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Past perfect vs. Past simple



 
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #1 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 14:34 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

Hi Dozy!

(a) Nodir admitted that he had stolen the car.
(b) Nodir admitted that he stole the car.

I know that there is no difference in meaning.
What I am interested in that is there any difference in terms of formality?

Thanks..
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #2 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 14:39 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

*****Not a teacher****

There is difference in meaning with respect to time.
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #3 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 15:01 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

Hi Ebenether!

Both the sentences are grammatically correct, but can you tell me (!) which one is more formal.
Only experts like Alan, Torsten, Beeesneees and 'communicators' like Dozy, James M can tell the difference between them, I think..
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #4 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 15:40 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

Hi Dozy, could you please tell me what is the difference between them?
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Re: Past perfect vs. Past simple #5 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 16:56 pm   Re: Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

While you are waiting for one of the old-timers(=long-standing members) in the forum:

The Past Perfect after a Past Tense verb is used to preserve the time sequence of events...if...if any ambiguity might arise for the reader.

In your sentence:

Nodir admitted that he stole the car.
...it is quite clear that he can't admit to doing something unless he's done it! So that the 'stealing' obviously came first. Hence, most people would use that sentence.

(disregarding 'false confessions' here!)

The specific use of the Past Perfect makes the sentence sound more formal, like part of the summing up done by the Prosecutor in a case of Grand Theft Auto. It would probably be within a context such as:

(b) Nodir admitted that he had stolen the car. His subsequent retraction of this confession came at a time when...
Here the time-line line goes: 2nd action/event, to 1st action/event, to 3rd....
...so its use leaves no chance of ambiguity in that time-line.
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Re: Past perfect vs. Past simple #6 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 17:58 pm   Re: Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

Foreigner wrote:
(a) Nodir admitted that he had stolen the car.
(b) Nodir admitted that he stole the car.

I'd look at the two sentences from a different angle. We know that those sentences are in the reported speech. Suppose you wanted to turn them into the direct speech, the sentences would then be:

(a) Nodir said (admitted), "I have stolen the car." (OR 'I stole the car')
(b) Nodir said, "I steal the car."

It is now obvious that the second sentence is quite absurd, illogical, ungrammatical and unacceptable. So, only the first sentence which clearly indicates the "past in the past" or the "past perfect" is correct.
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #7 (permalink) Thu Apr 04, 2013 22:55 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

No, there's nothing wrong with the second sentence. See Bazza's explanation above.
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #8 (permalink) Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:27 am   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

I cannot but disagree with you. The past simple form of the verb found in a reported speech (with the reporting verb also being in the past) is always the corresponding present simple form used in the quoted speech, unless it is related to the facts of history etc. Books by Wren & Martin, Swan & Walter, Thomson & Martinet and Quirk & Greenbaum clearly illustrate that a present simple appears as past simple while reporting. Why can't the vice versa be the corollary?
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #9 (permalink) Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:27 am   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

T_H_Lawrence: Why can't the vice versa be the corollary?

The changing of reported speech to direct speech sounds like something that would occur only in an exam assessing knowledge of and transformation of the tenses. This links to real life experience and:
"The past simple form of the verb found in a reported speech (with the reporting verb also being in the past) is always the corresponding present simple form used in the quoted speech..." (My emphasis).

I wrote something on this a few years ago, and I quote it here:

There is strict Reported Speech, but this is given mainly as an exercise in class, and in exams, to show that you can backshift the tenses of the spoken words.
What speakers do, in general conversation, is indicate that something was said in the past - "I told him..."/"He said to me that..."
...and then use the tense that seems appropriate NOW, the moment of speaking.

John: "I am going to the party on Friday."
In strict Reported Speech, that becomes:
John said that he was going to the party on Friday.

Suppose you have just spoken to John on the phone, and your mother asks what he said. This is general conversation, so you would say to your mother:
John said that he is/he's going to the party on Friday.
It would seem very strange to the speaker to be talking in the past tense about a party that is happening next Friday!

More examples are:
Me (to a friend): "I am/I'm moving into a new flat next Saturday. Can you help me move?"
Friend: "No, I'm working that day."
In strict Reported Speech, this would be:
I told him I was moving to a new flat the following Saturday, and asked if he could help me move. He said no, that he was working that day.

But imagine it is a day or two after that conversation. It is Friday, and I move tomorrow. My mother is talking to me about the move:
Mother: Maybe your friend John has some spare time tomorrow and can help you.
Me: I asked him, but he said he is working tomorrow.

When 'reporting' the conversation to my mother, I don't follow the wording precisely; AND I use the Present Tense, because this is Friday and I am moving/he is working tomorrow.
To say...
Me (to my mother): I asked him, but he was working tomorrow
...is talking about something in the future as if it has already happened and in the past: "... but he was working tomorrow".
In ordinary conversation, we choose the tense that makes most sense.

So, the rigid adherence to "The past simple form of the verb found in a reported speech (with the reporting verb also being in the past) is always the corresponding present simple form used in the quoted speech..."
doesn't really hold in everyday life...and that makes the change of reported speech to direct speech questionable.
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #10 (permalink) Fri Apr 05, 2013 17:20 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

The specific use of the Past Perfect makes the sentence sound more formal.
Rigid adherence (to formal language) doesn't really hold (good) in everyday life.

I agree to your statements above. However, I was making only an analysis of the subject sentence by converting it into the direct speech so as to bring out the absurdity wherein lay my point. As a teacher I am inclined to learn/assert the formal usage more. In informal contexts everything is possible, and nothing is wrong as long as the communication between the speaker and the listener is somehow understood.

A similar sentence (He told the police that his purse was picked) was once found set for correction in an examination. Generally a speech is reported, remotely.

Well, let's close this chapter. Thank you, Bazza.
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Past perfect vs. Past simple #11 (permalink) Sat Apr 06, 2013 19:40 pm   Past perfect vs. Past simple
 

As a teacher I am inclined to learn/assert the formal usage more.

If you mean by 'formal', 'grammatically correct', then so do I!
But there is a difference between "He rung me and come over to hang out", and relaxing the 'formal' rule in the given sentence, since the time-line remains clear. To use the Past Tense sounds very formal, as I mentioned, and so attributed its expression to a very formal situation.

In informal contexts everything is possible, and nothing is wrong as long as the communication between the speaker and the listener is somehow understood.

Preferable, out of my earshot!
I'm sure Americans understand each other from the gist of what the other is intending...but the sentence above, spoken by a college student in a documentary, and gems like, "By some stroke of miracle", where two expressions are mangled, grate on me more than they whimsically amuse.
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