it was high time + past perfect

allthewayanime

Senior Member
Bilingual(Romanian-Italian)
I've already read the past threads in which was discussed this topic but I still have this doubt. Could I use the past perfect after the main clause if I want to imply that it was time for him to have gone to college ?




e.g It was high time he had gone to college.
 
  • MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    No.

    Look at this sentence:
    It's high time you got a job. This sentence refers to present time. We can use 'high time' in the Past Tense also, but... the tense in the second clause does not change.
    (I told him straight that) it was time he got a job.

    It was high time he went to college.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Therefore to sum it up past perfect can't be used with this expresion?
    I think one could use it in reported speech: she said it was high time he had gone to college.

    She is saying that he should already have gone. She said it was high time he went to college would mean she said he should go now.

    One could also say It was, in my view, high time that you had left for Italy. i.e. I'm saying now that in my view it was, last Tuesday say, high time you left for Italy.
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    One could also say It was, in my view, high time that you had left for Italy. i.e. I'm saying now that in my view it was, last Tuesday say, high time you left for Italy.

    Only if he left for Italy after you spoke these words last Tuesday, and before speaking the above.

    But you are introducing a compounding set of grammatical rules pertaining to direct and reported speech.
     

    allthewayanime

    Senior Member
    Bilingual(Romanian-Italian)
    Well, that's exactly what I want to know.
    If, for instance , I thought that it was high time you had worked( past in the past) there.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    One could also say It was, in my view, high time that you had left for Italy. i.e. I'm saying now that in my view it was, last Tuesday say, high time you left for Italy.

    Only if he left for Italy after you spoke these words last Tuesday, and before speaking the above.

    But you are introducing a compounding set of grammatical rules pertaining to direct and reported speech.
    Hi MBK,

    I'm saying what I think people say, and how I interpret them when they say it. I introduced no sets of rules, compounding or otherwise.:)
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    Let's be absolutely clear on this:
    I took the question as referring to the tenses of of the 'high time' clause, and the second clause. That is, is/can Past Perfect be used in the second clause after 'high time'...considering the actual meaning of 'high time' = it is past the time when something should have happened or been done.

    You have moved to the use of Past Perfect in one of the clauses in relation to a different point in time in the past: (i) you had the view 'it was high time' (ii) THEN you speak the words, informing others of your view. But you are moving the whole CONSTRUCT of "It was high time he left" back, back to when you formed the view, rather than NOW, as you express your view! So those verbs of the 'high time' construct, in terms of reported speech/thought/views held, have to be adjusted to the new time perspective. Otherwise, the whole time line is lost.

    But you are quite correct in pointing out that possibility, in reported speech.
    My repeated reminder!: when someone asks 'is this possible?' never say/intimate 'no'.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm still not very clear.

    I took the question to be asking 'Can one say 'It was high time he had gone to college' to imply that it was time for him to have gone to college?'

    That's quite a difficult question to answer, given uncertainty about the meaning of it was time for him to have gone to college which isn't the same thing as it was time for him to go to college.

    I, therefore, considered the circumstances in which one might say 'it was high time + past perfect etc.' and what it might mean in those circumstances.

    I couldn't think of a more helpful way of answering the question, and didn't regard the issue to be potentially contentious.
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    "...it was time for him to have gone to college which isn't the same thing as it was time for him to go to college."
    .
    'high time" means, as in "It is high time that...": it is past the time when something should have happened or been done. Not just 'it is (NOW )time'.)'

    I'm thinking of time lines here, and the order of events...which tenses are meant to keep clear. After all, my first reply to your post was simply to point out that the time line of events had changed.
    I can't see why - in terms of events in time - that you are so in dispute with my original post; and my mere clarification of your subsequent posts, (including yet another reminder to myself of : "when someone asks 'is this possible?' never say/intimate 'no'.) There is usually something one hasn't thought of...that someone else will see!

    So - when you say:
    I couldn't think of a more helpful way of answering the question, and didn't regard the issue to be potentially contentious.

    CRIKEY - neither did I. You made a valid contribution...and I thought I was further clarifying.
     
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    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    I'm not sure I follow all of the above (maybe I'm a bit tired), but to get back to the original question--does the sentence, "It was high time he had gone to college" sound right--my answer is no, at least not to me. The reason for me is that "had gone" implies the matter is all over. While the expression "high time" is saying essentially, hey it's really, really, really time for you to do this and I still want you to do it! So using past perfect makes no sense to me.

