I have a few English grammar questions about the tense forms.


I have a few English grammar questions about the tense forms:

A. The correct sentence is: 1."Martha tells me she will move to a new apartment."
Why isn't 2."Martha told me she has moved to a new apartment." correct? Is 3."Martha told me she had moved to a new apartment." how the sentence is supposed to be?



B. The correct sentence is: 4."You'll feel much better after you have a rest." Why?
Why isn't it: 5."You'll feel much better after you have had a rest?"


C. The correct sentence is: 6."I had got the letter before they came yesterday." I understand this because it seems to indicate a link with the present, so you use 'had'. But why can it not be: 7."I got the letter before they came yesterday." Can't the sentence be indicating an event that just happened once and is over? Or is it because the time is specified that we have to use the past perfect?



I'd really appreciate the help.

asked May 09 '13 at 05:08 Dierdre New member

1 answer



These are excellent questions.  I hope I can help you.

A. 1. Martha tells me she will move to a new apartment is correct but sounds informal to me.  It would be more formal to change tell to the past simple form, told (and some might also change will to would for indirect speech but this is not necessary if the move has not happened at the time of speaking).  But the present tense tell is often used in the simple present form to informally describe what someone routinely or repeatedly tells another person, as in My wife tells me you’re a pretty good tennis player. 
2. I suspect most native English speakers would consider sentence #2 to be correct but, strictly following the indirect speech ‘tense-shifting’ rules, it is a mistake to render indirect speech in the Present Perfect tense.  If Martha says “I moved to a new apartment”, the indirect speech version of that would be Martha told she had moved to a new apartment, changing the simple past to Past Perfect, not Present Perfect.  So far as I am aware, there is no direct statement of any verb tense that would correctly be rendered as Present Perfect in an indirect re-statement. 
3.  So, if sentence #3-- Martha told she had moved to a new apartment--was also one of the multiple choice options for this question, then, without seeing the entire question or completely understanding the context, yes it too is correct; in fact, I would choose it over sentence # 1 above!
B.  American English speakers typically don’t use the Present Perfect tense all that much, so sentence #4 would sound more natural to them, whereas #5 sounds much better to speakers of Canadian and British English.  But both of them are correct.
C.  First of all, it is not true that sentence #6 indicates a link with the present; it does not.  In fact, the function of the Past Perfect is to connect two past events to each other.  (The Present Perfect connects past events to the present.)   The two past events here are the receipt of the letter, and the people’s arrival.  The receipt of the letter happened first, so that is why the Past Perfect is used with that clause.  However, I actually agree with you that the Past Perfect is unnecessary here: when two past events are connected by a time conjunction (such as before, after, as soon as, when, etc.), the sequence/order of the events is already clearly established, so the simple past is sufficient.  In other words, I agree with you: I got the letter before they came yesterday is actually the best answer.

I have a grammar headache from considering these complicated issues – but I love grammar headaches!  I may well have missed something, so others may wish to chime in.  And please let me know if you have any questions.  I hope this helps.

link comment edited May 09 '13 at 11:45 Shawn Mooney Expert

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