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Thread: The Grammar Query Thread!
June 2nd, 2012, 04:51 PM #601
And even if it were then how does she know the bolt has been thrown at all? There could be a chair jammed under the handle, a million tins of tuna stacked against it, or an elephant sitting with its back to the door.
She doesn't know. All she knows is the door won't open.
The author knows and is telling us it's the bolt - and if the author is telling us as an omniscient narrator then he is perfectly entitled to tell who, how, where, when, and why the bolt was thrown if he wants.
Last edited by JunkMonkey; June 3rd, 2012 at 04:44 AM.
June 2nd, 2012, 11:59 PM #602
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- Apr 2012
Obviously, as a non-native speaker and as a person, still having problems how to use English tenses correctly (as in my language there's different structure of verb tenses), I'm not going to say which example is better. But, well, there's always a but, this quote of your editor is pretty incorrect:
a) Like the definition of Past Continuous:
It is often used to indicate that an action was going on (like a background) at a time when something else, more important and more dramatic (the foreground action) happened. The new action is expressed by Simple Past Tense, e.g.
While the man was looking at the picture, the thief stole his watch.
It is used to speak of an action concluded before a certain time in the past or before the time of occurrence of another action (denoted by Simple Past Tense) and yet continuing into it, e.g.
Lucille had learned English before she came to England.
June 3rd, 2012, 02:56 PM #603
June 3rd, 2012, 03:22 PM #604
As a reader, I don't think it would matter a whole lot to me either way, without being able to see the context. It seems to me to be a matter of personal preference.
June 3rd, 2012, 03:25 PM #605
June 3rd, 2012, 07:08 PM #606
You're assuming it's non limited. I'm not familiar with his choice of narrator.
I'm saying, knowing the door had been locked previously is not important information, so it doesn't need to be in present perfect tense.
What do I get as the reader from knowing it 'had been' thrown? Nothing. Because obviously if it 'was' locked, it had been thrown at some point earlier. Plus, 'had' is an overused word and avoiding it is always nice IMO.
June 3rd, 2012, 07:32 PM #607
Sure, had is an overused word and avoiding it is nice.
But had has its place and its uses. I do not think there is something jarring about using it in that sentence, as the editor suggested. That was the original question. 'Was' doesn't sound any better or more fluent in my ears...
It's a detail, but I'm just wondering: it might not be important information story-wise (who knows though?), but might it contribute to the style of writing? Are we simply concerned with the story or with the writing style, as well? And then it boils down to taste, doesn't it...
June 4th, 2012, 01:43 AM #608
June 4th, 2012, 12:56 PM #609
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- Dec 2009
- Fairfax, VA
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Wow - thanks for all the feedback folks!
June 4th, 2012, 02:06 PM #610
June 4th, 2012, 07:14 PM #611
June 5th, 2012, 11:52 AM #612
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- Nov 2009
- Texas, USA
1) Verb forms requiring multiple words ("helper verbs" as we called them in elementary school) can express a writer's resistance more active forms. Something to check in revision. Sometimes the perfect or progressive does contain necessary cues, but more often it's a sneaky way to suck power out of the active verb. Progressive (-ing forms) verbs tempt the writer with an apparently active core (run, jump, smash) but unless the continual action must be pointed out to the reader, they actually weaken that core...and often require "helpers" to pinpoint a moment of action.
2) What one reader finds ordinary may well jar another reader. Professional readers (editors, for instance) are familiar with a wide range of writing styles and also reader responses. Yes, there are bad editors. Pedantic editors and (more rarely) careless editors. Prissy editors, politically motivated editors, etc. But critical comments by good editors should be noted and the section of work under discussion scrutinized for an alternate way of writing that does not jar the (good) editor.
No, wait, 3 comments. (Yes, nobody expects the Spanish Inqui--that.) Any verb form may be grammatically correct, and in current use, without its being ideal for a specific sentence. Choices are (almost) infinite. But for every actual fictional work, in every scene of it, and every sentence in that scene, there is a best combination. Not merely accurate, but best--that conveys the exact meaning needed in the way a reader will retrieve that meaning with the least effort, and slot it into the story (including all its implications) quickly and accurately. Sometimes that requires one of the more complex verb forms. Sometimes it doesn't. It's the writer's job to know how much of the meaning in that sentence--and the verb form chosen for it--a reader needs at that moment in the story. Info-dump by verb form is as bad as infodump by stuffing in a handful of adjectives. So is info-starvation. If the reader needs that "had"--use it. If the reader doesn't--don't. If the writer fully understands what those forms mean--then it's easier to pick the best one.
Examples (because I'm evading work, of course. Why else? Verb forms italicized; note that some are in set-off phrases & not structural.)
Tim went to the cellar five times, carrying up boxes of old magazines, before he noticed the open chest in the back corner.
Tim had gone to the cellar five times to carry up boxes of old magazines before he noticed the open chest in the back corner.
Tim had been going to the cellar all day--five times at least, carrying up boxes of old magazines--before he noticed the open chest in the back corner.
Tim had been going to the cellar all day, and not until the sixth trip down those narrow stairs had he noticed the open chest in the back corner.
Tim had been going to the cellar all day, and not until the sixth trip down those narrow stairs did he notice the open chest in the back corner.
Which is "best" depends on what goes before and comes after and exactly what information you think the reader needs right now.
September 22nd, 2012, 05:46 AM #613
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- Sep 2012
its good idea. i hope so its good for us and others..
September 22nd, 2012, 06:29 AM #614
Perhaps the editor is aiming for a simple state - was thrown.
Whereas had been thrown also indicates action behind it, maybe even intent.
The second - yours - feels more natural, more logical and better sounding.
April 11th, 2013, 08:02 AM #615
I'm not sure if this is the right thread to ask this, but it's related to the stories I write at least. It's a matter with English grammar.
In my language, if I write about something that happened, say, yesterday, an hour or a week ago etc etc, I usually use past perfect tense. 'She had told him about it yesterday', for example. It's different with the spoken language, which believe or not, is grammatically wrong 80% of time (yah, we're like that). I was just wondering, is past perfect tense always necessary in English? If I write a paragraph explaining what someone had done previously, before the current situation, it's filled with those 'had' words. I don't remember learning the details about this during the school, mainly because I didn't write in English back then. I'd appreciate the help so that I could edit my stuff to look nicer.