Tense complicated ... I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.

Status
Not open for further replies.

jakartaman

Senior Member
Korean
Can I say the following sentense?

I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.
For some reason, to me last night, week, month, Sunday, etc have to go with the past tense no matter what. Am I right?

How about this?
I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken 3 days ago.
"Was broken" sounds better than "had been broken" and is grammatically correct, right? I hope so.

I always appreciate generous help given by great teachers.
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Strictly I think you should say 'was broken', because it was broken on Sunday. If you said 'it hadn't been broken on Sunday' you'd mean that on Sunday it hadn't (yet) been broken, and that's not what you are saying at all.

    Your instincts seem to me correct, jakartaman.

    I know BE speakers who make the mistake, though.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Can I say the following sentense?

    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.
    For some reason, to me last night, week, month, Sunday, etc have to go with the past tense no matter what. Am I right?

    How about this?
    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken 3 days ago.
    "Was broken" sounds better than "had been broken" and is grammatically correct, right? I hope so.

    I always appreciate generous help given by great teachers.
    Here's what I think: If we take "broken" as an adjective, a state of being, then why can't we say that: "I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken since last Sunday."?

    Or, of course, you can always say that: "I fixed the window yesterday that got broken last Sunday." Here, "got broken" serves as the past tense verb.
     

    suttone2

    Member
    Midwestern USA - English
    I think the tense is fine, jakartaman, but I would put <yesterday> at the beginning of the sentence - it sounds less awkward that way. Normally, adverbs fit well at the end of a sentence, but with the subordinate clause there, it doesn´t seem as natural.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think the tense is fine, jakartaman, but I would put <yesterday> at the beginning of the sentence - it sounds less awkward that way. Normally, adverbs fit well at the end of a sentence, but with the subordinate clause there, it doesn´t seem as natural.
    Hi, suttone, so you think it had been broken on Sunday, do you? You don't think it was broken on Sunday?
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    Hi, suttone, so you think it had been broken on Sunday, do you? You don't think it was broken on Sunday?
    I would say the window was broken on Sunday and had been broken since Sunday. He fixed it yesterday. I agree that yesterday sounds much better at the beginning of the sentence than in the middle.

    So I would say "Yesterday, I fixed the window that had been broken since last Sunday."
     

    suttone2

    Member
    Midwestern USA - English
    The since definitely clarifies it - for me, the use of the past perfect (had been broken) works because it establishes that something (the window being broken) is further in the past than something else (the fixing).
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would say the window was broken on Sunday and had been broken since Sunday. He fixed it yesterday. I agree that yesterday sounds much better at the beginning of the sentence than in the middle.

    So I would say "Yesterday, I fixed the window that had been broken since last Sunday."
    Yes, sure, so would I. But that's not we are being asked about. The issue is whether one would say:

    'I fixed the window which was broken on Sunday.'

    or

    'I fixed the window which had been broken on Sunday.'

    It's beside the point that we might try to find ways round the problem by adding since's and yesterday's.

    I know lots of people say the second in BE, but it grates with me. Suttone is suggesting that it's perfectly acceptable in AE.
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    Yes, sure, so would I. But that's not we are being asked about. The issue is whether one would say:

    'I fixed the window which was broken on Sunday.'

    or

    'I fixed the window which had been broken on Sunday.'

    It's beside the point that we might try to find ways round the problem by adding since's and yesterday's.

    I know lots of people say the second in BE, but it grates with me. Suttone is suggesting that it's perfectly acceptable in AE.
    I might actually say the first in general conversation, but the second seems more correct to me because you're referring to one event that happened further in the past than another. Someone broke the window before he fixed it on Sunday. I think the original poster is trying to use the passive voice, which sounds strange here because we would normally use "had been" referring to the duration of time the window spent in the state of being broken.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Couldn't you just say:

    "I fixed the window yesterday that broke on Sunday."

    ...which is still clumsy, so:

    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that broke last Sunday."

    If you just use the last part of that sentence, you would say:
    "The window broke last Sunday."

