...he <came><had come> to Tom's house and <did ask><had asked>...

JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Context:

Three people are talking to one another.

Susy to Bill at 5.00pm: "Did you ask Tom if he would come to celebrate my birthday?"
Darren to Susy at 5.05pm: "What did you ask Bill 5 minutes ago?"

Question:

Can Susy reply to Darren in the following three ways? Are the red bolded tenses correct?

[1] Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he came to Tom's house and did ask him about it, but Tom apologized and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he would have some pressing matters on that day."

[2] Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he had come to Tom's house and had asked him about it, but Tom had apologized and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he would have some pressing matters on that day."

[3] Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he had come to Tom's house and had asked him about it, but Tom apologized and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he would have some pressing matters on that day."


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
  • MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    None.

    Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he had been to Tom's house and did ask him about it, but Tom apologized and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he would have some pressing matters on that day."

    Bill replied...he had been...: this establishes the time-line, and so all verbs in the sentence after "had been' are in Past Tense.

    Note: " Bill replied to me" : you asked him. Who else is he going to reply to? 'to me' is redundant.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, MilkyBarKid.

    In Susy's reply [1], I thought the first red "had asked" established the timeline (this led me to believe that the past perfect was not needed in the second part of the reply starting with "Bill replied..."). I thought that reply [3] was better than reply [2] and that they were both acceptable.

    Why "had been to Tom's house", why not "had come to Tom's house"? Is the latter not idiomatic?
     

    Jimbob_Disco

    Senior Member
    British English
    [1] Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he went to Tom's house and did ask him about it, but Tom apologized (apologised in BE) and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he has some pressing matters on that day."

    [2] Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he had been to Tom's house and had asked him about it, but Tom had apologized (apologised in BE) and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he has some pressing matters on that day."

    [3] Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he had been to Tom's house and had asked him about it, but Tom apologized (apologised in BE) and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he has some pressing matters on that day."
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    While both Jimbob and I agree we dislike 'came', the verb occurs in a separate sentence. Hence, use the Past Perfect to set up the time-line for that sentence.
    There are two issues:
    1. Past tense verbs must be in their correct order to make sense:
    He jumped overboard and drowned.
    He drowned because he jumped overboard.
    compare
    He drowned and jumped over board. (!)

    2. We don't always stick to a strict back-shifting of tense when he use Reported Speech in conversation:

    Understand that in English, there is strict Reported Speech but this is given mainly as an exercise in class, and in exams, to show that you can backshift the tenses of the spoken words.

    What speakers do, in general conversation, is indicate that something was said in the past - I told him/he said to me that...

    ...and then use the tense that seems appropriate NOW.


    John: "I am going to the party on Friday."

    In strict Reported Speech, that becomes:

    John said that he was going to the party on Friday.

    Suppose you have just spoken to John on the phone, and your mother asks what he said. This is general conversation, so you would say to your mother:

    John said that he's/he is going to the party on Friday.

    It would seem very strange to the speaker to be talking in the past tense about a party that is happening next Friday!


    More examples are:

    Me (to a friend): "I'm/I am moving into a new flat next Saturday. Can you help me move?"

    Friend: "No, I'm/I am working that day."

    In strict Reported Speech, this would be:

    I told him I was moving to a new flat the following Saturday, and asked if he could help me move. He said no, that he was working that day."

    But imagine it is a day or two after that conversation. It is Friday, and I move tomorrow. My mother is talking to me about the move:

    Mother: Maybe your friend John has some spare time tomorrow and can help you.

    Me: I asked him, but he said he is working tomorrow.

    Note that when 'reporting' the conversation to my mother, I don't follow the wording precisely; AND that I use the Present Tense, because this is Friday and I am moving/he is working tomorrow.

    To say...

    Me (to my mother): I asked him, but he was working tomorrow

    ...is talking about something in the future as if it has already happened and in the past: "... but he was working tomorrow".

    That's what I mean about ordinary conversation, when we choose the tense that makes most sense.

    In your sentences, I think issue (1) holds, and the verb should be 'had been to...' or 'had seen Tom...' etc.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you all for your replies. Do the following red tenses make sense?

    Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied that he had gone to Tom's house and did ask him about it, but Tom apologized and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he will have some pressing matters on that day."
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks Jimbob_Disco.
    Susy to Darren: "I asked Bill if he had asked Tom if he would be here on my birthday. Bill replied to me that he went to Tom's house and did ask him about it, but Tom apologized (apologised in BE) and said that he would not be able to celebrate my birthday because he has some pressing matters on that day."
    MilkyBarKid doesn't like the past simple went, while Jimbob_Disco seems to be ok with it. Could anyone else please comment on whether the past simple and the past perfect are both acceptable here? Thanks in advance.
     

    Jimbob_Disco

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks Jimbob_Disco.

    MilkyBarKid doesn't like the past simple went, while Jimbob_Disco seems to be ok with it. Could anyone else please comment on whether the past simple and the past perfect are both acceptable here? Thanks in advance.
    As you know, to me ‘went’ is preferable, but I don’t think it overly matters - either’s fine!
     
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