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past and past perfect forever


The past perfect tense is used to express action  (or to help make a statement about something) completed in the past before some other past action or event. It is formed with had.

—-Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition


I had a long talk with another writer about the story I was working on, and we went through every paragraph looking for ways to establish the past perfect without using the word “had.” This is one of those grammar rules I have to break. Religious use of the past perfect would have killed the musicality of the writing. (I had listened to the news and had eaten lunch before my sister called me.) Undigestible.

Some of the solutions we came up with were a well-placed line break, adverbial phrases (in those days, back then, all week) and staying firmly in the past instead of wandering in closer to the future just to make a point.

If you don’t like talking about Kelsey Grammer, then this post is not for you. But if you like to diagram sentences, then listen up. I spent the whole day wrestling with some things that happened to an imaginary person. And then there were some additional things that happened, both before and after the other things. Add to that the fact that I don’t like using the word “had,” and my day was challenging. But fulfilling, since I find Kelsey Grammer fulfilling.

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