Exception to the usage rules for the pluscuamperfect?

English grammar questions, answered by Alan

Moderator: Alan

New Member
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:05 pm
Status: English Teacher

Exception to the usage rules for the pluscuamperfect?

Post by OwenTeaches » Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:15 pm

I'm tutoring a South Korean ESL student who recently stumped me with the following question. I'm hoping you guys can help me come up with a helpful answer for him.

An SAT prep book had the following question: When my uncle has gone to buy a computer, the salesman told him that he couldn't get a discount. The answer is replace "has gone" with "was" for tense consistency. Instead, he replaced it with "had gone". When I told him the answer, he told me that the pluscuamperfect "had gone" is used to denote an event in the past that occurred prior to another event in the relatively more recent past. The uncle went to the store before he talked to the salesman, so by that definition, shouldn't the first verb be the pluscuamperfect (had gone) instead of the simple preterite (went)?

Can anyone think of a rational way to predict this usage? Thanks in advance for your thoughts, because as I mentioned, I'm stumped. :mrgreen:

User avatar
EC Teacher
EC Teacher
Posts: 12953
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2003 7:56 pm
Status: English Teacher
Location: Japan

Re: Exception to the usage rules for the pluscuamperfect?

Post by Alan » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:54 am

Simple common sense resolves this: the uncle was given the information WHEN he went to buy the computer, not at some prior time, thus the pluperfect* (note the tense-name!!) clearly would not be appropriate in this case.

(*a.k.a. 'past perfect')