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  1. The salesman said he was very glad to receive the order the day before.
  2. The salesman said he was very glad to have received the order the day before.

I think that a perfect infinitive (to have p.p) should be applied to the subordinate clause when the tense of the main clause is preceded by that of the subordinate one.

The above two sentences have the adverbial phrase "the day before" indicating that certain behavior happened in the past. But what is the adverbial phrase modifying now? If it modifies the behavior of receiving now, sentence 2 will be right, but if it qualifies the behavior of saying, can sentence 1 be right?

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  • When did the salesman say it? What did he actually say? The day before what? It is impossible to interpret these sentences correctly without more context information, as they are ambiguous.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 13:42

2 Answers 2

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In practice, the two sentences might communicate exactly the same idea. In principle, though, they make slightly different claims about what happened when. Let's take a simpler example:

  1. I enjoyed swimming yesterday.
  2. I enjoyed having swum yesterday.

Either way, yesterday contained some swimming and some enjoyment. The difference is that the first one means that my enjoyment happened while swimming, and the second that my enjoyment happened after it.

If the salesman "was glad to receive the order," he was glad while receiving it. If he "was glad to have received it," he was glad after receiving it. The distinction is not terribly important because, in this case, both were probably true.

Now, let's sort out questions of time and what's modifying what. There's a little bit of ambiguity in the question (as noted), but the most likely interpretation is that "the day before" modifies "receive." We jump to this conclusion just because the adverbial phrase immediately follows "receive." We're unlikely to interpret the sentence as "The salesman said, the day before, that he was very glad to...", and if that meaning is intended, then that would be a better word order.

But as Barid Baran Acharya notes, this doesn't help us choose a tense for the verb "receive." Let's use the simpler example again:

  • I said, yesterday, that I enjoyed swimming.
  • I said, yesterday, that I enjoyed having swum.
  • I said [an hour ago] that I enjoyed swimming yesterday.
  • I said [an hour ago] that I enjoyed having swum yesterday.

All four of these are grammatical. The second two change the day on which I swam (by changing what the adverb "yesterday" modifies), but either past or perfect could be fine, with slightly different meanings.

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Refer to the link and the accepted answer. How lucid, how nicely worded it is! The adverbial phrase refers to the act of receiving in sentences No.1 & 2. " The day before " does not have any impact on "Said". " To receive ", or " To have received " refer to the mindset of the speaker. In the first one, his approach is casual and in the second he applied his mind to it acknowledging his acceptance of the order notwithstanding the fact that infinitives being tense less refer to the ultimate predictor, " Said ".

The perfect infinitive may be a pointer to a wish, a completed job already past, or just finished or even unfulfilled yearning. The finite verb decides the way we would look at it.

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