    You wouldn't say, "The window had broken on Sunday."
    or

    "The window was broken on Sunday." (Well, this one, yes, I can hear that under some circumstances, but for the sake of our sentence, it is complicating something simple and direct.)



    AngelEyes
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Couldn't you just say:

    "I fixed the window yesterday that broke on Sunday."

    ...which is still clumsy, so:

    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that broke last Sunday."

    If you just use the last part of that sentence, you would say:
    "The window broke last Sunday."

    You wouldn't say, "The window had broken on Sunday."
    or

    "The window was broken on Sunday." (Well, this one, yes, I can hear that under some circumstances, but for the sake of our sentence, it is complicating something simple and direct.)



    AngelEyes
    I don't see that it makes much difference to our problem if you change the window was broken to the window broke.

    If I understand you right AngelEyes you're for

    I fixed the window that was broken on Sunday

    rather than

    I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday

    ?
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    I don't see that it makes much difference to our problem if you change the window was broken to the window broke.

    If I understand you right AngelEyes you're for

    I fixed the window that was broken on Sunday

    rather than

    I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday

    ?
    I think the fact that we have yesterday in this sentence is changing our thinking about whether we should use "was" or "had been."
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Well, the name of this thread is "tense complicated..."

    I wanted to change it to "tense simplified..." and solve his problem.

    It seemed the best way to do that is to give jakartaman the simple past tense of his verb choice, break: broke

    But Thomas, if I had to choose, yes, I'd choose "was broken." That's not what I would use to make a clean, more concise sentence, though.

    jakartaman deserves simple and direct. That's what I'd like to give him.


    AngelEyes
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with what's been said, but we have "yesterday" in this sentence and we're assuming the window was already broken yesterday, when the decision was made to fix it. I think that "yesterday" changes the sentence.
    You're going to laugh when I tell you I'd forgotten about that yesterday; I was concentrating so hard on the tenses. I don't see why it ought to alter things - after all I fixed is already a past tense - but agree with you that it seems to. I'll go to bed and think about it.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've had a think about this overnight, and, I'm sorry to say, I'm still not able to justify:

    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken 3 days ago.

    I'm quite happy to put yesterday at the start of the sentence, but it must be:

    Yesterday I fixed the window that was broken 3 days ago.

    I'll try to explain why I think this. Look at the following series of events:

    Sunday 1 May: The window was broken

    Tuesday 3 May: I repaired the broken window.

    Thursday 5 May: In talking about what happened on Tuesday I say (correctly, in my view): on Tuesday I repaired the window which was broken on Sunday.

    Now, some people have argued that on Thursday I ought to say: on Tuesday I repaired the window which had been broken on Sunday, on the grounds that the window had already been broken when I repaired it.

    This is to commit the same error as confusing three days ago for three days earlier, or, more glaringly, yesterday for the day before, or tomorrow for the next day.

    The point is there is a proper place for the window which had been broken on Sunday, and you should only use the form in that proper place.

    Suppose on the Friday, 6 May, I'm talking about what I said to people the day before (Thursday 5 May). I could correctly say: I told them I had repaired on Tuesday the window which had been broken on Sunday.

    The tenses tell you at how many temporal removes you are.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I can't help but wonder if we're not making this more complicated than we need to.

    I'm going to look at it from a different perspective by using a different verb.

    Original:
    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.

    My suggestion:
    Yesterday, I fixed the window that broke last Sunday.

    Using other verbs:
    1. Yesterday, I fixed the window that cracked last Sunday.
    2. Yesterday, I fixed the window that shattered last Sunday.
    3. Yesterday, I fixed the window that splintered last Sunday.

    I don't see why simple past tense isn't enough. I'm not saying that was broken doesn't work, but I guess I like the simple life best.

    I wouldn't say:
    1. Yesterday, I fixed the window that was cracked last Sunday.
    2. Yesterday, I fixed the window that was shattered last Sunday.
    3. Yesterday, I fixed the window that was splintered last Sunday.


