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When I searched for "When had you met him" in Google Books, I found "Warren Commission: Complete Investigation & Commission's Report", which includes:

Mr. GRIFFIN. Do you recall how long Jack stayed in Havana?
Mrs. NICHOLS. Not exactly; but I would say he was there from a week to 10 days.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Did he tell you why he went to Havana?
Mrs. NICHOLS. I thought it was a pleasure trip.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Did you see him off at the airport?
Mrs. NICHOLS. No.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Did he tell you who he was going to visit in Havana?
Mrs. NICHOLS. The only person he told me he was going to see in Havana was a man by the name of McWillie. I don't know if Mr. Mac was his first name or whether McWillie was his last name.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Had you ever met McWillie?
Mrs. NICHOLS. I had.
Mr. GRIFFIN. When had you met him?
Mrs. NICHOLS. I had seen him a few times. Jack had introduced me to him. I had seen him in the Vegas Club a few times.

This looks like a testimony of a witness (Mrs. Nichols) related to the assassination of President Kennedy.

Why did Mr. Griffin ask Had you ever met McWillie? instead of Did you ever meet McWillie? or Have you ever met McWillie?? Similarly, why did he ask When had you met him? instead of When did you meet him??

Could the last four lines have been something like this instead?

Mr. GRIFFIN. Did you ever meet McWillie?
Mrs. NICHOLS. I did.
Mr. GRIFFIN. When did you meet him?
Mrs. NICHOLS. I saw him a few times. Jack had introduced me to him. I saw him in the Vegas Club a few times.

2 Answers 2

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They are talking about an incident in the past, when 'Jack' visited Havana. Mrs Nichols is asked whether she had met McWillie before that time; that is, did she know him personally when Jack said he was there to see him.

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  • Do you know something about the incident while Jack was visiting McWillie in Havana? I mean, is the incident so important that Mr. Griffin had to ask Mrs. Nichols not if she ever met McWillie, but if she had ever met him before that incident?
    – listeneva
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 9:48
  • I know nothing whatever except what I can deduce from the dialogue you quote. Mrs N says that Jack told her that he was in Havana to meet McWillie. Mr G asks "Had you ever met him?", meaning 'at that time', not "Have you ever met him [at any time]?" Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 14:57
  • How about the past tense version? Do you see any reason not to use the past tense instead of the past perfect (based on what you can deduce from the dialogue)?
    – listeneva
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 1:05
  • I repeat: Mr G wants to know if she had already met McWillie at that time, not if she ever met him in her life. See @gotube's answer. Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 8:04
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No, the two are not the same.

In the past perfect version, Griffin asks if he had ever met McGee prior to the incident, and Nichols answers she had met McGee prior to the incident.

If the question was in the simple past, there would be two problems. The first is that there would be no restriction on time, so if Nichols met McGee for the first time in the courtroom that day, she would answer "Yes", even though that's not what the lawyer wanted to know.

Further, "Did you ever meet..." could also be the past version of "Do you ever meet", as in, "Did you regularly meet McGee?" To this, if Nichol had been introduced to him, but didn't see him regularly, she could say, "No, I didn't," meaning, "No, I didn't meet him regularly."

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  • What do you mean by the incident? Now, I understand how Have you ever met him? might not be appropriate in a courtroom. But I don't quite understand your last paragraph. How could you interpret ever to mean regularly? Moreover, as far as I know, the verb meet is usually reserved for the first time we encounter a person. For regular encounters, we use see instead, don't we? I also notice you yourself use the verb see in but didn't see him regularly.
    – listeneva
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 1:02
  • @listeneva I don't know what the trial is about, so I'm saying "incident" to talk about whatever crime (or whatever) the case is about. "We met regularly" means roughly the same as "We saw each other regularly". "Ever" means "at any time", so it could mean, "Was there ever a period of time when you and McGee met regularly?"
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 19:23
  • As I've said, the testimony is related to the assassination of President Kennedy. "A 1958 Jack Ruby visit to McWillie in Havana, Cuba, and Ruby's 1963 murder of accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald connected McWillie to various Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theories." mob-who.blogspot.com/2017/09/mcwillie-lewis-j-1908-1986.html Now, is it possible that the incident is "Ruby's 1963 murder of accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald"?
    – listeneva
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 1:39

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