English Grammar


Nobody's perfect

Past simple and Past Pefect, past because it's simply over, or past related to another fact that occured before, after, during... I am making a big effort to sort things out and get some new habits. With a little success, eventually. For instance, this correction that I recently get:


"Jean had studied (2) English for six months before coming to work in America.


(2) had studied : We generally use the past perfect tense to situate past actions which occurred before or after another past action."


Good point! But...
When I go on reading the explanation of the rule, it says:


"In this case, we are expressing that Jean STUDIED English in high school before he ARRIVED in the States. When two actions are introduced, but no time period is specified, we must use the past perfect tense."


And I 'm lost!
In this sentance which maintains the relation between the two actions but is written at the present progressive, why doesnt'it say "we are expressing that Jean HAS STUDIED English before he HAS ARRIVED in the States"?


I am getting nervous with that damned perfection!
(CW)

6 comments

  • Calm down, Whitish French Flower!
    Jean had studied before arriving in the States.
    He had studied before he arrived.
    OK past perfect for action occurring before another one.


    To my mind, the very moment Jean arrived is a precise moment; since I'd rather say "he arrived" even though we don't know exactly when he arrived and we know that his arrival continues to cause its results. But the first action took place before the precise moment of his arrival. Hence past perfect and simple past.


    And then you say you're lost? Why? Because you still think in your own language.
    I've been told that English has a crush on using the past to relate things that happened before the moment of speaking.
    In French we could say "Il a étudié avant d'arriver". But according to what I learnt, that should be translated "He had studied before he came" or "he had studied before coming" or to emphasize the time he spent studying "he had been studying before he arrived".
    I'm not sure I'm right. Maybe I'm wrong.
    Anyway who has the final truth?
  • Thank you very much, Gee, for answering. I will keep this in mind, implement it and try not be too litteral.


    But, I'm still perplex concerning the construction of the sentance itself explaining the rule:
    "we are expressing that Jean STUDIED English in high school before he ARRIVED in the States. "


    It sounds like a paradox to state that you must do something (employ the past perfect) by saying it in a way that looks like what you're supposed not to do (simple past)
    My problem is that if it's correct, I don't understand why!


    The good news would be: nobody's perfect, all is simple, even the past!
    (CW)
  • From French edelweiss:
    Past simple and Past Pefect, past because it's simply over, or past related to another fact that occured before, after, during... I am making a big effort to sort things out and get some new habits. With a little success, eventually. For instance, this correction that I recently get:


    "Jean had studied (2) English for six months before coming to work in America.


    (2) had studied : We generally use the past perfect tense to situate past actions which occurred before or after another past action."


    Good point! But...
    When I go on reading the explanation of the rule, it says:


    "In this case, we are expressing that Jean STUDIED English in high school before he ARRIVED in the States. When two actions are introduced, but no time period is specified, we must use the past perfect tense."


    And I 'm lost!
    In this sentance which maintains the relation between the two actions but is written at the present progressive, why doesnt'it say "we are expressing that Jean HAS STUDIED English before he HAS ARRIVED in the States"?


    I am getting nervous with that damned perfection!
    (CW)


     

    From French edelweiss:
    Thank you very much, Gee, for answering. I will keep this in mind, implement it and try not be too litteral.


    But, I'm still perplex concerning the construction of the sentance itself explaining the rule:
    "we are expressing that Jean STUDIED English in high school before he ARRIVED in the States. "


    It sounds like a paradox to state that you must do something (employ the past perfect) by saying it in a way that looks like what you're supposed not to do (simple past)
    My problem is that if it's correct, I don't understand why!


    The good news would be: nobody's perfect, all is simple, even the past!
    (CW)




















     
  • I understand you are perplex, French edelweiss. It's true that it looks like a paradox to write "we are expressing that Jean STUDIED English in high school before he ARRIVED in the States." and at the same time telling the past perfect should be used to tell Jean had studied before he came.


    I want to enhance the fact that the sentence at stake is an EXPLANATORY statement introduced by pointing out that WE ARE EXPRESSING and UNDERLINING WITH CAPITAL LETTERS both verbs linked in the process of time. So written, I take it as a way to make understand the relation in time but marking by the way it's written that it's not the usual way of saying.


    Don't you agree?
  • More or less, AhQ. Thank you so much for trying; I must say that I did underline with capital letters the quoted verbs to make the question clearer. Anyway, I can admit this is an explanatory statement, forget about my finicky question.
  • "Jean had been studying before he arrived in the States." is correct.


    We have to use the past perfect continuous here, because "to study" is an active process over a period of time and the verb doesn't belong to the non-continuous-verbs (for which we have to the non-continous form, .eg. 'to think', 'to be', 'to love' etc.).


    An example for a non-continuous version is:
    "Jean had been a student before he arrived in the States."
    (because of "to be", we have to the the past perfect in the non-continuous version)


    The distinction between 'continuous' and 'non-continuous' verbs goes for the the present perfect in the same - and, of course, for future continuous)
    'I have been studying English for ten years.'
    Please, never ever use :
    'I have studied English for then years' - it sounds incorrect at first sight.


    BUT, there is an exception:
    If we want to express that somethimg had been done before moment in the past, which is NOT an action over a period of time, we use the past perfect in the non-continuous version:
    "Before he opened the kitchen machine, he had pulled the plug".
    (recommendable if you don't want to feel like in Guantanamo Prison)

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