From a lang-8 post I was proofreading:

A long time ago, there lived a little girl. ... [some things happen: the girl meets a travelling priest etc.] ... The wisdom of his words changed the girl forever. Since then, when someone asked about her father, she said with a smile, "I am a child of Luck". She had grown up, and it was said that she became a barmaid, kind and generous. One rainy night, a young man clothed in rags came into her tavern.

I changed the bolded phrase to grew up, but could it be that the Past Perfect is possible here? If the PP is erroneous here, it's hard for me to come up with a nice explanation why.

What could be the main obstacle to using the PP in this sentence? The conjunction and?

Maybe "it was said" is too diffuse in duration too? I also guess that "it was said" occured after she became a barmaid, this complicates the picture.

What if we delete "it was said":

She had grown up and became a barmaid, kind and generous.

Would this be okay?

  • 1
    Yes, it seems to me that your ear is right! :) . . . The problem here seems to be due to the context, in that the previous sentence ended with the new info "a little girl". And the expectation (in this story's context) would be that the next sentence would describe a situation that involves the "little girl". But it doesn't seem to, as the "had grown up" appears to clash with "little girl". Your attempt at a fix ("grew up") seems reasonable.
    – F.E.
    Jul 17, 2015 at 21:01
  • @F.E. - sorry, but I abridged the story shamelessly. Some things happened to the little girl in the story before that grammatically puzzling sentence. (0: Jul 17, 2015 at 21:16
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    Okay, now with that context, it seems that both versions would probably be okay: the original ("She had grown up") and yours ("She grew up"). Your version seems smoother to my ear. The original version has the problem of having a slight jarring effect, imo.
    – F.E.
    Jul 17, 2015 at 21:31
  • For me, the critical temporal phrase that would allow or disallow the past perfect is "Since then, when". I expected ever since then, whenever...
    – TimR
    Jul 18, 2015 at 0:05

3 Answers 3


It is perfectly natural to use the past perfect in she had grown up. The past perfect summarizes all that came before in her life, even if this was a process, up to the moment in time that the narrator utters those four words.

What is awkward is to link "she had grown up" with verbs that are not in the past perfect. Thus, both

She had grown up, and it was said that she became a barmaid, kind and generous.


She had grown up and became a barmaid, kind and generous.

do not link with precision the clause she had grown up with the actions of the rest of the sentence. The second version is especially jarring. I can hear an almost audible clank when I read that sentence. To take full advantage of the conjoining nature of and, both actions will be cast in the past perfect:

She had grown up and (had) become a barmaid...

The first sentence is not as bad, probably because the intervening narrative and it was said that (or even the active and people said) connects she became a barmaid in some nebulous time relationship to she had grown up. The only thing we know about when the entirety of and it was said that she became a barmaid is that it is after the moment expressed by she had grown up. But years, decades could have transpired in between. Thus, unless one enjoys living in such a nebula, even the first sentence can be tightened by using the past perfect: and it was said that she had become.


The second example is not the same, since it states what she became.
In the first phrase it is second hand information; we really don't how she is now.

Also I would stay with grown up, since "growing up" is a process that occurs over time. Also there is no point in time related to the statement.


Yes, the past perfect is possible in your example, but I'd castle the last two sentences and get the following sentence, as in journalistic style:

She had grown up and become a barmaid, kind and generous, it was said.

The main obstacle on using the past perfect might be the most common mistake with the past perfect that is to overuse it.

This said remember that we only use the past perfect when we want to refer to a past that is earlier than another time in the narrative.

  • "she had become", or "She had grown up and become a barmaid..." Jul 18, 2015 at 2:30

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