1

I've been breaking my head for a long time now on whether to use "have" or "had" in certain cases.

For example:

"I have ordered three books. Yet, only two of those had arrived."

The thing is, in the first sentence, it is stated that I ordered the three books in the past, so by that logic it would be fitting to use "had". But on the other hand, it is relevant to this current statement, so "have" seems like another good option.

In the second sentence, the two books arrived in the past, so "had" is what I chose to use. But it seems like "have" would have been another good fit, since it implies that the books are currently in my possession.

So the question is: are these two words correctly placed and used in the example? And may I hear a more elaborate explanation about their correct usage?

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Aug 20 '17 at 0:14

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

  • Use the past perfect to place an action before another time in the past. There are two times in the past in your sentence, when you ordered them and when they arrived. So using had arrived doesn't work, because they arrived after you ordered them. – Peter Shor Jun 27 '17 at 11:47
  • So, what if I used them like this? "I had ordered three books, yet, only two of those have arrived". Would that be correct to say? And in your answer, did you mean to say that I should have used "have" in both cases? – He7Man7 Jun 27 '17 at 11:59
  • 1
    Could you simplify to "Although I ordered three books, only two arrived"? – Yosef Baskin Jun 27 '17 at 12:01
  • 1
    Using had ordered doesn't sound wrong the way had arrived does. It's unnecessary, because the order of events is perfectly clear without using the past perfect. And we usually don't use past perfect when it's unnecessary. If the order the events are presented in doesn't match the order they happened, we're much more likely to use past perfect. – Peter Shor Jun 27 '17 at 12:18
  • 1
    "I was worried last week because I had ordered three books but only two had arrived. This week the third book has arrived so I am happy." – Kate Bunting Jun 27 '17 at 14:51
0

"Have ordered" indicates that in the present, you have the attribute of "has ordered" (present perfect). "Had arrived" indicates that in the past, your books had the attribute of "has arrived" (past perfect).

You should use have/have or had/had (as opposed to have/had), depending on the tense of your context.

  • The most idiomatic way to state this is to use simple past, present perfect. "I ordered three books, yet only two of them have arrived." – Peter Shor Dec 9 '18 at 17:49
0

Now: I have ordered three books but as yet only two of them have arrived.

In the past: I had ordered three books but by then only two of them arrived.

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.