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I'm writing an essay (fiction) in past tense.

  • He went. She slept. I said. etc.

How do I correctly express activity before the time of action ?

  • He went home. But before that he had eaten a sandwich.
  • He went home. But before that he has been eating a sandwich.
  • I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I had have.
  • I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I have had.

Which one is correct ? Are both correct ? Do they express the same thing or something different ? Explanation ? Technical terms ?

Thanks!


(I guess I learned it in school but I forgot it. I'm not native English.)

  • Use the simple past for narration. The time sequence is made clear by (a) common sense, (b) adverbials such as before. – user6951 Jan 21 '15 at 7:11
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"He went home. But before that he had eaten a sandwich." - the most technically correct answer - you use past perfect tense in its intended purpose.

"He went home. But before that he *has been eating a sandwich." - incorrect by the grammar rules, and I don't think present perfect continuous tense is very common in casual speech in this case. I'd use past perfect continuous ("...he had been eating a sandwich").

"I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I *had have." - I think the tense is right (past perfect again), but you got the past participle wrong - it should be "...I had had".

"I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I *have had." - see the second case.

In general, it's also acceptable to use Simple Past in place of Past Perfect if the order of the events is clear - so "He went home. But before that, he ate a sandwich" and "I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I had" would also be correct.

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  • He went home. But before that he had eaten a sandwich.
  • He went home. But before that he has been eating a sandwich.

The first one is more correct, but I believe that it would be better to write

  • He went home. But before that he ate a sandwich.

This is past tense.

  • I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I had have.
  • I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I have had.

None of these are correct. The correct would be:

  • I lay in my bed and remembered the last dream I had had.

because you need past tense (first had) for the past tense of your verb (second had).

  • You say "first one is more correct". What do you think about the second sentence: He went home. But before that he has been eating a sandwich.? – Manish Giri Sep 2 '14 at 10:56

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