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Past Simple or Past Perfect? The usage of the time signal "By"



 
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Past Simple or Past Perfect? The usage of the time signal "By" #1 (permalink) Mon Aug 03, 2009 22:08 pm   Past Simple or Past Perfect? The usage of the time signal "By"
 

I have recently come across a very confusing usage differences of the word "by:"

1. By the fourteenth century, conventional battles with knights (had become/became) all but obsolte.

2. By the fourteenth century, knights rarely (had fought/fought) in battle.

3. James McGarken (recorded/had recorded) many of his classics by 1999.

4. By the time we got to the theater, I (was/had been) very tired.

5. By the sixth century B.C., war chariots (were rarely used/had rarely been used) in battle.

6. I (had talked/talked) to James by the time we arrived at the theater.

here are my answers:

had become, fought, had recorded, was, were rarely used, had talked

(though for #4, 'had been' can also be used as long as there is a duration implied,
as in 'By the time we got to the theater, I had been tired for over an hour.
but that would not be 'past perfect,' that would be in the 'past perfect continuous'
sense... the same logic would apply to #5 as well)

at any rate... why the discrepancies?
why do some contexts sound clearly wrong with simple past tense yet correct
in other contexts? I fail to see the differences, other than the fact that it sounds
blatantly wrong to a trained ear of a native speaker..

is there any clear cut rule for 'by' as far as tenses go?
or are we doomed to find the intended meaning of the sentence and see which
tense is appropriate?
Deanchhsw
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Joined: 03 Aug 2009
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Past Simple or Past Perfect? The usage of the time signal "By" #2 (permalink) Mon Aug 03, 2009 23:58 pm   Past Simple or Past Perfect? The usage of the time signal "By"
 

Yes, it turns upon the meaning. We use words to reflect meaning.

#1: the 'becoming' is essentially complete by 1301.
#2: the rarity of fighting exists 1301-1400.
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