    AngelEyes
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    You are right to use the Past Simple when you are talking about a definite time in the past. 'Last Sunday' and '3 days ago' both take the Past Simple. "...the window that was broken last Sunday' and "....the window that was broken 3 days ago' are both correct.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can't help but wonder if we're not making this more complicated than we need to.
    AngelEyes, We were given the problem with a verb (to break) in the passive. I don't see that it helps when we've got used to using one verb to introduce others, and when we've got used to the passive to introduce active constructions. Surely none of these things alters essential truths about the sequence of tenses. They introduce complexities, which are just what you say you are decrying.

    Now you may be addressing a post other than my last one, but everything you say here agrees with me; all the examples are in the form which I've been arguing should be used.

    Yet you write as though you think you are not agreeing, and, more important, because you are an AE source, you don't say anything about the main point at issue: is it wrong to say - I fixed the window that had been broken last Sunday? You say it's right to use the other form in the case; is it wrong to use this one? If you can answer yes to that question I don't think we disagree about anything obvious.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You are right to use the Past Simple when you are talking about a definite time in the past. 'Last Sunday' and '3 days ago' both take the Past Simple. "...the window that was broken last Sunday' and "....the window that was broken 3 days ago' are both correct.
    Hi, dobes, Do you think the other form - I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday - is wrong?
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Well, Thomas, I was kind of avoiding that one! Of course, the past perfect is used to express the past before the past, and the breaking did happen before the fixing! And, I think your sentence, which uses ON Sunday, is fine. But LAST Sunday, as in the original.... I'm afraid I have to go with the past simple on that one. "I fixed the window that had been broken last Sunday" doesn't sound HORRIBLE to me, but I believe the 'last Sunday' trumps the past perfect, and the simple is necessary. At least that's my take on it.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Well, Thomas, I was kind of avoiding that one! Of course, the past perfect is used to express the past before the past, and the breaking did happen before the fixing! And, I think your sentence, which uses ON Sunday, is fine. But LAST Sunday, as in the original.... I'm afraid I have to go with the past simple on that one. "I fixed the window that had been broken last Sunday" doesn't sound HORRIBLE to me, but I believe the 'last Sunday' trumps the past perfect, and the simple is necessary. At least that's my take on it.
    That's very interesting. Thank you. People seem very reluctant to commit themselves to this question, which is strange if you consider how often the issue must arise in ordinary life. If you could bear to read it, I'd very much like to know if you think my post 16 is correct or not.
     

    kenny4528

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    This thread really let me learn a lot.;)
    On first thought, I think that ''I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.'', undoubtedly, is a correct tense(what I learned at school). I am going to ask several friends on-line for their comments.:)
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.
    Hi everyone,

    I've read all the posts and they're all really helpful, interesting, and just great lessons in English. And Thomas, I laughed as I read through your posts...not at you, because I really respect your knowledge. No, I laughed at your frustration in trying to get us to listen to you. (Do you have any hair left on your head?)


    A.I think this sentence structure is incorrect. It's using the Past Perfect Progressive Tense that is described as: used to show the end of an on-going action that took place in the past.

    I fixed the window that had been broken last Sunday. :cross:


    B.What I think this sentence requires is the use of the past tense and the past perfect tense. After thinking about it, I don't think the use of the simple past tense is useful, as I stated in my two posts. I think I was wrong.

    I looked up the definition of Past Perfect Tense:
    ...used to emphasize that an action which took place in the past was completed, usually before another past action took place.

    I think the action of the window being broken qualifies and should be expressed in this sentence using the past perfect tense:

    Yesterday, I fixed the window that had broken last Sunday. :tick:

    The most recent action receives the simple past tense. The action that took place in the more distant past gets the past perfect tense.

    Since I'm not perfect, I may be wrong again. :)

    I don't care if that happens, because in the long run, I just want a definitive answer.


