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From the Times of India:

Father of a 16-year-old girl has alleged that her daughter was raped and impregnated by Chandankumar Yadav of Ramol who promised to marry her.

It is not clear from this lead sentence whether the alleged rapist promised to marry her before or after the rape. Why didn't the reporter use the past perfect tense, since he had made the marriage promise before impregnating her?

If I formed the sentence like this, is it correct?

The father of a 16-year-old girl has alleged that his daughter was raped and impregnated by Chandankumar Yadav of Ramol who had promised to marry her.

Please help me understand:

a) This is the person who helped your father.

b) This is the person who had helped your father.

  • (The) Father of a 16-year-old girl has alleged that her (his?) daughter was raped and impregnated by XYZ who promised to marry her. (before/after the incident) – Leo Apr 24 '17 at 3:33
  • 3
    This absolutely needs the link to the original news for several reasons. First, it might not be from a reputable paper. Tabloids tend to have a bad reputation where spelling and grammar is concerned. Second, it may have been written by a non-native journalist. Last, within the actual article the clarification may have been made. Newspaper headlines can be ambiguous, especially if they written in haste. – Mari-Lou A Apr 24 '17 at 11:30
  • Yes, the version with had sounds better. However, as others have said, this is not a very well-written article. Moreover, unfortunately, it’s also about a very disturbing subject. – J.R. Apr 25 '17 at 0:06
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Yes,

the body of the article clarifies that the 16-year-old girl told police that Mr Yadav had asked her to marry him before the alleged rape:

"The girl said Yadav had promised to marry her and then... raped her," said the [Ramol police station] official.

Because the impregnation (an alleged rape) occurred after the proposal, using the pluperfect or past perfect ("...had promised...") is an improvement that communicates more information. Expressing the idea as "...had earlier promised..." is clearer still.

Why didn't the writer say it that way? If it were in a headline, those are usually written or touched up by editors who might shorten the phrasing for effect or to fit the column width. The sentence here is part of the story's lede and there's no real reason to phrase things ambiguously. The numerous serious grammatical mistakes in the anonymous article suggest it was just one of a series of careless errors.

That said, using the past simple ("...promised...") isn't wrong in this context. The grammatical detail is irrelevant to the accusations retold in the article. Whether the proposal occurred before, after, or during the rape has no relation to whether a rape actually occurred or not. Because of that, the phrasing "...who promised..." doesn't impact the meaning of the sentence. It just renders it somewhat less informative.

This is the person who helped your father.

is grammatically correct. This person completed the action of helping your father at some point before now.

This is the person who had helped your father.

could be correct if there is more context lying around. This person completed the action of helping your father at some point before something else (currently unmentioned) in the past.

It was broken by the person who had helped your father.

is correct, so long as he completed the help before breaking the object. The grammar is timing the help relative to the breaking of the object instead of to the present.

It was broken by the person who helped your father.

isn't wrong either. It is just timing both completed actions relative to the present, leaving their relationship to each other unclear.

  • @J.R., thank you for getting to the heart of the matter. I have no problem focusing addressing the grammatical issue if that's what the question is focused upon. More helpful for other readers as well. It was just leaving the question as it was and then ignoring its subtext that was infuriating. In the future, I'll follow that approach and just turn such questions into something more neutral and helpful for other readers. – lly Apr 26 '17 at 5:57
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The father of a 16-year-old girl has alleged that his daughter was raped and impregnated by Chandankumar Yadav of Ramol who had promised to marry her.

Yes, that's much more clear than the one from The Times.

a) This is the person who helped your father.

b) This is the person who had helped your father.

a: Simple past. The helping occurred in the past, and was completed.

b: Completed past event --but with implications for the present or a more recent past. "This is the person who had helped your father before being arrested". The helping was complete before the arresting started. If it were "was helping", then the arresting would have started before the helping was finished.

-1

If reported speech is being used correctly, then at the time of the article the man promised to marry the girl who he had raped, perhaps as an attempt to avoid prosecution. In some cultures this is seen to somewhat normalize a rape. (See, for example, the rape of Dinah related in Genesis.)

This interpretation seems likelier to me than the alternative, which is that the grammar is a mistaken attempt to convey that the man who had raped the girl had promised to marry her (around the time of the rape).

  • The Biblical reference is a nice touch, but the article is linked in my reply (and now in @J.R.'s edit of the question) and it states the alleged rapist did indeed ask for her hand before the alleged rape. – lly Apr 26 '17 at 5:31
  • The article doesn't clarify whether the man continues to promise to marry her, which the grammar (if interpreted to be correct) communicates. It instead gives a second account, in which it does use the Past Perfect, about the time preceding the rape. I tend to side with your view of their intent, in which case the article has made a grammar mistake (the likes of which I'm bombarded with by native speakers every day, along with mangled conditionals and substituting "lay" for "lie"). – Epanoui Apr 26 '17 at 17:10
  • The grammar communicates no such thing. It only states that the act of promising was completed before the other verbs in the sentence, which is the only thing being claimed. Whether the promise was later revoked or not is beside the point. – lly Apr 26 '17 at 22:19
  • I think that you missed my point. When a simple past tense is used in reported speech, it implies that something is true at the time when the speech is reported. Both Past Simple and Perfect are used in the article. – Epanoui Apr 27 '17 at 17:35
  • It's not that I missed your point. It's that you're mistaken. Aside from the fact that reported speech never makes any claims as to its actual truth value, the simultaneity implied by a statement like, e.g., He said he was hungry has no bearing here. For that to obtain, it would've needed to've been expressed in the imperfect: ...who was promising to marry her. – lly Apr 29 '17 at 13:37

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