1. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    "Had had"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by essential life, Sep 1, 2009.

    When writing in the past perfect, is it ever permissible to use this?

    As in...

    "He had had a terrible day."
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes... but is awkward to see and to read, so i'd advise you to avoid it, if at all possible...
     
  4. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Usually I avoid the repetition of "had had" as in your example by saying something like "he'd had" but it is acceptable to say "had had" in most instances. But if it reads awkwardly, it's better to try to word it differently.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I hate reading "had had" in novel, so I avoid it always. There is always a way around using it.

    One option was "he'd had a . . ."
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    What about "was was"? It's even worse, IMO. Furthermore, I've never seen it in published material - ever - even though it does technically seem to work sometimes. Is it just that unsightly, or is there some rule I fail to understand?

    In any case, I think there's always a better way to write things. If it seems awkward or questionable, rephrase. If it looks ugly, throw it out. Why keep it? It doesn't matter whether it is technically permissible or not, whatever the issue may be. Reader's perception is the deciding factor for me.
     
  7. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Kas, I can think of two published works right off the top of my head, that I have seen it is, Mists of Avalon and Twilight (all 4 of the books at least 1 if not 4 or 5 instances), Mists had a couple of instances of it. I know I've seen it in other books, but I can't think of any other's off hand.

    I know it does annoy me when I see it too. "I had had...blah..." It is proper in it's usage, but annoying nonetheless.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "Was was" makes no sense. In "had had", the first had forms the past perfect with the second had being the past tense of the root verb to have. The solution, other than concealing the first had in a contraction, is to use a different verb than to have for the root verb, e.g. "had owned" or "had held".
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Lois Bujold uses "had had" a few times in each of her novels.
     
  10. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Thanks for responding, Cog. So if I see "was was," I can say with confidence that it is entirely incorrect?

    My initial thought was that, "what it was, was a weasel," should be "what it was, is a weasel." Correct?

    Obviously you could just write, "it was a weasel," but we're keeping the clumsy structure for the sake of example.;)

    Bluebell, are you saying that you've seen the double "was" in Twilight, or just "had had"? If the former, I must have missed that one.:rolleyes: I've seen the double had, though usually in lesser works. Twilight will never be considered anything close to literary, so that's not surprising.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The thing about her is, is that she is very picky.

    That is the thing about her; she's very picky.

    Kas, where you thinking about something like this?
     
  12. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Actually I think that awful structure does make sense. I thought you meant "was was" just like that, which is obviously wrong, but the comma and the structure makes it both really terrible and grammatically right. Changing the second was to is is wrong, it will either be was, was or is, is depending on the tense.
     
  13. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I understand what you're saying, arron. I understand the reasoning behind both sentences, hence my confusion.

    I encountered this sentence while writing a review: "What furniture there was was hard and uncomfortable."

    If you stick a comma in there, I guess it makes sense, which is why I didn't say that it was simply wrong. I just said that it seemed very awkward, and that I don't recall seeing it in published material before.

    And, of course, if you write "what furniture there was, is hard. . ." it would result in tense confusion, and be entirely nonsensical. I guess you could say the same for my last example, though for some reason that one made more sense to me (almost certainly because I wrote it:rolleyes:)

    So, is was, was technically okay? If not, how do we write these sentences while keeping the ugly structure?

    Cog, where are you? lol
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The comma makes it into something esle entirely. "Had had" is a valid verb form, whereas "was, was" is merely repetition in two adjacent clauses. Putting them next to each other is ugly, but not particularly prone to confusion.

    I personally would not cringe from using "had had", as long as the resulting sentance was clear enough:
    The meaning is clear enough without somersaulting through flaming hoops to avoid it. (had enough is a colloquiallism that doesn't lend well to verb substitution, and a contraction would be uglier in this case).

    But if you find yourself with a "had had" usage that troubles you, it's generally not all that hard to write around it.
     
  15. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Okay, that makes sense. I just assumed the comma was obvious, and didn't think to include it outside of a sentence.

    So, the conclusion: both are fine, but unsightly. Use with caution, and not too often.

    Colloquiallism is a different can of worms, IMO. The dos and do nots of narrative don't necessarily apply in that case, and I agree with your example. I was thinking more along the lines of standard literary writing, uncoloured by expressions and such.

    I'm sure I have a "had had" or two somewhere, but it would appear only under the influence of character voice/personality, or in keeping with a casual narrative.
     
  16. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    You could write it like this:

    And to Cogito's sentence:


    I know you wanted to retain the ungainly structure, but it's easy enough to avoid it, I think.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    ^ No one wanted to use that structure, its just that it had been seen and we were wondering how correct it was...it is a very ugly structure and should be avoided whenever possible...
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And conversely, I can choose NOT to. To you it may be ungainly, but to me it said exactly what I wanted to say. Without putting a klieg light on the sentence, most readers would immecdiately grasp the meaning without giving it a second thought.

    It's like an amateur writer madly twisting dialogue tags to avoid writing he said too often. You are often better off just leaving it alone. Your contortions to avoid saying what comes naturally stand out far more than the straightforward expression you chose in the first place.
     
  19. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Sometimes, I'm reading these threads and I just want to post to point to Cognito and say, "What he just said." I immediately recognized that "had had" in that context was perfectly fine, for all the reasons Cognito did a fine job of outlining.

    I don't even find it clunky. It actually seemed a perfectly normal sentence to me, and I suspect that most of us would never even notice it if it was built into the context of a longer paragraph using the same verb tense.

    Last month, Terra had visited the amusement park. She had gone on all the rides, had played all the stands. Her friends had come along. She had eaten hot dogs, had shared laughs with all her friends. She had had a wonderful time.

    Now, if, while I was writing that, I had removed a "had" from the last sentence, I would have had inconsistent verb tenses in the paragraph. In the process of writing, I had had a need to repeat the word, and so, I had done so.

    Charlie
     
  20. bluebell80
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    ^ LOL...Charlie. I agree.

    Kas, I meant "had had" not "was,was" in the Twilight books, though "was,was" might have appeared too and I just didn't notice it.

    I've been experimenting in writing in the present tense, so the "had had" issue hasn't come up for me lately. But, I do notice it when I read articles or other fictional works often enough.
     
  21. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Another way "was was" would work (with minor change in capitalization) is if there was a character (probably a Dr. Suess like character) whose name was "Was."

    His name was Was.
    He was Was.
    He was named after his town, the town of Was.
    Was was from the tribe of Was-Was.
    Was was a Was-was from Was.
    Was once bought a toy, the toy was called a wa.
    Was liked was so much, he started a collection.
    Was was a collector of was, he kept them clean by washing them.
    A Was-was from Was, Was washed his was.

    ....you get the idea... :rolleyes: :D

    Charlie ;)

    Edit...

    Ohhh... it occurs to me, if a person's name was "Had," and there was a food called "Had," you could correctly say in a complete sentence:

    Had had had had.

    Charlie
    (Forgive me, please, I sometimes get silly.)
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hereafter, thou shalt be known as that Bad Had Lad.
     
  23. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Thanks Dad!

    That's Rad...
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and you're both bad!
     
  25. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first person to churn out a story starting out with the sentence "Had had had had" wins.
     

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