1

They had often heard about the ship they have to travel on.

Is the above sentence grammatically correct ? I came across this sentence in a question paper and the provisional solution of that paper said it is error free but I suspect have is wrong here. It should be had as the sentence is in past ( as indicated by they had)

  • 2
    The sentence makes perfect sense if the subject they are about to travel on a ship which had previously been described to them, and on which they are somehow obligated to travel. It is certainly grammatically correct, in any case. What do you think is ungrammatical here? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jun 19 '17 at 8:50
  • @P.E.Dant I see your point, but the thing that I don't get is the necessity for the past perfect. I mean why the author didn't use "simple past"? – Cardinal Jun 19 '17 at 9:02
  • 1
    @Cardinal Admittedly, the situation that merits the past perfect is torturous and abstruse, but it might obtain. Without more context from the OP, we cam say no more than that. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jun 19 '17 at 9:05
1

These are idiomatic:

I had heard about the unreliability of the train I had to take into the city.

I heard about the unreliability of the train I had to take into the city.

I heard about the unreliability of the train I have to take into the city.

I have heard about the unreliability of the train I have to take into the city.

When the restrictive clause is set in the present ("I have to take into the city" or they have to travel on in the original example), the present becomes the reference time, and so the tense in the matrix should be cast in the past or present perfect, not in the past perfect.

If the matrix clause is in the past perfect, there is an implicit relocation of the "origo" to some moment in the past.

I had heard about the unreliability of the train I have to take into the city.

and I have to take into the city doesn't jibe with that origo. To ease that temporal dissonance we could use must instead:

I had heard about the unreliability of the train I must take into the city.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.