Take a look at these sentences:

I knew that something terrible was happening to my daughter and husband.

I knew that something terrible has been happening to my daughter and husband.

Which one would be correct?

Also, in this sentence:

At 21 years old, a little voice inside his head told him to fight harder than he had ever done before in order to get healthy.

Why is it "Had ever done before" instead of "Has ever done before" ?


The present perfect continuous is used in various ways, but in this context the expected meaning is "occurring for some time, including right now".

(Up to the present moment, and ongoing) Something terrible has been happening to my daughter and her husband.

This makes it odd to use with the past tense, because we can't reconcile something known in the past with something that is happening now. Instead you need to use the past perfect continuous:

I knew that (up to that past moment, and ongoing) something terrible had been happening to my daughter and her husband.

This explains why your second sentence uses the past perfect, because the action takes place in the past, when he was 21 years old.

  • Thank you for this great explanation. But, isn't past perfect used to refer to an action in the past that happened before another action? In my second sentence "Had ever done before" What exactly happened before that?
    – Sound
    Jun 3 '19 at 15:43
  • 1
    @Sound The thing that happened before that was, past tense, a voice "told" him.
    – Katy
    Jun 3 '19 at 17:35
  • @Sound As with any language that has them, the perfect tenses are used in various ways. In general they suggest a temporal relationship, but this can be implied. It can simply be "before, or up to, that moment in time".
    – Andrew
    Jun 3 '19 at 18:03

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.