I told the police that I <had drunk><drank> from the same bottle

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JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Context:

John offered Bill some vodka. Bill got drunk. Later, John drank the remaining vodka and fell asleep. When John woke up, Bill was dead. John has been arrested as a suspect. Now, detective Bob is interrogating John. The dialog below takes place between them.

Detective Bob: "So, did you poison him?"

John: "No way! I drank from the same bottle that Bill had drunk from."

Later, John meets his friend Chris. Chris says to John: "How come you're not in jail?" To which John replies with one of the sentences below.

Sample sentences:

1. I told the police that I drank from the same bottle Bill had drunk from, so they released me.

2. I told the police that I had drunk from the same bottle Bill had drunk from, so they released me.

Question:

Given the sequence of events:

1. While John was sober, he gave Bill a bottle of vodka, and Bill got drunk.
2. John drank the remaining vodka and fell asleep.
3. John told the police about #1 and #2.

Do the bolded tenses work in the sample sentences?


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    If John were truly interested in conveying the idea that he drank from the bottle after Bill did, "1" would be ordinary, JJXR. "2" would likely signal John's interest in using a verb tense to make it clear that all the drinking took place before the chat with the detective.

    When I listen to people talking about things that they did in the past, they often use the past simple and a few adverbs and adverbial phrases to keep the sequence of events in order. Occasionally, I hear native speakers -- speakers who seem somewhat uncomfortable or unfamiliar with using verb tenses normally -- who use the past perfect incorrectly in references to the past that call for the past simple in standard English.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Does the sentence below work in the context of post #1:

    3. I told the police that I had drunk from the same bottle Bill drank from, so they released me.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I can't think of any rule that governs the order in which you present the two tenses in one sentence, JJXR. A careful speaker who was interested in telling his friend about which of them drank first could say something like this.

    When I consider that a fastidious concern with who drank first is occurring during an account of an interview with a police detective, I must say that the sentence and its context sound unlikely to me. It would take a genuinely interested and unusually focused listener to keep the timeline straight in this story. :D
     
    Last edited:

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, owlman5.

    I think sentence #3 (post #4) emphasizes the fact that all the drinking took place before John told the detective about it. It's not clear who drank first, but maybe John thinks Chris doesn't need to know that. The only thing that matters, in John's opinion, is that they both (John and Bill) drank from the same bottle, which the sentence in post #4 perfectly conveys. Once the message has been conveyed, Chris understands why John is free.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    That sounds reasonable to me, JJXR. Some of my confusion probably arises from trying to bounce from one post to another in the effort to check whether a sentence in post y works in post x, etc. It's easier to keep track of questions and their referents when everything is sitting in one rectangle.
     
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