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I had given my library card to someone in class but I don't seem to recall to whom I gave my card. According to information that I received from the library, someone has used it to issue x-book and the date to submit the book was 1st Feb.

or

I had given my library card to someone in class but I don't seem to recall to whom I have given my card. According to information that I have received from the library, someone has used it to issue x-book and the date to submit the book was 1st Feb.

What I want to say is that I gave my library card to someone in past-time (but the exact past time I do not remember) and I don't seem to recall to whom I gave my card.

What does the past perfect tense in the first line mean ?

  • I had given my library card to someone in class, but I don't seem to recall to whom I had given [it]. According to information that I have received from the library, someone has used it to borrow X Book and the date to return it had been February first. – Teacher KSHuang Feb 22 '17 at 8:01
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Present perfect I have given is a good way to express and action that was completed in the past but has a lasting consequence. It is ideal for this situation because the other person still has your card. Likewise, has used emphasises that the book is still issued.

For the other three verbs, simple past is fine, as there is no particular need to emphasise the lasting consequence:

I have given my library card to someone in class but i don't seem to recall to whom I gave my card... According to information that I received from library, someone has used it to issue x-book and the date to submit the book was 1st Feb.

to whom I gave my card is grammatically correct, but very formal: most people would say, and many would write who I gave my card to. Also, you should probably use return rather than submit. You submit something for publication: you return something that somebody lent to you.

You would not use past perfect unless you want to describe what happened before some reference event in the past. For example, if you were reminiscing with a friend about your university days and you say:

Do you remember when I got that letter from the library about an overdue book? that's the reference event
I had given my library card to someone... that's what happened before the reference event, so we use past perfect

  • and what if the situation has become past now . Imagine i want to tell this story to someone after 5 years from now . what tenses should i use . would the sentence be like . when i was in 3rd year of my college. something happend...... I had given my library card to someone in class but i did not seem to recall to whom I had given my card... According to information that I had received from library, someone had used it to issue x-book and the date to submit the book was 1st Feb. – Toxic Feb 21 '17 at 9:30
  • Personally, I would not use present perfect since the action of giving the card has also ended, but I could maybe understand your argument for it. – Teacher KSHuang Feb 21 '17 at 9:31
  • and also For the other two verbs, ..the lasting consequence if i use present perfect there also would that make the sentence wrong. – Toxic Feb 21 '17 at 9:39
  • @TeacherKSHuang, the situation is analogous to "I have booked some tickets for next week's show" (booking still in force) rather than "I booked some tickets for next week's show", which one might only say if something had since come up that forced you to cancel the booking. – JavaLatte Feb 21 '17 at 13:07
  • @Toxic, you could change gave->have given and received->have received but not was->has been. But generally you want to use the simplest tense that does the job. – JavaLatte Feb 21 '17 at 13:20
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I had given my library card to her, and she later used it to borrow a book.

The explanation above explains a sequence of events that happened in the past. You are explaining what happened back then.

I gave my library card to her, and she has used it to borrow a book.

There, you are explaining a situation that is current now: the book is not in the library; she has it now. She borrowed it from the library recently, using your card.

Your not being able to remember who you gave your card to is a "red herring". It has nothing to do with the choice of tenses.

  • so the correct form is simple past ? and the sentence then would be like : I gave my library card to someone in class but i don't seem to recall to whom I gave my card... According to information that I have received from library, someone has used it to issue x-book and the date to submit the book was 1st Feb. – Toxic Feb 21 '17 at 13:04
  • If you're referring to a book that is overdue now, this would be clearest: "you gave the card to someone (you cannot remember who it was) and they have used it to borrow a book, which is now overdue, the duedate being Feb 1st" – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 21 '17 at 13:19
  • 1
    issue is not the right verb, you mean borrow. And submit is also not correct; the verb there would be return. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 21 '17 at 13:21

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