I have some troubles putting a thought into a sentence with the right tenses and I hope someone could help.

The situation is as follows:

Years ago, when my sister was studying English pronunciation, being the introvert that she is, she knew she was always pronouncing one sound wrong ("th" actually) She never asked if the sound she was making was correct. And I'm trying to figure out how I'd build a sentence about that.

The sentence I want you to help me with looks something like this:

"You had always known you were pronouncing it wrong, yet you had never asked if you were doing it properly."

If I said that sentence , would that be grammatically correct?

  • Welcome to the English Language Learners site! If you can, try to stick to only asking the question when you type it out. This just helps out the guys answering it for you. If you've got a minute, feel free to take the tour and check out the help centre. – Aric Aug 21 '17 at 8:12

The tenses are great, don't worry about it :) I would suggest changing the last tense into: "yet you never asked"

Quick tip: Use the perfect only for events that are completely done. Since I assume your sister, up to this point of time, has not asked, then it's better to use the past tense, since "had not asked" implies she may have asked later on.


  • Overanalyzing your comment. So, could I also say "yet you HAVE never asked" instead of just plain past simple tense? Highlighting that she has not up to this day once asked if she did it right. – slovakgirl Aug 21 '17 at 11:41
  • This is less elegant than using the past simple (avoid the perfect unless you need it), and may slo create a tense conflict between past and present, resulting in a more akward sentence structure. Still acceptable, I guess. – Confused Soul Aug 21 '17 at 11:49
  • Thanks a lot. I believe now this issue is finally closed. – slovakgirl Aug 21 '17 at 11:55
  • I promise, I swear this will be my LAST remark. Imagine this situation from a different perspective okay? Imagine all the wrong pronouncing happening in my sister's past. Would it be acceptable to say this then?: "You always knew you were pronouncing it wrong, yet you had never (or not once) asked if you were doing it properly." If she was studying it now too, the sentence would look like this?: "You have always known you were pronouncing it wrong, yet you (have) never (or not once) asked if you are doing it properly." – slovakgirl Aug 21 '17 at 12:05
  • I didn't get exactly what you mean by "studying it now" but in terms of tenses the initial wording: "you had always known... yet you never asked" is better – Confused Soul Aug 21 '17 at 13:39

Your sentence is correct, but it's not what you would use in this situation. In this case, you would probably want to use the past simple:

"You have always known you were pronouncing it wrong, yet you never asked if you were doing it properly".

Notice that I put "you never asked" because this shows that she still hasn't asked.

Edit: Ah! Someone answered while I was typing!

  • Why did you use have instead of had in the first part of the sentence though? If we are speaking about the past aka while my sister was learning the pronunciation. – slovakgirl Aug 21 '17 at 10:25
  • @slovakgirl see Confused Soul's answer. The past perfect is used for events that are completed. Since she still has not asked, you would use "You have always known" instead of "You had always known" – Aric Aug 21 '17 at 10:30

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