She’d come off her new bike

and hurt her knee.

before you see and hurt her knee.

What was the intrepretation of 'she'd' when you (as native English speakers) first read the sentence above?

  1. she would

  2. she had

  • If the context is "hypothetical", then IF that hypothetical context were to be true, it's #1 She'd / She would fall off and [would] hurt herself. On the other hand, if the context is simply explaining how she came to be injured (at some contextually-relevant time that's already in the past), it's Past Perfect #2 She had fallen and [had] hurt herself. But note that we rarely bother repeating the Perfect verb form in case #2 - once is enough to establish that the accident happened before some time in the past that we're currently talking about. Oct 23 at 13:26
  • ...That's to say, the Past Perfect version requires some pre-existing "past" context. For example, When I saw her last month, she’d (she had) fallen off and hurt herself. Oct 23 at 13:29
  • Thx. FumbleFingers. What did you mean in "But note that we rarely bother repeating the Perfect verb form in case #2". There is only one 'had' in "had pp"
    – Brandon
    Oct 23 at 17:29
  • I meant that syntactically it's perfectly okay to say She’d (or She had) come off her new bike and had hurt her knee, but in practice we wouldn't usually repeat the Perfect form in such contexts. Oct 23 at 17:32
  • 1
    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore.: You'd think she'd learn to ride better before it became a "habitual action" - but in principle, yeah! :) Oct 24 at 11:37

Could be either.

This is like asking if "The wood..." is understood to mean "the forest" or the "the timber". It can only be resolved by context. If you explicitly remove that context, it must be ambiguous.

That said, "she had" is more common, so you would probably guess it meant "she had" if you had to bet on it.

Even with the completion, it is still ambiguous: compare

She'd come off her bike and hurt her knee just before the wedding started. (had)

She'd come off her bike and hurt her knee, if she wasn't careful. (would, to form conditional)

She'd come off her bike and hurt her knee every summer. She'd always be covered in scratches and grazes by the time school started in September. (would, for past habit)

  • 1
    It's amazing acutally the listners or readers have to wait for the context that come later. I may stop the speaker and ask 'what contraction of she'd you meant 1. she had, 2. she would (conditional) 3. she would (past habit)' English is really amazing.
    – Brandon
    Oct 23 at 16:31
  • 7
    Not amazing at all, and totally normal in all natural languages. Nothing is ever understood without context. This is just as true in your language as it is in English. You just don't notice it because you are just so good at using the context. But try writing a computer program to understand your native language, and you'll quickly realise just how much is context, shared understanding, common knowledge, pragmatic rather than semantic.
    – James K
    Oct 23 at 16:42

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