past indefinite + past perfect

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MaximuS.111

Senior Member
russian
Hello! :)
I actually got confused while reading some article today. The lines that caused the surprise are highlighted in the sentences below:
"The three vases, which were produced during Qing dynasty in the 17th century, had stood on the windowsill in Fitz museum for forty years. Last Saturday they were smashed into a million pieces. The vases, which had been donated in 1948, were the museum's best-known pieces."
I have no idea why somebody used past perfect there.
Can't we say '... which were donated in 1948, were the museum's best-known pieces'?
Or
'... which were donated in 1948, have been the the museum's best-known pieces'?

Thanks in advance! :)
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The original sounds, to me, the most natural, but both of your suggested alternatives would also be acceptable. There are often times when we can say the same thing in several different ways, and here is a good example.
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    Thanks for taking time to answer, heypresto. :)

    I've found another usage of past indefinite in this article that strikes me as redundant.
    "The photograph of the accident was taken by another visitor, Steve Baxter. We watched the man fall as if in slow motion. He was flying through the air. The vases exploded as though they had been hit by a bomb."
    I'd say '...as if they were hit by a bomb'. Would that be incorrect?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Here I'm afraid your suggested variation doesn't work. I'm not as much of a grammarian as many here so I can't explain from a grammatical point of view why, but you do need the 'had been' in this sentence. You could replace 'as though' with your 'as if' but you couldn't replace 'had been' with 'were'.

    Perhaps a grammarian may turn up soon, who could explain things in more formal terms . . .
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In your latest case, I'd say yes, it would be incorrect, Maximus. The explosion occurred after the imaginary impact, and you need the tense to point this fact, in my view.

    In the first case, the one in the OP, I'd accept your first amendment, but not the second - the have been suggests they still are, but they are smashed.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    In the first example, we are told the vases were smashed before we are told the date of acquisition.
    Since the acquisition had happened first, it is appropriate to say 'had been acquired' as this takes our attention back to an earlier time.
    In the second example, the imaginary bomb hit would have had to come before the vases exploded.
    In both cases, the pluperfect tense shows we are looking at what happened one stage earlier in time.
     
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