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Tense agreement question



 
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Tense agreement question #1 (permalink) Wed Oct 11, 2006 18:49 pm   Tense agreement question
 

English Language Proficiency Tests, Advanced Level

ESL/EFL Test #115 "Tense Agreement", question 5

We asked him why he ......... telephoned earlier.

(a) hadn't
(b) hasn't
(c) didn't
(d) wouldn't

English Language Proficiency Tests, Advanced Level

ESL/EFL Test #115 "Tense Agreement", answer 5

We asked him why he hadn't telephoned earlier.

Correct answer: (a) hadn't

Your answer was: incorrect
We asked him why he didn't telephoned earlier.
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Please explain the structure
mariany
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Tense agreement question #2 (permalink) Wed Oct 11, 2006 19:35 pm   Tense agreement question
 

It's the sequence of tenses.

We asked him why he hadn't telephoned earlier.
The past action expressed in the subordinate clause (why he hadn't telephoned earlier is prior to that expressed in the principal clause (we asked him), so, the Past Perfect is used in the subordinate clause.

Principal clause: We asked him
Subordinate clause: Why he hadn't telephoned earlier.

We asked him why he didn't telephoned earlier. is grammatically incorrect. That means that both actions (asked and didn't telephoned) happened simultaneously, but that sounds odd with the indicator earlier
Pamela
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'hadn't' and 'didn't' #3 (permalink) Wed Oct 11, 2006 23:55 pm   'hadn't' and 'didn't'
 

Hi Pamela:

While I agree that "hadn't" is the only correct answer, I disagree with at least part of your explanation. "hadn't" is the only correct answer because it is incorrect to say "didn't telephoned".
Using "didn't" wouldn't mean that "asked" and "didn't " happened simultaneously.

What I am saying is that "We asked him why he didn't telephone earlier." would also be a correct answer but, of course, the word in the sentence is 'telephoned', not 'telephone', so hadn't is the only correct answer. The reason the perfect tense word is the only correct answer here is because only "hadn't" fits in with the grammar of the sentence.
Canadian45
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Tense agreement question #4 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:53 am   Tense agreement question
 

Canadian, I think you misinterpreted my post :wink: I believe it's clear from my post that hadn't is the only possible answer.

We say:"Why don't you call?"

We asked why he didn't call.

We say: " why don't you telephone?
We asked why he didn't telephone

Now think over the following:

We say: " why don't you telephone earlier?

Does that sound normal to you? Just let me know
Pamela
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Tense agreement question #5 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:52 am   Tense agreement question
 

Hi Pamela

Your logic with reported speech is perfect, but unfortunately reported speech (as it is used in reality) isn't always quite as precise as your logic.

It is quite probable that a native speaker would use "didn't telephone" rather than "hadn't telephoned" in a sentence such as the test sentence. Many native speakers would not use "hadn't telephoned" unless the meaning would otherwise be unclear in the context of the whole conversation.

Amy
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Tense agreement question #6 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:06 am   Tense agreement question
 

Clear enough.:D :wink:
Pamela
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Tense agreement question #7 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:16 am   Tense agreement question
 

Hi Pamela

Most good grammar books also consider both options grammatically correct. You might say that using the past perfect is sometimes simply "more formal".

Amy
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Tense agreement question #8 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:39 am   Tense agreement question
 

Thank you, Amy, for the additional comments!
Pamela
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Tense agreement question #9 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 17:58 pm   Tense agreement question
 

Pamela
I didn't misinterpret your answer. I agreed that there was only one correct answer for the question. I partially disagreed with your explanation as to why there was only one correct answer.

'why don't you (tele)phone earlier?'
If we are talking about one particular incident of not phoning early enough, we should say 'why didn't you (tele)phone earlier?'. However, if there was an ongoing situation of someone often or always phoning too late, we would say 'why don't you (tele)phone earlier?'.
Present tense is used for an ongoing or habitual situation.
Canadian45
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Tense agreement question #10 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 21:10 pm   Tense agreement question
 

Yes, canadian, I lso read some material on this :wink:
Pamela
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