Once, they were in a gathering and she sort of mentioned that he didn't graduate from college to others around her while he was in a listening distance from her. At a meeting after a few days after that incidence, they met again, but he wasn't talking to her. He felt he had embarrassed her.

If the part underlined were in the past tense "embarrassed," then would you say the sequence of the event/action of embarrassing her and his feeling that way would be less clear than had it had the past perfect tense "had embarrassed"? (Sorry, did I use the tense "had it had" correctly in this question?) Thank you for your anticipated help.


If the feeling in the last sentence refers specifically to the embarrassment caused by the incident a few days earlier then you should say "had embarrassed". If you use "embarrassed" then the last sentence simply means that he felt he embarrassed her in a general sense (by his presence or behaviour generally).

In reality, the situation is slightly more complicated because even native speakers don't always use the past perfect when strictly they ought to. If I read "embarrassed" in this sentence, and I wasn't confident that the writer was someone who paid attention to such things, then I might well assume that he/she actually meant "had embarrassed".

This isn't really relevant to your question, but in the first part it seems to me more like she embarrasses him, yet in the final sentence you say that he had embarrassed her.
Anonymous
Sorry, did I use the tense "had it had" correctly in this question?


It doesn't seem quite right to me, but I think you have made an admirable job of crafting a sentence whose complexity would defeat most native speakers! I'm struggling a bit myself. Without completely changing the whole structure, I think I would probably write it like this:

If the part underlined were in the past tense ("embarrassed"), then would you say the sequence of the event/action of embarrassing her and his feeling that way would be less clear than it is in the past perfect tense ("had embarrassed")?
Thank you so much again. Let me please clarify this. Are you saying that if a sentential situation is such that the part in past perfect specifically (clearly) refers to an event that has occurred in the past, then we should use the a past perfect tense? And would you say that would be something we can say for most of the similar cases (sentential situations?) we might see in writing? Does no. 1 reflect that? And would you say no. 2 doesn't follow that line of recommendation? I think no. 2 lacks specificity of reference that no. 1 seems to possess (in term of the underlined verb uses).

1. His teacher recommended her to do homework regularly and that would be a good habit to develop. Following his advice, she did what she had been told, at least for a while, until she fell back to her old habit.

2. If you asked me. I would say this about kids around here. As a youngster without much experience in life, it would be wise to do what his or her parents tell him or her to do. Jane, for example, did what she was told most of the time, and she grew up to be a fine lady, being a freshman in a fine Christian college.
Hi. The following question was written to clarify what you said. I think the way words are used and how they are arranged makes a difference in understanding the intended meaning. Eventhough my question seems to say basically the same thing as what you have said and has some words that were in your comment sentence, the intent was to clarify the intended meaning and not quote or paraphrase what you have said -- since I wasn't sure of your intended meaning by your language or how and what words are used to form a sentence.

Question in reference:

Thank you so much again. Let me please clarify this. Are you saying that if a sentential situation is such that the part in past perfect specifically (clearly) refers to an event that has occurred in the past, then we should use the a past perfect tense
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AnonymousThank you so much again. Let me please clarify this. Are you saying that if a sentential situation is such that the part in past perfect specifically (clearly) refers to an event that has occurred in the past, then we should use the a past perfect tense?

Not simply "an event that has occurred in the past", an event that occurred further back in the past. That is, before some other event that is also in the past. In very simple terms:

A. Something happens.

B. Later on, something else happens.

C. Later still, you're describing B in the past tense. However, A also has some relevance, so you want to mention it. Then you use the past perfect to describe A.
AnonymousDoes no. 1 reflect that? And would you say no. 2 doesn't follow that line of recommendation? I think no. 2 lacks specificity of reference that no. 1 seems to possess (in term of the underlined verb uses).
In #1:

A. The teacher recommends that she does her homework regulary.

B. She does this (at least for a while).

C. You describe B in the past tense ("she did") and A in the past perfect ("she had been told").

In this case, A is initially described in the past tense ("recommended"). This is part of a sequential narrative sequence. We're in the past tense: the teacher recommended. In the next sentence we move forward in time. The past tense is now at the point where "she did". The teacher's recommendation has receded further back into the past, so we use the past perfect.

In #2, the sense of her doing what she had been told after she had been told has been blurred. We know it must have happened that way, but it's not seen as important. "she did what she was told" refers to the prevailing state of affairs, without breaking it down into individual "A" and "B" steps, as happened in #1.
Hi. Thank you very much for taking time to answer questions of mine. I think it might be better to stop here since this thread is gettin long, but allow me to ask this one more question (this has been bothering me for some time).

You wrote these responses while quoting some sentences of mine making references to my writing:


Anonymous

“If a person changed the tense to past like "put" with no auxiliary "had," then I think what you would have is a sentence that meant the same basically, but the sentence with the past perfect tense would make the knowledge of one event preceding the other or others (more) definitively.”
If you use "put" then theoretically you remove the "stepping further back in time" element. In this sentence, though, it has to be the case that he put them there before complaining, so to me "put" means pretty much the same as "had put". I prefer "had put".


Anonymous

“2. He was talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him. -- Same line of arguement as no. 1 applies here, that is, the use of past perfect puts a more definite note to the sequence of one preceding the other or others. But I feel the use of the past "embarrassed" without the auxiliary verb "had" would be OK. too.”
Yes, the same line of argument as #1. If you use "had embarrassed" then the act of her embarrassing him is set further back in time than the talking and feeling. If you use "embarrassed" then the things are visualised as happening at the same time (or, in a narrative telling of sequential events, one after the other in the sequence written). However, the two parts of the sentence don't join very well for me, especially with "embarrassed":

He was talking to me and she felt she embarrassed him.

This feels to me like two separate statements that don't have much business being connected by "and".

My sentence "He was talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him" should have had the word "not" after the word "was," making it "He was not talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him."

The two example sentences (with the one later corrected) "He complained about the donut with specks of dirt on it and she thought he had put them there." and "He was not talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him" seem structually similar, yet you seemed to have said (if I am not mistaken) that the former one has a structure that somewhat reveals the sequence involved regardless whether past or past perfect was involved, whereas the latter one doesn't follow the suit. Why is that?
AnonymousThe two example sentences (with the one later corrected) "He complained about the donut with specks of dirt on it and she thought he had put them there." and "He was not talking to me and she felt she had embarrassed him" seem structually similar, yet you seemed to have said (if I am not mistaken) that the former one has a structure that somewhat reveals the sequence involved regardless whether past or past perfect was involved, whereas the latter one doesn't follow the suit. Why is that?

If you use "put" then, according to the usual grammatical rules, the sentence ought to mean that his putting the specks of dirt on the donut happened at the same time as his complaint (or, if it's supposed to be a sequential sequence of events, after his complaint). However, this doesn't make any sense: the specks have to already be on the donut when he complains about them. The only way it makes sense is if he put the specks on the donut some time before his complaint, which is exactly what "had put" means. Therefore, there is effectively no difference in meaning between "put" and "had put" -- not for grammatical reasons but simply because of the sense of the sentence. All that happens is that the sentence with "put" seems (to me) slightly awkward and gives the impression that "had put" ought to have been used (remember I said earlier that people who don't pay close attention to these things do not always use the past perfect when really they should, so if the sense of a sentence seems to require the past perfect then it is assumed).
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