Present perfect vs past perfect

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clapec

Senior Member
Italian
Hi!
Which verbal tense would you use in these sentences - present perfect or past perfect? The present perfect sounds more natural to me, but according to my book it is wrong.

1. I would never get up from the table before others have finished / had finished.

2. I don't believe in ghosts. If anyone told me he has seen / had seen a ghost, I would tell him he only thought / thinks he had seen / has seen one and that he had better pull himself together.

I've underlined the alternatives I would choose.
Thank you very much for your help.
 
  • bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The context in which the sentence is used is important. Take the first clause of the first sentence: I would never get up from the table. Are you speaking about the present or the past? The clause itself gives no indication. The meaning is given away by the second clause. If you are speaking of the present (your custom or habit today which will determine your action now and tomorrow) then a present tense is appropriate: before others have finished. But, if you are speaking of the past (your custom in the past) then a past tense is appropriate: before others had finished. However, often the context is so clear (the general drift of the conversation, the things the interlocutors know about each other, the recent or past actions, the expressions of intention ...) that a speaker may use either without confusing the listeners.
     

    clapec

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you very much for your help: it hadn't occurred to me that "would" in the first sentence could also indicate a habit in the past.
    Now it is clear.
    Thank you again ;)
     

    bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Would can also introduce, when speaking about the past, a future event or action: It was in Milan that Alison met John, the man she would marry. Both the meeting and the marriage are in the speaker's past.
     
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