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# Doubt about the usage of past perfect tense

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Intern
Joined: 10 Sep 2013
Posts: 24
Location: India
Concentration: Strategy, Healthcare
GMAT 1: 720 Q50 V37
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13 Oct 2016, 14:30
1
Guys,

I had a doubt regarding the use of past perfect. I want to know which of the following is correct. Are both correct or is only one if these correct?

1. George repaired the cycle when he went to the shop
2. George repaired the cycle when he had gone to the shop.

I came upon this doubt when I was reading Manhattan sentence correction. In the book, the authors say that we should not use past perfect when the subject is the same. I want to know whether it is a strict rule or just a preference.

Thanks,
Magoosh GMAT Instructor
Joined: 28 Dec 2011
Posts: 4486

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14 Oct 2016, 16:02
Guys,

I had a doubt regarding the use of past perfect. I want to know which of the following is correct. Are both correct or is only one if these correct?

1. George repaired the cycle when he went to the shop
2. George repaired the cycle when he had gone to the shop.

I came upon this doubt when I was reading Manhattan sentence correction. In the book, the authors say that we should not use past perfect when the subject is the same. I want to know whether it is a strict rule or just a preference.

Thanks,

I'm happy to respond.

First of all, I don't know that the example sentence you created really address the question you want to ask. Sentence #1 is perfectly correct. Sentence #2 is 100% illogical, because we can make absolutely no sense of what the author is trying to say about the relative time sequence of the events. The word "when" connotes "at the same time" and the past perfect inside the "when" clause creates an unresolvable contradiction. I am not sure that any meaning can be attached to #2.

This version would be meaningful.
3. George already had repaired the cycle when he went to the shop.
That's 100% correct and logical. It conveys a meaning quite different from the meaning of #1---both are perfectly correct, but they say very different things. Version #1 implies that going to the shop was a kind of condition for repairing the cycle, that these events happen at essentially the same time. Version #3 clearly puts the repairing at an earlier past tense and the going to the shop as a later event; it implies that the repairs were finished before the time George set out for the shop.

You see, it's often a problem when students who are not verbal experts write their own example sentences. These sentence often introduce problems different from the ones about which the student intended to ask. It's always better to find sample sentence, either from GMAT material (official, MGMAT, Magoosh, etc.) or from high quality publications.

I am also in a bit of a quandary with respect to the question you asked about a rule. You see, what you have said is nothing I even vaguely recognize as a rule. Of course we can have the same subject when we use the past perfect, as is the case in sentence #3.

I don't know if you are familiar with the children's game of "telephone." A group of children stand in a ring. First, A whispers something to B, then B conveys that information to C, then C to D, D to E, etc. Inevitably, the nature of the information changes profoundly with each retelling. This children's game is actually a profound metaphor for some of the communicational dysfunction in the corporate world.

I think we might have had a mini version of something like this here You see, the folks at MGMAT are very smart. I have great respect for what they say. I think you read something they wrote, and then interpreted it as what you said, but it's not clear to me that what you said matches what I would get from that same passage in the MGMAT book. I would urge you to cite the exact text, with page number and edition, so that I know precisely what text you mean and can read the context to understand what is going on in that part of the book. When there's a point that you don't understand, never underestimate the possibility that your very communication about that point could introduce distortions. Citing exact wording and exact locations in a text is a way to avoid this problem. A student derives tremendous benefit from being as conscientious as possible.

Does all this make sense?
Mike
_________________

Mike McGarry
Magoosh Test Prep

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

Intern
Joined: 10 Sep 2013
Posts: 24
Location: India
Concentration: Strategy, Healthcare
GMAT 1: 720 Q50 V37
WE: Consulting (Pharmaceuticals and Biotech)

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14 Oct 2016, 21:51
mikemcgarry wrote:

I'm happy to respond.

First of all, I don't know that the example sentence you created really address the question you want to ask. Sentence #1 is perfectly correct. Sentence #2 is 100% illogical, because we can make absolutely no sense of what the author is trying to say about the relative time sequence of the events. The word "when" connotes "at the same time" and the past perfect inside the "when" clause creates an unresolvable contradiction. I am not sure that any meaning can be attached to #2.