    :tick: I told him it was high time he went to college. (I told him it was really, urgently time for him to go to college. At the time of our conversation, going to college was still a possibility for him.)

    :tick: I told him I wish he had gone to college. (It's all over. He didn't go to college. It's too late now.)
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm surprised, Embonpoint; so when this writer puts

    It was high time he had written, Dick thought; it was high time he had come.

    that just sounds wrong to you? I have no trouble with it at all. I'd take it to mean the time when he should have written or come was long past. This is in contrast to it was high time he wrote which means that he needed to write immediately. I'm sure you'd acknowledge the difference.
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    Thomas--interesting example. I think perhaps the difference is how "high time" is used. Personally I never use it to talk about something that is over completely. High time means to me essentially as we might say in casual American, "it's about time ie. it should have happened before but at the very latest it needs to happen now" not "it's past time." Your example does not sound wrong to me, but it sounds either old or British or both; the link is not working so I can't verify that.

    The past perfect here makes it read to me as if Dick has pretty much given up on him. For me, "high time" is always an expression you use when you still hope something will happen, and in particular when exhorting someone to do something. "Young lady, it is high time you clean your room." In the past, "I told my daughter it was high time she cleaned her room."

    So I think we are in agreement that the past perfect is used when action is over, but there is a difference in the way we view "high time."

    These differences may be regional.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]The past perfect here makes it read to me as if Dick has pretty much given up on him. For me, "high time" is always an expression you use when you still hope something will happen, and in particular when exhorting someone to do something. "Young lady, it is high time you clean your room." In the past, "I told my daughter it was high time she cleaned her room."

    So I think we are in agreement that the past perfect is used when action is over, but there is a difference in the way we view "high time."
    Thanks for your reply, Embonpoint.

    To take your example: "I told my daughter it was high time she cleaned her room."

    I could say "I told my daughter it was high time she cleaned her room." - i.e. she'd better get cleaning immediately,

    and "I told my daughter it was high time she had cleaned her room." - i.e. it should have been done long ago, and she'd better get cleaning immediately. There's a strong element of hyperbole in the second, but some people like hyperbole. So I don't think the element of exhortation is absent from the second formula, but there's more implied reproach.
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    Good distinction Thomas. I absolutely agree with your analysis. I understand the meaning of the sentences the same way you do. For learners interested in what sounds natural to a native, I would say that to me (American) the second does not sound incorrect but it does not sound natural.

    In general I think the use of "high time" is declining in the U.S., and perhaps with it, the range of usages which sound natural and not odd or old fashioned. My parents' generation used high time frequently. My generation (I am 45) uses it less frequently; when I use it I do with a slight enjoyment of the stentorian old-fashioned sound to it. I suspect it is even less common among those under 30, though of course, I should let that generation speak for itself!
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, everyone.

    If I say to my son "It's high time you got a job", I am expressing my concern about his not having found a job yet, and my desire that he'll find one soonest.

    Therefore in English I use a Preterite (or a Past Simple) ("got") to refer to a present state and a (desired) future event.

    I suspect this fact should be taken into serious consideration when discussing the use of tenses and "modes".

    Also, I tend to believe that if I say "It was high time... ..." I seem to be shifting the situation to the past, but in reality I'm still speaking (in the present) of a moment in

    the past when I was concerned about my son's not having found a job yet, and expressed my desire that he would find one soonest.

    Thus, I believe the tense structure should remain unchanged: "It was high time you got a job".

    All the best.

    GS

    PS If English were like Italian I would say "It's high time you get (Present Subjunctive) a job" and "It was high time you got (Imperfect Subjunctive) a job" respectively.
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    PS If English were like Italian I would say "It's high time you get (Present Subjunctive) a job" and "It was high time you got (Imperfect Subjunctive) a job" respectively.
    I am pretty sure that "It's high time you get (Present Subjunctive) a job" is possible and correct in American English.
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    One could also say It was, in my view, high time that you had left for Italy. i.e. I'm saying now that in my view it was, last Tuesday say, high time you left for Italy.
    I understand that it means something like "You should have left for Italy last Tuesday".

    I am, however, not clear if it should imply the urge of going to Italy now or not necessarily? I understand that "it's time you did something" implies that some action should be done now. But in this case I am not clear. Does it mean that the speaker wants the recipient to go or is it just a reproach...

    1 It was, in my view, high time that you had left for Italy. Go there immidiately!
    2 It was, in my view, high time that you had left for Italy. But who cares... stay here...
     
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