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It was the first time he had realized

Discussion in 'English Only' started by redgiant, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Jim said they reminded him of the brochen he had many years ago, when he was stationed in Germany. It was the first time he had realized that bread could be crusty and delicious, not just something bland to slap peanut butter and grape jelly on.

    Should it be "It was the first time he realized that"?
    I don't know why, but in google, "It was the first time he had realized" has far more results than "It was the first time he realized". Would you tell me why past tense is used instead of past perfect tense?

    http://breadbasketcase.blogspot.com/2008/04/spaccatini.html
     
  2. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    Connecticut
    US-English
    Either sentence sounds fine to me - with the past perfect, the event may have happened further in the past, past tense may have been more recent. Past perfect also sounds more formal, more of what you would see in written English rather than hear in conversation.
     
  3. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thanks,french4beth ~
     
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Sorry, redgiant, did you mean to ask why the past perfect is used instead of the simple past?
     
  5. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Hello, I want to know which one should be correct. I have been taught that such expression "It was the first time" should be followed by past present tense like "had realized" in this case. But I have found that in google "It was the first time that he realized" has more results than " It was the first time he had realized". So, I don't know which one should be used.
     
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Ah, I see:)

    Well, for me, it was the first time he had realised is definitely more 'correct' than it was the first time he realised.

    This is because:
    (1) it's analogous to the present-tense version:
    It is the first time he has realised:tick:
    It is the first time he realises:cross:
    (2) it's what the grammar books recommend
    (3) it's what I actually say/write - though in speech I normally use the contraction "he'd realised".

    But (and it's quite a big 'but') I have the impression, gleaned primarily from these forums, that in informal contexts people often avoid the past perfect and replace it with the past simple. This process seems to be more advanced in AmE than in BrE.

    So ... my answer is:
    - It is the first time he had realised is currently more correct
    - we may well be in a period of transition/language change.
    _________

    PS: I've seen french4beth's suggestion that the past perfect is 'further in the past' than the past simple mirrored in posts in other threads from other AmE speakers. It doesn't, at all, have that connotation for me....
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2009
  7. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    Hello everyone,

    I've just come across the following sentence in a textbook:

    "Do you think it was the first time she was doing that kind of thing?"

    Does it sound fine to a native speaker or would it be more morrect to use the Past Perfect Continuous here:

    "...she had been doing..."?

    Thank you.
     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I don't think I'd use either, Xander.

    I'd be most likely to say "Do you think it was the first time she had done that kind of thing?"
     
  9. Xander2024 Senior Member

    Southern Russia
    Russian
    Thanks a lot, Loob. :)
     

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