in a moment <had> put the imposing mug

Makel Leki

Senior Member
Russian
From Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Blade Runner. The protagonist finds a toad, an animal believed to be extinct in the world of the novel. He puts the toad in a cardboard box and brings it home.
She [his wife] said, “I’ll fix you a cup of coffee.” At the stove she pressed the coffee button and in a moment had put the imposing mug by his place at the kitchen table. Still holding the box he seated himself, and on his face the round-eyed wonder remained.
Why does the author use "had put" rather than just "put" here? "Had + verb" is used to refer to a past event from the perspective of a later time. What is the later time here?
 
  • Makel Leki

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The past perfect is often used in narrative description of events that set the background/context and have finished at the time referred to.
    Yes, but how do I apply this to my sentence? Does "in a moment had put" roughly mean "before the moment passed, she had already put"?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    but how do I apply this to my sentence?
    "... in a moment had put the imposing mug by his place" is narrative description of an event that ended in the past and sets the background to what is about to happen.

    "... in a moment [she] had put the imposing mug by his place -> She had quickly put the imposing mug by his place.
     

    Makel Leki

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "... in a moment had put the imposing mug by his place" is narrative description of an event that ended in the past and sets the background to what is about to happen.
    Thanks! So, if I wanted to remove that nuance, could I say "in a moment put the imposing mug by his place," without "had"?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    It is not a "nuance" - it is how the past perfect is used. I don't think that the simple past "put" works.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Thanks! So, if I wanted to remove that nuance, could I say "in a moment put the imposing mug by his place," without "had"?
    'In a moment she put the imposing mug by his place' means to me that she paused for a moment and then she put the mug by his place.
    In 'in a moment she had put the imposing mug by his place' the action is quicker. In the space of a moment she had already put the mug at his place.
     
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