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Confirm or refute my assumptions please. From the Poirot's book: "It was his opinion that she had been standing with her back to the counter (and therefore to her assailant) when the blow had been struck." Is it the rule to use past perfect continuous + past perfect in such a case ("It was")? Can I use here past continuous + past simple instead?
Oct 3, 2018 6:14 AM
Answers · 2
A little more context is needed. The past perfect is used when the story "goes backward" in time. Example: Yesterday, I went home for lunch. I found a parcel that the mail carrier HAD delivered during the morning. Example: (not going backwards in time) Yesterday morning, the mail carrier___ delivered a parcel. I found it when I went home for lunch. This Poirot detective story probably goes backward in time. - Poirot went to the crime scene. He looked for clues. His opinion was that the women HAD been standing with her back to the counter when ... the blow HAD been struck.
October 3, 2018
The rule is indeed to use the past perfect continuous (for actions that were in progress) and past perfect (for completed actions) after “it was his opinion” This is a type of reported speech, so we need to back-shift. Could you just use past continuous and simple past? Yeah, that would be acceptable in conversation but it would be sloppy in formal situations or in writing. Or on an exam, if that’s your interest. In some situations, it would even be unacceptably ambiguous (I picture your dialog in a professional police investigation or even a courtroom setting). On the other hand, facts that are always true do not necessarily require back-shifting: “the teacher taught that the Earth is round.” Also, if the report was recent and the facts haven’t changed, we don’t have to back-shift: “I just told you that I like pizza.”
October 3, 2018
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English, Russian
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