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Look at the sentence that is in Italic. I wonder if had had there is the past-perfect or is it the Past Simple followed by 'had to'? I'm confused.

Helen stepped outside her front door to see what the weather was like. It was sunny and warm. That was nice, because for the past two weeks it had been cold and rainy. It had been so cold that she had had to turn her heater on. She was lucky, because her heater worked and she could pay her heating bills.

  • Assuming it is the Past-Perfect, I also wonder why this tense appears twice in the sentence, instead of the ordinary formula of past-pefect+past simple. (It had been so cold that she had had to turn her heater on). Perhaps because we have 3 past times, rather than 2? First one: cold in. Second: turning the heather, third: stepping outside (two weeks later). Or perhaps it is just interchangeable like suggested here – SunnySideDown Mar 17 '19 at 7:38
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The past perfect is used to talk about actions that happened before something else. The story is told in the past simple. To refer to the past two weeks, we need to change the tense to the past perfect.

She had had to turn is the past perfect form of she has to turn.

It had been so cold that she had needed to turn her heater on.

The cold had forced her to turn her heater on.

| improve this answer | |
  • I see. Just to say that I don't understand what in the passage indicates that the story is told in the present simple as you mentioned. To me, it seems like the past-simple. "Helen stepped outside..." – SunnySideDown Mar 17 '19 at 7:43
  • @SunnySideDown it was a typo, corrected – Andrew Tobilko Mar 17 '19 at 7:44

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