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thought vs. had thought Options
coag
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 2:53:22 AM

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Joined: 3/27/2010
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Hello all,

Which of the sentences below is natural, with respect to the tense of think? Are both sentences acceptable?
1) I never thought he was the right man for her.
2) I never had thought he was the right man for her.

thar
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 5:09:40 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 18,001
Neurons: 73,042
coag wrote:
Hello all,

Which of the sentences below is natural, with respect to the tense of think? Are both sentences acceptable?
1) I never thought he was the right man for her.

This is the most natural. It was a thought you had -'he isn't right for her'. You had that thought over a period of time, in the past. You may still think it, but what has probably changed is that now it has been proven by something he as done.


2) I never had thought he was the right man for her.
This is not natural except under special circumstances. It requires some other event in the past to stop you thinking that (past perfect - complete and finished). Or to confirm it and make it knowledge, not opinion.
eg
I had never thought he was the right man for her, but when he jumped into that shark-infested water and saved her I changed my mind about him.

Or
I had never thought he was the right man for her, so when he ran away with the milkman I wasn't surprised.



You probably don't need it even then, because you have other cues as to the order of events:
I never thought he was the right man for her, but when he jumped into that shark-infested water to save her I changed my mind about him.

You would only use the past perfect if you really want to emphasise that is what you had thought and you have since been proved completely wrong or completely right.

Or if the sentence order makes it less obvious.
eg
Before he jumped into the shark-infested water to rescue her, I had thought he wasn't the right man for her.

I have just realised I automatically changed the wording of that - it is the 'never' that doesn't fit so well with the past perfect.
Never.....until
is simpler than
had never.....until


coag
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 1:39:15 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/27/2010
Posts: 1,093
Neurons: 5,813
Thank you very much for your explanations, thar.

Sentence 2 is a simplified version of another sentence. I wanted to know if there's something in sentence 2 what necessitates the use of the past perfect.

Here is the context (my emphasis added).

"So they went west, Pat and Dick, back to the nowhere they had sought to escape. It was hard on Pat; she was in her third trimester, and discovering the lot of a candidate's wife. The Quaker ladies never had thought she was good enough for Dick, and the matrons of San Marino sneered at her sense of fashion. 'We were the rawest of amateurs', Pat remembered.'Our friends were sympathetic but dubious, and the real politicians were scornful'"

The Quaker ladies thinking of Pat not being good enough for Dick, occurred at the same time as the San Marino matrons sneering at Pat's sense of fashion. I didn't understand why the past perfect was used to describe what the Quaker ladies thought and simple past was used to described what the San Marino matrons did.

Your comment about someone proved being wrong, makes sense as an explanation for the use of the past perfect in the quotation. The writer probably wanted to say that the Quaker ladies were wrong-- Pat and Dick spent the rest of their lives together.
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