Had been acting 'strangely'(past perfect continuous query)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by nomnom27, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. nomnom27

    nomnom27 Senior Member

    I hate myself for using sad news as an example, but recently I read an article that the headline stated "Melissa Rae Sutor is Missing and Had Been Acting 'Strangely'--Have You Seen Her?"

    Right there in the bold area where they use 'had been', they've used it as an past perfect continuous yet I don't see somewhere in the headline stating that her acting strangely had ended or accured before some other point in the past.

    As stated on this other website on past perfect continuous "We use the Past Perfect Continuous to show that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past." Whether that's true or not, I'm not seeing anything that happened in the past that came after "Had been acting 'Strangely'"

    So is this acticle written wrongly or is there something I'm not understanding?
    Past Perfect Continuous Link: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfectcontinuous.html

    (I really wish I could've found a better article :()
    Article Link:http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2013/04/melissa_rae_sutor_missing_sjc.php
  2. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    It's just a headline. If we expand it, it would say something like " M.R.Sutor is missing; her parents reported she had recently been acting strangely." The tenses in the body of the piece are fine.
  3. nomnom27

    nomnom27 Senior Member

    Is 'reported' the action in the past that comes before 'had recently been acting'?
    Edit: I say yes, but I would like to know if I'm right.
  4. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    It's rather a case of backshift of tenses in the case of reported speech in the past.
  5. funda521 New Member

    First - she acted strangly for a while / Then - she run away or whatever. . She is missing now , it means something happened and she is missing now , before that event she had been acting strangely..
  6. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Since we already know she is missing, her acting strangely must have occurred (or at least been noticed) before she disappeared; hence, the past perfect. The use of the continuous (rather than "had acted") suggests that she did so over a period of time, rather than just once or twice.
  7. nomnom27

    nomnom27 Senior Member

    So is disappeared implied? Something like "Malissa Rea Sutor had been acting strangely before she disappeared"?
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  8. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British

    (1) First she was noticed acting strangely for a time.
    (2) Then she went missing.
    (3) Now (in the present) she is missing.

    The 'acting strangely' is two steps back in the past.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  9. nomnom27

    nomnom27 Senior Member

    Thanks for the help everyone. I know that the word "disappeared" is implied in this text for me to use past perfect continuous. But I wonder if I would ever be able to spot an implied past action on another article, sentence ect. that would enable me to use past perfect continuos.
  10. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Headlines are tricky. They often omit words and phrases that would have been included in a normal context. Native speakers automatically supply the missing elements. Headlines aren't good models to use to understand how the rules of English grammar are usually applied.
  11. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    It is important to remember that the past perfect continuous is not a separate tense.
    The past perfect is one tense with two forms: the simple ('had acted') and the continuous ('had been acting').

    Therefore, you have two separate rules to observe: (1) when to use the past perfect, (2) when to use the continuous.

    (1) Rule for the past perfect tense.
    The past perfect expresses an event which is one stage further back in the past than another point already in the past.
    If you can construct a sequence of events, 1,2,3, as in post 8, then event 1 is two steps further back than event 3.

    (2) Rule for the continuous form (of any tense).
    The simple form sees the action of the verb as a single thing, often as a unit in itself against a wider background.
    The continuous form sees the action of the verb as an ongoing process. It often forms the background against which some other event takes place.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013

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