until the plumber had been to mend the burst pipe

goophy

Senior Member
Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
Hi,

I was reading Shirley Hughes' Alfie: An Evening at Alfie's, and the story was about the leak from the ceiling after Alfie's mum and dad had gone out. The baby-sitter's family came to help. But there's one sentence from the last page that I don't get, particularly about its grammar. I couldn't find this sentence online, so I will just type it here.

Next morning Mum told Alfie not to turn on the taps until the plumber had been to mend the burst pipe.
My question is: the whole event happened in the past, and I had been taught that when the event happened earlier, it should use past perfect tense, while the event happened later should use past tense. What baffled me is that the coming of the plumber should happen after Mum's telling Alfie. But why doesn't the sentence go like : Mum had told Alfie not to turn on the taps until the plumber was / came to mend the burst pipe?

Could anyone please explain the grammar?

Thanks in advance.

Goophy
 
Last edited:
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Well, when we use the verb "to be" like that, with the meaning of to come/go, it's always in the perfect or pluperfect, never the simple past "was".

    So what Mum would have said to Alfie is "Don't turn on the taps until [after] the plumber has been to mend the burst pipe". When you then backshift all that because it's reported speech, it becomes: Next morning Mum told Alfie not to turn on the taps until the plumber had been to mend the burst pipe. :)
     

    goophy

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
    Thanks a lot, DonnyB. If I rewrite the sentece as 'Mum told Alfie not to turn on the taps until the plumber had mended the burst pipe." , does it mean the same as the original one? Thanks once again!
     

    Fern_

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Yes, it means the same, (and the past perfect is used correctly).
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Interesting ... I would have used "had been" without the "by," (although the "by" is also natural), and long before I moved to BE-speaking countries.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Americans would say "...until the plumber had been by to fix the pipe" or would phrase it differently, possibly "...until the plumber had come to...."
    I agree with Sparky. ". . . until the plumber had been to fix . . . " would leave an American wondering what word or phrase was left out after "been". It could be "by", as Sparky suggests, or "there", or "to the house".
     
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