4
  1. That was not the first time (that) someone has needed me.

  2. It was not the first time (that) someone had fired at Eric while he walked to school.

  3. It was not the first time (that) someone suggested that punitive measures awaited my procreative ways.

The above sentences have the same structure and similar purposes, but they use three different tenses in their object clauses.

My questions are:

  • Are they all correct?
  • What are the subtle differences by using different tenses here?
  • I think they all should be had... had needed, had fired, had suggested and the second and third one should have "that someone". – user2617804 Nov 13 '14 at 13:27
  • 2
    What?!!! Two close votes? Why? I don't understand ... :( – Araucaria Nov 13 '14 at 14:29
1

At first, I thought the third sentence was incorrect, but then I read it a little more closely. Now, I'm not entirely sure.

It was not the first time someone suggested that punitive measures awaited my procreative ways.

Past-perfect is necessary to differentiate between two different periods of time in the same context. It seems to me that "suggested" as-is could be correct, because although the speaker discusses how "punitive measures awaited my procreative ways," that's something that the "punitive measures" are doing separately, not something that the speaker is doing. Not to mention the fact that the suggestions, according to the speaker, are ongoing, not a one-time event, so there isn't a clear way to establish which one of those things happened first.

That was not the first time someone has needed me.

I believe the reason the speaker uses "has" instead of "had" here is because they used "that" to refer to the instance in which someone needed him or her, instead of "it" as in the previous sentences.

It was not the first time someone had fired at Eric while he walked to school.

This one is relatively simple. It is a little strange because one might think that someone firing at Eric happens after he begins walking to school, which would mean that the sentence is wrong to use "had" before "fired," but actually the firing occurs before Eric finishes walking to school, therefore the "had fired."

Hope this helps -- I'm not completely sure on this one myself.

0

I have thought over and now I would like to try to answer my own question.

I have an idea that may help answer this question. It depends on how big the discussed scope is,

If the event or action in the past is the only subject in the speaker's mind to concern, then simple past tense will be used,as what we can see in sentence 3.

If the event or action in the past is the not the only subject in the speaker's mind to concern, in other words, the speaker is doing some comparison of several similar things happened from past to present, then he will tend to use present perfect tense, suggesting that such kind of things have happened repeatedly,as what we can see in sentence 1.

And if the speaker is comparing between similar things happened before and what happened recently, then he will probably use past perfect tense, suggesting that such kind of things had happened repeatedly by then, as what we can see in sentence 2.

I do hope my answer has made some sense.

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