1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Past mentioned in present tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Mar 7, 2016.

    I'm still working on Not Pink and came to this section in which the robot is mentioning something that happened. The story is told in present tense so I'm wondering if this had is needed. Making it past perfect? Or if leaving out the had works.

    Just in time. Mr. Willoughby is unstrapping his helmet. I bank near the stage. Three weeks ago I wasn’t in position and Mr. Willoughby threw his helmet and hit a customer in the head. Luckily, the customer was drunk. Barney and Galt had stuffed him into a cab and sent him home.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd take out the "had" and leave it like that.
     
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  3. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    I'd do the opposite.
     
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  4. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    As it stands it's a little odd. You seem to be saying that Barney and Galt stuffed him in the cab before Mr Willoughby threw the helmet, which doesn't make much sense.

    Past perfect is the "past of the past". For example:

    When David arrived, I made lunch.
    (past simple + past simple = the second action happens after the first - I made lunch after David arrived)

    When David arrived, I had made lunch.
    (past simple + past perfect = the second action happens before the first - I made lunch before David arrived)

    A past perfect always needs a past simple (explicit or implied) to be the past of. So in your piece above, when I see the past perfect, I'm looking for the past simple that came after it (chronologically speaking - the actual sentence may be before it in the text).

    TLDR: Take out the "had" because the customer was put in the taxi after Willoughby threw the helmet.
     
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  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is how I interpret the chronological order:

    1. The customer gets drunk.
    2. Barney and Galt stuff the customer into a cab.
    3. The customer is on his way home.
    4. Mr. Willoughby throws his helmet into the cab.
    5. The helmet hits the customer on the head.

    I highly doubt that is what you mean.
     
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  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It makes sense the way you have it, so I would keep "had."
     
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  7. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Hi thirdwind, please could you explain why. I just can't see it for the reasons I outlined above.

    Barney and Galt had stuffed him into a cab and sent him home - is definitely a past perfect sentence.

    Barney and Galt had him stuffed into a cab and sent him home - on the other hand, means something quite different. Is that what you're thinking, or is it something else entirely?

    Thanks
     
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    In addition to what you posted above, past perfect tense can be used to show a continuous action before another action. In this case, the two characters are stuffing him in the cab before sending him home. So the "stuffing" action continues until he is sent home.

    That being said, it really does depend on 1) how the reader reads (interprets) the sentence and 2) what effect the writer is going for. So I'd say either way is correct depending on interpretation. It's funny how one word can make all the difference in the world. Maybe if @peachalulu posted a couple more sentences, we could get a better idea of what effect she's going for.
     
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  9. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Sure, but that would need a past perfect continuous, which is not the case here.

    With respect, I think you've missed part of the problem. What you say above is true, but the offending 'had' has nothing to do with the '...and sent him home'. By definition it must be related to a past simple action that appears elsewhere in the text, and the only place that can be is previously in our example. Which leads us back to my post above.

    Barney and Galt had stuffed him into a cab and sent him home. The first verb here is 'had stuffed' which is past perfect and must relate to a past simple action. The second verb is 'sent', but the sentence contains an ellipses: the words 'they had' are implied before 'sent', so this is another past perfect, not a past simple. To read the sentence any other way implies an ambiguity that is probably not @peachalulu's intention. (Notice I'm being very careful not to call it bad grammar - I'm not one for sticking to the rules blindly.) So, the result is that, yes, the stuffing happens before the sending; but we're still left with original problem of the stuffing happening before something else in the text. And we're back to my original point.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016
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