1. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    "Had" vs "Done"?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Peutra, Aug 24, 2011.

    I'm wondering what reads better in prose usually...

    "I had done it."

    or

    "I did it."

    I'm assuming they mean the same thing, but I'm wondering which one is used more/flows better in normal writing.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    Depends on the tense of your story.
     
  3. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    That's not really a helpful answer.

    They DO mean different things, but I'm struggling to put it into words. Nonetheless, I'm going to try.

    "I had done it" sounds like you are recounting a previous event like a narrator. It's the sort of thing you'd see in the middle of prose when the character is speaking directly to the reader. For example, "The timer showed only ten seconds when I managed to hit the stop switch. I had done it."

    "I did it", on the other hand, is more like you'd get in direct speech when one character is telling another that he/she did something. Using a similar example, "There were only ten seconds left on the clock, but I did it!"

    For me, the first one also sounds more formal. However, you'd never get it in direct speech.

    There are probably far more eloquent explanations which can be offered here, but I hope that helps.
     
  4. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    Really? I was thinking that they both work in past tense.. For example, at a soccer game:

    "The ball shot past me into the goal, barely grazing the unaware goalie. I had done it. The goal had gone in."

    and

    "The ball shot past me into the goal, barely grazing the unaware goalie. I did it. The goal was in."

    Note how I also changed "the goal had gone in" to "the goal was in".
    Kinda confused here :(

    Yeah, I described this in the example above. Thanks for making this clear.. hm, but here I'm thinking it's kind of ironic, since the first one is never seen in direct speech, but it only used when the character is speaking directly to the reader.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "I did it." is simple past tense.
    "I had done it." is past perfect tense.

    Past perfect is usually used to indicate an event occurring prior to another past event.

    They are not quite equivalent.
     
  6. Irontrousers
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    Irontrousers Member

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    Leave it to cogito to answer a question of grammar in grammatical terms. This dude is alright.
     
  7. Peutra
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    Peutra Member

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    Ah, okay. That was perhaps the most grammatically correct and clear definition I've heard in the last couple hours (I've been consulting a couple grammar books, and "past perfect" did come up.. but none of them were quite clear).

    Thanks!
     

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