This version would be meaningful.
3. George already had repaired the cycle when he went to the shop.
That's 100% correct and logical. It conveys a meaning quite different from the meaning of #1---both are perfectly correct, but they say very different things. Version #1 implies that going to the shop was a kind of condition for repairing the cycle, that these events happen at essentially the same time. Version #3 clearly puts the repairing at an earlier past tense and the going to the shop as a later event; it implies that the repairs were finished before the time George set out for the shop.

You see, it's often a problem when students who are not verbal experts write their own example sentences. These sentence often introduce problems different from the ones about which the student intended to ask. It's always better to find sample sentence, either from GMAT material (official, MGMAT, Magoosh, etc.) or from high quality publications.

I am also in a bit of a quandary with respect to the question you asked about a rule. You see, what you have said is nothing I even vaguely recognize as a rule. Of course we can have the same subject when we use the past perfect, as is the case in sentence #3.

I don't know if you are familiar with the children's game of "telephone." A group of children stand in a ring. First, A whispers something to B, then B conveys that information to C, then C to D, D to E, etc. Inevitably, the nature of the information changes profoundly with each retelling. This children's game is actually a profound metaphor for some of the communicational dysfunction in the corporate world.

I think we might have had a mini version of something like this here You see, the folks at MGMAT are very smart. I have great respect for what they say. I think you read something they wrote, and then interpreted it as what you said, but it's not clear to me that what you said matches what I would get from that same passage in the MGMAT book. I would urge you to cite the exact text, with page number and edition, so that I know precisely what text you mean and can read the context to understand what is going on in that part of the book. When there's a point that you don't understand, never underestimate the possibility that your very communication about that point could introduce distortions. Citing exact wording and exact locations in a text is a way to avoid this problem. A student derives tremendous benefit from being as conscientious as possible.

Does all this make sense?
Mike

Thanks a lot, Mike!

I will keep this point in mind the next time I make an example. I know the example I made out was wrong but I wanted to know if i can make such an example at all. Thanks for clearing this up.

As for the citation, I got this doubt when I was reading guide 8 of Manhattan (Manhattan sentence correction, 5th edition). It was when I was reading about past perfect tense in the chapter about verb tense, mood, & voice on page 108. I was reading the bottom half of the page when I got the doubt.

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Magoosh GMAT Instructor
Joined: 28 Dec 2011
Posts: 4486

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17 Oct 2016, 10:28
Thanks a lot, Mike!

I will keep this point in mind the next time I make an example. I know the example I made out was wrong but I wanted to know if i can make such an example at all. Thanks for clearing this up.

As for the citation, I got this doubt when I was reading guide 8 of Manhattan (Manhattan sentence correction, 5th edition). It was when I was reading about past perfect tense in the chapter about verb tense, mood, & voice on page 108. I was reading the bottom half of the page when I got the doubt.

I'm happy to respond. Thank you so much for providing an exact reference. Yes, I see why what's in the text could be confusing, especially if you take it out of context. Here's the passage from that book:

Note that we do not always use the Past Perfect for earlier actions. In general, you should use Past Perfect only to clarify or emphasize a sequence of past events. The earlier event should somehow have a bearing on the context of the later event. Moreover, if the sequence is already obvious, we often do not need Past Perfect.

Right: Antonio DROVE to the store and BOUGHT some ice cream.

We already know that drove happened before bought.
A sequence of verbs with the same subject does not require the Past Perfect. Rather, use the Simple Past for all the verb.

That's the text from toward the bottom of p. 108 of MGMAT Vol. 8: Sentence Correction, 5th edition. Those MGMAT books are really solid gold: they are fantastic! I highly recommend them!

Here's the thing, my friend. Context is everything. The entire context there is about how we don't use the Past Perfect if the time sequence is clear from other indicators. It's absolutely true that if we have a simple sequence all done by one subject, then listing the verbs in order might well be enough to make the sequence clear: Mike did X, did Y, and then did Z. All that's clear, and that's what they were indicating in the purple sentence above. It is absolutely redundant to use the Past Perfect when other aspects of the sentence already make the sequence clear. This does NOT mean that we never use the past perfect when the subject of the two verbs is the same.