    AngelEyes
     

    konungursvia

    Banned
    Canada (English)
    In habitual speech, we don't use the pluperfect unless we wish to stress the distinction between two different past moments which might otherwise be confused by the listener: "By 6:59 this morning he had already finished his lunch." Here the moment of finishing is distinct from the moments spent eating, and are kept separate by the tense. With the window breaking, however, it's obvious it was fixed after that, so it doesn't really add any specificity to use the pluperfect for one verb and the preterite for the ohter, we'd normally use the latter for both. Hope this helps.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Can I say the following sentense?

    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.
    For some reason, to me last night, week, month, Sunday, etc have to go with the past tense no matter what. Am I right?

    How about this?
    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken 3 days ago.
    "Was broken" sounds better than "had been broken" and is grammatically correct, right? I hope so.

    I always appreciate generous help given by great teachers.
    "Yesterday I fixed the window that was broken last Sunday."
    Here the past tense is appropriate because our point of reference is the present and we are referring to the last Sunday before the present.​

    "Yesterday I fixed the window which had been broken the Sunday before."
    Now the point of reference has moved to the past and although we are referring to the same Sunday as in the first sentence, we are referring to it as the last Sunday before yesterday.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Yesterday I fixed the window which had been broken the Sunday before."
    Now the point of reference has moved to the past and although we are referring to the same Sunday as in the first sentence, we are referring to it as the last Sunday before yesterday.
    But if the Sunday before was actually last Sunday, you are being very perverse to call it the Sunday before, so I don't think your adroit little manoeuvre to justify the pluperfect works. The sentence sounds even more precarious if you substitute the previous Sunday for the Sunday before.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    But if the Sunday before was actually last Sunday, you are being very perverse to call it the Sunday before, so I don't think your adroit little manoeuvre to justify the pluperfect works. The sentence sounds even more precarious if you substitute the previous Sunday for the Sunday before.
    What if yesterday was Sunday?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    What if yesterday was Sunday?
    Actually I don't think it makes any difference if the Sunday when the window was broken was a week ago or a year ago. When you say I fixed the window and want to say which one, it has to be the one which was broken, not the one which had been broken. It's when you are constrained to say I had fixed the window that the window becomes the one that had been broken.

    I was at pains to point this out in my post 16 which has probably been buried with full military honours by now, but, if you can bear to read it, I still hold that position, and it covers, I think, any amount of temporal chicanery. The key question for me is whether the main clause is I fixed or I had fixed.

    Do please point out where I'm wrong.
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    I think we're confused about whether we should use "was/had been" as a passive voice or as a reference to the state of the window. The passive voice is very similar to the state of being but they have different usages - and very different meanings. The passive voice is known to cause confusion (just as it's doing now! :eek:) For example (and I'll add an actor/doer to hopefully make the explanation clearer - try reading the passive voice omitting the actor/doer):

    Passive voice

    "The window is broken (by the rock)."
    "The window was broken (by the rock) yesterday."
    "The window was broken on Sunday (by the rock)."


    The state of the window (To be broken)


    "The window is broken." (the current state of the window)
    "The window was broken yesterday ." (and it still is/but it's fixed now)
    "The window was broken Sunday ." (and it still is/but it's fixed now)


    Active voice (To break)

    "The window broke." / The rock broke the window."
    "The window broke yesterday." / The rock broke the window yesterday."
    "The window broke Sunday." / "The rock broke the window Sunday."


    I'm sure we can agree on the above usages. Now, let's move on to the sentences provided by the original poster. Which one do you prefer to use? The active voice, the passive voice, or the state of being? Here's my take on it:

    Passive voice

    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that was broken last Sunday (by the rock)."
    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that had been broken last Sunday (by the rock)."


    The first sentence sounds okay to me but, if we add an actor, it becomes clear that something broke the window on Sunday before it was fixed yesterday. The second sentence sounds somewhat more appropriate to me for expressing that idea, especially if we specify some kind of actor/doer. I'm still not too partial to any of those sentences.

    The state of the window (To be broken)


    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that was broken last Sunday."
    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that had been broken last Sunday."


    Interpreting these sentences that way is highly unlikely.

    Active voice (To break)

    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that broke last Sunday."
    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that had broken last Sunday."


