...because you <hadn't given> him <a><the> bonus that you <had promised> you...

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JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Sample sentence:

He said he had stopped working for you because you hadn't given him a bonus that you had promised you would give him.

Question:

Can I use the a if I introduce the word "bonus" for the first time and the listener doesn't know what bonus I'm referring to? Have I used the past perfect correctly (the three underlined parts)?


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't think the first "had" is necessary, unless he has now resumed working for "you." Both "a" and "the" would be fine before "bonus."
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, “a” is fine. It’s normal to use the indefinite article the first time you mention something. But here it implies “a certain bonus” (that he had been promised).

    The tenses are all okay as they stand, but this persistent use of the past perfect renders the text unnatural. As dialogue, it would work better as:

    He told me he stopped working for you because you didn't give him the bonus you promised him.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Can I use the past perfect "had stopped" to emphasize that one action is earlier in time than the other, or does "had stopped" necessarily imply that he has now resumed working for the person I'm talking to? Is the following combination of tenses natural?

    He told me he had stopped working for you because you didn't give him the bonus you promised him.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    He told me he had stopped working for you because you didn't give him the bonus you promised him.
    This sentence is fine. It does not imply that he works for you now - pragmatically, that sounds unlikely!

    I have never before heard it suggested that the past perfect can be used in reported speech to indicate that the action is no longer true. The past perfect is the default: the present tense marks that the fact remains true.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The sequence of events is as follows:

    (1) The addressee promised him a bonus.
    (2) The addressee didn't give him the bonus.
    (3) He stopped working for the addressee.

    Does anyone find the combination of tenses below natural:

    He told me he had stopped working for you because you didn't give him the bonus you had promised him.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes. That version reads well. It would read even better if the normal contractions were made — he’d stopped / you’d promised.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Provided the sequence of events is as follows:

    (1) The addressee promised him a bonus.
    (2) The addressee didn't give him the bonus.
    (3) He stopped working for the addressee.
    (4) He told me about (3), (2), and (1).

    Do the tenses used in the two sentences below sound natural:

    1. He told me he stopped working for you because you hadn't given him the bonus you promised him.

    2. He told me he stopped working for you because you hadn't given him the bonus you had promised him.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes those are both fine. The simple past is also fine for all three verbs. I think the only question you ever have to ask is: does the speaker wish or need to clarify or emphasize the “anteriority”? (Or is it a reported speech or thought?)
     
    Last edited:

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    2. would read much better with only the second use of the past perfect. As you must surely know by now, it’s rarely necessary to use a perfect tense more than once in a sentence in order for the sequence of events to be clear. Native English-speakers simply don’t overuse perfect tenses the way you do.

    Having said that, your example in #8 is fine because there the two uses of the past perfect are each backshifted from a different use of the simple past.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Provided the sequence of events is as follows:

    (1) The addressee promised him a bonus.
    (2) The addressee didn't give him the bonus.
    (3) He stopped working for the addressee.
    (4) He told me about (3), (2), and (1).

    Do the tenses used in the two sentences below sound natural:

    1. He told me he stopped working for you because you hadn't given him the bonus you promised him.

    2. He told me he stopped working for you because you hadn't given him the bonus you had promised him.
    The way I would approach this is to look at what the direct speech would have been. Probably:
    I stopped working for him because he didn't give me the bonus he'd promised me.
    So, to retain a tense sequence to reflect that order of events in indirect speech, I'd use:
    He told me he stopped working for you because you didn't give him the bonus you'd promised him.

    You do get the option not to always backshift the simple past to the pluperfect, and I think in that particular example it's overkill to do it and end up with three.
     
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