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In The Jam's song, "Smither's Jones", there is a sentence [in bold]

"Good Morning Smithers-Jones
How's the wife and home?
Did you get the car you've been looking for?
Did you get the car you've been looking for?"

I was wondering why it was not:
Did you get the car you were looking for or had been looking for?

Present perfect continuous seems strange here for me because present perfect continuous means he is still looking for it and did you get past simple means that it is a past action . Is it spoken English spoken close to slang ?

I know sometimes artist take liberties with the grammar.

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  • I don't see that in the practice there's a huge difference between your two sentences
    – tac
    Jul 29, 2023 at 20:35
  • Please edit your question to make it clearer. "ppc" apparently means "present perfect continuous" but could also stand for "past perfect continuous". I have no idea what "ps" means. Your quotation marks are misaligned. And so forth. Jul 30, 2023 at 3:18
  • The song is a hidden gem, not so much in the melody compartment but the lyrics provide such an insight to what life was like in the UK in the 1970s and 80s. It's got so many references to the stereotypical British middle-class, it's a delight to look back on and re-listen to after so many years. The social commentary is spot on. Bookmarked!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 30, 2023 at 17:07

2 Answers 2

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As you said, songwriters often take liberties with grammar for the sake of rhythm and the rhyme scheme. It often isn't worth analysing the grammar of song lyrics.

However, there isn't a problem with this. At the point of you asking someone whether or not they have found something yet, for all you know they are still looking. For example, "have you found your lost keys yet?" If they have found them, they aren't lost! Yet the question is perfectly valid.

We would more likely use past simple to refer to a period of searching that was in the past. For example, if your friend went to the store to look for something, on their return you might say "did you find what you were looking for" because the shopping trip is over.

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Although it is a bit slangy, native speakers would not notice the inconsistency. The lyrics enclosed in quotation marks imitate the shop owner's working-class speech, a newsagent where the middle-class Smithers-Jones buys his copy of The Times, a British newspaper.

Stops off at the corner shop, to buy The Times

“How's the wife and home?” and “Did you get the car you've been looking for?” reflect that dialect, and therefore they are grammatically correct.

If the person was still looking for a car, then it would be more formal to repeat the same auxiliary used in the Present Perfect Continuous.

Have you got/bought the car you have been looking for?

However, the OP's suggested corrections also work

Did you get the car you were looking for?

The speaker does not know if Smithers-Jones purchased a car at some point in the past, so the simple past is used.

Did you get the car you had been looking for?

The Past Perfect Continuous hints that the speaker knows Smithers-Jones stopped looking when he found the right car but maybe hasn't got round to buying it yet.

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