Alphonse tells me:

“Scott said he had been studying Greek for five years.”

I am trying to imagine what Scott could actually have told Alphonse. I can come up with two situations:

a) Scott: “I studied Greek for 5 years.”

b) Scott: “I have been studying Greek for 5 years.”

  • 1
    It's (b). For (a), the reported speech should be "... he had studied Greek for five years". There are some ambiguities going from reported speech to the exact quote, but this is not one of them. – Peter Shor Jun 30 '13 at 17:19

a) means that Scott no longer studies Greek. b) means that Scott is still studying Greek.

If Alphonse told Scott that he had been studying, then b) is what he told Scott.

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  • Vice versa. Alphonse had a talk with Scott, and Scott had told him about his (Scott's) studies of Greek. – Graduate Jun 29 '13 at 6:36
  • If that's so, then Scott told him BEFORE they had the talk. – BobRodes Jun 29 '13 at 6:56
  • OK, I screwed it up again. But there are some tricky usages of Plueperfect that I'm going to ask about soon. Stay tuned. – Graduate Jun 29 '13 at 7:00
  • If he hadn't had a talk with Scott before he had that talk, then he hadn't told him about it at the time they had their talk. (Although confusing, this is quite correct grammatically.) – BobRodes Jun 29 '13 at 7:00
  • No 'would' in this unreal conditional? I was taught to say-- "... then he would not have told him ..." – Graduate Jun 29 '13 at 7:04

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