1. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada

    How many had's for past perfect?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Sep 16, 2015.

    Hi all,
    My mc is having a memory in the middle of a scene, the story is written in third person pov, past tense. And I know had's are important for past perfect. But I'm a little confused as to how many had's are needed. One to set the idea - or one for all? Here is the sentence -
    Searching for a bite mark and finding none, his father had hit him with the still warm barbeque tongs and hissed, “If you make me burn those twenty dollar steaks over your bullshit, Noir ...”

    Do I also need a had hissed?
  2. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    May 21, 2009
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    No. It's perfectly clear how you have it in my opinion, although I'd probably word it:

    Searching for a bite mark and finding none, his father had hit him with the still warm barbeque tongs, hissing, “If you make me burn those twenty dollar steaks over your bullshit, Noir ...”
    peachalulu likes this.
  3. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

    Jun 26, 2012
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    The ability to use a single had in a sentence hadn't crossed my mind. I usually end up with had hads and had had had hads...
    Sack-a-Doo! and peachalulu like this.
  4. uncephalized

    uncephalized Active Member

    Mar 11, 2015
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    No need. The first 'had' clearly applies to both verbs in the phrase. The ', hissing' change works fine too.

    I would also write 'still warm barbecue tongs' as 'still-warm', since it's a compound adjective, but that's more a matter of preference I think.
    OurJud likes this.
  5. daemon

    daemon Contributor Contributor

    Jun 16, 2014
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    Your sentence is valid.

    It has a single "had" construction that takes both "hit" and "hissed". Note that "hit" and "hissed" are past participles, not past tense verbs. That is a tricky part of the English language because the past participle "hit" and the past tense verb "hit" are spelled the same. (Likewise with "hissed" and "hissed".) I will illustrate the point with the verbs "eat" and "drink", whose past participles ("eaten" and "drunk") are spelled differently:

    "He had eaten the food and he had drunk the water."
    "He had eaten the food and drunk the water."
    "He had eaten and drunk the food and water."

    In the first sentence, there are two "had" constructions: "had eaten" and "had drunk". In the second sentence, there is one "had" construction, which takes both "eaten" and "drunk". The third sentence contains the same construction as the second sentence, but it is easier to see why it is a single construction instead of two constructions.

    "He had eaten the food and drank the water."

    That sentence is invalid because the tenses are mismatched. "had eaten" is a past perfect construction. "drank" is a past tense verb that cannot be part of the past perfect construction even though the sentence is set up to make it look like it is. It is easier to see why it is invalid when it only contains the subject, verbs, and conjunction:

    "He had eaten and drank."

    Going back to your sentence, look at it with just the subject, verbs, and conjunction:

    "He had hit and hissed."

    It might seem like it is invalid for the same reason as "he had eaten and drank": it might seem like "hissed" is a past tense verb that does not belong. It might seem like you need to write "had hissed" in order to put it into the past perfect tense. But you do not need to do that, because "hissed" is a past participle like "drunk", not a past tense verb like "drank".
    Aaron DC and Madman like this.
  6. CJT

    CJT Member

    Jul 4, 2015
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    London, UK
    Simple answer - if you split the sentence into individual Simple Past sentences, then work out which action, or sentence happened first - that sentence is the one that get's the had! The perfect part of a compound sentence is there to let you know which part happened first.

    Easy example:
    I wrote a letter.
    You called me on my mobile.

    I had written a letter when you called me on my mobile.

    The letter was written (action complete), before the phone call.

    Here is a longer explanation: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfect.html

    Hope that helps!

  7. ManOrAstroMan

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    May 8, 2012
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