    Both of these sentence sound fine as they are. The first sentence would probably be most common, but I believe the latter would be more accurate, since the window was broken before it was fixed. They are also much clearer: there is no confusion between passive voice and state of being.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that broke on Sunday."
    "Yesterday, I fixed the window that had broken on Sunday."

    Both of these sentence sound fine as they are. The first sentence would probably be most common, but I believe the latter would be more accurate, since the window was broken before it was fixed. They are also much clearer: there is no confusion between passive voice and state of being.
    Hi, Fan,

    I've noticed that some AE speakers say the window broke where we BE people would, for something as inactive as a window, say the window was broken: to break seems more energetically transitive this side of the Atlantic. However, that's beside the point, which is to do with tense usage.

    We've been fully aware all along that was broken can both be the preterite of to be broken and the imperfect of to be in a state of being broken. However, that issue is again beside the point, which is to do with tense usage.

    I return to this issue of tense usage, because I know how easy it is for these forums to pick up side-issues and various irrelevancies, and lose direction and focus.

    Bearing this in mind, I think this post of yours is telling us that you find perfectly acceptable the form:

    I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday.

    Now some of us have been arguing quite energetically for some days that this is not strictly correct, and we've tried to give reasons to justify our view. I know how daunting a long list of posts can be, so I'm not surprised that you haven't addressed all the points we've made, but it would have been good had you given a little more explanation. You say that it becomes clear that something broke the window on Sunday before it was fixed yesterday and also that the pluperfect seems more accurate and appropriate to you.

    Of course we had noticed that the window had been broken or it wouldn't have needed fixing. Any chance of a bit more justification and a bit more response to the points which have been made against the line you are taking?
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    Bearing this in mind, I think this post of yours is telling us that you find perfectly acceptable the form:

    I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday.
    Yes, if you look at it from the standpoint of a passive voice (preterite of to be broken), implying that the window had been broken by something. That is why I keep referring to the passive voice - it can be confused with the imperfect state of being. I had deliberately understood that sentence to be in passive voice, while others had understood it to be imperfect, to which the latter I agree would be an incorrect and awkward use of the past perfect progressive. I feel if you are using the passive voice here, "had been broken" would be the pluperfect tense instead, and would be very acceptable.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I hope we are all agreed that broken here is acting as a past participle, rather than adjectivally to mean in a state of being broken. We are taking was broken to mean that someone smashed it, rather than that it was in a broken state.

    I'm pretty sure most of us have been taking this for granted, for the purposes of the discussion.
     

    tomandjerryfan

    Senior Member
    English (Canada)
    I hope we are all agreed that broken here is acting as a past participle, rather than adjectivally to mean in a state of being broken. We are taking was broken to mean that someone smashed it, rather than that it was in a broken state.

    I'm pretty sure most of us have been taking this for granted, for the purposes of the discussion.
    Yes, I'm quite sure we're very clear on "was broken," but I'm talking about "had been broken." I am considering the "broken" in "had been broken" as a past participle.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I hope we are all agreed that broken here is acting as a past participle, rather than adjectivally to mean in a state of being broken. We are taking was broken to mean that someone smashed it, rather than that it was in a broken state.

    I'm pretty sure most of us have been taking this for granted, for the purposes of the discussion.
    I'm pretty sure, as an observer, that this is one source of the differing views. The word broken slithers elusively from being a statement of a past event to a statement of a past ongoing condition.

    In the midst of all this opinion, it would be interesting to discover a reference source in support of any of the varied viewpoints (sorry if I missed any listed above).

    ... or possibly all of them :)

    Could I suggest a different sentence that has, I think, the same structure but avoids the participle/adjective confusion.

    On Tuesday I buried the body of the man who <had been/ was> killed on Sunday.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Can I say the following sentense?

    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken last Sunday.
    For some reason, to me last night, week, month, Sunday, etc have to go with the past tense no matter what. Am I right?

    How about this?
    I fixed the window yesterday that had been broken 3 days ago.
    "Was broken" sounds better than "had been broken" and is grammatically correct, right? I hope so.

