'is stolen' vs 'had been stolen': [Passive voice]

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bbman2007

New Member
cantonese
Hi. What's wrong with the following sentence?
My mobile is stolen, so I couldn't contact you.

This is my answer. Correct me and give me an explanation if I 'm wrong. If you think of a better correction, please let me know and give me an explanation.

My mobile had been stolen, so I couldn't contact you.

Actually, I don't understand why this sentence is incorrect. Can you explain it to me?
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Your version is correct.
    My mobile had been stolen, so I couldn't contact you.
    The original version is not correct because "stolen" is not an adjective in this context. It is different from broken, for instance. Broken functions as an adjective here, so we might say:
    My mobile is broken, so I couldn't contact you.
    However, we understand stolen as a past participle, as part of the passive verb form "is stolen". Thus tense matters. What you are talking about is an action that happened in the past, before you tried to contact the other person. That is why you were right to use the past perfect: had been stolen.
     

    FNA

    Member
    English
    I tend to think of had been as indicating a situation that is no longer current.

    Why not "My mobile was stolen."?
     

    greenheyes

    Senior Member
    British English (Cheshire)
    Because only the past perfect can indicate that one action was prior to the other. The stealing is what happened first.
    The past perfect can refer to current situations. Imagine: His father had died the year before...and is still dead today, of course!
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    We might say, "My mobile was stolen......" but I'd more likely say, "My mobile got stolen......."., but it has to be in some sort of past tense because 'couldn't phone you' is in the past.
    We can't say what sort of past tense it could be because we have no context, in particular, we have no idea of the relationship of the events to each other in time, or their relationship to the present, or why this sentence is being uttered.
    The present perfect would be possible in some circumstances.

    Another sort of context is, why are you asking? We dont know if it is an exercise or a test. If you have been studying the past perfect passive, the answer is likely to be the past perfect.

    I have to think very hard indeed to imagine a situation in which "My mobile is stolen" would be a possible utterance. Even if you shouted it as you watched the thief running down the road, you would say "My mobile has been stolen!"

    If someone offers you a very cheap mobile, you might perhaps comment "If it's so cheap, I think it is stolen", meaning "I think it is a stolen mobile".

    Hermione
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    If someone offers you a very cheap mobile, you might perhaps comment "If it's so cheap, I think it is stolen", meaning "I think it is a stolen mobile".

    Hermione
    Yes - I agree with this, because it's now functioning as an adjective.

    My phone was stolen (= was a stolen one) and so I couldn't register it legally.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Your version is correct. My mobile had been stolen, so I couldn't contact you.
    Hi.
    Could you please tell me why it can't be present perfect?
    "My mobile has been stolen, so I couldn't contact you."

    I mean, because it's still missing.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Yes, but I meant specifically in this sentence.
    Can it be said like this?
    "My mobile has been stolen, so I couldn't contact you."
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Your version is correct.
    My mobile had been stolen, so I couldn't contact you.

    What you are talking about is an action that happened in the past, before you tried to contact the other person. That is why you were right to use the past perfect: had been stolen.
    What about this then? Does past perfect here mean that the mobile is no longer missing?
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The past perfect tells us that something happened before some other event in the past.
    The speaker choses which tense to use, knowing the situation, so we need context to try to understand why a particular tense was chosen.
    These sentences are only about why the speaker couldn't make a phone call, at some time. They aren't about where the phone is now.

    I'm late meeting my friend for a coffee. When I get to the coffee shop I explain "I couldn't call you because my phone has been stolen" Obviously I don't have a phone at the time of speaking and I didn't have it when I wanted to call her. The present perfect is the only tense likely.

    But at some point after this, the past perfect becomes the most likely tense. The theft of the phone is ever further in the past and its relevance to present time ceases to exist.
     
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