It's particularly tricky when the word "when" is involved, because this word often indicates that two events were simultaneous. The sentence "Mike did X when he did Y" suggests the two actions are at the same time. To indicate that X happened before Y, we would have to say, "Mike already had done X when he did Y." Unlike the simple list of the previous paragraph, the first version here does not indicate a sequence, so we have to add the Past Perfect to turn it into a sequence.

Does all this make sense?
Mike
_________________

Mike McGarry
Magoosh Test Prep

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

Intern
Joined: 10 Sep 2013
Posts: 24
Location: India
Concentration: Strategy, Healthcare
GMAT 1: 720 Q50 V37
WE: Consulting (Pharmaceuticals and Biotech)

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17 Oct 2016, 23:42
mikemcgarry wrote:

I'm happy to respond. Thank you so much for providing an exact reference. Yes, I see why what's in the text could be confusing, especially if you take it out of context. Here's the passage from that book:

Note that we do not always use the Past Perfect for earlier actions. In general, you should use Past Perfect only to clarify or emphasize a sequence of past events. The earlier event should somehow have a bearing on the context of the later event. Moreover, if the sequence is already obvious, we often do not need Past Perfect.

Right: Antonio DROVE to the store and BOUGHT some ice cream.

We already know that drove happened before bought.
A sequence of verbs with the same subject does not require the Past Perfect. Rather, use the Simple Past for all the verb.

That's the text from toward the bottom of p. 108 of MGMAT Vol. 8: Sentence Correction, 5th edition. Those MGMAT books are really solid gold: they are fantastic! I highly recommend them!

Here's the thing, my friend. Context is everything. The entire context there is about how we don't use the Past Perfect if the time sequence is clear from other indicators. It's absolutely true that if we have a simple sequence all done by one subject, then listing the verbs in order might well be enough to make the sequence clear: Mike did X, did Y, and then did Z. All that's clear, and that's what they were indicating in the purple sentence above. It is absolutely redundant to use the Past Perfect when other aspects of the sentence already make the sequence clear. This does NOT mean that we never use the past perfect when the subject of the two verbs is the same.

It's particularly tricky when the word "when" is involved, because this word often indicates that two events were simultaneous. The sentence "Mike did X when he did Y" suggests the two actions are at the same time. To indicate that X happened before Y, we would have to say, "Mike already had done X when he did Y." Unlike the simple list of the previous paragraph, the first version here does not indicate a sequence, so we have to add the Past Perfect to turn it into a sequence.

Does all this make sense?
Mike

Thanks a lot Mike!

I am clear now.

Senior Manager
Joined: 07 Dec 2017
Posts: 300

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26 Mar 2018, 00:35
Hi

I have a doubt , it might be silly of me to ask that

As I have learned that past perfect should be used when we want to show sequence of events

But in the following examples ,how would it be hold

Or
Or
'he had his sister to think of'

there is no sequence

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Joined: 27 Mar 2010
Posts: 1056
Location: India
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31 Mar 2018, 05:28
AshutoshB wrote:
But in the following examples ,how would it be hold

Or
Or
'he had his sister to think of'

there is no sequence

Hi Ashutosh, these sentences are not using past perfect tenses. In these sentence, had is used as a verb (in the sense of possession). These sentences are in simple past tense.

The usage of past perfect tense is: had + Past Participle.

There is no Past Participle in the sentences you've listed.

p.s. Our book EducationAisle Sentence Correction Nirvana discusses this aspect of Past perfect tense, its application and examples in significant detail. If someone is interested, PM me your email-id; I can mail the corresponding section.
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Ashish
EducationAisle, Bangalore

Sentence Correction Nirvana available on Amazon.in and Flipkart

Now! Preview the entire Grammar Section of Sentence Correction Nirvana at pothi.com

Re: Doubt about the usage of past perfect tense &nbs [#permalink] 31 Mar 2018, 05:28
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# Doubt about the usage of past perfect tense

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