    I always appreciate generous help given by great teachers.
    The discussion has indeed become very complicated. My answer to the original post is:
    Yes, it's better to use "was broken" (passive voice, simple past) because you're referring to what happened to the window last Sunday.
    You could use "had been broken" in the manner I suggested in a previous post (by referring to the Sunday before yesterday), but as you can see by one or two of the responses, it's a bit tricky (although not incorrect).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Cheshire said:
    I'm sorry, but this thread is long and the course of discussion is complicated.
    Could I ask each poster to write first Yes or No?
    It's not that simple.
    You would need to allow for maybe, don't know, and it depends on the context - and in the end all you would have would be a small number of varied opinions.

    Still, now that I'm here, I'm almost convinced that on Tuesday I buried the body of the man who had been killed on Sunday.
    So I am almost convinced that yesterday I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday.

    I wonder were the two events connected?

    I can't tear my mind away from the sense that "the window that was broken on Sunday" is using broken as an adjective. "That window was broken on Sunday!"
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Could I suggest a different sentence that has, I think, the same structure but avoids the participle/adjective confusion.

    On Tuesday I buried the body of the man who <had been/ was> killed on Sunday.
    Good suggestion, Panj.

    Then my BE view, it's wrong, though common, for people to say to their friend Alf, on Thursday, for instance:

    On Tuesday I buried the body of the man who had been killed on Sunday.

    We should say:

    On Tuesday I buried the body of the man who was killed on Sunday.


    It's right, however, explaining this to Burt after Thursday, to say:

    On Thursday I told Alf that on Tuesday I had buried the body of the man who had been killed on Sunday.

    What do people think?
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I can't tear my mind away from the sense that "the window that was broken on Sunday" is using broken as an adjective. "That window was broken on Sunday!"
    If that's so, is the sentence wrong?

    (I know our Ripley is very good at summarizing a complicated discussion into a concise, simple sentences. I'm secretely expecting...:))
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thomas Tompion said:
    Then my BE view, it's wrong, though common, ...
    Can you explain why and give a reference in support.
    As I suggested above, this thread is simply moving around in circles of opinion.
    As we already know that there are differing opinions on this question, further expressions of opinion without references are not going to be of any help,
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Still, now that I'm here, I'm almost convinced that on Tuesday I buried the body of the man who had been killed on Sunday.

    But Panj, the man, whose body you buried, was the man who was killed on Sunday, surely?

    So I am almost convinced that yesterday I fixed the window that had been broken on Sunday. I thought we were trying not to break any windows for the time being.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I've just been looking for sensible sources that give guidance on this kind of situation.
    I Googled for tense sequence English Grammar, so there is no guarantee that these are high-quality reputable sites, though I've found the first one good for balanced views on punctuation.

    These are the first three relevant hits.
    Sequence of verb tenses.
    If the verb in the main clause is simple past:
    To show another completed past action, use the past tense.
    I wanted to go home because I missed my parents.
    To show an earlier action, use the past perfect tense.
    She knew she had made the right choice.
    Capital Community College Foundation
    Remember: when you see a sentence that contains two verbs, ask yourself if one of the actions occurred before the other action. If this is the case, make sure that the verb that describes the first action is in the past perfect tense.
    Celebrity English
    In a sentence such as Before I was introduced to her, I heard/had heard the rumor about her, 59 percent would require had heard, while 41 percent would allow heard. Thus it seems likely that many readers will not notice the omission of had—that is, the use of the simple past in preference to the past perfect—in these situations.
    Bartleby
    It seems to me that the comments in Bartleby explain very well why this thread has taken such a winding course.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion
    I don't see that it makes much difference to our problem if you change the window was broken to the window broke.

    To me there is a semantic difference between the two: broke is something spontaneous or when a break occurs because of the strain put on something as in:
    Just as the mountaineers were about to reach the summit of K2, the rope broke and the whole party fell into a crevasse.
    If you substitute this by was broken, you have a case of mass murder on your hands: was broken always implies an agent whether human or otherwise.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I've just been looking for sensible sources that give guidance on this kind of situation.
    I Googled for tense sequence English Grammar, so there is no guarantee that these are high-quality reputable sites, though I've found the first one good for balanced views on punctuation.

