1. She was talking to the man who [had won] / [won] the prize.
  2. She was talking to the man who [had lived] / [lived] with Marguerite Duras.

In the first sentence, the past perfect and simple past are supposedly interchangeable. In the second sentence, they are not. Why is this the case, and which tense is appropriate in the second sentence?

  • 1
    You can answer this yourself, I'm sure. Meditate on the aspectual difference between win and live. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 9 '17 at 12:38
  • I am afraid that you overrate my linguistic competence. Yes, the aspect (or telicity?) does occur to me… But why there is just one option in the second sentence I do not know. If the man still lives with the french writer, I would use the simple past. If not, the past perfect… – bart-leby Jul 9 '17 at 15:02
  • Or is there a catch in the fact that MD is already dead? – bart-leby Jul 9 '17 at 15:13
  • 1
    The perfect conveys the idea of completion-as-of-reference-time. Here, the reference time is the time of her speaking to the man. The only way to bring the action of living with to completion is to cease living with. If the man was continuing to live with Duras, we would say was living with. He can cease living with MD in one of several ways: they split up or she dies. We know he has not died because he's engaged in a conversation, but absent that fact, his death would present a third option :) – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 9 '17 at 15:13
  • 1
    The simple past with the man who lived with Duras is not ungrammatical, just ambiguous (generally speaking -- context may clarify). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 9 '17 at 15:18

Your Answer

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

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.