a blend of past perfect and past tense

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stephent74

Senior Member
Chinese--Beijing
Following is a story about two brothers reunited after having been seperated by the WW2. I have a question regarding the blend in usage of the past perfect and past tense.

.......Needless to say, the man's name was Hans Bussman and he really was Franz's long-lost brother. When the brothers were reunited, Hans explained how it was that he was still alive. After having been wounded towards the end of the war, he had been sent to hospital and was separated from his unit. The hospital had been bombed and Hans had made his way back into Western Germany on foot. Meanwhile, his unit was lost and all records of him had been destroyed......


I understand that when you use past perfect tense, you are indicating the verb in question, actually happened sometime earlier, comparing with the verb in the form of past tense.

So, I understand why the author used " he had been sent to hospital" --- because ''being sent to hospital is more earlier in sequence than '' brothers reunited''.

but I don't understand why he then used " was separated from his unit''

Similarly, I don't undersand other underlined parts.

so what 's the reason about the mixing of the 2 tenses. Is it just that the author didn't want to use the past perfect tense for so many times?

Thank you in advance....
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    The writing is not the greatest but here's how I understand it:

    "he had been sent to hospital and was separated from his unit"

    The separation from his unit occurred after he had been sent to the hospital. The phrase could be rewritten as "he had been sent to hospital and, as a result, was separated from his unit"

    "The hospital had been bombed and Hans had made his way back into Western Germany on foot."

    I'm not sure what you don't understand about this sentence. The tenses are the same.

    "Meanwhile, his unit was lost and all records of him had been destroyed......"

    While he was making his way back, his unit was lost and, as a result, all records of him had been lost.
     

    stephent74

    Senior Member
    Chinese--Beijing
    Thanks, Dimcl

    In my opinion, since the English grammer tells me the past perfect tense indicates those actions that were done earlier, this passage should be more understandable if it goes like this:

    Needless to say, the man's name was Hans Bussman and he really was Franz's long-lost brother. When the brothers were reunited, Hans explained how it was that he was still alive. After having been wounded towards the end of the war, he had been sent to hospital and had been separated from his unit. The hospital had been bombed and Hans had made his way back into Western Germany on foot. Meanwhile, his unit had been lost and all records of him had been destroyed......

    The auther was narrating how the 2 brothers reunited, but suddenly he felt the need to explain how these 2 people got seperated. Clearly, the story about seperation, happened more earlier. So the auther started to use the past perfect tense.

    My confusion comes from the mixing of past tense and past perfect tense in the latter part of the passage. Of course the whole text is very easy to understand but I still want to make this question clear.

    And in Dimcl's post, one sentence, gives me more confusion about past perfect tense.

    While he was making his way back, his unit was lost and, as a result, all records of him had been lost

    ---as a result, so, "the records got lost", happened later than '' his unit was lost'', then, Why did you use '' had been lost'', not '' as a result , all records of him were lost" ??
     
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