passive (past perfect tense)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by eli7, May 6, 2014.

  1. eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian; Farsi
    Greetings,
    What is the sign of past perfect tense? For example, in the sentence below, I think both options can be correct.

    A new hospital ............ in this town two years ago.
    a) had been built
    b) was built

    The active sentences could be:
    I had build a new hospital two years ago.
    I built a new hospital two years ago.

    But the key in the book is letter "b" (was built). I want to know how to distinguish "simple past" from "past perfect" in the passive sentences? Is there any special time adverbial for past perfect ?

    or)
    "The problem ............. by a few students."
    a) had been soved
    b) was solved
    which the active sentences can be: " A few students had solved the problem" and " A few students solved the problem".
     
  2. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    In your first example, there is a clear clue: the word "ago". This means "before the present time", so we're talking in the present and the solution is to use "was built" (b) to take us into the simple past. (If the first example had ended "...two years earlier", that would mean "before the past time", so the answer (a) would have been correct.)

    However, your second example has no clue, and both answers may be correct.
     
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    The past perfect tense is rather rare, except in conditional contexts and reported speech. I wouldn't use the past perfect in a test like this unless there was a strong indicator for it.
     
  4. eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian; Farsi
    No, I'm asking about the clues in the passive sentences. The clues (adverbs usually) that leads us to choose the correct answer. What is the adverb of time in the past perfect tense?
     
  5. eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian; Farsi
    Thank you :)
    but I cannot understand the difference between :two years a go" and "two years earlier". Is there any more adverbs of time which leads us to choose teh past perfect tense?
     
  6. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    Wales
    British English
    The pluperfect is formed by had+past particle in the active and had+been+past participle in the passive. The pluperfect takes us farther back into the past:
    a) A new hospital was built in 2008 and a new school was built in 2009.
    b) A new school was built in 2009. A new hospital had already been built in 2008.
    The phrase two years ago suggests that you want was built. Two years ago means two years ago from now. I don't think the ago-construction is used with the pluperfect - or at least, not much. ...had been built two years ago isn't a massive error but it sounds a little odd.
    Ago becomes before, earlier or previously in reported speech.
    c) I built a hospital two years ago -> He said he had built a hospital two years previously.

    Either had been solved or was solved would work in the sentences about the students. There's no adverbial phrase to indicate that the pluperfect would be incorrect. However, you need a special reason for preferring the pluperfect to the past simple.
    Cross-posted with se16teddy and Keith Bradford, both of whom put the case more succinctly than I did.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2014
  7. eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian; Farsi
    Thank you :) but I still have some problems.
    A new hospital ............ in this town two years earlier.
    a) had been built
    b) was built

    What would be the correct answer?
     
  8. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    A new hospital was built in this town two years ago. (ago refers to measuring from the present time)

    A new hospital had been built built in this town two years earlier. (earlier refers to some time in the past that must already have been mentioned)
     
  9. eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian; Farsi
    ٰThanks a million Biffo :)
    Would you please make "two years earlier" more clear? To me, both are the same. I think "ago" and "earlier" are synonyms. I cannot see any difference in those sentences.
     
  10. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    Wales
    British English
    In reported speech, the pluperfect often, if not usually, replaces the past simple. I sang -> He said he'd sung. Adverbs of time may also need to change depending on the time perspective from which you're looking at the event. This applies to active as well as passive sentences.
    d) I met my parents yesterday -> He said he'd met his parents the day before.
    e) I met them last week -> He said he'd met them the previous week.
    However, these 'new' adverbs aren't in themselves a sign that you want the pluperfect. You can say I didn't meet my parents on my birthday. I met them the day before.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2014
  11. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    They are not synonyms because "ago" is an absolute measure whereas "earlier" is a comparative and therefore relative to another time.

    Analogy

    John is 6 feet tall. (absolute)
    Bill is 2 inches taller than John. (relative)

    The explosion happened 6 days ago.
    The suspect had bought explosives 2 days earlier.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2014
  12. eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian; Farsi
    Very good explanation. Thanks a million :)
    and thank you all :)
     

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