had sat vs sat for 15 minutes

AntiScam

Senior Member
Arabic
Hello,

Could you just say:
They had sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word
Instead of
They sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word
If you want to talk to your friend who saw a couple who have just left a seat in the park. I mean without using past simple.
 
Last edited:
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Yes, you can. But it would be more likely that you would say "They had been sitting there for 15 minutes..."
     

    AntiScam

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Yes, you can. But it would be more likely that you would say "They had been sitting there for 15 minutes..."
    Thank you, PaulQ, very much for helping out. More natural because they have just left.
    And my version seems more suitable for a narrative context.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The had version would also be suitable for a narrative that has a subsequent action in which the latter action would then be in the simple past:

    They had sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word when a small boy walked up to them and offered each an apple."
     

    shop-englishx

    Banned
    Urdu
    They had sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word
    I wonder why this sentence can make sense, as there should be an action(s) that follows the action of sitting:

    They had sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word when a small boy walked up to them and offered each an apple."
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    I wonder why this sentence can make sense, as there should be an action(s) that follows the action of sitting:

    They had sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word when a small boy walked up to them and offered each an apple."
    Although you want the past simple if you're simply talking about actions in the past, They had sat there for 15 minutes without saying a word is grammatically correct. However, I agree that it's not very informative and the listener will probably want to know what happened next.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I wonder why this sentence can make sense, as there should be an action(s) that follows the action of sitting:
    You're right, shop, that the past perfect needs some form of reference point (some other past action or state or timeframe). However, that reference point doesn't necessarily have to be in the same sentence. It may have been mentioned earlier, or it may just be implicit in some contexts.

    AntiScam doesn't tell us whether there's been any preceding conversation, between the speaker and the friend, which may have established or implied a reference point. The reference may even be understood from some other (subsequent) action that they both witnessed, without it actually being mentioned.

    Ws
     
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