1. Manwards
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    Manwards New Member

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    Am I able to mix simple past and past perfect like this?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Manwards, May 18, 2008.

    This will be my first post on this forum, so an introduction is in order.

    I'm Manwards, or Manny. Hello.

    So, I'm working on a short story and have a question. Here's an excerpt from my story:

    Emi has been crying intermittently for four years now.
    I hadn't looked over my shoulder. I hadn't needed to see her at the head of my unkempt bed, little limbs folded like a drowned insect. I hadn't wanted to see the blood on her lower lip, on her bare thighs, staining the yellowed sheets a dingy amber. I hadn't been able to meet her similarly sodden bitter almond eyes. Nor did I want to listen to her breath going in and out in erratic gasps and sobs.
    I listened instead to Chokmah summon the accursed demon Maledict, and did my best to ignore my first and final girlfriend.


    Am I able to mix tenses like this?

    I'm confident about the use of the present tense in the first line, as it tells the reader that Emi continues to cry to the present day, which is correct. It's the mixing of the simple past and past perfect tenses that I'm unsure of.

    I've highlighted two sentences in bold. Should the second sentence read Nor had I wanted to listen to her..., so that it matches the previous lines? Does this entire section, which takes place at an earlier date to the rest of the story, have to be written in past perfect to be correct?

    Thanks in advance,

    Manwards
     
  2. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    My heart in on the shores of Gitchee-Gume, my body
    If five minutes ago he hadn't wanted to meet her eyes, and right this very second he doesn't want to listen to her breathe, then you're using the right tense. Otherwise, you skipped some time between the first bolded sentence and the second.

    Perosnaly, I'd say 'I hadn't looked over my shoulder. I didn't need to see her...' because after the first 'hadn't', the past perfect will be implied.
     
  3. Manwards
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    Manwards New Member

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    Thanks.

    Thanks for that. I actually played with it myself after starting this thread and came to the same conclusion. Hopefully that means my instincts, if that's the right word, aren't as dull as I try to convince myself they are. Thanks again.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have to disagree... there's no reason for you to not continue the use of 'hadn't' with that, since you used it up to that point... the problem i have is with all of the 'had's... why do you think you need them at all?... the whole thing is a muddle of tenses, imo... if you finish with past tense, you need to start with it, as well... thus this would make much better sense:

     

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