    These are the first three relevant hits. It seems to me that the comments in Bartleby explain very well why this thread has taken such a winding course.
    If I understand this post correctly, you have two sources which support the use of the past perfect:
    "Yesterday I fixed the window which had been broken last Sunday"
    and one which says that opinion is divided and most people wouldn't notice the difference.
    In other words the past perfect is correct but few people will complain or even notice the error if you use the simple past.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Originally Posted by Thomas Tompion
    I don't see that it makes much difference to our problem if you change the window was broken to the window broke.

    To me there is a semantic difference between the two: broke is something spontaneous or when a break occurs because of the strain put on something as in:
    Just as the mountaineers were about to reach the summit of K2, the rope broke and the whole party fell into a crevasse.
    If you substitute this by was broken, you have a case of mass murder on your hands: was broken always implies an agent whether human or otherwise.
    Arrius,

    I'm very sorry to have been misleading. I agree with you absolutely on this point. I said this because we were having a discussion about the tense we used, not about the mood. As the window broke and the window was broken (preterite of the verb to be broken - NOT imperfect of the verb to be + broken (in a state of being broken)) are in the same tense (the simple perfect), it didn't matter for our purposes whether someone used the active or the passive mood.

    I was NOT saying that the meaning and application of the two were identical, just that, being in the same tense, they were identical for our purposes at the time.

    If you look at the discussion you will see that at various moments people shifted moods to try to make their point. I was trying to keep the discussion transparent by keeping the examples the same, with only moderate success.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If I understand this post correctly, you have two sources which support the use of the past perfect:
    "Yesterday I fixed the window which had been broken last Sunday"
    and one which says that opinion is divided and most people wouldn't notice the difference.
    In other words the past perfect is correct but few people will complain or even notice the error if you use the simple past.
    These are "my" sources only in the sense that I found them and brought them here. They are the first three sources I found in a Google search for tense sequence English grammar that explicitly addressed this question. They are from the first 10 hits listed.

    Your understanding matches mine.
    The implication of the wording in the Bartleby link is also a preference for the past perfect.
    59 percent would require had heard,
    while 41 percent would allow heard.
    Thus it seems likely that many readers will not notice the omission of had
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If I understand this post correctly, you have two sources which support the use of the past perfect:
    "Yesterday I fixed the window which had been broken last Sunday"
    and one which says that opinion is divided and most people wouldn't notice the difference.
    In other words the past perfect is correct but few people will complain or even notice the error if you use the simple past.
    This suggests a ballot-box approach to language which I hadn't expected of you, Liliput.

    I'm more interested in that example in Panj's post: She knew she had made the right decision.

    Now I would regard this statement as obviously correct. Is the construction the same as He fixed the window which was/had been broken on Sunday? No; it lacks the relative clause.

    Change it to a sentence with a relative: She knew that the decision which she had taken was right. Clearly still OK. You wouldn't, in these circumstances, say She knew the decision which she took was right.

    Where's the difference now between this and He fixed the window which was/had been broken on Sunday?

    The difference is that the decision which was right was the decision which she had taken, whereas the window I fixed was the window which was broken on Sunday. It was not the window which had been broken on Sunday.

    That's why I find the form you seem to be advocating a little strange.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This suggests a ballot-box approach to language which I hadn't expected of you, Liliput.
    I think that comment is very unfair to liliput.
    I have been trying to find reference sources to shed some objective light on this topic.
    All that I have been able to find, so far, tends to support the "past perfect" option.

    So far, all that supports the "simple past" option is opinion. I'm not suggesting that any opinion in this thread is wrong, simply that the thread will go on for ever on that basis and therefore I am suggesting that we stop posting opinion unless that opinion has something to back it up.
     
    Status
    Not open for further replies.
    < Previous | Next >
    Top